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EU, Ukraine Sign Free Trade Agreement

EU, Ukraine Sign   Free Trade AgreementEU, Ukraine Sign   Free Trade Agreement

The parliaments of the EU and Ukraine on Tuesday ratified landmark association and free trade agreements following the decision by lawmakers in Kiev to grant more power for the eastern regions of the country torn apart by months of fighting.

The historic votes, unveiled with great fanfare via a joint video link between Brussels and Kiev, came nearly a year after massive protests erupted in Kiev that led to the fall of a Russian-backed Ukrainian president who refused to sign the EU integration agreements, the Financial Times reported.

Addressing EU lawmakers, Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine’s pro-western president, described the vote as important as the country’s declaration of independence in 1991.

Recalling the lives of Ukrainians lost during months of fighting between Russian-backed separatists in the east of the country and government forces, Mr Poroshenko called for Kiev to be granted an EU membership perspective.

“Who is ready to die for Europe?” he asked EU parliament legislators listening on the other side of the video link.

Minutes after Mr Poroshenko spoke, Ukraine’s parliament adopted a declaration claiming that by ratifying the EU association and free trade agreement, the country had set course for membership in the EU.

Rejoicing

After the vote, lawmakers rejoiced by singing the national anthem. But with fighting in the east continuing on the 11th day of a ceasefire, and domestic economic challenges mounting, a cloud of uncertainty loomed over the emotional moment.

Adding to the sense of unease was the earlier decision by Ukraine’s parliament to grant an amnesty for Russian-backed separatists not guilty of capital crimes and to offer “special status” for the rebel-held eastern regions of Donetsk and Lugansk.

The move to de-escalate a five-month military stand-off that has claimed more than 3,000 lives was approved by a majority of lawmakers in the 450-seat legislature. But the legislation, which was submitted by Mr Poroshenko, stopped short of granting autonomy for the breakaway regions.

Separatist leaders who control about a third of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions have in recent days balked at the planned legislation. They have also called for a fresh counteroffensive to push Kiev’s army further out of both provinces.

The laws adopted on Tuesday grant Russian language rights for the region, greater regional government authority and an election of a parliament of legislators representing the regions to be held in December – after a snap nationwide poll scheduled for October 26.

Self Rule

This move, together with the acknowledgement of self determination for the people of Crimea, was always essentially inevitable. No doubt there will be howling from the neocon maniacs that Russia should have been much more severely punished for daring to defy Nuland in insisting on  its defense capability on the Black Sea, but Russia had no choice, other than complete capitulation, and that was never going to happen, BBC reported.

The boundaries are still to be agreed, and that won't be easy, but the shelling of Lugansk and Donetzk should now stop, for which the people of the east will be profoundly grateful.

There is a huge task in helping to rebuild the utterly shattered east, but this task could only be faced when the shelling stopped. I think we can safely assume that no western country could care less about those poor unfortunates in the east, so the process will be slow and bitter. But this may be the pull back from disaster all sane observers must have hoped for.

 

Financialtribune.com