The European Union is trying to reassure Russia that a free trade deal, signed with Ukraine last month, is not aimed at hurting Moscow. On Friday, talks were held in Brussels aimed at defusing the tensions. CCTV correspondent Sandra Gathmann reports.
The highly celebrated signing of the association agreement and free trade pact between the European Union and Ukraine is a done deal. But political tensions remain unresolved with Russia. Former Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovich abandoned the EU agreement last year saying it would cost Kiev billions of dollars in trade with Russia. The decision sparked months of protests which eventually led to his fleeing the country.
Moscow is adamant that Russian concerns be heard about potential harm to its market, which the EU and Ukraine have agreed to explore.
Russia insists the EU’s trade deal with Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova could, for example, allow the sidestepping of import duties. But Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin downplayed Russia’s concerns. The deal was signed last month.
“We are not talking about any problems with the implementation of the association agreement, we are talking about just potential risks,” said Pavlo Klimkin, Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs. “We will explore such potential risks, and actually it’s also our point, that Russian side sees potential risks, we don’t see such potential risks.”
Talks wrapped on a cooperative note, with Russia expected to submit a list of concerns by the end of the month, after which experts will continue to carry out assessments ahead of a second ministerial meet-up in September.
EU officials say these consultations are like an exercise in peeling back the layers of an onion to find out if there might be core problems that need to be dealt with. Brussels insists there are no threats to the Russian economy and negotiators here are only prepared to talk about issues that might arise in the implementation of the deal not on the deal itself.
There are fears the consultations are delaying the activation of free trade between the EU and Ukraine, but all sides want to avoid harboring tensions that might spark the military standoffs that are continuing to cause unrest in Eastern Ukraine.