Saturday, December 5, 2009
Gas issues and need for reforms on EU-Ukraine summit agenda
The final third-country summit of the Swedish Presidency, EU-Ukraine, took place in Kiev today. As was the case in earlier summits, the Presidency’s two top priorities, the economic crisis and climate change, was on the agenda. But the major part of the meeting was devoted to two other issues: energy security and gas supply and Ukraine’s need for political and economic reforms.
On 17 January, the people of Ukraine will be voting in presidential elections and domestically, the country is experiencing some turbulence. At the same time, the economic and financial crisis has hit Ukraine hard and the country has responded to the crisis by not living up to the IMF’s demands for adaptation in order to qualify for further financial support. The previous high level of growth last year turned into inflation and exports fell dramatically.
The need for extensive democratic and economic reforms to modernise the country was one of the EU’s main messages to Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko, who several times emphasised the Ukrainian willingness to forge closer links with the Union. MrYushchenkoalso pointed out that the EU and Ukraine are facing several common global challenges and appreciated the symbolism of today’s summit being the first large EU summit under the new Lisbon Treaty.
“I hope that the EU’s reforms under the new Treaty can give impulses to our future cooperation”, said Mr Yushchenko at the summit’s concluding press conference.
In the energy field, discussions on the project launched earlier this autumn – the Eastern Europe Energy Efficiency and Environment Partnership (EEEEEP) – continued. A long series of countries have promised to jointly contribute EUR 90 million to the project, which is intended to last between 2010–2014 and aims at making greater investments in the energy and environment fields in Ukraine and in the longer term in other East European countries as well. Ukraine itself contributes with EUR 10 million during the same period.
Energy use in Ukraine today is only one third as efficient as in the EU countries on average. The new energy cooperation is also intended to yield further positive consequences. Reduced energy consumption leads to reduced emissions which in turn leads to a reduced impact on the climate. At the same time, modernised energy production and increased energy security is greatly desired in this part of Europe – not least after the past years’ energy crises when Ukraine had been unable to pay energy bills to Russia, who in turn cut off energy supplies, thus leaving not only Ukraine but also several EU countries without gas and heating.
The gas crisis
And the gas crisis was one of the issues dominating both the meeting and the press conference.
“Ukraine has set a lower price on gas when they sell it than when they buy it. This of course helps undermine state finances. The EU’s attitude is that we must be certain that we get the deliveries we pay for. It is our opinion that this is their issue to solve. And it is an issue which needs solving, because 25 % of energy supply in the EU is based on natural gas and a great part of it comes in via Ukraine. So it is no small issue to many of the EU’s Member States”, said Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt.
Later on in the day Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso also met with Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and leader of the opposition Victor Yanukovich. The EU expressed the same message at all three meetings. An agreement on strategic work between the EU and Ukraine was also signed.
The declaration that was adopted during the summit can be found via the link below:
Source: Swedish Presidency of the EU. Published on 4 December 2009