A landmark Association Agreement between Ukraine and the European Union was initialed on Friday in Brussels after five years of negotiations, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said.
The agreement, aimed at establishing political association and economic integration between the European Union and Ukraine, is to replace the 1998 Partnership and Co-operation Agreement as a basis for bilateral relations.
“Today the Chief Negotiators of the European Union and Ukraine initialed the text of the Association Agreement, which will include provisions on the establishment of a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area as an integral part,” the Ukrainian foreign ministry said on its website.
“In this context, Chief Trade Negotiators from both sides confirmed their agreement, reached on 22 December 2011, on the substance of the DCFTA [Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area], undertaking to complete the legal verification of the text, including technical annexes and protocols,” the statement says.
The document, totaling more than 1,000 pages, was initialed by Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin and Managing Director of the European External Action Service for Russia, Eastern Neighborhood and the Western Balkans Miroslav Lajcak.
Initialing of an international agreement is a technical step before the official signature, and it is yet unclear when the document will be formally signed.
At the EU-Ukraine summit, held in Kiev last December, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said the agreement is unlikely to be signed before the Ukrainian parliamentary elections due in October. The trial and subsequent seven-year jail term for former premier Yulia Tymoshenko, which Europe sees as politically motivated, also became a hurdle for signing the document.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kostyantyn Hryshchenko said he expected the deal to be signed “within the period of from six to twelve months.”
European Union’s information website EurActiv said, citing European officials, that the main obstacle for the initialing was the wording of the preamble, namely the text defining Ukraine's EU prospects.
The European Union wanted the text to reflect “EU support for Ukraine, acknowledging Ukraine's adherence to EU values and identity, as well as the strong support of the Ukrainian public for EU integration,” the portal said.
Ukraine, however, insisted that the preamble should contain the EU recognition of Ukraine's “European roots and perspectives,” not only the acknowledgement of Kiev's European ambitions.
The text of the document has not been made public yet.