The European Union and Ukraine will formally ratify an association agreement at a summit in Kyiv tomorrow, four years after the previous Ukrainian president withdrew from the process, sparking the Euromaidan protests that overthrew the government and led to civil war in the east of the country. The agreement commits Ukraine to economic, judicial and financial reforms to meet EU standards in return for increased access to the single market and enhanced political and economic support from the 28 member bloc.
Originally due to be signed in October 2013, the agreement was stalled and Ukraine thrown into crisis by then President Viktor Yanukovich’s decision to pull the country out of the talks in favour of closer ties with Russia. Pro-EU demonstrations in February 2014 prompted a heavy government crackdown that led to dozens of deaths in clashes between protesters and security forces before Yanukovich fled Ukraine for Moscow. Meanwhile, in the east of the country Russian-backed rebel forces took up arms against the interim government in Kyiv and in March Russia annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea under the pretext of protecting the Russian speaking population in the region.
Despite ongoing clashes in eastern regions that have left around 10,000 people dead the government of Petro Poroshenko has continued moving Ukraine closer to the EU and Nato. Last month Ukrainians were granted visa-free travel to the EU in a move described by Poroshenko as “a final farewell to the Soviet and Russian empire.”
At a meeting between NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Poroshenko in Kyiv on Monday the president announced the beginning of a Membership Action Plan outlining a path towards joining the Western military alliance. Speaking at a press conference Stoltenberg called on Russia to remove its forces from eastern Ukraine and end its annexation of Crimea. “For those who seek it, [NATO membership] requires dedication and substantial reform. But in the end membership is a decision for the 29 members of the NATO Alliance and for those who wish to join. And for them alone. No one outside has the right to try to intervene or to veto such a process,” Stoltenberg said.