Free trade zone, surrounded by barb wire

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April 28, 2015

Pavel Shipilin

Translated from Russian by Kristina Rus

In my opinion nobody believed that the visa-free regime with Europe, promised in January by Petro Poroshenko to Ukrainians, will come to fruition. This is just what happened: the President of the European Council Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker skipped the most important subject for the local population.

When Ukrainian public was discussing the upcoming summit, four subjects were on the agenda:

• Visa-free regime;
• European peacekeepers in the conflict zone;
• Free trade zone starting from January 1, 2016;
• The status of implementation of the Minsk agreements

This simple rating quite clearly shows the priorities. Kiev desperately needs support within the country (visa-free regime) and abroad (peacekeepers) in its struggle with Russia. The EU needs a free trade zone to sell their products duty free. Also it wants to know if Ukraine is eager to stop the war in Donbass. In order to (without additional problems) sell their products.

“Let’s finish the wall, and then we can play with tanks again!”

The first two subjects were categorically ignored by Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker. Therefore, Petro Poroshenko had no choice but to present the start date of FTA, confirmed by the parties, as the first day of January of the following year as a victory. Moreover, contrary to the wishes of Russia. Meaning of course – a double victory. You can say, total victory.

Regarding the discussion on the status of implementation of the Minsk agreements, it was only briefly mentioned after the summit (although at the summit, no doubt, significant time was devoted to it). Well, except for the standard accusations of Russian sabotage. This is for internal use.

But at the end the Ukrainian President did not receive any “strong signals” that he was expecting. Moreover, if Ukraine is building a tall fence in the East, EU is building an even taller fence on its Western border. In essence, on January 1, 2016 Ukraine will find itself surrounded by barbed wire on both sides. Ukrainians will have to survive not on vast expanses of the Old World, but at the place of residence.

Meanwhile, domestic production able to occupy the population and provide a bare minimum, is dramatically decreasing – only in the first quarter the country’s GDP fell by 15 percent. “The decline in economic activity in March remained at the level of previous months due to reduction in consumer demand in the face of high inflation and a corresponding acceleration of the fall in wholesale and retail trade”, — reported the Ukrainian National Bank in its review.

I cannot say that the perspective of the suicide of Ukraine pleases me as much as Ukrainians. Due to reduction of trade between our countries, Russia is suffering too. However, by New Year such a solid fence will be built between Russia and Ukraine, that no mouse will slip through it. And this time — by us. Because we don’t need the duty-free European goods, which will try to seep to our market transiting Ukraine.

We will watch from the sidelines as our brothers move to European standards, Euro-food and Euro-rules, but without Euro-money. A very educating spectacle awaits all of us, let me tell you. No worse than Euromaidan.

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