Is Ukraine Ready for the European Defense Union?

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Jean-Claude Juncker calls for establishing the European Defense Union by 2025. How can Ukraine foster defense cooperation with the EU in the changing institutional environment?

Valentyna Romanova, 18 September 2017

By the end of September 2017 the Government of Ukraine should launch the so called Pulse of the Association Agreement (AA) between Ukraine and the EU, including the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA). The Pulse of the Agreement should help monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the AA thoroughly and transparently. I suggest that the Pulse might help fostering the EU-Ukraine relations in the area of security and defense, if applied not only for ’auditing’ the implementation of DCFTA, but for promoting the progress and addressing challenges of implementing the AA as a whole. It is a matter of fact that ‘developing dialogue and deepening cooperation between the EU and Ukraine in the field of security and defence’ is the a part of the AA (Title II, Article 4, point f). For obvious reasons, cooperation in this area matters a lot for Ukraine. It is likely that cooperation in this field becomes important for the EU due to its medium-term aim of establishing the EU Defense Union, as suggested by the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker in his the State of the Union Speech 2017.

The Pulse of the AA can become a powerful tool for making the most out of the AA, which was signed on 21 March and 27 June 2014 and that fully entered into force on 1 September 2017 the AA that. Since 1 November 2014 some parts of the AA have been provisionally applied, while some norms of the DCFTA have been provisionally implemented since 1 January 2016. Already in the short run Ukraine – EU trade relations are expected to benefit from additional ‘Autonomous Trade Measures’ in regard to some Ukrainian agricultural and industrial goods that were proposed by the European Commission and already agreed on with the Council and with the European Parliament.

So far it might look like the major benefits of the AA are related to trade. The EU has become the Ukraine’s major trading partner. According to the official European and Ukrainian statistics, exports of goods and services from Ukraine to the EU and Ukrainian imports from the EU both increased by nearly a quarter in the first four months of 2017 compared to the same period in the previous year.

Also, the EU supports domestic reforms via a number of initiatives, including Support Group for Ukraine. The EU and Ukraine jointly generated the Association Agenda that identified the priority political and economic reforms, including public administration reform, decentralisation, the fight against corruption, etc.

Furthermore, the EU plays a role in boosting international efforts to ensure the sustainable solution to the armed conflict in Donbas. These efforts include, but are not limited to the EU’s input into the Geneva Joint Statement of 17 April 2014 and  the Special Monitoring Mission of OSCE, as well as the ongoing negotiations within the Normandy format (France, Germany, Ukraine, Russia) and the Trilateral Contact Group (OSCE, Ukraine, Russia).

Still, the EU-Ukraine cooperation in the field of security and defense looks underemphasized. I suggest that the proposal of establishing the European Defense Union by 2025 made by the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker in his the State of the Union Speech 2017 can open a new window of opportunity when it comes to cooperation between Brussels and Kyiv in the field of security and defence.

So how can Ukraine foster defense cooperation with the EU in the changing institutional environment?

ü  First, it is necessary to include the dimension of security and defense into the logic of the AA evaluation within the Pulse of the Agreement.

ü  Second, it is vital to launch a timely and professional discussion regarding the potential scenarios of cooperation between Ukraine and the European Defense Union, apart from NATO.

ü  Third, it is important to highlight the matters of cooperation in security and defense matters within the agendas of the bilateral institutions of the AA, including: (a) the Association Council which monitors and controls the implementation of the AA; (b) the Association Committee; and (c) the Parliamentary Association Committee. 

Thus, the Pulse of the Agreement might play an essential role in informing the dialogue between Kyiv and Brussels in regard to the implementation of the AA in the area of cooperation in security and defense. It should be properly designed for these purposes and properly employed to ensure that the bilateral agenda has enough room for these matters for mutual benefit.