Association agreement with the EU in khaki

Co-director of foreign policy and international security programmes of Razumkov Centre Mykhailo Pashkov speaks about the possibilities of soonest European integration for Ukraine and on the progress of implementation of the Association with the EU.

Last week it was reported that the next (eighth) meeting of the Ukraine-EU Association Council would be held on September 5. Kyiv and Brussels will assess the progress and prospects of implementation of the Association Agreement.

It is worth mentioning that at the July meeting of the Verkhovna Rada, Volodymyr Zelenskyy said: "The Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU has already been implemented by 63%, and 37% of objectives is still ahead for all of us, for our state." (This means that according to the 2021 government report, the overall progress of implementation of this document increased from 54% to 63%). It is clear that this 9% per annum is difficult to call a "breakthrough". However, it should be noted that in general, the process of implementing the agreement in different domains takes place at different speeds, due to internal and external factors, the scope and deadlines of the objectives, the scale of the planned reforms, etc.

One more thing is obvious: the Agreement is not cast in bronze or carved in marble. First, this document does not define a European perspective for Kyiv and rests on the philosophy of neighbourhood, when the subject of Ukraine's accession to the EU was far beyond the horizon of Brussels' Eastern policy. The fact that the term "political association" is not explained in the Association Agreement and has no clear legal definition is quite eloquent.

Secondly, the text of the Agreement, agreed back in 2011, is largely outdated and, to put it mildly, not fully adequate to the radical changes in Ukraine, the EU and the world. In particular, the socio-political situation in Ukraine, the structure of its economy, and foreign policy have changed. At the same time, the legislative and legal framework of the EU has been updated, a visa-free regime was introduced with Ukraine, a common digital market emerged, the European Green Deal is being implemented, etc. Ukraine acquired the status of a candidate for the EU membership. Large-scale Russian aggression fundamentally changed the situation on the European continent and in the world.

Thirdly, the "pre-war" Chapter II of the Association Agreement, which outlines security issues, unlike the other parts of the document, is too short, purely declarative, contains only general framework provisions and does specify plans or performance indicators. In the conditions of war, when the security factor is of priority importance, this section at least needs to be updated and elaborated, in particular, in appropriate appendices.

It should be admitted that in recent years, Kyiv and Brussels somewhat updated the Agreement — modified a number of its annexes with the aim of deepening Ukraine's integration in the EU internal market.

However, despite all criticism of the Agreement, the President's call for its steadfast implementation is absolutely reasonable. The thing is that on the one hand, the document contains a package of urgent reforms needed by Ukraine (but, obviously, these reforms must take into account wartime specifics and needs). On the other hand, the thematic lines of the Agreement fully correspond to the 35 chapters of the negotiation process on joining the EU — from the well-known "four freedoms" (free movement of goods, services, capital and labour) to transport and energy, industrial policy and statistics, etc. That is, implementation of the Agreement serves as the basis for future negotiations on joining the EU. 

It should be noted that the war accelerated implementation of the goals set by the Agreement. In May 2022, the EU cancelled quotas and customs duties for Ukrainian exports, and subsequently concluded an important agreement with Ukraine on Liberalisation of Road Transport. In fact, a "visa-free" regime was introduced with the EU in "energy", "trade", and "transport". Next comes cancellation of "industrial" (ACAA) and customs "visas ", integration in the Digital Europe programme.

At the same time, in view of the war in Ukraine and occupation of part of its territory, it makes sense to adjust some priorities and time parameters of the Agreement implementation, taking into account their "security relevance" and the dynamics of the situation in Ukraine (in particular, implementation of certain thematic areas — space research, tourism, fishing, etc. — may be postponed). 

Currently, an important tactical priority is presented by implementation of the package of the European Commission recommendations, which was a condition for granting the candidate status to Ukraine. Kyiv has already taken a number of important steps to this end. In particular, the Verkhovna Rada adopted the Anti-Corruption Strategy for 2021–2025, pro-European laws on environmental protection, copyrights, accounting, and ratified the Istanbul Convention. In June, the Regulations of the register of oligarchs were published. The competition commission finally approved the candidate for the head of the Specialised Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office. It was one of the most sensitive issues in the relations between Kyiv and Brussels.

The Ukrainian authorities are determined to implement this package of recommendations by the end of 2022, to adopt more than 30 European integration bills, and to start the marathon of negotiations on joining the EU next year.

Another thing is also obvious: the agenda of Ukraine-EU relations is not confined to implementation of the Agreement and the recommendations of the European Commission. The Russian invasion changed the order of priorities and tasks.

Currently, the process of European integration should primarily be aimed at strengthening resistance to the aggressor, ensuring Ukraine’s stability and development, promoting its recovery and vital reforms in the difficult conditions of war. All-round military assistance to Ukraine is an obvious top priority, in particular, extension of military-technological cooperation with the EU countries, regular financial support of the European Peace Fund (EPF), expansion of training and educational programmes for the Ukrainian military, establishment of joint ventures in the defence industry, etc. In general, it is about the forced transition of the Ukrainian defence sector to NATO standards.

It is not difficult to predict that this very topic of "khaki" will be in the focus of the next 24th Ukraine-EU Summit. A coherent solidary policy of the European Union and Ukraine, joint resistance to the Russian aggression, toughening of sanctions and acceleration of Ukraine's integration in the European community are extremely important.


Mykhailo Pashkov

Co-Director, Foreign Relations and International Security Programmes

Born in 1958 in Roslavl, Smolensk oblast, Russia


Smolensk Institute of Pedagogy, Faculty of the Russian Language and Literature (1979)

Moscow Institute of Youth, Faculty of Journalism (1986)

Kyiv Institute of Political Science and Public Administration (1991)

Ph. D. in Philosophy; the author of more than 50 publications

1979 – 1989 — worked at different positions in district, regional and republican newspapers in Russia and Moldova

1991 – 1994 — worked in scientific institutions of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine

1994 – 1998 — Diplomatic Service at the Embassy of Ukraine in the Russian Federation

Since December 1999 — Razumkov Centre's Leading Expert

Diplomatic Rank: First Secretary. Most recent position in state structures — Chief Consultant, Analytical Service of Ukraine's NSDC Staff

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