Ukraine to file EU application by 2020, says Poroshenko

By bne IntelliNews September 26, 2014

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Ukraine's president Petro Poroshenko said that his goal was to apply to join the European Union by 2020, as he presented his "Strategy of reforms 2020" at his first major press conference since being elected president with a landslide majority in May.

"The purpose of our ambitious reforms is to achieve European standards of life and prepare for the application for EU membership in 2020," Poroshenko told a rapt crowd, in a speech that quoted Rousseau, Kennedy and Shakespeare, as well as Ukrainian philosophers.

"Our revolution has won with a delay of several centuries and we have only a few years to overcome this critical gap," Poroshenko said.

Poroshenko said that reform would be sweeping and all-encompassing - with a total of for 60 reforms and programs to be launched simultaneously, across eight top priority spheres, and three vectors: sustainable development; security of the state, business and citizens; responsibility and social justice.

The spheres he listed included: anti-corruption and judicial reforms, reform of law enforcement bodies, decentralisation and state governance reform, tax reform, deregulation and development of entrepreneurship, reform of the security and defence system, health-care reform, energy independence and increasing the stature of Ukraine in the world.

According to Poroshenko, the overriding priority is judicial reform. "The whole state machine has been shaped by corruption interests," Poroshenko said. Any reform must thus be preceded by radical renewal of the government staff.

In a bid to increase transparency for his pledges, Poroshenko set specific economic indicators his success should be measured by: Ukraine should gain a BBB credit rating from Standard & Poor's by 2020, up from CCC now; Ukraine should achieve inflation of 1.7% by 2020 from about 19% in 2014; Ukraine's budget deficit should be cut to 3% of GDP in 2020, including the Naftogaz balance; and $40bn in FDI inflows for the period by 2020.

"Poroshenko is clearly trying to seize the initiative back after criticism over some of the concessions seemingly made to Russia over recent weeks, including the decision to delay the full implementation of the DCFTA [free trade agreement] until the end of 2015 - many saw that latter decision as the EU selling out to Russia," wrote Standard Bank's Tim Ash. "The 2020 target to apply for EU membership is sufficiently far off as not to frighten existing EU member states already worried over the over-expansion of the EU," he adds.

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy backed Poroshenko's sweeping vision, in comments made on September 26. "Those reforms - economic, political, constitutional - will determine the success of a lasting political solution," Rompuy said, speaking at the 69th session of the UN General Assembly in New York.

"The country's political life and prosperity shall belong to all its citizens. An inclusive Ukraine, with a new social contract and a fair balance between the parts and the whole, is the best way to secure the country's future," Van Rompuy added.

The European Union has not officially given Ukraine a membership perspective that would allow Ukraine to file an application to join. In responses to Poroshenko's goal to submit an application, EU representatives were lukewarm.  "The European Union recently said that the Association Agreement is not the end goal of our cooperation," Peter Stano, spokesperson at the European Commission told Interfax.  "We support Ukraine in its efforts in conducting the required political and economic reforms to modernize the country," Stano added.

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