EU leaders have told Ukraine officials today that although they are concerned about continue breaches of the ceasefire on the Eastern Ukrainian border, they will not send peacekeeping troops into the region. European Council President Donald Tusk indicated that only civilian representatives would enter the region, and no troops would be deployed. In recent days, pro-Russian rebels have continually bombarded the key port city of Mariupol, to the East of the rebel controlled region.
Ukrainian President Poroshenko said during the meeting that they needed peacekeepers to monitor the frontlines and the rebel controlled border with Russia. Musk did emphasize that EU sanctions against Russia would remain in place, until the ceasefire conditions were fully realized and remained in place for an extended period. Given Russia’s stalwart resolve that they are not supplying the rebels and Russian troops there are “volunteers” this seems unlikely to occur in the near term.
Continued Fighting Impacts Ukraine’s EU ambitions
On Sunday, OSCE observers noted what they called the most intense shelling of the town of Shyrokyne since the fighting began there back in mid-February of this year. Heavy weapons including tanks were spotted in rebel-held areas near there, they said. As the EU leaders met with Poroshenko in Kiev, they could hear the shelling occurring just a few short miles away. Tanks were visible when looking out over the frontline near the region, and shells for armored batteries were noted.
The economic toll of this war weighs heavily upon the greater ambitions of Ukraine and the EU. There’s simply no way for the two to become closer in trade while this continual fighting continues. The EU visit marks a period where the leaders of the Union want to show solidarity with the Ukrainian people, to help resolve what the West has seen as undue aggression from the East for the last year. The rebels will probably just view this as another collaboration with who they view as “Western” enemies.
Calls for Further Reform
This is the first summit that occurred since since the EU-Ukraine agreement was signed last June. The EU is still anxious to see the Ukraine take steps to reign in debt, inflation and corruption which was rampant prior to the next government’s takeover. Although it will be difficult to control spending in a time of protracted war. The EU agreed to delay the implementation of this association agreement until next year, after Russia complained and called the agreement ‘suspicious’. Russia believed this would merely allow cheap goods to flood the Russian market from the EU.
Mr. Juncker, the President of the EU Commission, noted that the living conditions faced by Ukrainians were ‘very difficult’ and pledged during the summit to do more to help. He pledged increased financial support to help them along with these painful reforms, which are required by the association agreement. He noted that it was clear Ukrainians wanted ‘to live in a corruption-free country’. One of the major areas in desperate need of change is the heavily subsidized and extremely expensive energy sector. Huge energy inefficiencies, lack of trade with Russia after the conflict, and poor infrastructure have been a major drain on national resources.