Welcome to the U.S.-Ukraine Business Council

The Parliament.com, Brussels, Belgium

Thursday, November 15, 2007

BRUSSELS - Ukraine is ready to put its recent political turmoil behind it and join the EU. That was the message from Edilberto Segura [SigmaBleyzer], one of the country's top economists, to a meeting in Brussels.

Speaking on Thursday, the former World Bank official said, "EU membership will come - it is only a matter of time."

The timing of his speech is telling as it comes on the eve of negotiations next week on a possible EU-Ukraine trade agreement.

Segura reminded an audience of journalists and representatives from NGOs and think tanks that Ukraine's political situation remains "uncertain"
following national elections on 30 September.

Despite the ongoing political gridlock, he said the Orange Revolution of
2004 had led to "more transparency and accountability" than his country had ever known.

He added, "No-one can be sure what will happen and Ukraine still needs more resolute efforts to achieve international standards of governance and transparency.

"But the risk of Ukraine going backwards is almost nil. Ninety per cent of its population want free market reform and closer relations with the EU, policies which are supported by all three major political parties."

Such reforms, he said, should include changes to the tax system and to the judiciary, including better salaries for judges.

"However, signing a free trade agreement with the EU must be the single most important objective for Ukraine.

"This would secure long term growth and lead to closer integration with the EU. Whether it actually leads to full EU membership is a very complex question but I am sure membership will come." He said that, at present, resistance to such a move came from the EU on financial grounds.

"The French, in particular, are afraid that a mostly rural country like Ukraine will lead to it losing some of the agricultural funding it receives from the EU." The event was organised by the EU-Ukraine Business Council.

Meanwhile, parliament this week ratified a process to simplify the visa process with with Ukraine. The agreement on visa changes, agreed on 13 November, will allow a fixed price for visas at Euro35, and additionally will waive visa charges for students, journalists and close relatives.

FOOTNOTE: Dr. Edilberto Segura was formerly with the World Bank.
He has served now for several years as the Chief Economist for SigmaBlezyer, and Chair of the Advisory Board of The Bleyzer Foundation.