Olli Rehn, Europe’s top economic officer, said the EU is prepared to offer a financial aid package worth billions of euros to Ukraine and extend the longer-term prospect of EU membership to help stabilise the country.
“The EU will be ready to provide substantial financial assistance for Ukraine and the Ukrainian people once a political solution, on the basis of democratic principles, a commitment to reform and a legitimate government, is in place,” said Mr Rehn.
Mr Rehn, the European commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, was speaking on the sidelines of a G20 meeting in Sydney after Ukraine’s president Viktor Yanukovich was ousted in the country’s second revolution in 10 years and Yulia Tymoshenko, heroine of the 2004 Orange Revolution, released from jail.
Before Mr Yanukovich backed out of signing an integration treaty with the EU in November, a U-turn that triggered months of protests which led to his removal, the EU was prepared to join the International Monetary Fund in an aid package worth as much as €20bn over seven years, according to documents seen by the Financial Times.
The IMF has continued to insist any aid come with strict conditions, including a devaluation of the hryvnia, Ukraine’s currency, and gradual reduction in energy subsidies, which have helped eat away at Kiev’s foreign currency reserves. According to a top IMF official, Ukraine is burning through those reserves at a rate of about $2bn per month.
Christine Lagarde, IMF managing director, said on Saturday that the institution stood ready to engage with Ukraine but reiterated that conditions would be attached. “We need to operate under the rules and that means there are important economic reforms that need to be started,” she said.
The EU, which has agreed its aid would be tied to the IMF package, has been criticised by the US and others for failing to act decisively on Ukraine as it threatened to slip further into Russia’s orbit.
Mr Rehn said the money, which “will have to be billions rather than hundreds of millions of euros”, could be drawn from the European Commission’s budget and from EU member states.
“We need to provide Ukraine with a very clear, concrete European perspective. In the near future we are talking about an association agreement, which provides free trade and a substantial package of financial assistance,” said Mr Rehn in an interview at this weekend’s G20 meeting.
“But at the same time, we are at a historical juncture and Europe needs to live up to its historical moment and be able to provide Ukraine with an accession perspective in the medium-to-long term – if Ukraine can meet the conditions of accession.”
Jack Lew, US Treasury secretary, also in Sydney, said the US stood ready to help Ukraine in co-operation with other global institutions as long as it pursued a path towards political stability and embraced reform.
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