The Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan was launched in January 2010, and a Single Economic Space, based on a set of agreements covering subjects from the coordination of macroeconomic and fiscal policies to labour migration and technical regulation, became operational in January 2012. The Presidents of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan have declared their intention to form a Eurasian Economic Union by 2015. The EU endorses regional economic integration processes that are based on voluntary association and that are consistent with WTO commitments. Russia is the EU's third biggest trade partner, and the EU will continue to work with Russia to advance mutually beneficial economic cooperation.
The EU wishes to conclude a New Agreement with Russia that would preferably contain strong trade and investment provisions. It recognises the emerging political reality of the Customs Union although, given the non-WTO membership of Kazakhstan and Belarus, it could only conclude a free trade agreement with the Russian Federation.
In common with its EU partners, Ireland sees the value in closer relations between the EU and Ukraine and believes that the conclusion of the EU’s Association Agreement with Ukraine will benefit both parties in political and economic terms, and in enhanced people-to-people contacts. However, the EU has stated clearly the areas of concern which Ukraine would need to address convincingly to enable progress to be made towards signature of the Association Agreement. This message will be reiterated at the EU-Ukraine Summit on 25 February.
On the specific case of Ms Yulia Tymoshenko, this remains a matter of deep concern to Ireland and to its EU partners. I refer the Deputy to my reply to the Dáil on this matter on 16 January. In common with our EU partners, we will continue to monitor developments in regard to this case. The EU has continually impressed on the Ukrainian authorities that progress towards the signature and ratification of the EU’s Association Agreement with Ukraine would require it to address, among other issues, the question of politically motivated convictions . The Conclusions adopted by EU Ministers at the Foreign Affairs Council last December called on Ukraine to demonstrate ‘determined action and tangible progress’ in three areas of concern, including that of selective justice. Ireland strongly supported this stance.