Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip has met with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, the Ukranian Prime Minister, the Ukrainian minister of internal revenue, together with Estonian entrepreneurs Ansip described his visit to Ukraine as “important for Estonia’s economic interests and underlined the importance of the development of relations between the European Union and Ukraine.”
Ansip elaborated on his visit to Ukraine upon his return, saying:
“Investments by the Arricano group controlled by Estonian businessman Hillar Teder in Ukraine are now in the range of 400 million dollars and additional investments are being planned in the range of 100 million dollars annually over a period of three years. From the viewpoint of Estonian businesspeople relations between the EU and Ukraine are very important and Ukrainians’ support for the EU has grown to 50 percent compared with 10 percent some time ago.”
Ansip also highlighted the importance strengthening Ukraine-EU relations, mentioning the opportunity the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius later this year would present:
“I hope that during the Eastern Partnership meeting in Vilnius it will be possible to sign an association and free trade agreement between the EU and Ukraine. That would expand the [geographical] area of activity for our businesspeople further. There would be an addition by one-tenth to the EU market of 500 million.”.
The Estonian Prime Minister also addressed some similar concerns of Estonia and the Ukraine, including energy and transit issues. The opening of the new sea ports of Ust-Luga and Primorsk in Russia was discussed, with the Estonian Prime Minister confirming that Ukrainian goods headed for Europe would be welcome in Estonian ports and transit could be developed in the reverse as well.
Energy is a perpetual problem facing Ukraine, as the country currently relies on Russian Gazprom imports to be piped in–an energy source which has sparked numerous feuds between the two nations. Ukraine is proposing the extraction of shale as an alternative source and has already attracted multi-billion dollar investment deals with Royal Dutch Shell and U.S. Chevron. Ansip has added that the northeast Estonia based oil shale mining and oil refining group Viru Keemia Grupp (VKG) now has a permit to conduct oil shale exploration in Ukraine as well:
“When big investments are made stability of the investment environment is of utmost importance. It’s very important for the investment environment to be predictable. That means not only the current year or next year but it has to be possible to imagine what will happen in ten or twenty years,” Ansip said.
Ansips visit was not without controversy, however, as the Estonian Prime Minister remarked that “It is wrong for the future of Ukrainian-Estonian and Ukrainian-EU relations to depend on one lady,” referring to the controversy surrounding the imprisonment former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, which was widely condemned as a politically motivated case. The lawful resolution of Tymoshenko’s imprisonment is a major precondition for signing the Association Agreement with the EU in November. Ansip’s comment has been panned by critics and activists, as Eesti Päevaleht journalist Jaanika Merilo, referred to it as “The prime minister’s political prostitution.”
Merilo noted that Ansip’s remarks came as he met with Estonian businessmen with vested interests in Ukraine, and that the results of their meeting were highly lucrative for both sides, but that it came at the expense of greater values:
“Does Ansip truly believe, even from a business perspective, that there was any value in his going against the European Union’s common policy and Estonia’s general values, which uphold human rights and democracy? […] Even in Ukraine such behavior is known as political prostitution,” Merilo argued.
Meanwhile, Latvia has also met with Ukraine in Kyiv and Odessa, to discuss business. More than 215 Ukrainian businessmen applied for participation in the business forums in Kiev and Odessa, during which more than 310 contacts were established between Latvian and Ukrainian businessmen. Including the fields of energy efficiency and reducing energy costs at companies, use of alternative energy sources, tourism, cooperation in science and research, joint development and production of medications for the Latvian and Ukrainian markets.
“I am truly pleased at the positive talks I had during the visit with Ukrainian officials, and I hope that what we talked about will develop into real cooperation,” said Latvian President Andris Berzins.