Medvedev calls on Ukraine to join Customs Union

 Russia wants Ukraine to become a fully-fledged member of the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, President Dmitry Medvedev reiterated on Wednesday.

“The Customs Union is the highest form of integration, and we are interested in involving Ukraine, a large European country, a fraternal and friendly state, in the process,” Medvedev told journalists.

“But we cannot agree with Ukraine’s joining under some kind of ‘three plus one,’ or ‘we’ll sign 20 documents and would not sign 30 documents’ schemes,” Medvedev said. “No! They should either join bag and baggage, sign in stages, become full members of the Customs Union, benefit from all advantages and incur all obligations or – but that is a different way, it’ll create a corresponding atmosphere.”

Russia has long been urging Ukraine to join the Customs Union whose members agreed last year to introduce a single customs tariff, an equivalent of Europe’s common customs tariff applied to the import of goods across external borders of the EU, tempting its neighbor with the prospect of cheaper gas supplies.

Medvedev said if Ukraine rejected joining the Customs Union, Russia would “use other customs regimes in relation to Ukraine”.

“And our Ukrainian partners understand it,” he said.

Ukraine is reluctant to become a full member, because such a deal would rule out signing a free trade agreement with the EU, and has suggested cooperating with the union under a ‘three plus one’ scheme, which would not mean full membership.

Medvedev reiterated he had discussed Russian-Ukrainian relations, including integration prospects, during his recent meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovich at the beginning of August.

“The conclusion is that our partners decided to take a pause to think about the current situation,” Medvedev said. The Customs Union is seen by Russia as the first step on the way for the three former Soviet republics to create a common economic space by 2012, which could be compared to the EU’s common market for goods, services, capital and labor.

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