EU withholds funds amid reform concerns

4 December, 2017 12:00 AM printer

BRUSSELS: The European Union said Friday it is withholding 600 million euros in financial assistance to Ukraine because it has not made enough progress on a wide-ranging programme of reforms demanded by the bloc.

The EU has already paid out 1.2 billion euros in low-interest loans to Ukraine since 2015 to help it cope with a devastating economic crisis triggered by the annexation of Crimea by Russia and a Kremlin-backed separatist insurgency in its east, reports AFP.

But the money is conditional on Kiev implementing reforms aimed at tackling rampant corruption, modernising the economy and strengthening democratic structures.

The European Commission, the 28-member bloc's executive arm, said that while Kiev had fulfilled a "large share of the policy commitments agreed with the EU", they had not done enough to unlock the third and final 600-million-euro allocation.

"Four of the measures linked to the third and final tranche of this... currently remain outstanding," the commission said in a statement.

"Against this background, the Commission is not in a position to disburse the last tranche."

A spokesman for the commission refused to explain what the four areas of concern were, but in March the bloc said Kiev needed to focus on fighting corruption, reforming the energy sector, addressing restrictive trade practices and helping people displaced within the country by conflict.

The current financial aid scheme expires in January and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko used a summit of EU and former Soviet states in Brussels last week to press commission president Jean-Claude Juncker for a new package.