Germany's cabinet members have given the green light to an EU Assocation Agreement which would enhance economic and political cooperation with Ukraine. The approval from Berlin comes ahead of an EU approval on Friday.
Members of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet gave the go-ahead for Germany to sign an EU agreement with Ukraine later this week. The vote by the German ministers was made in Berlin on Wednesday during a cabinet meeting.
Under the deal, the 28-member bloc would strengthen economic and political cooperation with the eastern European country. The aim of closer ties would be "Ukraine's gradual integration in the EU Internal Market…and to support Ukrainian efforts to complete the transition into a functioning market economy," according to the document's preamble.
Ukraine has long awaited an Association Agreement with the 28-nation European bloc. Last fall, former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych's decision to shelve the deal in favor of closer ties with Moscow sparked mass protests. Yanukovych contended that he had taken the subsequent a $15 billion (10.79 billion-euro) loan and a discount on gas prices from Russia in order to keep Ukraine's economy afloat.
Germany has played a leading role in negotiations with Ukraine. At the height of pro-EU demonstrations in Kyiv, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (pictured) helped broker a political deal that ended deadly clashes between the government and protesters. The agreement paved the way for the installment of an interim government. It also led to the Yanukovych's ouster as president.
EU leaders are scheduled to deliberate over the Association Agreement at a summit in Brussels on Friday, a move which could be seen as a provocation by Moscow.
Diplomatic relations have deteriorated between the Brussels and Moscow over Russia's annexation of Crimea. Moreover, the Russian government under President Vladimir Putin has accused the EU of supporting leadership in Kyiv compromised of ultranationalists. In its latest spat with the Brussels on Wednesday, the Russian Foreign Ministry blamed the cancellation of European Council President Hermann van Rompuy's visit to Moscow on the EU, saying it didn't want to know "the truth" about the crisis.
Cabinet approves Somalia mission
In a separate decision, the German cabinet also finalized the deployment of 20 soldiers to Somalia. German military personnel had been training Somali soldiers as part of an EU mission in Uganda. When the EU moved the mission to Mogadishu earlier this year, Germany did not initially redeploy its soldiers there.
The cabinet's decision now awaits approval from German parliament. Opposition parties have criticized the government for expressing support for a larger military presence in Africa without first consulting German lawmakers.
kms/mz (Reuters, dpa)