Nazar Bobytsky: What does the appointment of the new EU Trade Commissioner mean for Ukraine


NAZAR BOBYTSKY, Director of the UBTA Brussels Office, on the appointment of Valdis Dombrovskis as the new EU Trade Commissioner and why this could be great news for Ukraine.

On September 8, 2020, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, announced her decision to transfer the portfolio of the EU Commissioner for Trade to the current Executive Vice-President of the Commission, Latvian Valdis Dombrovskis. The post of Trade Commissioner is known to have become vacant following the resignation of Ireland's European heavyweight politician Phil Hogan, who resigned after a scandal over a breach of national quarantine rules during a political party in his native Ireland.

Despite the fact that Ireland has without delay nominated two worthy candidates for the post of trade - a member of the European Parliament with many years of experience Marid McGuinness and the current Vice President of the European Investment Bank Andrew McDowell, the choice of Ursula von der Leyen settled on another star of European politics. For Dublin, this decision may be somewhat alarming, as ensuring acceptable terms for a post-Brexit trade agreement between Brussels and London is a matter of life and death for Irish business. Perhaps in order to allay Dublin's concerns in part, McGuinness handed over powers to Dombrovskis in terms of financial services. Mutual access to the financial services market is also an important map in the gambit of Brussels and London, and gives great leverage to both sides in these difficult negotiations.

For the European Commission and Ursula von der Leyen personally, the appointment of Dombrovskis is politically a very profitable move for a number of reasons:

  • former Prime Minister of Latvia and member of the Latvian center-right party "New Era", which is a member of the European People's Party V. Dombrovskis is a member of the European political "higher league" of former heads of government;
  • Dombrovskis' reputation has been significantly strengthened during his successful tenure as EC Vice President for Euro and Social Assistance, during which he was responsible for politically sensitive issues of overseeing fiscal reforms in Greece following the 2010-2011 debt crisis, forming a new one. architecture of European financial stability following the results of the world economic cataclysm of 2008-2009.
  • An experienced statesman and politician, V. Dombrovskis is well versed in the complex machinery of the EU institutions, as well as in the intricacies of relations between the 27 EU member states. At the same time, he enjoys the respect and sometimes admiration of his colleagues due to his prudence, tact and diplomacy.

In addition to these undoubted virtues of the Latvian representative, his appointment to one of the key positions of the leadership of the European Commission is of particular value to Ukraine for the following reasons:

  • As EC Vice President for Euro Affairs, V. Dombrovskis oversaw and directly oversaw the provision of macro-financial assistance (MFA) to Ukraine. As you know, our country is the largest recipient of EU MFA among third countries. Dombrovskis is better than anyone in the real macroeconomic situation of our country, the objective needs of economic reforms, as well as in the objective and subjective (political) obstacles to their implementation.
  • As a representative of the Baltic country, V. Dombrovskis understands and supports the strategic importance for the EU of the Eastern Partnership region and Ukraine in particular. All the experience of cooperation between Kyiv and Brussels through the MFD testifies in favor of this thesis. Despite Brussels' firm stance on the need for reforms envisaged by the MFD packages, consistent criticism of the pace and quality of their implementation, the Commission under the supervision of V. Dombrovskis never abandoned a strategic approach to the importance of macroeconomic support to Ukraine in the difficult period of 2014-2015 and beyond.
  • Trade plays a key role in maintaining the country's macroeconomic balance. The thesis about the need to support Ukraine by updating the FTA, gaining European political sympathy for Ukrainian business in Europe with more equitable access to the European market has the best chance to be heard by V. Dombrovskis.

However, this happy coincidence has a chance to materialize only under one condition. If the Ukrainian side remains consistent in its European integration course. And will fulfill its part of the agreements.