Ukraine: What Everyone Needs To Know by Serhy Yekelchyk:
Since President Yanukovych’s last-minute reversal on concluding this agreement was the last straw that unleashed the revolt, the new Ukrainian authorities sought to sign it as quickly as possible. The Association Agreement does not offer Ukraine a clear accession path to the European Union, as many media commentators have assumed. Its tangible benefits for Ukraine include free trade with the European Union and, at some unspecified point in the future, visa-free travel for Ukrainian citizens. In the long run, the treaty committed Ukraine to aligning its legislation and production standards with that of the European Union, a process to be supported by Western funding.
The Russian government objected to Ukraine’s agreement with the European Union on ideological and geopolitical grounds, but advanced an economic argument as its primary reservation. Because Ukraine also had free trade with Russia, European goods could enter Russia through Ukraine with no tariffs being collected on either border. Expressing concern over lost revenues and damage to the economy, Russia threatened retaliatory economic measures. The European leaders paid attention, not so much because of this threat, as because Russia had just annexed the Crimea. As a result, Ukraine and the European Union took the unusual step of dividing the Association Agreement into two parts, general political and economic, and then signing each part separately. In order to provide symbolic closure to the EuroMaidan Revolution, Prime Minister Yatseniuk went to Brussels on March 21, 2014, to sign the mostly declarative political clauses.