Ukraine, EU: A Closer Relationship?

The EU's plan to finalize an Association Agreement with Ukraine in 2009 was made public at the EU-Ukraine Summit in Paris on Sept. 9. The media and bloggers greeted it with mixed reactions.

“EU offers reassurance to Ukraine,” read a BBC headline. “EU offers no promises to hopeful Ukraine,” wrote the Irish Times. “EU Makes Positive Noises But Offers Only Vague Deal to Ukraine,” stated Deutsche Welle. “Nervous EU offers Ukraine hope for the future but no seat at the table,” concluded The Times.

The negative part of the assessment of the Summit's results stems from the EU's decision not to include the term “membership perspective” in the description of Ukraine’s future relationship with the EU – a phrase, which, according to Vitaly of The 8th Circle, “would identify Ukraine’s EU aspirations as something more than a hypothetical idea”:

[…] To myself, I thought that this is not surprising. With the EU still digesting the 2004 and 2007 enlargement waves, experiencing the Romania-Bulgaria fatigue syndrome, and dealing with an internal problem caused by Ireland’s vote against the Lisbon constitution treaty, any talk of further enlargement perspective for other states, especially those like Ukraine with 46 million citizens or Turkey with 70 million, must be nauseating. Although, smaller states, like Serbia with a population of 7 million, have a more realistic perspective as we have recently learned from Mr. Barroso […].

The 8th Circle points at another alleged reason for deciding against Ukraine's “European perspective” – the ongoing political crisis in Ukraine – but argues that “what Ukraine is going through right now SHARES quite a bit with the European values”:

[…] Furthermore it is puzzling why the withdrawal of one section from the ruling coalition, and the consequent potential for a pre-term election is NOT an example of shared values between the EU and Ukraine. As a democracy with competitive, free and fair elections, Ukraine is attempting to find an institutional solution that will accommodate all of its political actors.

It is a democratic process through which every democratic state must pass through if it is to move beyond the adjective – “transitional.” Well consolidated democracies, such as Canada and Japan are currently going through the same coalition formation/pre-term election process, and Belgium in the past year took 196 days to form a coalition, which almost beat their 1977 record of 208 days. […]

J Clive Matthews of Nosemonkey's EUtopia thinks that the EU should adopt a more practical approach to dealing with Ukraine:

[…] So Ukraine’s less welcome than tiny Albania and Macedonia? Less welcome than Serbia, a country built on a genocidal civil war and still in dispute with much of the EU over the status of Kosovo?

Yeah, cheers for that. Really encouraging. Nice one.

The promise of future EU membership can be a force for good, inspiring positive shifts towards greater democratic freedoms. But the promise has to be made. Taking a carrot and stick approach is a tried-and-tested method for getting people to do what you want – and that goes for countries too. Yet in the case of Ukraine, the EU’s carrot would appear to be largely imaginary – while at the same time, Ukrainians know that Russia has both stick and carrot, and isn’t afraid to use either.

Taras of Ukrainiana takes a harsh stance on the performance of Ukraine's politicians:

[…] Sure, Euro-beggars can’t be Euro-choosers. Especially if you come to the negotiation table in such a grotesque disarray.

In the meantime, let our oligarchs buy a little more of Monaco. Maybe then we’ll have our chance to join the EU? […]

Part of the passage above is actually a reaction to Victor Yushchenko's seemingly awkward and inappropriately positive response to what Nicolas Sarkozy reportedly said on behalf of the EU at the end of the Summit. Ukrainiana posted a news report broadcast by one of Ukrainian TV stations and provided an English translation of the Ukrainian voiceover translation of Sarkozy's words:

French President Nicolas Sarkozy: This association agreement [to be signed in 2009] does not close any paths, nor does it open any paths. That’s all we could give.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko: We very much appreciate what we reached today.

It turns out, however, that Sarkozy's remark has been mistranslated, and the incorrect translation was then featured prominently in the Ukrainian and a few Western media outlets (more about it – here). The original statement – “[…] cet accord d’association ne ferme aucune piste, que même il en ouvre” – apparently translates as “[…] this association agreement does not close any route, it even opens some.”

“Well, let's see what that means in practical terms,” concludes Ukrainiana after posting a correction.

The 8th Circle believes that the EU should “stay engaged with its Eastern Neighborhood” and that the Polish-Swedish Eastern Partnership project might be “a good small step in that direction.” Here is why:

[…] This partnership more than anything will show that the EU retains its leadership role in Europe by staying actively engaged with “neighborhood countries” that are at various stages of democratic and economic development.


Note that the question is not about making a promise of membership or candidateship – like the one made by Barroso vis-a-vis Serbia – rather it is about signaling to politicians in Kyiv and the Ukrainian population that if they want to and if they reform accordingly, then the EU is a viable option. […]


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