EUkraine: Today & Tomorrow

Don’t Flirt!

By Iev Strygul

Nobody from politicians or experts deny the fact that the signing of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU will have significant consequences for the EU’s Eastern neighbor. Some are able to recognize the consequences for the EU, or its some particular members. Nevertheless, there are still a lot of those who are being short-sighted and cannot discern the fact that Ukrainian decision which direction to move will define the geopolitical situation in the whole region for many long years, what threatens Europe with chance on a fatal mistake.

Ukraine is the largest country of Europe with a huge demographic, industrial, and agricultural potential. It is located at the crossroads of many trade routes between Europe and Asia, as well as at the intersection of Central and Eastern Europe, finding itself situated in the both regions at the same time. The country that occupies more than 600 000 square kilometers in the heart of Europe situated between two large economy-political blocs: the EU and “Eurasian Union”, what makes it responsible for stability and security in the whole region. Its strategic location is one of the reasons why the country has obtained its independence only in 1991. That is in spite of the long history of its nation.

Today for the first time in its history, Ukraine has a chance to make its own independent choice which direction to develop on international arena. Before that Ukraine was always a puppet in someone’s hands and the victim of imperial games of more powerful and ambitious neighbors.

Ukraine has already made its choice in favor of integration with the EU what stipulated on the legislative level in the Law of Ukraine “The Basis for National Security” (June 19, 2004 #964). What is more, integration with the EU is not only the choice of Ukrainian political elite, but also the choice of its nation. According to the survey of the Razumkov Center conducted from 17 to 22 May 2013 the majority of Ukrainians (42%) believe that accession to the EU should be the main priority for Ukrainian foreign policy.

However, those who think that the EU has Ukraine “in the pocket” might mistake. As long as Ukraine does not have any obligations to the EU stipulated on international level, it can still easily change its foreign policy vector. Ukrainian accession to the EU is primarily a political decision. In terms of economy, the Customs Union offers Ukraine much more advantages. At least in the short term. Besides, a large part of Ukrainian population (31%) still prefers integration with the Customs Union to the integration with the EU. Moreover, there are groups in Ukrainian politics who actively lobby Ukrainian government for joining the Customs Union. These arguments seem to be enough to convince Ukrainian political elite to turn its back on Europe and jump into the open arms of the Customs Union in case the November project to sign the AA with the EU fails.

Conclusion. Europe should stop flirting with the country that due to its geopolitical location determines the stability and balance of power in the region if it does not want to make a mistake that will have consequences for more than one generation.

Iev Strygul is an expert on East European politics, working at the European Center for a Modern Ukraine (Brussels).

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  1. Exactly!
    I think that the Association Agreement with Ukraine will be signed in November. Because it seems that everyone realizes that what you are saying. Nevertheless, even the AA couldn’t ensure that Ukraine won’t change its course on the EU. Russia will play this game hard and it perceivs it as a “zero sum game” . The Customs Union is not stable and complete without its Western neighbor. And if Ukriane is a part of the EU – it will significantly weaken the hegemony of Russia in the countries of Eastern Partnership.

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