EUkraine: Today & Tomorrow

On the Road to the AA

By Yevhen Magda

In terms of geopolitics, fall 2013 will be determinant for Ukraine. Signing of the Association Agreement (AA) with the EU has not only a symbolic value. It is a possibility to change the consciousness of Ukrainian elite. It is not even a turn to the West, but a return to Europe. Ukrainian nation, with its poor experience of “sovereignty” in terms of European standards, can return to the continental system of public and political relations. By doing that, there is a significant advantage for Ukraine: it has a chance to start from a clean slate and absorb European experience to strengthen its raw independence.

Gustav Vodicka often called Ukraine the “Homeland of dormant angels.” In case of gradual accession to the European system of political and economic relations (as opposite to the rapid accession) – official Kyiv will not have to sleep.

Ukraine will not be allowed to access the EU rapidly. Not by strict examiners from European Commission and European Parliament, neither by the EU member states. It is necessary to develop first new criteria for accession, to harmonize national legislation with the EU, to establish free trade area, and to fill the Agreement on visa facilitation with a real content.

The AA is not a dole from the side of the EU, but an instrument of influence that will allow Ukraine to move forward in the direction defined already by two Ukrainian presidents. It is an instrument to force the representatives of Ukrainian elite as well as simple Ukrainian citizens to farewell with many illusions and to understand that it is necessary to build Europe in Ukraine. Our country has paid a considerable price for not backed up by real changes European expectations. To rely on “the last hour of indulgence”, for all the EU’s interest in rapprochement with Ukraine, is not necessary.

The choice of integration model is not easy, and not always unconditional. It was not worth even to start the negotiation about signing the AA without understanding the EU basic principles. I remind that Russia invites Ukraine to join the Custom Union without any preconditions. In addition, it promises significant economic preferences. However, the persistent Moscow’s proposals is not interesting for official Kyiv today. Ukrainians understand that absence of preconditions does not mean a priori equal relations.

Political leaders of Ukraine had enough time to realize the key European principals. Democracy – is a procedure and Ukrainian politicians have to reckon with it, even if it may be painful at first. The rule of law and an independent justice – are not just a declaration. It is an opportunity for millions of Ukrainians to defend rights, honor and dignity.

Within this context, we need to analyze the issue of Yulia Tymoshenko with respect to which the European high society nourish fewer illusions. European policy have not managed to get rid of populists, but the level of their impact is much lower than in Ukraine.

The embarrassing defeat in the struggle for Ukrainian sovereignty in the twentieth century must teach our politicians how to think strategically and how to be proactive. Nevertheless, we are still facing with a paradox: while almost all Ukrainian politicians (except the leader of Communist Party of Ukraine Petro Symonenko) agree about the importance of integration with the EU, there are still problems with the adoption of the laws.

European integration deadline is in September and Brussels will not hold a quick re-examination. Ukrainian Parliament should adopt anticorruption laws with the necessary elements for its implementation, and to date elections in the five abandoned for today electoral districts. It is interesting that the law on combating discrimination rises a holy terror among the Parliament deputies. It seems that Ukrainian lawmakers are afraid to support this law because of being accused in the gay lobby.

Further, it is necessary to understand that Brussels expects from Kyiv not a simply to fulfil of the notorious “Füle’s list”, but to execute the necessary decisions. The EU has already made steps towards Ukraine: it has postponed the deadlines for Ukraine when it should be ready for signing of the AA. However, if the representatives of Ukrainian authorities do not do their homework, the integration with the EU risks going on the back burner. European politicians are talking about this sincerely. There will be elections in European Parliament and rotation of European Commission next year, and there is no guarantee that more loyal to Ukraine officials will take the offices in the executive system of the EU.

I doubt that national political leaders and generals of the Ukrainian business do not understand the prospects of Ukraine’s accession to the EU. The expansion of opportunities for investments into infrastructure that make a real thesis about unique geographical position of our country and implementation of a free trade principle just lie on the surface. It is clear that Ukraine will not be in the role of mistress in the European Union (this should be realized clearly), but Ukraine has a chance with other post-soviet countries to declare about itself quite confidently in the new Europe.

To do this, it is important not to stand at one place and to declare about own ambitions. For example, as it is the case in the energy sector. Ukraine has answered on Russian accusations in the inefficiency of Ukrainian gas transportation system the eastern border of the EU not with words, but with real actions. Ukraine has to raise the level of the respect to it in the global community. It has to attract cheap by Ukrainian standards financial resources from European financial centers, and do not allow to hang on the country the label of eternal periphery of the Old World.

Official Kyiv has not only to use the EU experience for structural reforms; it has to strive for legalization of Ukrainian immigrant workers. Ukrainian authorities should not wait for automatic transition of European mentality to Ukraine. It is necessary first to achieve for millions of Ukrainians the possibility to “taste” Europe and its values.

Fall 2013 will be, perhaps, the most important period for the foreign policy choice of Ukraine since its independence in 1991. In comparison with it, even the renunciation of nuclear weapons in the early 90’s recedes into the background. The AA is able to commemorate the appearance of Ukrainian, blue and yellow star on the flag of the European Union. Although, it requires hard work to fill the counter with a color of correct saturation required for full accession to the EU, but the walker will overcome the way in the end.

Yevhen Magda is an associate Professor of politics at Ukraine’s Kiev Polytechnic Institute (NTUU KPI) with a PhD in political science.

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