Since February 2009 , this blog and Huib's 3 other Euroblogs are together at:

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Ukraine and EU

What to do with Ukraine ambitions?

The EU-Observer relates the Yanukovych visit to Barroso in Brussels:
Mr Yanukovych - a former hardman in the pre-Orange Revolution regime
who returned to power in free elections last year - has attracted
interest in Brussels and Washington by bringing more stable energy
relations with Russia while pressing ahead with pro-EU economic
I feel a slight hesitation, when I have to consider an eventual Ukrainian accession to the EU. I have known Kiev in the Gorbatshov days. In spite of its fervent nationalism, ways of dealing and culture there are Soviet. The Western part, Galician, often Polish speaking, is stark oriented to the West: Culturally, but also commercially (agriculture). The Eastern part, however, often russophone, a mining and heavy industry zone, is linked with many ties to old Russia. The Krim and surrounding regions are also Russian, be it with an Asian original population.
Potentially, it is a huge agricultural asset to the EU. Large stretches of fertile land, all the fibres you'll need in the coming century. The same is true for coal: when the petroleum sources will dry up, a coal-based energy policy will need the Ukrainian riches.
Half of the country is decidedly western-oriented. We should not let them down, in spite of their anti-semitism and maffiose structures. The other half, however, is not. It is tied with many ties to mother Russia. The energetical riches there, are very important to a future Russian economy. The strategical locations at the Black Sea (Krim) are vital to the Russians.
I see two ways, how to deal with that dilemma:
  1. If the EU leaves Russia out in the foreseeable future, a deal could be made with the Russians, sharing influence in the Ukraine. The Western regions being progressively incorporated in the EU-market, while the Eastern regions would be linked to the Russian economy and the Krim region would become then a shared Russo-Ukrainian affair.
  2. But, if the EU would decide in the coming years to integrate with Russia, for energetic reasons and strategic reasons, another scenario is thinkable. The 50 million strong Ukraine could become a West- as well as East-oriented country, politically organised as a western democracy, but economically linked to its big Russian neighbour.
The US Americans, as far as I can see, consider an Ukrainian integration (a full one) into NATO and into EU as too bold a step. It would estrange Russia. The actual prime minister is intelligently playing on that field:
"EU officials and Ukrainian diplomats expect Ukraine to join the WTO in Spring or Summer - before Russia. The WTO entry would allow the EU and Ukraine to sign a "deep" free trade agreement down the line, which would remodel Ukraine's economy along EU lines.
These considerable steps [visa facilitations] to the EU will bring us closer in the future to our strategic goal of joining the EU," Mr Yanukovych said. Later, while meeting EU top diplomat Javier Solana, he squeezed his elbow like an old friend amid a chat on visas, and spoke of frequent telephone contact.

In foreign policy terms, Mr Yanukovych also gave Brussels political promises he will extend the mandate of the EU's border-monitoring team in Moldova, which has been a pain in the neck to pro-Russian rebels in the Moldovan region of Transdniestria since it started work.

Drawing the line at NATO

But the steely-eyed Ukrainian, whose Party of the Regions to an extent represents the old Ukraine of oligarchs and the Russophone, anti-NATO part of Ukrainian society in the east, showed the limits of his pro-western feeling when reacting to news the US Congress had approved Ukraine's future NATO membership.
This is why I think, that a successful integration of the Ukraine is dependent on a more independent EU foreign policy and an arrangement between the EU and Russia.
"Nowadays Ukraine is not ready for accession. The level of public support is about 20 percent and the decision on NATO will be taken by a national referendum," he said, adding "no dates" were ever mentioned in a deal he made on foreign policy with Ukraine's pro-NATO president Viktor Yushchenko last year.
Perhaps, a Russian-oriented government in Ukraine is not as bad as it seems, for the EU. Yanulovytch is a person, who could make arrangements with both the EU and Russia, without being suspected of selling out Ukrainian national interests.
When Mr Yanukovych's political rivals come to Brussels, they paint him as a danger to the country's pro-EU path. "Let's see this process [Yanukovych's return to power] not as a tragic one but as a test," Mr Yushchenko said on 8 March. Last November, [but] ex-PM Yulia Tymoshenko called Yanukovych "Kuchma-lite," referring to Leonid Kuchma, the repressive, pre-Orange Revolution president.
The State Department has a balanced view:
But in Brussels and even in some of the Russia-wary capitals of the
EU's new member states, Mr Yanukovych has earned himself the reputation
of a "pragmatist" and a cool-headed professional, who fits the EU's
current agenda of bringing Ukraine closer without any promise of
"He is, I think, someone who's different than when he was prime
minister in 2004," senior US diplomat David Kramer told EUobserver two
weeks back. "It is extremely important for Ukraine to have close,
vibrant relations with Russia...we approach him with our eyes wide open
and with a view to helping Ukraine."
"Let's stop talking about Russia and Ukraine as if it was still the old Soviet Union - those days are gone now," a Ukrainian diplomat said.
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