Bursting the Bubble

EU-Ukraine Summit: empty words or a step forward?

8 March 2013 | by

A couple of days ago – on the 25th February 2013– Ukraine was once again at the heart of Brussels dialogue. Another incident with Missis Tymoshenko, or a gas crisis with Russia you might think? No, it was simply the 16th EU-Ukraine summit. Simple or not, let’s reflect on who said what and why?

Browsing through the many worldwide newspapers analysing the final press conference and Joint Statement, it’s not hard to notice that the general tone of the summit was quite friendly. Relations with Ukraine – especially during the press conference held by the three Presidents – Barroso, Van Rompuy and Yanukovych – were constantly characterised with positive terms such as “constructive”, “open”, and “important”. Populist but pleasant passages, such as “Ukraine: you are not walking alone” are of course all well and good, but is there something behind it?

Another reassurance was voiced once again – about Ukraine being a truly European country with a corresponding set of EU values. “ Ukraine is already a member of the European family of nations and we want all Ukrainians to enjoy the benefits of that, through the signing and entering into force of the Association Agreement and the Free Trade Agreement” – as President Barroso said.

[caption id="attachment_326" align="alignright" width="225"]UA flag Guillaume Speurt – http://www.flickr.com/photos/guillaumespeurt/8162368794/ – Creative Commons[/caption]

However, is that sufficient for Ukrainians? To hear mere words about what is quite obvious from our point of view? More and more I come across the concern among fellow Ukrainians that the EU switched from acting – to merely talking. EU officials made these commitments and now have the problem of sticking to them, but they seem to have found a way out here – just keep on telling stories you/we want to hear.

But even the European fairy-tales are relatively poor. The only story we all want to hear – an explicit YES for the European accession of  Ukraine has yet to be voiced. It looks like Ukraine is in a dark tunnel where the EU isn’t even willing to switch on a weak light to show at least a prospect of getting out. Instead, we get lovely comments about Ukraine being European. Well, thank you Captain Obvious!

Now, sentiments aside, let us get back to the official outcomes and statements. Firstly, the Summit was of crucial importance in terms of the preparation of the Eastern Partnership Summit to be held in Vilnius in November of this year (2013). In fact, this was a last official “check” before the event everyone puts so much hope into – the possible signing of the Association Agreement foreseeing a “deep and comprehensive free trade area” – occurs. As Mr Barroso stated, “The Association Agreement we have negotiated with Ukraine is the most advanced agreement of this type ever negotiated by the European Union and will bring concrete benefits to both EU and Ukraine’s citizens”

Secondly, European leaders promised Ukraine a Macro-Financial Assistance package of 610m EUR to balance the national financial system. Thirdly, energy issues were as always on the top of the agenda. The EU promised to invest in the modernisation of the gas transit system of  Ukraine for the sake of the energy security of both Ukraine and the EU.

Lastly, as usual, there is homework for us to do. This time, three “assignments” have been set: (1) address the existing problems of selective justice (i.e. Tymoshenko / Lutsenko cases), (2) change the electoral code and (3) continue the political and economic reforms currently undertaken.

Undoubtedly, the reforms and the rest of the homework is 99% Ukraine’s business, and I don’t think that any representative of the clear minded political elite within Ukraine is expecting the EU to do it for them. BUT! This remaining 1% is what we are lacking – a guarantee from the European side that we would be on board at some point. When exactly will this point be? This question cannot be answered right now. However, this would definitely provide an impetus for the inner political developments which are required in Ukraine, as well as clearer and less ambiguous foreign political aspirations.

As we know – hopes die last, so just give us this hope.

Article By Olesia Ogryzko

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