Ask yourself, which neighbour does each Pole crave for? Certainly, the kind, hospitable and prosperous one. Ask now, what neighbour does Poland desire? The answer would be the same.
2013 shall become a landmark year for Ukraine and not because within this period Kiev will sit in the chair in a number of the influential international organisations - OSCE and BSEC but because Ukraine shall put an end to tactics of balancing between Russia and the EU. The political uncertainty can cause serious consequences.
In this situation we are all, in European community, cannot be detached onlookers as Ukraine is one of the largest countries in the European region, and its political choice for decades will define a geopolitical situation in this part of globe.
So, in 2013 Kiev shall decide where to go: the Customs Union, joining Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, or the EU. The manoeuvering between these two strategic targets is hardly possible.
At the International Economic Forum there was a statement that the European vector of foreign policy still remains a priority for Ukraine. Ukraine, hoping for the following cooperation, considers EU signals and continues its work over reforms, harmonizing its own legislation with the European standards.
However, despite Kiev’s attempts to accelerate signing of the Association Agreement, the EU delays decision-making on this issue. In its turn, Russia puts significant political, economic & humanitarian pressure on Ukraine to force it to join the CU and to integrate into the Eurasian Economic Community.
At the beginning of this week in Bruxelles, the Ukrainian President Victor Janukovich, participating at the EU-Ukraine summit, has once again confirmed firm eurointegration resolution of the state. He noted, in particular, that Ukraine makes maximum efforts to solve problems formulated during the summit with the view of accelerated signing of the AA with the EU, including advanced and universal free-trade zone. Earlier, despite all efforts of Kiev, signing of these documents had been constantly postponed.
At the same time, as close Ukraine to AA signing, the pressure of Russia on it becomes stronger. Moscow “persistently invites” Ukraine to join the Customs Union. Kiev is widely believed to be tried to find such model of cooperation with Moscow which will not prevent its integration with the EU. In Ukrainian President’s judgment, such form of co-operation would be found. In turn leaders of EU have clearly let know that Ukraine will not manage to be simultaneously a member of the Customs Union and to have a advanced free-trade zone with the European Union.
Recently Ukraine has considerably spurred negotiations with the EU. Considerable progress has been made in a number of critical agreements. It’s necessary to make only last step. However there are serious doubts that this solving step will be made.
Ukraine is able to receive the status of associated member in November, 2013. However, some influential European politicians are talking about 2016. Actually Bruxelles has put Kiev in a mode of neverending expectation.
Meanwhile, a united Europe considered as running locomotive to better tomorrow is in deep financial & economic crisis caused by the excessive volume of a public debt, enormous expenses on social protection and reduction of number of able-bodied citizens. And the task related to decision of the basic financial problems basically is burdensome on German and French tax bearers, and population of others more or less developed European states. May be Ukraine, as well as other ex-soviet states, has more comprehensible option …?
The Euroasian Customs Union - integration alternative for Ukraine?
Holding negotiations with the EU on the AA, Ukraine is aware about possible economic gains provided by the Kremlin lobbied Euroasian Customs Union. In comparison with the oversaturated European market, actively developing Euroasian economy with the russian-speaking population, opens rather big prospectives for Ukrainian enterprises. Moreover the Euroasian labour market needs the qualified labour.
The Russian leaders indefatigably invite Kiev to join the Euroasian Customs Union, even proposing to reduce essentially the prices for the Russian energy supplies. Certainly, so generous offers of the Kremlin have their own price - Ukraine shall refuse the plans related to the European integration. Taking into account all considered above aspects this transaction seems more attractive than that of AA.
However, there are other options … For the moment being the AA is perceived by Ukrainian side as event of a critical importance, but whether it is true? There are possibilities to loose strong Ukrainian positions in the different fields as it was the case of Turkey. Before making any choice one shall think over all possible options to avoid undesirable situations.
Füle’s list or the ultimatum to Ukraine
According to Ukrainian “eurosceptics”, so-called “eurointegrators” will lead the country to humiliation and as result to sovereignty loss. They consider eurointegration will propose only vague hopes for some remote “prospects”. The Ukrainian leadership could verify this statement in course of the visit to Ukraine of the European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Stefan Fule taking place at the beginning of February. He sharply criticized Ukraine for inconsistency with EU standards. He actually threatened the Ukrainian authorities to delay signing of the AA until 2016 for failure to fulfill 19 EU requirements put by the Union as a preliminary condition to signing of this Agreement.
But one shall consider that 19 EU requirements can be perceived as ultimatum. Among them: activization of struggle against corruption, reforms of system of the state purchases, law enforcement bodies, approval of a new law on the Office of Public Prosecutor. Five EU mutual EU-Ukraine relations are linked with practice of so-called “selective justice”.
The Ukrainian authorities still have a little time to answer Bruxelles’s ultimatum. Kiev has only a few months to show Bruxelles a satisfactory progress reached by Ukraine on a way to the European standards.
Before February EU-Ukraine summit the government of Ukraine has published a plan of integration measures for the near future worked out, taking into account recent requirements of the EU. In the near future the Cabinet of Ukraine undertook to execute nine paragraphs of so-called Fule’s list related to all EU requirements concerning changes of election legislation, and also taking of necessary measures to harmonise the AA and free trade zone with EU with provisions of the Ukrainian laws.
Nowadays under results of EU-Ukraine summit, facing the truth, we may draw a conclusion that European Union is not ready to offer Ukraine high-grade membership with the EU in the foreseeable future and uses an issue on signing of AA as a trump in political opposition against Moscow. It is very similar to a situation with Turkey which, as well as Ukraine, had the great expectations of the fast integration with EU after expiration of negotiations on the Agreement with the Bruxelles in 1964. However, at the present Turkey also is far from a full membership as forty nine years ago. This fact, to our big regret, allows the Ukrainian opponents of eurointegration to assert that taking into account enough illusive prospects of membership in EU Ukraine can appear at political and economic deadlock.
Ukraine faces a choice. To secure europerspective Kiev still delays resolution of the issue on the Customs Union thus weakening the country’s economy and reducing possibilities for negotiations on eurointegration. As the result, europerspective becomes even more postponed. Brussels juggles with weakened Kiev, trying to exchange it on advantages in geopolitical game with Moscow. Thereupon it is possible to expect, that for the Ukrainian leaders protection of national interests and economic gain will be the key criterion of a choice. So then, a question, which neighbour the Polish Sir have, will stand no longer.
Kondrad Ryczko, Rzeczpospolita