EU and Ukrainian business: Double standards?

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The same European politicians who try to boost their image by appearing at the pro-European protests in Kyiv deliberately ignore the Ukrainian interest in economic relations, writes Boris Kushniruk.

Boris Kushniruk is a Ukrainian economist.

Social and political events in Ukraine which took place last year can become determinative for the policy of the future EU enlargement. In 2014 the EU-integration prospects of Ukraine as well as the Union’s image will depend on the readiness of official Brussels to reconsider the EU enlargement policy.

The unfavourable results of the Vilnius Summit for Ukraine resulted from the absence of desire of the EU to seriously consider the need of financial compensations stemming from the disruption of Ukrainian trade and economic relations with Russia. Representatives of the Ukrainian business focused on the EU market received only promises. Moreover, the successful business of certain representatives of the Ukrainian opposition suffered substantially as a result of the passivity of the EU in settling disputes with Russia.

After the formation of the new coalition government in Germany, the country which leads economically the whole EU, European news agencies continued reporting that no essential changes in the relations between Berlin and Kyiv should be expected. It seems like Brussels forms its policy towards Ukraine always with an eye on Berlin. Referring to Ukrainian experts, European mass media claim that priorities in the foreign policy will continue to be defined by federal chancellor Angela Merkel. Thus, a special emphasis is placed on the statements of the deputy head of CDU/CSU group in the European Parliament Michael Galler who considers that the EU fiscal bodies need to investigate the activity of the companies which are somehow connected with Ukrainian oligarchs in the EU: "We can begin in Cyprus, pass to Austria, investigate in Germany, Great Britain, Switzerland" said he.

If it was not for the elections to the European Parliament, it would be possible to disregard such statements. However, recently elections in the EU don't differ much from the elections in any country in Eastern Europe. Supporting the ideals of democracy, the EU hasn't been able to cope with the bureaucratic mechanism of the Old Europe for a long time. New challenges for Ukraine, connected with EU-integration prospects, will be topical also for the EU member states which can't overcome the growing ratings of the political forces professing euro scepticism. Doing business in Europe becomes an insuperable boundary not only for successful Europeans, but for Ukrainians as well.

At the same time, it is possible to say that from the very beginning of the process of preparation to the signing of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement (AA) official Brussels, which opposes Russia's trade and economic pressure upon Ukraine, didn't see the Ukrainian business as an equal partner. Missions authorized by the EU were constantly demanding from Ukraine the compliance with generally political conditions.  The state of the Ukrainian economy faded to the background. The EU limited itself to declarations favoring the resuming of negotiations between Ukraine and the IMF.  Thus, ignoring the European expert opinions, Brussels paid no attention at the Russian factor.  Preferences were given to the energy stability of the EU member states in relations with Russia.

Ukraine is persistently not perceived by the European officials as a legitimate international negotiator. The reality is that no one expects representatives of the Ukrainian business in the EU, and moreover, their activity in the European market is partially hindered.

For example, recently the city administration of Lublin (Poland) fined "Ursus-Bogdan Motors" for allegedly defective trolleybuses. Penalties which came to the amount of 1,2 million zloties (384 thousand dollars) were presented to Ukraine. It may look like a revenge for the blowing up of the future of the Eastern Partnership Program by Ukraine. And the declared multiple malfunctions revealed in the use of the first delivered trolleybuses look more similar like sarcasm towards the EU-integration aspirations of Ukraine. Otherwise, how should we perceive the fact that Poland, the leader of the Eastern Partnership, throws sand in the machine of the activity of the Ukrainian-Polish consortium "Ursus-Bogdan Motors". It can be is doubted that the PR campaign stirred by the Polish mass media against Ukraine was accidental. All the more that it didn't correspond in any way with the divided position of the EU in terms of Russia's trade pressure upon Ukraine.

It is difficult to imagine the naivety of the Polish mass media which just like that blowed out of proportion this subject at the peak of Ukraine's rapprochement with the EU.  Moreover, it is simply senseless to hope that Ukrainian businessmen purposefully delivered defective production to Poland. Also the EU functionaries obviously dissembled when they supported protest actions at the Euromaidan, before which they played on the side of the European producers. Quite recently the Ukrainian confectionery corporation Roshen tried to convince the "European" court that there are no Ferrero Rocher - Rocher candies in the Lithuanian market. It is known to whose advantage Europe played, and representatives of the Ukrainian business environment were "so to say shocked" from the similar democratic selectivity in favor of the Italian company.

The EU has been demonstrating double standards not only in observing democratic standards for a long time, but also in prospects of Ukrainian business in Europe. Lately Europe was outraged by those in Power in Ukraine who ignored the EU-integration will of the Ukrainian society. The Euromaidan is visited by official EU representatives. Unfortunately, the political ambitions of separate pro-European forces in Ukraine coincide with plans of electoral promises of MEPs. Indeed, the year 2013 saw the beginning of civil initiatives development in Ukraine. However, European politicians speculating on the Ukrainian subject and earning europoints on the eve of elections to the European Parliament deliberately ignore the economic component. It is always more convenient to declare democratic European values and ideals. But nobody cancelled difficulties in overcoming the European crisis. In the same way as difficulties of the Ukrainian leadership connected with overcoming speculative forecasts about the pre-default state of the Ukrainian economy. The EU preferred not to comment the negative forecasts of doubtful quality of the European rating agencies concerning Ukraine. And financial institutions of the EU hoped to earn on the implementation of separate requirements of the IMF by Ukraine.”

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