Yuriy Kochevenko is a Ukrainian political consultant.
“One of the most important issues on the foreign policy agenda for Ukraine is the possible signature of EU Association Agreement signature at the Vilnius Eastern Partnership Summit next November. That is why it comes as no surprise that all leading Ukrainian politicians and also foreign state officials and public figures whose professional interests include the relations with Ukraine vie with each other in commenting on the subject. The main intrigue today remains whether Ukraine will be able to meet fully and on time all the criteria laid down by the European Union as necessary conditions for the signature of the before mentioned Agreement.
Ukrainian authorities today are full of optimism. The number one statesmen say that they have no doubt about the successful outcome of the preparation measures by Ukraine. Thus, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych remarked that at the moment active work is being done to fulfill the criteria and the further development of the Ukrainian statehood and Ukrainian society “is fully connected with the issues of European integration”. At the same time Ukrainian Prime-Minister Mykola Azarov during his recent visit to Luxembourg admitted that there was “a lot to be done”, adding that Ukrainians are confident that they will “fulfill all the assumed obligations”.
The representatives of the Ukrainian opposition are also quite optimistic about the matter. Speaking at the round table “Consent for the Sake of European Future”, one of their leaders Arseniy Yatseniuk pointed out that the opposition wanted “this round table to result in the adoption by the Verkhovna Rada [Parliament] at first reading and as a whole, those bills that are needed for the signing of the Agreement between Ukraine and the EU, as bills agreed by all political forces”. Yatseniuk also urged all the political forces to unite their efforts on the matter for the good of Ukraine rather than pursue any egoistic goals. However, in doing so, the leader of the formal opposition called for a so-called “comprehensive” approach in fulfilling the criteria, that is, completing all the necessary tasks and not only a bigger part of them. It seems that the opposition wants the government to radically reconsider their positions and to act more resolutely. First of all, the matter is, of course, the release of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko from jail and the end of the “selective justice” policy, for which the opposition has always slammed the incumbent authorities. Only time can show if the Ukrainian leadership will have enough political determination to follow this exhortation.
The statements of the Europeans also look much more favorable than in the recent past. In their commentaries European state officials often remark that Ukraine is welcome in Europe and it only depends on Ukraine’s activity or inertness how soon the country could walk through this open door. It is in this vein that spoke, in particular, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton. In her article published on the website of the Delegation of the European Commission to Ukraine, Ashton observed: “The future of our relationship will depend first and foremost on Ukraine’s own choices. This year, the European Union and Ukraine have an unprecedented opportunity to make a major leap forward in their relations by signing the Association Agreement”.
In other words, the European side calls Ukraine for active steps and shows its readiness to meet halfway and plan a common future. This attitude strongly resonates with the harsh critics and accusations of weak activity expressed by European Commissioner Štefan Füle a couple months ago in relation to Ukrainian authorities. And it cannot but makes happy!
The oversea partners also encourage the European aspirations of our country. US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey R. Pyatt many times spoke in support of Ukraine’s implemented course towards EU integration. The Ambassador believes that our country’s future is in Europe and all our foreign partners should consider this fact, including the Russian Federation.
Talking about our north neighbor, it must be admitted that official Moscow, to put it mildly, is not really happy with our choice of the foreign policy development vector. And the recent complications in the field of the economic cooperation of the two countries which were already called the “trade war” clearly prove that. But is it now worth considering Russia a factor threatening Ukraine’s plans for European integration? The answer to this question is rather negative. All Moscow’s efforts only led to the fact that the number of those who sympathise with our state in the European establishment had grown. As not only our people feel sorry for those unjustly oppressed. That is, the outcome of Russia’s malevolent actions turned out in absolutely opposite direction than expected by the Kremlin. Ukraine got more energetic support and is impatiently called by its friends for a more active stand on the way to the EU.
The conclusion can be drawn on everything before said that the only serious threat for Ukraine’s European integration is posed by us. Only Ukrainians are capable of making European future come true and the terms of this future coming into being depend directly on us. We are provided with the opportunities. The only thing left is to work with our sleeves rolled up and use those opportunities. The alternative is to immerse in the internal squabbles and complain that we are again missing something or that something is hindering us. But this would defer our accession to the European community for an unspecified period of time.
We want to believe that we are learning from the lessons of the past and will not be dropping the same brick again and again. Statistic data also prove the correctness of this suggestion. According to the results of the research conducted by Sociological Group Rating on September 25 to October 5 2012, 52% of citizens support Ukraine’s accession to the EU and only 41% spoke for the unification with the Russian Federation and the other former USSR republics. The gradual shift of the attitude in favor of the European choice demonstrates Ukrainian people’s understanding of lack of the alternative to the chosen way.