Almost all of the parties in the Ukrainian parliament support signing off on the association agreement with the EU, except the communists (see background).
Aleksandr Golyb, Ukrainian member of parliament for the Communist Party (KPU), expressed his bitterness that the ruling Party of the Regions had made up its mind on integrating with the EU.
“Unlike our colleagues, we have little reason to believe that signing an association agreement would bring Ukraine closer to fully-fledged EU membership,” said Golyb, who added that over the next 20-30 years Ukraine would not manage to become a part of European structures.
'A formidable sum'
The communist MP said that Prime Minister Mykola Azarov had said last October that Ukraine would have to come up with €165 billion over the next ten years to upgrade its economy to meet EU standards.
“A formidable sum,” said Golyb, who stressed that Ukraine would not be able to get even one third of that money back from the EU in form of development assistance.
Instead, if Ukraine signs off on the association agreement this would clearly benefit the EU, he argued.
“The EU will acquire additional markets, which cannot compete with those in the EU concerning quality and price. The EU would gain access to Ukrainian raw materials and to Ukrainian workers, who are relatively well-educated and relatively inexpensive,” he claimed.
While the EU stands to benefit from closer relationship with Ukraine, the opposite is much less clear, the communist MP argued.
“Only a select few families in Ukraine, who control trade in raw materials, would profit significantly,” he said. The Communist party doubted that the EU had any interest in cooperation with Ukraine in the sector of aerospace, airplane-construction and ship-building, which are well developed, Golyb said, warning that Ukraine could even lose these sectors completely.
Ukrainian producers won’t be able to implement European standards within the next five to seven years, the communist MP continued. Thus, opening up the market to European competition would actually threaten them on their own territory, Golyb said.
Several sectors in the Ukrainian economy could quite simply disappear, thereby turning Ukraine into an underdeveloped country, he argued.
Forty percent of the population supports EU integration, roughly the same number support integration with the Russian Customs Union, Golyb pointed out. He also pointed to opinion polls showing growing support for the KPU’s position against the association agreement.
In the event that Ukraine signs, the majority of the population will be confronted with a “harsh reality,” Golyb said. It would be an advantage if high quality EU goods were available on the Ukrainian market, analysts say. However, the number of people who could afford these products would dramatically decrease, he added.
Moscow currently threatens to impose protectionist measures if Ukraine chooses to sign off on the association agreement. Ukraine’s neighbour has repeated demands for Kyiv to join the Customs Union between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.
According to Golyb, a major argument for Ukraine to chose the Customs Union is to continue to make progress in the high-tech industry. The areas of aerospace, energy and defence are likely to create new jobs. Development in these sectors could greatly transform the country - to the extent that the EU could actually be interested in accepting Ukraine as a member, the Communist MP explained.
“I cannot imagine that taxpayers in countries like Great Britain, France or Germany would be happy about the prospect of providing financial support to yet another large country - in addition to those which they are already paying for like Greece, Spain or Portugal,” he argued.
'Only a romantic, optimistic plan'
Golyb called the EU-Ukraine integration an overly romantic and optimistic plan rather than a realistic one, pointing to the failures seen in Bulgaria and Romania where corruption levels have remained comparable to Ukraine, despite EU accession.
The Communist MP strongly advocated his country to join Russia’s Customs Union, which he said offers Kyiv full membership from the start, unlike the EU.
However, a recent summit of the Customs Union held in Minsk last Friday saw Kazakhstan criticising Russia for “politicisation” of the organisation, while Belarus complained of even more bureaucratic restrictions to trade than before.