Commission embarks on ‘unprecedented’ venture with Ukraine

EU - Ukraine Flag montage. [Shutterstock]

Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Commissioner Štefan Füle will pay a two-day visit to Ukraine starting today (25 March), leading a sizeable delegation that includes Commissioner for Financial Programming and Budget Janusz Lewandowski and high-level representatives of various directorates of the Commission.

The EU executive called the visit “unprecedented” in its ambition, as a follow-up to the signature of the political chapters of the Association Agreement (AA), which took place at the last EU summit on 21 March.

"We will be talking about a number of reforms that are necessary both in the area of democratic institutions and the economy. We will start work on a roadmap for these reforms in different fields," Füle said. He stressed that it would also be important to continue dialogue with Verkhovna Rada, the Ukrainian parliament, and civil society.

The possibility of accelerating the process of visa liberalisation and issues related to decentralisation and support for the country regions should also be among the topics for discussions between the Ukrainian authorities and the high-level delegation from the European Commission.

One of the issues of concern for the EU is the involvement of Ukraine’s regions, including the Russian-speaking east and south, in the political process and reform. A group of visiting young politicians from the Batkyvshchyna party of Yulia Tymoshenko and the Udar party of Vitaly Klitschko described yesterday the situation in those regions as very volatile, following the Russian annexation of Crimea.

“It is very difficult to do politics in the Donetsk region,” said Vladlen Nebrat, member of the youth organisation of Udar in Donetsk.

The young leaders, on visit to Brussels at the invitation of the Konrad Adenauer foundation, said, however, that they were optimistic that the elections would be held on 25 May and that the new president would be named on 26 May.

However, according to reports, the parties they represent are unlikely to agree on a single candidate and that there will likely be a a second round of elections.

Asked what kind of immediate assistance they thought was necessary for their country, the young leaders specified technical assistance for the Ukrainian army, which, in their words, was deliberately “destroyed” by former President Viktor Yanukovich. They also called for more student exchanges and the lifting of the visa requirement.

Only 15% of Ukrainians have travelled to another country, one of the young leaders said, appealing for the EU offer more, visible help to the Ukrainians.

EU support ‘only words’

“The majority of Ukrainians think the EU won’t help the country, that their support is only words”, one of the young leaders said, echoing sentiments in Ukraine that Brussels was not doing enough to respond to the pro-European upheaval in their country.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian Ambassador to the EU Kostyantyn Yelisieiev wrote a commentary, in an effort to respond to doubts about the real value of the EU commitment to his country.

Yelisieiev argued that it was better to have a “bird in the hand” than a “crane in the sky”, and called the signature of the political chapters “a first important step”.

“Someone could say that this is not enough. But let’s not forget that the European Union is a complicated body. The decisions on relations with third countries are taken not by the majority of votes, but unanimously,” the diplomat wrote.

“Some of our partners are concerned about internal instability in Ukraine. Some of them are sensitive to Russia’s reaction to the decisions taken by the EU regarding Ukraine. Some of them are under effects of the Russian propaganda … And someone is just indifferent to Ukraine”, Yelisieiev wrote.    

Ukrainians have expressed disappointment that at their summit last week, EU leaders did not offer the country a “European perspective”, meaning that they did not explicitly say that Ukraine would become EU member state upon fulfilling the membership conditions.

Yelisieiev, however, recalls the experience of the newest EU country, Croatia. Croatia signed its Association Agreement in 2001, and received a “European perspective” within two years, along with other Western Balkans countries.



hoffer's picture

It might be helpful if the Ukrainians could present a unified country, ready and able to join the EU, instead of something that looks like it could just blow up at any time.

jugo's picture

It would be nice if EU waited to have an elected Ukrainian government. There is strange need to rush to sign agreement with Ukraine with by street revolution propelled government and unelected EU officials. Consequences of Ukrainian economy will be devastating. Ukraine will open its market to sophisticated EU products and closing access to Russian market by stepping out from existing post-Soviet market union. . what will destroy it’s less sophisticated industry. Ukraine will be nothing able to sale to EU in the return. It’s agriculture is using heavily pesticides.

Jay's picture

EU hasn't been listening, there is no way that Putin is going to allow a potential candidate for NATO in his backyard, the encirclement of Russia now is the last straw in this game and Ukraine was doomed from the outset.

Jay's picture

The EU has embarked on an unprecedented trail of unlawful actions with Ukraine from the word go.

We believe you’ve got a right to peacefully protest. You get a permit and you go there and you can stay there until snow falls. That’s your right -- if you don’t block the traffic. But you can’t throw firebombs at policemen. That’s true in any country, in any democracy. But suddenly from the EU's point of view it’s okay in Kiev. They’re freedom fighters...

The US is no better...Let’s say the tea party says that Obama has violated American law and the Constitution through Obamacare. They surround the White House. They throw fire bombs at the White House security guard. Obama flees and the tea party puts Ted Cruz in the White House. Do we say that’s democracy?

So how is it democracy in Ukraine? Why couldn’t they wait, by the way? The next presidential election was one year away. Why didn’t Washington and the EU say no? We’re democracies; that’s not how we do it. Peacefully protest all you want, but don’t throw firebombs at the policeman because if you did that in any democratic capital we’d open fire.