Ukrainian corruption overcomes European bureaucracy

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.COM Ltd.

This article is part of our special report EU-Ukraine Relations.

The simple expectation from the Ukrainian authorities that the EU won't let Ukraine transformation into a new Belarus allows the current Ukrainian administration to manipulate the position of official Brussels in favour of itself, says Viktor Tkachuk.

Viktor Tkachuk is general director of the Ukrainian Foundation for Democracy "People First".

"The management of leading countries and heads of the central bodies of the EU have no development strategy for the relations with Ukraine.

This has led to the situation that despite the expected non-democratic parliamentary elections in Ukraine, the European Union has nothing else left, but to continue an ineffective dialogue with official Kyiv.

It bears serious risks for the EU countries. First of all, this means confrontation between the Ukrainian "grey capital" and European clean capital. The area of influence of the Ukrainian "grey" assets moves to the west on the territory of the EU countries more tangibly.

The expansion has positive moments – taxes and workplaces in the EU. But there are negative factors as well – for example more corruption in the EU, which already has a higher degree now due to the active phase of the financial and economic crisis. According to official figures, over 1 billion dollars "escape" from Ukraine every month – mainly under the jurisdiction of the EU countries.

The myth that Ukraine will develop too close relations with Russia, in case of a tough line coming from the EU, has a considerable destructive effect.

In reality everything is the other way around. The current Ukrainian authorities which have close connections to big Ukrainian businesses, especially in the heavy industry, metallurgy and chemical manufacturing sectors, will always act extremely carefully concerning Russia.

This especially has to do with political and economic integration projects – the Customs Union and Common Economic Space.

Ukrainian big businesses and politicians clearly understand that in case of free access for  Russian capital to Ukrainian territory, they will get new competitors which will absorb them for sure. And it will only take half a year or a whole year at the most.

It will mean a loss of influence for the big Ukrainian businesses and a gradual loss of assets and possibilities. Will they go for it? Doubtfully. Exactly this is the reason why there are no really close relations between the presidents of Ukraine and Russia.

The present imbalance in the Russian political sphere makes the Ukrainian politicians confident that the Russian Federation isn’t able to essentially affect the situation in Ukraine. The Ukrainian authorities have definitively lost illusions in terms of the cheap Russian gas and perceive the present price as a constant, playing on pushing Russia out of the Ukrainian gas market.

What should we think of closer ties with Moscow under such circumstances? The EU should not cherish this illusion anymore. Maybe officials from Brussels simply use this myth, so that they don't have to do anything.

Now a general scheme of actions of the European Union towards Ukraine in the present post-electoral situation become clear. The next step is the Ukraine-EU Summit. They will predictably show "a yellow card" to the Ukrainian leadership there, but will offer a way for the further development of relations.

The Eastern Partnership Summit in November in 2013 which will take place in Vilnius under the Lithuanian presidency will become the second step. Proceeding from the last statements of the Prime Minister of Poland Donald Tusk and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, this summit can become the event where the Association Agreement with Ukraine may be signed.

It will mean transferring the Ukraine-EU relations into the format of bilateral agreements with each of the 27 member countries and they will put forward their own demands of Ukraine, different from those coming from Brussels.

To successfully go through this phase of relations with the EU, the current Ukrainian authorities will need an experienced and effective team of diplomats on the European direction which meanwhile is absent. A real start of the process of economic reforms and democracy development in Ukraine will be necessary.

Only in such conditions, it will be possible to speak about the minimum chances of signing and ratifying the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU and the further euro integrational prospects for Kyiv. At least after 2020.

Deaf “authoritative” defense of the current Ukrainian administration with the latent isolation from the West, irritation of Moscow, and what’s the main thing, the growing protest coming from its own population can be the alternative to this.

Only the course towards democracy development in Ukraine can rescue the current Ukrainian administration from the failure of its policy and personal prospects.

It can be a win-win game. But, unfortunately, neither Kyiv, nor Brussels are able to play it today. Motives are different – the essence is single. Private interests."   

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