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Ukraine and EU: Challenges that Loom Ahead

Ukraine and EU: Challenges that Loom Ahead

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This policy brief examines the outcomes of the 15th Ukraine-EU Summit, held in December 2011.
This policy brief examines the outcomes of the 15th Ukraine-EU Summit, held in December 2011.

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Published by: German Marshall Fund of the United States on Feb 03, 2012
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Foreign Policy and Civil Society Program
February 2012
1744 R Street NWWashington, DC 20009T 1 202 745 3950F 1 202 265 1662E ino@gmus.org
Summary:
Participants at theDecember 19, 2011 Ukraine-EUSummit were able to deliveronly a formal announcement on
nalization of negotiations thatstated that “chief negotiators
had reached a common
understanding on the full text of  the Association Agreement.” It
became clear that real reason of EU reluctance to move forwardwas their concern with the way
Ukraine was developing in theeld of democracy. Comments
on the Summit’s results differed
drastically depending on theirorigin. This paper explains what
 the authors feel should bereally made out of the Summit’sresults, and lays out Ukraine’s
path forward. It also examinesUkrainian polling data to showincreasing support for thatcountry joining the EU.
Ukraine and EU:Challenges that Loom Ahead
by Mykola Kapitonenko, Oleh Shamshur, and Valeryi Chalyi 
The 15
th
Ukraine-EU Summit is Over:What’s Next?
Te 15
th
Ukraine-EU Summit, whichtook place in Kyiv on December 19,was initially expected to consummateat the highest level the long lasting andextremely complicated negotiations onconcluding the Association Agreementbetween Ukraine and EU, thus sealingUkraine’s European strategic choice.Several days beore the Summit, Presi-dent Victor Yanukovych once againunderscored its utmost importance orUkraine, having said that 2012 wouldbecome the year o European integra-tion or this country (Ukraine will hostthe European Football Championships jointly with Poland then).Ukraine’s negotiations with the EUover the Association Agreement werelaunched more than our years agounder President Victor Yuschenko asa part o his policies o European andEuro-Atlantic integration. Notwith-standing noticeable changes that havetaken place in Ukrainian domesticand external policies o late, Euro-pean aspirations have been shared by  virtually all segments o Ukrainiansociety. Te majority o Ukrainianshave supported the idea o the country  joining the European Union, or“Europe,” to which Ukraine belongsgeographically, historically, and cultur-ally.While designing his electoral strategy,then-presidential candidate VictorYanukovych embraced the idea o European integration. Aer becomingUkraine’s ourth president and in spiteo signing the highly controversialKharkiv Accords, which prolongedthe Russian Black Sea Fleet’s presencein Sebastopol or another 25 yearsin exchange or a natural gas pricediscount, and in spite o eectively halting Ukraine’s NAO membershipdrive by pushing or the law estab-lishing Ukraine’s “non-block” (non-aliated) status, he has declared theEuropean direction to be a top priority o Ukraine’s oreign policy. Continua-tion o the negotiations on the Asso-ciation Agreement, including theDeep and Comprehensive Free radeArea (DCFA), was thereore givena green light, and since then, they progressed at a considerable speed.By December 2011, negotiating teamshad managed to resolve practically allsignicant outstanding issues: substan-tively, the Association Agreement wasready or initialing, at least. However,perorming this purely technical acthas turned out to be impossible or theEuropean Union, and the participantsat the December 19 Summit were notable to deliver anything more than aormal announcement on nalizationo negotiations that stated that “chie negotiators had reached a common
 
Foreign Policy and Civil Society Program
2
understanding on the ull text o the Association Agree-ment.” Ocially this non-lieu was explained throughremaining unaddressed problems and some incompleteprocedures, such as document’s legal verication.At the same time, it became clear that real reason o EUreluctance to move orward was their concern with theway Ukraine was developing, or rather regressing, in theeld o democracy. Te most obvious and, as President o the European Council Herman van Rompuy put it, “moststriking” point o concern was the trials o Ukraine’s ormerprime minister, Yulia ymoshenko, and a number o otherormer government ocials. Quite clearly, the Ukrainianpowers-that-be either misperceived the signals they hadbeen receiving rom their European counterparts sinceAugust, or they’ve badly blundered in their calculations.Te point that seems to have been completely missed orignored by them was the act that the European Union, andhence Ukraine’s European integration, is as much aboutshared democratic values and undamental reedoms asit is about economic co-operation and ree trade. By thesame token, the substantial progress achieved by Ukraineand the EU in negotiations on economic issues (in act, theparties managed to agree on many extremely sensitive andcontentious problems that had been standing in the way o their economic relations or years) couldn’t have osetthe problems that emerged in the political eld related tomaintaining a certain level o democratic standards in thepolitical and social lie o Ukraine.Tis shouldn’t have come as any surprise to anyone, asadherence to democratic principles and Ukraines commit-ment to move closer to the European standards o gover-nance has been traditionally underpinned all majordocuments dening Ukraine-EU relations. It should bealso noted that the Summit’s joint statement specically mentions that the Association Agreement provides or ashared commitment to a close and lasting relationship,which is based on common values, in particular ull respector democratic principles, rule o law, good governance,human rights, and undamental reedoms. It is also quiteclear that the DCFA can exist only as an integral part o the Association Agreement. It can unction properly andbring the expected results only i the Association unctionsas a whole, including all its mechanisms and the bodies.Not surprisingly, comments on the Summit’s results diereddrastically depending on their origin. Ukrainian ocialsexpressed their satisaction generally, pointing out recogni-tion o the European identity o Ukraine and its Europeanstatus in geographic terms (Ministry or Foreign Aairs)or even the mere act that the Summit was held notwith-standing the dierences on ymoshenko case (Party o theRegions). Tere was general satisaction on the govern-ment’s side that Ukraine has managed to hold its ground. Atthe same time, Ukrainian opposition generally character-ized the Summit as the end o European hopes or Ukrai-nians. Most o these assessments were certainly politically motivated, but basically they refect the overall atmosphereo uncertainty and lack o deliverables at the Summit.What should be really made out o the Summit’s results, andwhat should be Ukraine’s path orward? Te Summit’s JointStatement and the remarks o Presidents van Rompuy andJosé Manuel Barroso contained a number o strong positivemessages rom EU: the relationship with Ukraine is impor-tant or the Union; nalization o our years o negotia-tions opens the way to a political association and economicintegration; urther qualitative changes in relations arenot being ruled out as “Tis Association Agreement leavesopen the way or urther progressive developments inEU-Ukraine relations”; and European aspirations andEuropean identity o Ukraine have been recognized. Tesemessages (some o them appeared to be the result o the lastditch negotiations) are undoubtedly important or Ukraine,but they are hardly sucient to compensate or the absenceo initialing and the clear prospect o rapid signing andratication o the Agreement. Moreover, another o theEU’s messages was no less clear: no Ukrainian integrationeorts will be successul without due respect and adherenceto European values. Te uture o that country’s Europeanintegration lies in the hands o the Ukrainian ruling classand its ability to properly do its homework.Te Kyiv EU-Ukraine Summit underscored the serious-ness o the tasks to be perormed by Ukraine in order tocomplete the implementation process o Association Agree-ment, ideally in a not-too-distant uture. Te Summit hasalso brought the list o challenges acing all parties involvedto the ore o public and decision-makers’ attention, startingwith procedural issues.
 
Foreign Policy and Civil Society Program
3
Relegated to the domain o irrelevant technicalities by outsiders, these issues might play an important role becausethey are to be ollowed to the letter or this agreement tobecome meaningul. But they are even more so becausetheir extreme sophistication allows o the EU side to slowdown the implementation process, i necessary. It shouldbe borne in mind that it took a much smaller EU our longyears to ratiy the EU-Ukraine Partnership and Co-opera-tion Agreement.According to available inormation, the Association Agree-ment could be initialed early in spring. Tis would meanthat the work o negotiating teams is really completed andthe document is nalized. In spite o the declaration at theSummit concerning the completion o negotiations, it wasobvious that some minor outstanding issues were still tobe ironed out, not to mention the ongoing legal assessmentand verication o the text. It is also sae to presume thatthe EU side would insist on the negotiating team leadersinitialing the document in a setting that avoids any anare.Te next step is signing and ratication. Closer to themiddle o 2011, when Association Agreement negotiationshad momentum, it seemed that its initialing and signingwouldn’t pose much o a problem. (Te quasi ocial EUline was “internal politics in Ukraines will not jeopardizenegotiations.”) However, as concerns related to the rule o law and Ukraine’s democratic development was more andmore requently voiced in the West, it was understood thatthe EU as a whole and a number o its Member States wouldtry to use the prospect o the Association Agreement’s rati-cation in order to encourage a change in current Ukrainiangovernment policy.At this moment, it looks as i both signing and ratica-tion have been put on hold. Ukrainian media have widely disseminated the opinion o European MP Marek Sivets,who said that the situation concerning the AssociationAgreement “will be rozen until the election in Ukraine,meaning the parliamentary election in October 2012. “I they get the seal o approval o international observers,” hecontinued, “there is a chance to get back to the AssociationAgreement. I not …” Similar views were circulated in otherUkrainian media outlets. Provided this inormation is true,in practical terms this would mean that Ukraine is stuck onthe Eurotrack, at risk o remaining largely immobilized or ayear or more.It seems that only the release o ormer Prime MinisterYulia ymoshenko will positively infuence the currentsituation and restore at least a part o condence andgood-will on the part o EU. However, the chances or suchturnaround are dim at best: she was recently transerred to apenitentiary outside Kyiv. Possibilities to deuse the situ-ation are still available, but the government doesn’t showany intentions to seize them. Some hold out hope or thecomplaint led by ymoshenko’s deense at the EuropeanCourt o Human Rights, but it looks like a long shot or tworeasons: review will start in March at the earliest, and eveni the ruling is in her avor, it would still have to be ollowedin Ukraine.ymoshenko’s and some other cases are widely believed tobe directly related to the October 30 parliamentary election.Te latest polling conducted by the Razumkov Centre hasshown that ymoshenko’s Fatherland Party would have themost voter support, 15.6%, compared with 13.9% or thepro-presidential Party o the Regions. ymoshenko’s ownrating has exceeded that o President Yanukovych – 16.3%to 13.3%. One should, however, be aware that polling resultsrefect not so much the increase in the main oppositionactors’ popularity as the rapidly declining popular approvalo the governing party.Te October election is set to become an event that willdetermine both Ukraine’s internal development and itsrelations with the West, at least in the mid-term perspec-tive. A air, transparent, and democratic election processmight not only diversiy the Ukrainian political landscapeand make the atmosphere in politics a lot healthier. It mightalso persuade Ukraines political partners in Europe thatUkrainian democratic mechanisms are screeching but stillmoving and the process o Ukraine’s association with EUcan proceed. Te opposite would have nearious eectsor Ukrainian political lie and would urther imperil theprospects o the country’s European integration. Te party o power has to make the choice between its selsh politicalinterest and the country’s uture. (According to opinionpolls, opposition parties stand a chance o winning majority in the new Verkhovna Rada, Ukraines parliament, thoughthis is only a possibility). Tere were not so many momentsin Ukraine’s contemporary history when the stakes havebeen so high and the price that the country could pay orthe wrongdoing o the ruling elite were so dear.

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