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Summary: Participants at the December 19, 2011 Ukraine-EU Summit were able to deliver only a formal announcement on finalization of negotiations that stated 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 forward was their concern with the way Ukraine was developing in the field of democracy. Comments on the Summit’s results differed drastically depending on their origin. This paper explains what the authors feel should be really made out of the Summit’s results, and lays out Ukraine’s path forward. It also examines Ukrainian polling data to show increasing support for that country joining the EU.
Ukraine and EU: Challenges that Loom Ahead
by Mykola Kapitonenko, Oleh Shamshur, and Valeryi Chalyi
The 15th Ukraine-EU Summit is Over: What’s Next? The 15th Ukraine-EU Summit, which took place in Kyiv on December 19, was initially expected to consummate at the highest level the long lasting and extremely complicated negotiations on concluding the Association Agreement between Ukraine and EU, thus sealing Ukraine’s European strategic choice. Several days before the Summit, President Victor Yanukovych once again underscored its utmost importance for Ukraine, having said that 2012 would become the year of European integration for this country (Ukraine will host the European Football Championships jointly with Poland then). Ukraine’s negotiations with the EU over the Association Agreement were launched more than four years ago under President Victor Yuschenko as a part of his policies of European and Euro-Atlantic integration. Notwithstanding noticeable changes that have taken place in Ukrainian domestic and external policies of late, European aspirations have been shared by virtually all segments of Ukrainian society. The majority of Ukrainians have supported the idea of the country joining the European Union, or “Europe,” to which Ukraine belongs geographically, historically, and culturally. While designing his electoral strategy, then-presidential candidate Victor Yanukovych embraced the idea of European integration. After becoming Ukraine’s fourth president and in spite of signing the highly controversial Kharkiv Accords, which prolonged the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s presence in Sebastopol for another 25 years in exchange for a natural gas price discount, and in spite of effectively halting Ukraine’s NATO membership drive by pushing for the law establishing Ukraine’s “non-block” (nonaffiliated) status, he has declared the European direction to be a top priority of Ukraine’s foreign policy. Continuation of the negotiations on the Association Agreement, including the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA), was therefore given a green light, and since then, they progressed at a considerable speed. By December 2011, negotiating teams had managed to resolve practically all significant outstanding issues: substantively, the Association Agreement was ready for initialing, at least. However, performing this purely technical act has turned out to be impossible for the European Union, and the participants at the December 19 Summit were not able to deliver anything more than a formal announcement on finalization of negotiations that stated that “chief negotiators had reached a common
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understanding on the full text of the Association Agreement.” Officially this non-lieu was explained through remaining unaddressed problems and some incomplete procedures, such as document’s legal verification. At the same time, it became clear that real reason of EU reluctance to move forward was their concern with the way Ukraine was developing, or rather regressing, in the field of democracy. The most obvious and, as President of the European Council Herman van Rompuy put it, “most striking” point of concern was the trials of Ukraine’s former prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, and a number of other former government officials. Quite clearly, the Ukrainian powers-that-be either misperceived the signals they had been receiving from their European counterparts since August, or they’ve badly blundered in their calculations. The point that seems to have been completely missed or ignored by them was the fact that the European Union, and hence Ukraine’s European integration, is as much about shared democratic values and fundamental freedoms as it is about economic co-operation and free trade. By the same token, the substantial progress achieved by Ukraine and the EU in negotiations on economic issues (in fact, the parties managed to agree on many extremely sensitive and contentious problems that had been standing in the way of their economic relations for years) couldn’t have offset the problems that emerged in the political field related to maintaining a certain level of democratic standards in the political and social life of Ukraine. This shouldn’t have come as any surprise to anyone, as adherence to democratic principles and Ukraine’s commitment to move closer to the European standards of governance has been traditionally underpinned all major documents defining Ukraine-EU relations. It should be also noted that the Summit’s joint statement specifically mentions that the Association Agreement provides for a shared commitment to a close and lasting relationship, which is based on common values, in particular full respect for democratic principles, rule of law, good governance, human rights, and fundamental freedoms. It is also quite clear that the DCFTA can exist only as an integral part of the Association Agreement. It can function properly and bring the expected results only if the Association functions as a whole, including all its mechanisms and the bodies.
Not surprisingly, comments on the Summit’s results differed drastically depending on their origin. Ukrainian officials expressed their satisfaction generally, pointing out recognition of the European identity of Ukraine and its European status in geographic terms (Ministry for Foreign Affairs) or even the mere fact that the Summit was held notwithstanding the differences on Tymoshenko case (Party of the Regions). There was general satisfaction on the government’s side that Ukraine has managed to hold its ground. At the same time, Ukrainian opposition generally characterized the Summit as the end of European hopes for Ukrainians. Most of these assessments were certainly politically motivated, but basically they reflect the overall atmosphere of uncertainty and lack of deliverables at the Summit. What should be really made out of the Summit’s results, and what should be Ukraine’s path forward? The Summit’s Joint Statement and the remarks of Presidents van Rompuy and José Manuel Barroso contained a number of strong positive messages from EU: the relationship with Ukraine is important for the Union; finalization of four years of negotiations opens the way to a political association and economic integration; further qualitative changes in relations are not being ruled out as “This Association Agreement leaves open the way for further progressive developments in EU-Ukraine relations”; and European aspirations and European identity of Ukraine have been recognized. These messages (some of them appeared to be the result of the last ditch negotiations) are undoubtedly important for Ukraine, but they are hardly sufficient to compensate for the absence of initialing and the clear prospect of rapid signing and ratification of the Agreement. Moreover, another of the EU’s messages was no less clear: no Ukrainian integration efforts will be successful without due respect and adherence to European values. The future of that country’s European integration lies in the hands of the Ukrainian ruling class and its ability to properly do its homework. The Kyiv EU-Ukraine Summit underscored the seriousness of the tasks to be performed by Ukraine in order to complete the implementation process of Association Agreement, ideally in a not-too-distant future. The Summit has also brought the list of challenges facing all parties involved to the fore of public and decision-makers’ attention, starting with procedural issues.
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Relegated to the domain of irrelevant technicalities by outsiders, these issues might play an important role because they are to be followed to the letter for this agreement to become meaningful. But they are even more so because their extreme sophistication allows of the EU side to slow down the implementation process, if necessary. It should be borne in mind that it took a much smaller EU four long years to ratify the EU-Ukraine Partnership and Co-operation Agreement. According to available information, the Association Agreement could be initialed early in spring. This would mean that the work of negotiating teams is really completed and the document is finalized. In spite of the declaration at the Summit concerning the completion of negotiations, it was obvious that some minor outstanding issues were still to be ironed out, not to mention the ongoing legal assessment and verification of the text. It is also safe to presume that the EU side would insist on the negotiating team leaders initialing the document in a setting that avoids any fanfare. The next step is signing and ratification. Closer to the middle of 2011, when Association Agreement negotiations had momentum, it seemed that its initialing and signing wouldn’t pose much of a problem. (The quasi official EU line was “internal politics in Ukraine’s will not jeopardize negotiations.”) However, as concerns related to the rule of law and Ukraine’s democratic development was more and more frequently voiced in the West, it was understood that the EU as a whole and a number of its Member States would try to use the prospect of the Association Agreement’s ratification in order to encourage a change in current Ukrainian government policy. At this moment, it looks as if both signing and ratification have been put on hold. Ukrainian media have widely disseminated the opinion of European MP Marek Sivets, who said that the situation concerning the Association Agreement “will be frozen until the election in Ukraine,” meaning the parliamentary election in October 2012. “If they get the seal of approval of international observers,” he continued, “there is a chance to get back to the Association Agreement. If not …” Similar views were circulated in other Ukrainian media outlets. Provided this information is true, in practical terms this would mean that Ukraine is stuck on the Eurotrack, at risk of remaining largely immobilized for a year or more.
It seems that only the release of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko will positively influence the current situation and restore at least a part of confidence and good-will on the part of EU. However, the chances for such turnaround are dim at best: she was recently transferred to a penitentiary outside Kyiv. Possibilities to defuse the situation are still available, but the government doesn’t show any intentions to seize them. Some hold out hope for the complaint filed by Tymoshenko’s defense at the European Court of Human Rights, but it looks like a long shot for two reasons: review will start in March at the earliest, and even if the ruling is in her favor, it would still have to be followed in Ukraine. Tymoshenko’s and some other cases are widely believed to be directly related to the October 30 parliamentary election. The latest polling conducted by the Razumkov Centre has shown that Tymoshenko’s Fatherland Party would have the most voter support, 15.6%, compared with 13.9% for the pro-presidential Party of the Regions. Tymoshenko’s own rating has exceeded that of President Yanukovych – 16.3% to 13.3%. One should, however, be aware that polling results reflect not so much the increase in the main opposition actors’ popularity as the rapidly declining popular approval of the governing party. The October election is set to become an event that will determine both Ukraine’s internal development and its relations with the West, at least in the mid-term perspective. A fair, transparent, and democratic election process might not only diversify the Ukrainian political landscape and make the atmosphere in politics a lot healthier. It might also persuade Ukraine’s political partners in Europe that Ukrainian democratic mechanisms are screeching but still moving and the process of Ukraine’s association with EU can proceed. The opposite would have nefarious effects for Ukrainian political life and would further imperil the prospects of the country’s European integration. The party of power has to make the choice between its selfish political interest and the country’s future. (According to opinion polls, opposition parties stand a chance of winning majority in the new Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, though this is only a possibility). There were not so many moments in Ukraine’s contemporary history when the stakes have been so high and the price that the country could pay for the wrongdoing of the ruling elite were so dear.
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The situation is further exacerbated but the relentless pressure exerted by the current Russian leadership on Ukraine. It has become especially intense in the run-up to the Russian presidential election, which is supposed to confirm Vladimir Putin’s second accession to the presidency in the Russian Federation. Ukraine is being regarded by Kremlin as the most coveted prize in its race to retain Soviet successor states within Russia’s “privileged interests” zone. To thwart Ukraine’s European ambitions, Russian leaders are presenting “lucrative alternatives” such as the Customs Union and the Eurasian Economic Community, whose Summit was attended by President Yanukovych after the closure of the Summit with EU. Moscow has packaged these offers with the ongoing and so far unsuccessful negotiations on the price of the Russian natural gas exported to Ukraine. (It should be borne in mind that Ukrainian economy consumes approximately two times more energy for each $1 of GDP than world’s average.) In order to exert additional pressure, Russia has been extending already existing projects like Nord Stream and the planned South Stream, which further undermine Ukraine’s negotiating positions. On the whole, Russia’s policy targets two immediate objectives: to get hold of the Ukrainian transportation and gas storage systems, which are still the cheapest and best ways to transport Russia’s energy resources to European markets, and to keep Ukraine away from the European alternatives to the Russian integration projects on the post-Soviet space. The significance of the Association Agreement for the future development of Ukraine, its economy, and its socio-political and foreign policy direction is very well understood by the Russian government strategists. Thus, the unconvincing results of the Summit must be seen as a generous and very welcome gift in Moscow, which is the only clear winners in the current situation, partly due to its own deftness and partly due to the faux pas or shortsightedness of the major protagonists in this drama. Is there a way out of the political impasse in Ukraine-EU relations? Taking into account all the previously mentioned circumstances, the prospects for any forward movement don’t look promising, at least not until after Ukrainian parliamentary elections. The scope and substance of Ukraine’s homework is quite clear: reverse troubling trends in democratic development, organize a transparent election process, and carry out consistent and far-reaching economic reforms. At the same time, the European Union should
understand that giving up on Ukraine is not an option, no matter how influential those who would like to keep Ukraine at arms’ length might be. For some period of time, starting even before presidential election of 2010, it was already relatively easy to find pretexts not to engage with Ukraine. However, the opposite is true: there should more EU engagement with Ukraine. Even if the EU has decided to pause, co-operation should continue in the areas where there is mutual interest and opportunities to achieve tangible results (for instance, people-to-people contacts and moving towards visa-free travel for Ukrainian citizens, energy and other economic projects, and political dialogue on a number of issues). As for the Association Agreement itself, we think it should be initialed without unnecessary delay and the process of its implementation should be allowed to go ahead. There is no other instrument that can provide such a robust framework for transforming Ukraine into a truly democratic, prosperous, and independent country. This, and nothing else, will serve the EU’s own best interest. — Mykola Kapitonenko and Oleh Shamshur
Ukraine’s European Integration: A Public Opinion Perspective Effective implementation of policies aimed at Ukraine’s accession to the EU is impossible without the broad and stable support of Ukrainian citizens. In a circular dependence, public enthusiasm for European integration (or the lack of it) depends heavily on the practical results of cooperation with the EU, and on the concrete and positive changes this brings to the lives of ordinary citizens. It is evident that the problems, achievements, and prospects of Ukraine’s integration in the EU should be a matter of general public discussion, free of petty political considerations and cheap arguments. This discussion should be based upon the solid basis of the objective public opinion polling. Polls make it possible to determine the dynamics of citizens’ geopolitical positions, and their assessment of the level and character of Ukraine’s cooperation with the EU.
The aim of this analysis is to assess the current state and prospects of Ukraine’s European integration in light of public opinion
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trends. It is based on the results of surveys conducted by the Razumkov Center from February 2000 to October 2011. The polls were conducted in all regions of Ukraine (including Kyiv and Crimea) by a multistage random sampling based on the quota method of respondent recruitment at the final stage, who represent an adult population corresponding to the main socio-demographic indicators (i.e. region of residence, type and size of locality, age, sex). The sampling error does not exceed 2.3%. The latest survey was conducted from September 29, 2011 to October 4, 2011. Two-thousand nine respondents aged 18 years and older were interviewed.
tions depends inter alia on the political situation within the country. Therefore, the decline of support for a pro-Russian foreign policy orientation in 2011 might have been caused, in addition to other factors, by the inability of the current government to establish and develop an equal partnership with Russia, though this was one of Victor Yanukovich’s main political messages during the presidential election campaign of 2010. Concerning age differences, the cohort of Ukrainian citizens younger than 50 years is overwhelmingly in favor of a European direction of Ukraine’s foreign policy, and those who are over 50 years old are more likely to support the Russian foreign policy vector. Ukraine-EU Relations as Assessed by Ukrainians The majority of Ukrainian citizens (54.6%) characterize Ukraine’s relations with the EU as unstable; a minority (15.4%) consider them to be “poor” and only 14.3% refer to them as “good.” These unsatisfactory results can be explained primarily by the assessment of the pace of Ukraine’s European integration: 13% of respondents describe it as “zero,” and 47.8% as “low.” Interestingly, this opinion is shared by both those who support the EU integration of Ukraine, and those who do not. Public opinion largely links instability in Ukraine-EU relations to the inconsistent European integration policy of the Ukrainian government. The majority of Ukrainian citizens regard this policy as inconsistent and incoherent (55.2%), opaque and covert (59.5%), ineffective (62.6%), and incomprehensible to the public (62.1%). A relative majority of Ukrainians (46.5%) also considers it to be confusing for the EU states. When considering why the EU is interested in Ukraine, most respondents indicated the Ukrainian labor force (48.9%), energy transit to EU countries (48.6%), Ukrainian market for the EU goods (46.8%), and Ukraine’s natural resources (46.6%). To a lesser extent, citizens believe the EU interest lies with Ukraine’s intellectual and scientific potential (26%); in limiting Russia’s influence (20.3%); in import of the Ukrainian goods (15.6%); in a joint fight against illegal migration, international crime, terrorism (15.5%); in strengthening security and stability in Europe (13.4%); in military potential of Ukraine (11.2%); and in Ukraine’s national culture, traditions, and history (6.1%).
The respondents were asked to assess the government’s foreign and European integration policy and to evaluate Ukraine’s relations with the EU. These results and their comparison with previous monitoring data allow for the following conclusions. Geopolitical Orientation of Ukrainian Citizens Public opinion surveys show that Ukrainian citizens traditionally closely watch the development of their country’s relations with its two main foreign partners: the EU and Russia. From 2006 to 2010, relations with Russia were largely regarded as the main priority in foreign policy, but 2011 became the year of change. This trend was reversed as Ukrainian public’s attention and interest switched to the EU. While this is the general trend, the geopolitical orientation of Ukrainian public varies significantly by region and age. Unsurprisingly, a solid pro-European orientation is characteristic of the western part of Ukraine and a pro-Russian orientation of the south and the east. The center of Ukraine is a swing region, where geopolitical preferences are constantly changing. While in November 2009, a majority of the residents of central Ukraine favored the development of relations with Russia (50.9%) and only a quarter of those favored the EU countries, in October 2011, the situation reversed. Almost half (47.7%) now prioritize the development of relations with the EU, and only a quarter prioritize Russia. Regional differences in foreign policy orientation are largely caused by the differences in culture, ethnic composition, and religious allegiances, but also by domestic “politicization” of foreign policy decisions. Consequently, the level of support for each of the two main foreign policy direc-
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As for Ukraine’s interest in the EU, most respondents referred to the EU financial resources (42%); the EU market for Ukrainian goods (35.3%); and the EU system of governance, democratic norms, rules, and standards of living (35%). Positive Attitude toward Joining the European Union The results of recent surveys indicate a continuous dominance of the supporters for Ukraine’s EU membership over its opponents (in October 2011, their numbers were 51.2% and 30.3%, respectively). The younger the respondents are, the more they favor joining the European Union. Sixty-three percent of respondents aged 18 to 29 and 40.8% of respondents aged over 60 support the EU-membership. When asked to choose between the EU or a Customs Union with Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, a plurality of Ukrainians support the EU membership (43.7%), while 30.5% of respondents chose the Customs Union. Stable pluralities of Ukrainians (44.1% in 2011 and 41.4% in 2009) believe that in the coming years, relations between Ukraine and the EU will not progress. At the same time, in November 2009, the proportion of respondents who believed that Ukraine-EU relations would improve (30.7%) was six times larger than the proportion of those who thought relations would get worse (5.1%). Now the general mood has noticeably soured: in October 2011 the number of optimists decreased to 22.8% and the group of pessimists grew to 7.3%. — Valeryi Chalyi
About the Authors
Mykola Kapitonenko is the Executive Director of the Center for International Studies, Kyiv. Oleh Shamshur is a German Marshal Fund Transatlantic Fellow in Kyiv. Valeryi Chalyi is the Deputy Director General of the Razumkov Centre. All three authors are participants in the GMF-funded project, “Ukraine’s quest for European integration: internal and external dimensions.”
The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) is a nonpartisan American public policy and grantmaking institution dedicated to promoting better understanding and cooperation between North America and Europe on transatlantic and global issues. GMF does this by supporting individuals and institutions working in the transatlantic sphere, by convening leaders and members of the policy and business communities, by contributing research and analysis on transatlantic topics, and by providing exchange opportunities to foster renewed commitment to the transatlantic relationship. In addition, GMF supports a number of initiatives to strengthen democracies. Founded in 1972 through a gift from Germany as a permanent memorial to Marshall Plan assistance, GMF maintains a strong presence on both sides of the Atlantic. In addition to its headquarters in Washington, DC, GMF has seven offices in Europe: Berlin, Paris, Brussels, Belgrade, Ankara, Bucharest, and Warsaw. GMF also has smaller representations in Bratislava, Turin, and Stockholm.
About the On Wider Europe Series
This series is designed to focus in on key intellectual and policy debates regarding Western policy toward Wider Europe that otherwise might receive insufficient attention. The views presented in these papers are the personal views of the authors and not those of the institutions they represent or The German Marshall Fund of the United States.