Sunday

22nd Jul 2018

Ukraine diplomats take risk on EU application

  • Europe Day celebrations in Ukraine last year - support for EU membership is falling among the population (Photo: EUUBC)

Two senior Ukrainian diplomats have come out on the record as saying that the country should submit a formal application for EU membership in early 2010.

Ukraine's ambassador to the EU, Andry Veselovsky, made the statement in a comment piece for Ukrainian newspaper Den on Saturday (12 September).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... our join as a group

"We want to believe, that no matter who becomes president [of Ukraine] in 2010 he will apply to the EU for membership in Spring next year," he said. "The main thing that Brussels will then have to think about is whether Ukraine can respond in an adequate way ...so far, we are not sure. But our neighbours, who are already members or candidates, were always sure. Despite all the doubts in Brussels, they moved forward and achieved results."

The deputy head of Ukraine's EU mission, Vasyl Filipchuk, backed the ambassador on Wednesday (16 September).

"I am sure that if the EU considers this application on the basis of the norms that it has established over the past 20 to 30 years, the answer would have to be 'Yes, but there are conditions to fulfill.' Anything else would be politically irresponsible and legally groundless," he told EUobserver.

Mr Veselovsky and Mr Filipchuk's remarks do not constitute official Ukrainian policy. But they reflect the opinion of other Ukrainian diplomats and analysts, who have grown frustrated with EU ambiguity on enlargement over the past five years.

"Even the slightest real hope on the European integration of Ukraine, even in the long term, could work wonders with this country in terms of internal reform," EU-Russia Centre analyst Olena Prystayko said.

Under EU procedure, if a country submits a formal request for membership, EU member states decide by consensus whether or not to refer the application to the European Commission for evaluation before later launching accession talks.

The pro-application camp's thinking is that a March 2010 submission would lead to a commission evaluation one year down the line, in the middle of the 2011 Polish EU presidency.

Poland reticent

Poland has been a champion of Ukraine accession ever since Kiev split from Moscow in the Orange Revolution of 2004. But it has become more reticent on the issue as it cultivates the image of a big, mainstream EU player.

"The EU has decided that the best way to help Ukraine is to try to prevent another gas crisis by concentrating on the transformation of its internal gas transmission networks. This is a significant decision, which means the EU is taking Ukraine under its stewardship. In this sense, the atmosphere in EU-Ukraine relations is better," Poland's ambassador to the EU, Jan Tombinski, said.

The Polish minister for EU affairs, Mikolaj Dowgielewicz, declined to comment directly. But he said that the European Commission should consider adding the Eastern Partnership, an EU policy basket containing Ukraine, to its enlargement portfolio in future.

"You now have for example Olli Rehn responsible for the Balkans and enlargement, [in future] you could have Enlargement and Eastern Partnership," he told this website.

With Germany and the European Commission opposed to Ukraine accession, even Ukraine-friendly EU personalities, such as UK conservative MEP Charles Tannock, are sceptical about the 2010 application gambit.

"They would get egg on their face because there's not enough support among member states," Mr Tannock said.

France more open

But the gambit looks more attractive in the light of a moderate shift in France's position toward Ukraine.

Back in September 2008, France forced Kiev to accept a deal under which the EU would launch talks on an Association Agreement with Ukraine, if it agreed to drop Article 49-type language from the preamble to the pact.

Article 49 of the EU treaty says that "any European state ...may apply to become a member of the union," while the preamble is to make no mention of Ukraine as a "European state."

When asked about the 2010 application scenario by EUobserver, the spokeswoman for the French mission to the EU, Marine de Carne, said: "It [the Association Agreement text] is not exactly Article 49 language, but it doesn't close the door to any application either. It's somewhere in the middle."

The EU-Ukraine climate could still transform before March 2010. If Ukraine makes a mess of its January 2010 presidential elections, it could increase Ukraine fatigue in Brussels.

Russia might enter the game by instigating instability in The Crimea. Or, if Europe's football governing body, UEFA, decides in November that Ukraine is unfit to host the Euro 2012 finals, it could anger ordinary Ukrainians, just 20 to 34 percent of whom want EU accession according to recent polls.

"A football insult could prompt a severe backlash against Europe," European Council on Foreign Relations analyst Andrew Wilson said.

Correction: the original story said 20 percent of Ukrainians support EU integration, on the basis of a Eurasia Monitor poll. The story was amended to add the higher figure of 34 percent on the basis of a European Council on Foreign Relations study, as research on the topic can diverge.

EU and Japan wave light in Trump's 'darkness'

EU leaders and Japanese prime minister signed a series of agreements, including the EU's biggest trade deal ever, designed as an answer to the disruption of the world order by the US president.

Stage set for Trump-Putin finale

Trump hoped to befriend Putin at a showcase summit in Helsinki, following US president's attacks on Nato and British leaders this week.

Opinion

EU must create safe, legal pathways to Europe

As the rapporteur for the European Parliament on an EU regulation on resettlement, my colleagues and I have outlined an effective plan based on solidarity and humanitarian principles.

News in Brief

  1. Libyan PM rejects EU migrant camps idea
  2. Italy's Salvini to sue critical anti-mafia writer
  3. EU countries send aircraft to Sweden to help with wildfires
  4. British ex-commissioner's jobs called into question
  5. May to tell EU to drop Irish border 'backstop' idea
  6. Trump threatens EU over Google fine
  7. Spain withdraws arrest warrant for Catalan separatists
  8. EU readies counter-measures on possible US car tariffs

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  2. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  4. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  5. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  7. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  8. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  9. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  10. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  12. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us