Ukraine gives positive appraisal of new-model EU
Ukraine's ambassador to the EU, Andriy Veselovsky, has given an upbeat appraisal of the EU's new institutional set-up.
Fresh from chaperoning Ukraine's recently-elected president, Viktor Yanukovych, through a long series of meetings on his first official visit to Brussels last month, the diplomat told reporters in Brussels that the post-Lisbon Treaty union has a clear division of labour.
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At the top tier, European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso speaks as the EU's "government," while EU Council head Herman Van Rompuy is a "strategist," Mr Veselovsky explained.
Moving down the ladder, EU top diplomat Catherine Ashton is a specialist in "bilateral relations," such as Ukraine-Belarus or Ukraine-Romania ties. Neighbourhood commissioner Stefan Fuele handles technical matters, such as Ukraine's Free Trade Agreement or its ratification of European Energy Community laws.
Meanwhile, European Parliament chief Jerzy Buzek articulates EU values, having explained to Mr Yanukovych the great weight the union places on democratic elections.
Mr Veselovsky said the EU's loose leadership structure reflects the political reality on the ground.
"If you travel from Finland to Portugal, or from the UK to Bulgaria, you will see that Europe contains great differences both geographically and mentally. The mentalities are so different that to govern them with one voice is impossible," he said.
"It is very wise not to speed up integration too much, or you risk frightening people. Maybe in 10 years, Mr Van Rompuy will govern and not just preside over the Council."
Not everything the union does looks reasonable from the outside, however.
Mr Veselovsky said he "does not understand" why Ms Ashton came in for criticism for skipping an internal EU meeting to come to the Yanukovych inauguration. He called France's recent decision to sell warships to Russia despite complaints from its EU allies "strange."
The ambassador, who is an ardent supporter of Ukraine's EU accession, said that the limits of the European Union should be defined by culture as well as geography.
"The political limits are wherever people do not want to be part of Europe, where they do not think of themselves as European. Wherever you go in Ukraine, you have this [positive] answer. But in Russia you have another view: 'No, we are Russian. We only want to be part of Great Russia'," he explained.
Mr Veselovsky also revealed that the commission is in June planning to give Ukraine a "roadmap" for visa-free travel.
Full compliance is likely to take years. But the ambassador pointed to the Euro 2012 football championship, to be held in Ukraine and Poland, for a possible test run. "That's how our new visa rules started out," he added, referring to Ukraine's decision to lift visas for EU citizens during the Eurovision Song Contest in Kiev in 2005, which were never reimposed.