25th Oct 2016


What now for EU-Ukraine relations?

  • Independence square in Kiev - the elite is not the only group with a voice in Ukraine (Photo: wikipedia)

In view of how the Ukrainian parliamentary elections of 28 October went, the prospects of signing the EU-Ukraine association agreement any time soon look dim.

What should the EU do now? Below, we present a list of concrete steps that Brussels should consider undertaking soon to re-intensify EU-Ukraine relations:

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1. Set out, in a single and clearly formulated written document, the conditions Ukraine has to fulfil for the association agreement be signed.

So far, there has been a cacophony of EU representatives' statements on this issue. The EU's statement has to be made public and to be presented as an appeal to Ukrainian society as much as to the political elite.

2. Leak the text of the agreement to the public. So far, the EU's offer has been a pig in the poke: There is much talk about the treaty, yet very few people have ever seen it.

Once leaked, journalists, politicians, business people, lawyers and academics will start reading and analysing those sections that interest them and that could become relevant to them.

3. Sign and ratify the association agreements with Moldova and Georgia once negotiations are concluded. This way, the EU will show that its announced more-for-more principle is a reality. Such a step would embarrass the current Ukrainian leadership

4. Consider giving Moldova and, possibly, Georgia too a conditional EU membership perspective. Indicate that such offers may be made to other countries in future, if they respect common values and show adequate political will.

5. Accelerate the visa liberalisation process as much as possible. The European Parliament, should, sooner rather than later, ratify the already agreed amendments to the visa facilitation agreement.

EU member states' consulates in Kiev should become more customer-friendly.

Brussels should reiterate that entirely visa-free travel will become a reality once Ukraine has implemented the reform programme outlined in the visa liberalisation action plan.

6. Support Ukraine's approximation efforts in those sectors that are important for the future association agreement and where no resistance from special interests to their execution exists. Down-to-earth technical standards will, in any way, have to be implemented at some point.

7. Engage more actively with some of Ukraine's so-called "oligarchs." Often substantive decisions in Ukraine are predetermined behind the scenes by actors who may not hold any significant official posts, but who control significant parts of Ukraine's GDP.

These "oligarchs" include a variety of personalities - some of whom are more dubious and some less so. With a selected circle of the latter, the EU should seek a dialogue concerning what the EU wants from the Ukrainian government, and what the association agreement means for Ukraine's economy.

8. Create a Ukraine research and information centre providing competent political, economic, social and legal consulting on current Ukrainian affairs.

This centre could publish a weekly analytical bulletin as well as a monthly or, at least, bimonthly specialised journal on Ukrainian politics, business, history and society.

Such a centre may also hold annual conventions, monthly expert round-tables, irregular public conferences or occasional press conferences which would bring together academic researchers, policy analysts, journalists, social activists and decision-makers dealing with Ukraine.

If implemented swiftly and simultaneously, these measures could produce tangible results in EU-Ukraine relations within a relatively short period of time - within the next three to five years.

They would not cost the EU much, but could markedly change the atmosphere in relations between Kiev and Brussels.

Iryna Solonenko is a researcher into EU-eastern policies at the European University Viadrina of Frankfurt/Oder in Germany. Andreas Umland is a lecturer on European studies at the National University of the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy in Ukraine. A longer version of this article is forthcoming in the Foreign Policy journal.


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