Saturday

24th Jul 2021

Opinion

Is the EU ready for Ukrainian membership?

  • Ukraine is standing at the geopolitical crossroads once again (Photo: mac_ivan)

When the scar-faced Viktor Yushchenko emerged from the bowels of the Orange Revolution as the new president of Ukraine in 2005, it seemed like Europe was at his feet. The leaders of the European Union were eager to sing high praises to the new hero of the Western democratic order.

Yushchenko used this popularity to convey a simple message – Ukraine wants to become a member of the European Union. The more he repeated the message, the more it became apparent that Europe was not ready to commit.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

At the 2006 EU-Ukraine summit, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso was quite blunt: “Ukraine is not ready, and we are not ready.” Instead, the European leaders offered an enhanced cooperation agreement, which fell far short of Ukrainian expectations.

Today Ukraine is standing at the geopolitical crossroads again, but its political and economic situation is more fragile than it was in 2005. It faces challenges that need a new kind of response from the European Union. Financial aid and the association agreement is not enough to secure Ukraine’s return to Europe. The country desperately needs the prospect of EU membership.

The time has come for the European Union to act decisively and to bring this offer to the table along with the demand for a fair and transparent investigation of the bloody confrontations in Ukraine. The glimmer of hope for a better Ukrainian future within Europe could keep the country together.

It could provide sufficient motivation for all Ukrainians to work together and go through painful economic and social reforms.

Baltic and Balkan examples

The Baltic States stands are an example of such a successful transformation.

When the Baltic States regained their independence in 1991, many analysts predicted ethnic conflict in Estonia and Latvia and even the territorial split of Estonia along ethnic lines. Both of these countries had a significant percentage of Russian speakers, who were settled there during the Soviet area. However, despite some tensions, these fears never materialized.

In fact we saw a gradual normalisation of interethnic relations during the 1990s and early 2000s. To a large extent this was due to EU membership prospects for the Baltic States, which motivated the candidates to work alongside OSCE monitoring missions on minority- and citizenship-related issues.

Already in August 1991, at the European Community’s formal recognition ceremony of the Baltic States, German Foreign Minister Hans Dietrich Genscher offered to plead on behalf of the Baltic States for their speedy association with the European Community.

This was a clear signal that Europe was ready to walk with the three ex-Soviet republics during the process of transition and to eventually absorb them as the full members of the Community. The prospect of the EU (and Nato) membership united most voters and most political parties in Latvia and Estonia, discouraging the escalation of ethnically-based internal friction.

Similar examples can be drawn from the Balkans, where the prospect of EU membership has done much to bring stability to the region.

The work is far from complete, but these examples clearly demonstrate why enlargement is still the most effective tool of EU foreign policy. There is no reason why it should not work in Ukraine as well. But is the EU ready to step up to the plate and to fulfill its original calling – to foster peace and reconciliation in Europe?

I do hope so. At least as a response to the indomitable pro-European aspirations of the Ukrainian people.

The author is Lecturer at University of Bath

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Ukraine: Dream of Change

Saturday’s dethronement of Yanukovych by parliament does not mean that EuroMaidan protesters have achieved their goals.

Why aren't EU's CSDP missions working?

The EU deploys thousands of advisers to its missions abroad. Without addressing reform as a profoundly political struggle, however, the EU will remain successful only in operational advisory and trainings.

News in Brief

  1. Macron changes phone after Pegasus spyware revelations
  2. Italy to impose 'vaccinated-only' entry on indoor entertainment
  3. EU 'will not renegotiate' Irish protocol
  4. Brussels migrants end hunger strike
  5. Elderly EU nationals in UK-status limbo after missed deadline
  6. WHO: 11bn doses needed to reach global vaccination target
  7. EU to share 200m Covid vaccine doses by end of 2021
  8. Spain ends outdoor mask-wearing despite surge

Ukraine - Zelensky's authoritarian turn?

President Volodymyr Zelensky has begun his third year mired in mid-term unpopularity with a poll showing only 21.8 percent of Ukrainians would vote to re-elect him. More than half would prefer him not even to run for a second term.

Why the EU delay on supply chains? Corporate lobbying

EU legislation to clean up supply chains and corporate governance has been delayed after fierce industry lobbying. Voluntary commitments have repeatedly failed, now it is time for decisive regulatory action.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. Far left and right MEPs less critical of China and Russia
  2. Why is offshore wind the 'Cinderella' of EU climate policy?
  3. Open letter from 30 embassies ahead of Budapest Pride
  4. Orbán counters EU by calling referendum on anti-LGBTI law
  5. Why aren't EU's CSDP missions working?
  6. Romania most keen to join eurozone
  7. Slovenia risks court over EU anti-graft office
  8. Sweden's gang and gun violence sets politicians bickering

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us