Friday

20th Jul 2018

Opinion

What might be next in EU-Ukraine relations?

  • The EU-Ukraine Association Agreement is almost certainly the most explosive in EU history - ultimately triggering conflict in Donbas and the annexation of Crimea (Photo: European Parliament)

The EU-Ukraine Association Agreement (AA) has been, perhaps, the most dramatic EU deal with a third country.

When the Ukrainian government under then-president Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign the agreement in late 2013, it sparked Euromaidan protests, which resulted in Yanukovych's escape to Russia.

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

  • Yanukovych with Russian president Vladimir Putin. He was later to flee Ukraine for refuge in Russia. (Photo: president.gov.ua)

Moscow's punishment of Ukraine's pro-EU choice was severe: it annexed Crimea and ignited war in Donbas. Despite daily human tragedies, related to the war, this only strengthened Ukraine's European hopes.

The agreement is, certainly, one of the most EU-inspired instruments of Ukrainian change.

It opens up room for deep reforms, integrates Ukraine into the European single market, and provides for implementation of EU product safety and quality inside Ukraine itself.

However, despite its positive aspects, the deal continues to raise questions in Ukrainian society.

Yes? Or just 'maybe'?

First, it does not clearly mention EU membership as a goal and final end of the process. It only says 'maybe'.

Second, the AA is explicit about liberal economic agenda – free trade, removal of barriers, regulatory approximation. But on other important issues – tackling growing inequality and poverty, modernisation of the pension system or healthcare – its voice is weak.

However, the story of contemporary Europe, which was built after World War II not only as a liberal space, but also as welfare systems, shows that liberal agenda is important but not enough.

It is not enough to open up societies and economies; it is also important to think about citizens' welfare.

Ukraine, similarly to most member states, should now urgently think about this too.

Over the past years it is facing increasing poverty and, as result, populism. The situation is worsened by the increasing development gap between Ukraine and neighbouring EU member states.

The EU response to inequality – cohesion policy – is almost absent in the Association Agreement.

This is understandable: the EU-Ukraine deal is not about social policy, as this domain remains mainly under competence of member states.

On the other hand, a lot can be achieved through reforms envisaged by the agreement: they can improve the business climate, open up markets, and boost growth.

These tools, however, are indirect and not always clearly visible.

No panacea

The Association Agreement is rule-setter, but it is not a panacea, especially if your goal is to improve the welfare of your citizens.

Today EU-Ukraine dialogue is often falling into the trap of talking too much about membership prospects (still remote for Ukraine). This sometimes creates a deadlock.

Why? Because for today's Ukrainian citizens the prospect of EU membership often becomes a synonym for social cohesion.

Membership of the EU becomes a symbol of better quality of life and welfare. If this prospect is too far, a Ukrainian citizen will face a question if his or her life will improve tomorrow. It is important that the next stage in EU-Ukraine relations keep this question always in mind.

There should be, therefore, more effort made to achieve greater social, economic and infrastructure cohesion between Ukraine and the EU. There should also be a way to translate reforms driven by the agreement into tangible benefits for people.

In a situation when EU membership remains a remote goal, EU and Ukraine can pursue a strategy of regular small steps that bring tangible results.

Small steps - announced

Ideally, every year should see these small steps announced or implemented. This would show that EU-Ukraine relations are not only a routine in AA implementation, but something more dynamic.

The indicative list of steps that we propose is structured in three dimensions.

First, actual sectoral integration.

The existing legal framework allow us to achieve the full participation of Ukraine in selected areas of the single market, particularly aviation, energy, digital market and e-commerce.

Greater attention to consumer rights and benefits in the EU policies can be extended to Ukrainian consumers too.

Second, economic and industrial cohesion aimed at reducing disparities in the level of development between Ukraine and neighbouring EU member states.

These initiatives may include more infrastructure projects (key focus on roads and transport); joint job-creating industrial or technology projects (industrial clusters, technology parks, etc.).

An EU-Ukraine fund promoting EU-Ukraine business contacts at the SME level can be created on top of existing EU4Business programme.

Third, more investment in people through an enhanced education cooperation (for example, creating an Eastern Partnership university in Ukraine proposing teaching in English); enlarging EU cultural programs (like media) to Ukrainian audiovisual producers (cinema, music etc); better engagement of Ukrainian stakeholders in EU programs (Erasmus+, Creative Europe, Horizon 2020, etc.) enabling them to be grant holders.

The key message of these proposals is not about funds or budgets.

We are calling, instead, to have greater attention to the level of European integration visible for ordinary Ukrainians.

This strategy of regular small concrete steps can make EU-Ukraine rapprochement tangible for people, year after year and month after month.

They can be additional fuel for driving EU-Ukraine relations.

Taras Kachka is a Ukrainian expert in EU law, a former member of the Ukrainian negotiating team on the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, and strategic advisor at the International Renaissance Foundation. Volodymyr Yermolenko is a Ukrainian philosopher and journalist at Internews Ukraine and UkraineWorld

US probe into Ukraine 'lobbying' by former EU officials

A former EU commission president, ex-European parliament president and an ex-Austrian chancellor all deny being paid €2m by Donald Trump's former campaign chief to lobby on the behalf of the Russian-backed government in Ukraine in 2012.

EU must help independent media in Ukraine

Some seven journalists have been killed in Ukraine since the pro-EU uprising of 2014 - with elections looming in 2019, next year looks like another dangerous year for reporters covering Kiev.

A new Ukraine rising

It is our hope, that the rising of a reformed new Ukraine will demonstrate to Russia that 19th century aggression will not be tolerated nor prove itself worthwhile in our 21st century Europe, write Denmark and Ukraine's prime ministers.

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.

How the World Cup exposed Russian chauvinism

The suggestion that Russians themselves play a role in the condition of their state today is often dismissed as "xenophobic" or "Russophobic". But if not addressed, the evils of nationalism, chauvinism, and imperialism will continue even after Putin is gone.

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