17 July 2016

Ukraine’s Unrequited Passion for Europe - Jan Piekło

A reinvigoration of transatlantic relations is key to bringing peace and stability to the EU's Eastern Neighbourhood in the aftermath of the history "of missed opportunities" in EU-Ukraine relations, contends Jan Piekło in Ukraine's Unrequited Passion for Europe, a paper for the Heinrich Böll Stiftung European Union.

Jan, one of the co-founders of New Diplomacy, will take up the position of Poland's Ambassador to Ukraine in September 2016, and he charts how after the fairy-tale Orange Revolution, "Ukrainians had a great chance to reform their country and join the community of European democracies", but the EU and the Western political leadership "successfully missed an opportunity to include Ukraine in the European integration process". The lack of an EU or NATO membership perspective for Ukraine and Georgia "contributed to the democratic slowdown and general insecurity in the whole region", he continues. This was compounded, he argues, by "significant Russian interference and conflicting interests of the corrupt Ukrainian oligarchic elites", resulting in "Ukraine fatigue" in the West.

Jan draws comparisons with Poland, namely between Victor Yushchenko, elected after the Orange Revolution, who "soon became a hostage to his own overwhelming victory", and Poland's one-term President, Lech Wałęsa, leader of the Solidarity opposition movement. He also highlights the competing perspectives within the EU towards Ukraine. While a democratic Ukraine means stability and secure borders for its EU neighbour, Poland, other EU members who had successfully offered the carrot of membership to Central European countries were instead fearful of the Kremlin’s reaction. "The Kremlin knew well how to play the game of splitting European unity," argues Jan. Besides, he argues, "there is no such thing as a common European eastern policy. The key EU countries are often driven by wishful thinking or a ‘Russia first’ business policy (like for example the Nord Stream 2 lobby in Germany)."

"The EU itself has a rather limited capacity to respond properly to this challenge," Jan concludes, "but in cooperation with NATO it should prepare a scenario for dealing with possible conflicts and growing chaos in the region. The renaissance of transatlantic relations and a rapprochement between the Old Continent and the US could be the only long-term option for reversing the backlash in the region. It will take time, the political will of both sides and a consensus among EU Member States."

Otherwise, he argues, the EU will be unable to respond to Putin’s aggressive policy, and its basic credibility will be at stake, "with the prospect of a Yalta-like new division of the world".

To avert this situation, Jan proposes a set of recommendations for the EU:
  1. assistance and support for the implementation of the AA (Association Agreement), DCFTA (Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area), and reforms in Ukraine;
  2. helping to strengthen democracy and rule of law in Ukraine (with a special focus on combating corruption);
  3. including a perspective of EU and NATO membership in the dialogue with Kiev;
  4. providing training, intelligence and military equipment, which could help Ukraine to protect its sovereignty and limit the death toll among civilians and combat soldiers;
  5. working on a new format of a peaceful solution for the Ukraine-Russia conflict, which will include the issue of Crimea;
  6. helping to elaborate a strategic solution for dealing with the IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons)/refugee crisis in Ukraine;
  7. support for generating growth of the SME (small and medium-sized enterprises) sector and increase of foreign investment in Ukraine;
  8. stimulating Ukrainian involvement in a wider regional cooperation within the framework of EaP;
  9. engaging Ukraine (and the Eastern Partnership countries which signed AA agreements with the  EU) in a deeper cooperation on various levels with the EU partners.
Ukraine's Unrequited Passion for Europe by Jan Piekło for Heinrich Böll Stiftung European Union

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