In Warsaw, debate over Ukraine’s EU future

To sign or not to sign. That is the question that many European nations will have to answer with respect to Ukraine.

The long-discussed association agreement between Ukraine and the European Union was initialed earlier this year. But its signing is up in the air. For some EU nations, Ukraine hasn’t shown enough progress on democracy – particularly an end to selective criminal prosecutions and the release opposition leaders – for their leaders to sign such a deal. Given that Ukraine’s Oct. 28 parliamentary elections also fell short of democratic standards, such a signing looks more problematic.

Neither the government nor Ukraine’s political opposition are making it any easier for Ukraine’s friends in the 27-nation bloc.

Poland, which has been one of Ukraine’s most loyal allies and ardent lobbyists in Europe, is a good case study to see how policy towards Ukraine is playing out.

Bogdan Borusewicz, the speaker of Poland’s Senate, said his nation has pragmatic and emotional interests in signing the association agreement, a 1,000-page document that incorporates all aspects of the relationship, from political to economic and free trade.

“I would like to understand… what position Poland should be taking on this issue,” Borusewicz told the conference of politicians, academics and analysts from both nations on Nov. 29-30.

Source: KyivPost

On the one hand, the Polish short-term observation mission that came for the election did not record any violations on Election Day. The assessment of the vote-counting process was more critical, however.

On the other hand, Borusewicz said that he was lobbied by a member of the political opposition to not recognize the Oct. 28 vote “because our leader is in jail,” referring to former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s seven-year prison sentence for what many in the West regard as a trumped-up and political charge of abuse of office.

Borys Tarasiuk, a former foreign minister and prominent member of United Opposition, did not make the job of Polish policymakers any easier. He said the signing should not take place. “The representatives of an authoritarian government cannot be rewarded with signing of this agreement,” Tarasiuk said.

Andriy Shevchenko, another member of the United Opposition, suggested an alternative plan of action. He said, in particular, that cooperation on specific issues, on human rights and on education – as well as progress towards a visa-free regime — should take center stage.

Oles Doniy, an oppositional deputy elected to parliament in a single-mandate district, gave the most radical, Cold War-style speech, blaming Russia for preventing Ukraine’s integration with Europe. “What they once failed to do with tanks, what the communists failed to do, they’re now doing through economic expansion,” Doniy said.

Oksana Prodan, a newly-elected deputy who spoke on behalf of Vitali Klitschko’s Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reforms Party, looked comparatively moderate and pragmatic. Prodan said that Europe “is a salvation” for Ukraine. The association agreement, she said, is badly needed as the proverbial carrot for Ukraine to make major changes in the protection of human rights, health, business regulation, competition law and so on.

The Ukrainian political opposition’s inability to form a common opinion was disappointing for the Polish organizers.

Aleksander Smolar, president of Stefan Batory Foundation, an influential private think tank in Warsaw that organized the event, summed it up succinctly. “The opposition needs to become more mature and actually show us some quality projects for European integration,” Smolar said. “Moreover, they need to give Europe a reason to support the opposition – not just a moral reason.”

Presidential adviser Hanna Herman, the only government representative, talked up the government’s pro-European aspirations. She said Ukraine’s European choice is an official priority written in law. “Yanukovych has never talked about changing this priority,” she said, adding that “our government has done a lot in two years to integrate to Europe.”

Technically, she is right because it was the Yanukovych government that initialed the association agreement and received the road map to a visa-free regime with Europe. The government also touts progress in EU integration, however small. On Dec. 5, Foreign Minister Kostyantyn Gryshchenko happily tweeted about another “important victory” in trade negotiations with Europe. “Ukraine received permission for the export of eggs, egg products and domestic and wild fowl to the market of the European Union,” Gryshchenko tweeted.

However, the values question remains – and enough EU nations appear prepared to put the association agreement on ice until Ukraine reverses its democratic regression.

Dariusz Rosati, professor of economics and a Polish member of the European Parliament, said that true integration comes when there is an integration of values and interests. “Without the values, integration is morally weak; without the interests, it’s unstable,” Rosati said.

Although he was speaking about EU-member Poland’s integration at the time, Rosati’s statement rings true for Ukraine, whose elite are still debating whether the countries shares the interests or values of the West.

Source: KyivPost