Pluses and Minuses of Ukraine’s Membership in the EU

Ukraine's Quest for Mature Nation Statehood Roundtable VIII:
"Ukraine-EU Relations"

Pluses and Minuses of Ukraine’s Membership in the EU for the European Union

Roman Shpek

Speech of Ukrainian Ambassador to the EU Roman Shpek delivered during Ukraine's Quest for Mature Nation Statehood Roundtable VIII: "Ukraine-EU Relations" Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, Washington DC, October 17, 2007.

Ladies and Gentlemen, dear friends,

It is my honour to address this distinguished audience.

I must admit, the topic is a challenge. Ukraine’s membership in the EU remains a distant perspective. Realistic, achievable, feasible, yet a perspective.

Before I start, I will also share with you the vision of a Ukraine ready for membership. What kind of country would that be?

Probably, that would be a Ukraine with a mature and balanced constitutional system, as well as well-embedded traditions of statecraft. The elections should no longer be a recurring existential moment of truth.

It should be a Ukraine with a firmly established rule of law and a European judicial tradition. We should be able to deal with ease with such an important part of the EU law as jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice.

That Ukraine should have a strong and diversified economy, relatively free from structural imbalances and protected from external shocks. The economy, equally friendly to small business and the foreign investment.

It should be a Ukraine which consumes fuel in an efficient and environmentally friendly fashion. A Ukraine which does not wait with fear for the New Year and the gas price hikes that follow it.

It should be a Ukraine whose society is free from hatred, social exclusion and intolerance. A society united by its national identity and yet respectful of its own diversity.

At the same time, such a Ukraine should be matched by a new, evolved European Union. An EU with reformed institutional framework capable to manage 30 and more member states. An EU with a truly common foreign and security policy, as well as energy policy. An EU which can show true solidarity with its members on the international scene.

I think you would agree with this picture. However, you would also agree that both Ukraine and EU will have to work very hard and long to make it real. Let me assure you that more and more people in Ukraine are aware of that. We are aware of our task ahead.

Now, I turn to the actual analysis of pluses and minuses of Ukraine EU membership.

First, let me do the pluses.

1. Ukraine’s membership in the EU means more security and stability in Europe.

Everyone is aware about unique geostrategic position of my country. I would not even try to engage in discussions with Zbigniew Brzezinski – I fully agree that if stability is to be secured not only in Western Europe but in the whole continent then Ukraine should belong to the EU. Also I will not question the statements of all EU leaders that EU membership is the best way to ensure stability.

With Ukraine on board, Europe will only benefit from a new stronghold of democracy and stability at the crossroads of the greater Eurasian continent. We already contribute to the strengthening of security in Europe’s hot spots. We do our best to facilitate settlement of frozen conflicts, for example in Transdnistria. For several years Ukraine has played a progressively increasing role in EU-led peacekeeping operations in the Balkans. If Ukraine becomes the EU member, our contribution would only increase the EU security and stability as a whole.

2. Ukraine’s membership in the EU improves energy security and transport links of the EU.

Ukraine is a strategic transit zone for transcontinental pipeline networks, air and land traffic routes. As a part of a single European energy market, Ukraine would be the best guarantee of the energy-secure Europe, its access to diversified sources of energy supplies. The accession of Ukraine to the common European energy area will therefore remove a transit zone on the way of Russian crude oil supplies to Europe. In fact, the Ukrainian energy system is already becoming the integral part of the European one.

Another good example of the potential for energy cooperation is the so-called Burshtyn Island – a system of power-plants in Western Ukraine that has been working in parallel with the electricity grid of Central European EU Member States. This interconnection allows these countries to lower electricity costs and replace the electricity deficit, when necessary. Our key goals for today are to extend the limits of Burshtyn Island to the whole territory of Ukraine. We already pursue this goal in our preparations to accede to the UCTE.

3. Ukraine’s membership in the EU means new economic opportunities.

A country of 47 million inhabitants, it has a considerable market potential. Today the Ukrainian GDP constitutes 82 billion US dollars according to the official exchange rate. However, per purchasing power parity, it is 364 billion dollars. With the annual growth rates of 6-7 per cent, Ukraine has already proved that even with existing obstacles to trade and investment it can make a very impressive results. EU accession would help to improve all the business conditions and make this success even stronger.

Economic growth is a two-way street. EU membership perspective also offers a number of business opportunities for EU investments and trade. However, the best incentive for EU investors is the confidence that tomorrow Ukraine will join the club. Ukraine is a country endowed with unique natural resources which enjoy a considerable global demand. Ukraine’s EU membership will provide the Union with unfettered access to these resources, strengthen its international competitiveness and create jobs.

4. Ukraine’s membership in the EU will enrich cultural diversity. Ukraine’s history and culture give the country a truly European identity. I can talk for hours about the depth of Ukrainian culture. Therefore I will only say the obvious – Ukraine’s EU membership will only strengthen and enrich the common European heritage.

5. For the Europeans Ukraine’s membership in the EU will send a powerful signal to the world that the institutional crisis of the Union is over and the EU will finally become strong global player.

6. For the region it will launch a new era in the history of Eastern Europe. It will send a very positive political and economic impetus to the EU neighbors. In particular, with Ukraine on board the EU will have more possibilities to realize its ambition for a more active role in the Black Sea region. Even now, as a Chairman of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization (BSEC), Ukraine took the initiative to hold the first ministerial meeting of EU-Black Sea countries, an initiative that can do a lot for promoting understanding and cooperation in this corner of Europe. This initiative is supported by virtually all BSEC members. Therefore, as an EU member, our positive impact on the region will be even greater.

7. Ukraine’s EU membership will dramatically improve EU relations with Russia and for Russians Ukraine’s membership in the EU will be the most profitable. An example of a democratic and prosperous Ukraine can make a difference for the Russian society, and Russian politics, to ensure the development of democracy, respect of human rights and the rule of law. A successful Ukraine in Europe can give hope to those who wish Russia’s democratic future.

8. Finally, let me put it very simple. There will just never be a Europe without Ukraine. Without Ukraine, there will be only a half-Europe.

Now let us turn to minuses.

The major concern with which the EU looks upon the possible Ukraine’s accession is the capacity to absor
b or integrate a new member. From the history of the 2004 enlargement we have seen that a large number of new Member States have placed the EU institutions under a considerable strain. On many important issues the EU is not able to move forward, since the unanimity rule among 27 member states means a stalemate in the decision-making, the division into ‘old’ and ‘new’ Member States, squabbles and stagnation.

This concern is understandable. In such circumstances today, the EU finds it difficult to say ‘yes’ to Ukraine. At the same time, as I already said earlier, Ukraine may also find it difficult to say ‘yes’ to a stagnating and divided EU.

Therefore, both EU and Ukraine must yet go through a long and difficult road of internal reforms before they can greet each other at its end. Such a road would require patience and perseverance. However, both EU and Ukraine would need to have a clear vision what expects them in the end of the road. A vision of a united Europe without dividing lines, a Europe which can speak with a single voice in the world. Without such a vision, we should not even begin our journey.

I thank you very much.