Ukraine’s Accession to the EU: A View from Ukraine

Ukraine’s Quest for Mature Nation Statehood Roundtable VI:
“Ukraine’s Transition to an Established National Identity”

Perspectives of Ukraine’s Accession to the EU: A View from Ukraine

Oleh Zarubinskyi

Remarks by Oleh Zarubinskyi, MP, Acting Chairman, Parliamentary Committee for European Integration, Member People’s Party delivered during Ukraine’s Quest for Mature Nation Statehood Roundtable VI: “Ukraine’s Transition to an Established National Identity” Washington, D.C., Tue-Wed, September 27-28, 2005

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all I would like to thank the organizers for the invitation to address the respected public, thank you – all the people present here – I am convinced that only true friends of Ukraine have gathered here to discuss the future of the country and, as real friends, to express their opinions and give advice to Ukraine.

Today we have witnessed a new position on “The Grand Chessboard”, to borrow a phrase from Dr. Brzezinski. A new center of power has appeared; a new influential actor – a United Europe.

The integration process in Western Europe that was just a dream some 50 years ago, has began to involve the eastern part of Europe after the collapse of the socialist system. Ideologists of European integration declare their goal to be “the construction of a United Europe without new dividing lines”.

Since May 2004 – when 10 new countries of Eastern Europe joined the European Union – the total length of EU-Ukrainian border is now longer than 800 km. (Ukraine borders Poland, Slovak Republic and Hungary).

Ukraine sincerely welcomes this integration process and, moreover, regards itself as an integral part of it. Ukraine adheres to the values of the European Union; we aspire to incorporate the Union’s political culture into our own.

We are convinced that Europe is not simply 25 countries – EU member-states, and not even 27 countries – anticipating the accession of Bulgaria and Romania in 2007. Europe is 47 countries.

We cannot speak about the European Union as a pan-European association without Ukraine being a member. Until that time, it is too early to state that Europe has finally abolished all dividing lines.

In this regard I would like to remind you of one thing which is self-evident. I can’t stop repeating it, and I won’t get tired of repeating it. That is: Ukraine is a European state.

First of all, Ukraine is geographically situated in Europe, and moreover, the geographical centre of Europe is situated in Ukraine – in Zakarpattya oblast, near the village of Rahiv.

The history of Ukraine is not a topic of conversation today, but one may remember that Kyiv-Rus was one of the most developed countries in Europe over 1000 years ago. One of the ancient trade routes crossed the territory of Ukraine – ‘z varyag v greky’.

Over time our links with Europe were cut off due to historical circumstances beyond our control.

Therefore, one should admit that Ukraine has always been a European state in terms of geography, history, and culture. Now it is time Ukraine regained its place in Europe in terms of developed institutions of democracy and political system.

It is high time Ukraine joined the family of well-developed democratic European states.

The History of EU-Ukraine Relations

Fifteen years ago, after the collapse of the socialist system in Central and Eastern Europe, the absolute majority of Eastern Europe states have declared their commitment to European values and have defined EU membership as a strategic goal of their foreign policy.

The European choice is conditioned by the perception that European integration of necessity is an important factor of state independence, security, political stability, economic development of Ukraine and social harmony in Ukrainian society.

In 1993 the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted the “Resolution on the Basic Directions of Foreign Policy of Ukraine,” where it was indicated that “a perspective goal of Ukrainian foreign policy is participation in the European Communities”.

But the European choice of Ukraine was not emphasized, so it was lost in this document. All Ukrainian foreign policy vectors were declared priorities – from CIS to African and Latin American states.

On 14 June 1994 the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) between Ukraine and the EU was signed, which came into force in 1998. PCA concerns the issues of political dialogue, enterprise founding, labour and capital movements and cooperation in economic, financial and cultural spheres.

In this regard, PCA is similar to the European Agreements concluded between the EU and Eastern European states, that have recently joined the European Union (for example, the European Agreement with Bulgaria was concluded in 1993).

But at the same time, there are distinctions in these agreements, for example, in trade issues as the European agreements are preferential treaties directed towards the creation of free trade zones, and they practically cover all trade issues between the Parties.

And the most important thing – as defined in the preambles of the European agreements – the final aim of every country in this process is EU membership, and that the Agreement of Association should facilitate achieving this aim. Perspective EU membership is, precisely, the only critical component, that is absent in the PCA.

So, in fact, Ukraine, unlike other European countries, was deprived of European perspective from the very beginning.

One should realize that the PCA establishes only a basis for bilateral cooperation. It leaves the way open for further determination and intensification of interrelations in a wide range of questions.

On 21 February 2005 the EU-Ukraine Action Plan was approved. It outlines possible development of relations in the direction of establishing a free trade zone between the Parties, depending, of course, on whether Ukraine successfully reaches its acknowledged goal of market reform.

It also provides some steps for visa regime facilitation. The EU-Ukraine Action Plan is worked out for the period of 3 years, and in case of its successful fulfillment, a new enhanced agreement may be concluded, an agreement envisaging the provision for the EU accession.

Ukraine is trying to do its best to fulfill its obligations under the Action Plan, to prove that the European choice Ukraine has made is final and unchangeable, that it is a true and the only priority of our foreign and domestic policy.

We want to prove our intentions to be serious enough to make the EU regard us a potential candidate-country, not depriving us of the European perspective.

On 16 March 2005 the Government approved a ‘Road Map’, an internal document that would specify the Action Plan, providing special and concrete tasks and obligations for Ministries and other bodies of state power, also putting the deadlines for fulfillment of the above-mentioned tasks. The Government on its regular meetings would check whether the tasks are done and whether they are done in time.

What are the Problems in the Process of European Integration of Ukraine?

Speaking of the factors that impede the European integration of Ukraine, I can think of those depending on the EU, and those depending on Ukraine.

Speaking of the factors depending on the EU, I would like to say that the EU has neither regarded Ukraine a candidate-country since the very moment it gained its independence unlike other European states, nor ever speaking of any European perspective for Ukraine up to day.

There is a very complex political and economic situation within the European Union. Only a year has passed since the last EU enlargement, another is on the way. The EU is still ‘digesting’ the consequences of the accession of 10 new members last year.

Another political crisis is pulling apart the EU. The French and the Dutchmen voted against the European Constitution at national referendums that froze the process of its becom
ing effective.

Great problems are found in domestic sphere of finance: the last EU summit proved to be a failure, the EU leaders failed to agree on the financial perspectives and the common budget up to 2013.

Nowadays the EU faces the unemployment problems. Unemployment in 2005 may become record high since the end of the 90-ties, as it makes more than 9 percent.

Persistent unemployment makes pressure on the political leaders in European countries, especially in Germany where unemployment index is higher than in any other EU member-states reaching 11.7 percent, especially after the recent elections.

All these factors make the EU concentrate on its own problems and leave neither space nor time for EU to concentrate on the relations with Ukraine and provide a European perspective to our country.

But this pause Ukraine may use in its favor, having more time to prepare its homework more properly. We could use the time given to fulfill our obligations under the Action Plan to prove the seriousness of our intentions.

The Second Part of the Factors Depend on Ukraine

FIRST of all, up to the present moment among Ukrainian political elite and in Ukrainian society there is no unity on the issue of Ukrainian membership in the EU. Though the polls show that majority of experts speak in favor of European integration, the antagonists’ position is also rather strong.

Our opponents like to say that the EU is not waiting for us, what might be true in some sense nobody will wait for us until we hurry up ourselves. In this case my favorite answer is that there is Article 49 of Amsterdam Treaty envisaging that any European state complying with Copenhagen criteria may apply to gain the EU membership.

SECOND, Ukrainian population feels the lack of information on the European Union: what it is, how it functions, and what the privileges of Ukraine’s accession thereto are. This is the information the Ukrainians need badly.

The information could popularize the idea of European integration and would provide stronger support of the population of the necessary but rather unpopular reforms conducted by the Government.

THIRD, there is no strict inter-coordinated system of bodies of state power responsible for European integration. European integration is not foreign policy, but it is rather domestic policy. Our successful way of integration will depend on our successful fulfillment of the homework.

That is why it is so important to know who is responsible for what inside the country. For now, I can’t speak of the clear picture of division of power between the existing state bodies, or to mention the specialized State Body for European Integration, if such to be ever created, as there are many talks about it.

As I’ve already mentioned before, the good homework makes the biggest part of the job, that is real means for reaching success in the negotiations. We have an Action Plan, which is not perfect, but rather good; the Government elaborated the ‘Road Map’, which itself is also rather good.

But all these documents are nothing without proper fulfillment. It’s difficult to speak about all spheres the Action Plan concerns, but I can characterize some aspects connected with legislative work.

The Action Plan provided tasks for different Ministries and State Bodies of elaborating, submitting to the Parliament and supporting draft laws. The deadlines were provided for all these stages.

But by the time the draft law should have been already passed by the Parliament, it hasn’t even worked out and submitted to the Parliament.

On the very last day the draft laws are submitted to the Parliament, and the Government asks the Parliament to adopt them without even having the possibility of reading the laws. In my opinion, such coordination of actions is intolerable.

As I’ve said at the beginning, I believe that only the true friends of Ukraine have gathered here, and our common efforts will help Ukraine to become a prosperous democratic European state.