European Union and Ukraine: Geopolitical Ambitions Going Too Far
Boris NOVOSELTSEV | 15.09.2014 | OPINION

European Union and Ukraine: Geopolitical Ambitions Going Too Far

On September 12, Brussels, Kiev and Moscow agreed that the association agreement should not come into force till at least the end of 2015. The joint statement by European Commissioner for Trade Karel De Gucht, Minister of Economic Development of the RussianFederation Akexey Ulukaev and Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin says the Kiev's free trade pact with the EU postponing its entry into force until the end of 2015. As to Ulukaev, “We will continue thediscussion of the issue that concerns us the most - what form [of a solution] we could find to alleviate our worries”. He added, “So far, we have agreed to continue dialogue for the next 15 months, we will present our arguments while our colleagues will offer theirs."

Russia and Ukraine are to maintain regime of trade preferences within the space of Commonwealth of Independent States. The ratification process is to be implemented according the schedule. President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko hopes no changes will be introduced into the text of the association agreement reached in Brussels on June 27. In its turn the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs says all the provisions should remain in force to benefit Ukraine. It says Ukrainian producers would take advantage of EU unilateral preferences and have time to prepare for tough competition entering the EU-Ukraine free trade zone. Elmer Brok, MEP, the Chair of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, said it would serve the Ukraine’s interests with no customs duties to pay.

There is another aspect of the matter. The drawn out Ukrainian crisis, continued combat actions in the eastern part of the country, as rebels refuse to recognize the Ukraine’s sovereignty, and the deterioration of relations with Russia – it all continues to inflict damage on economy. The requests for more credits to be granted by the West look like blackmail. Brussels is trying to normalize at least economic cooperation between Moscow and Kiev.

Kiev understands that it does not serve its interests to expedite the implementation of the agreement. It was understood before as former President Yanukovych refused to sign the document. Petro Poroshenko tried to delay the ratification.

Brussels appears to be the main driving force to push the agreement through. The European Union was a party to the conflict from the very start dragging Kiev into the self - destructive association. Then it launched sanctions against Russia, the move that backlashed against the EU in retaliation. Now Brussels sends signals it is ready to suspend the punitive actions.

The European Union is not ready to sacrifice its well-being. This fact is corroborated by new assignments inside the European Commission headed by Jean-Claude Juncker.

Štefan Füle,European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy, wanted to drag Ukraine into the European Union. Evidently his plans have failed. New Commissioner Austrian Johannes Hahn is consistent in his opposition to anti-Russian sanctions. Austria is rather skeptical concerning the Ukraine’s prospects for European integration. It never made a secret of it.

Federica Mogherini, the EU Commissionerfor foreign policy, expresses new views on the EU prospects for future. This is the year of Italy’s EU presidency and it offers its own foreign policy agenda. Ukraine is not a priority, Afghanistan, the Asia-Pacific region, the United States, Canada and Russia hit the priority list. This is a well-planned and thought over policy.

Unlike those who came to power in the EU 4-5 years ago, the new EU officials are prone to pragmatic approaches and don’t try to use the events for their own political ends. Their stance on Kiev is tougher, they make it compromise with Russia to avoid problems.

The changes are visible. For instance, Štefan Füle said on September 13 that the European Union should reach an accord with the EurasianUnionon establishing a free trade zone.

The Kiev and Brussels statements about the text of the association agreement being immune to changes should not mislead. They say so to avoid public admittance of the fact that the text is not well prepared and corrections are inserted under the Russia’s pressure. The matter is that all the changes Moscow insists on are to be paraphiedagain.

After the association is effective without its part devoted to economy two over national entities are to be created - Association Council and Association Committee - to tackle custom duties, import quotas, transport, communications, taxes, entrepreneurship, social policy, health and education. Their decisions are binding. It’s possible that Russian claims will be considered by these structures.

It’s yet to see what influence the September 12 decision will exert on internal political strife as the October 15 national elections are drawing near. Right after the tripartite talks some Ukrainian politicians accused Poroshenko of betraying the national interests; others were evidently at a loss. Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who joined the pre-election race outside the Pro-Poroshenko camp, said no matter the decisions taken, Kiev will comply with everything stated in the text of the agreement. No doubt that many Ukrainian politicians will use the argument (the pause before the agreement comes into force) against the incumbent President.

All told, there are two absolutely evident facts here:

1) The decision to delay the agreement emasculates and makes an absurd of everything that happened in Ukraine in the period of November 2013 till February 2014.

2) The agreement is full of risks for Ukraine and Russia. Brussels recognizes this reality. It proves that the confrontation with Russia is not what the European Union plans.

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The European Union is reluctant to recognize the fact that the decision by former President Yanukovych to postpone the conclusion of the association agreement was made in view of grave problems. That’s what influenced his decision. These problems plunged the country with the population of 45 million into chaos provoking the ongoing civil war and exacerbating the situation in Europe as a whole. Is not an extremely high price to pay for exorbitant ambitions of European politicians? 

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