Thursday, January 27, 2005

Well, what are we to do with Ukraine?

The dogs bark, the caravan moves on. The excitement of the Ukrainian election is over, Yushchenko is President, his colleague Yuliya Timoshenko will probably be Prime Minister. Now what?

What is the EU to do about this? As we have pointed out before on occasions too numerous to mention, the real problem with the EU common foreign policy is that it does not exist but has to pretend to do so. In the process a great deal of damage can be done. A non-existent foreign policy will be pro-active just for the sake of it to appear to be doing something.

Alternatively, as in the case with the former Soviet republics it will do nothing. We shall have many calls for stability but the EU, that has taken no real part in the whole drama, has no real idea of what to do next.

President Yushchenko has addressed the Council for Europe and announced that he is going to introduce government reforms in Ukraine that will bring it closer to the EU, membership of which organization remains his aim.

Can’t imagine why he should bother to introduce reforms. Apart from the unfortunate events that culminated in a journalist losing his head (literally) for criticising former President Kuchma, there is little in the Ukrainian economic, political and social structure that could not be accommodated in the European Union. Well, there is the poverty, but surely the EU’s “soft power”, i.e. throwing money at a problem could deal with that. Oh dear, no, I forget. The money has already been earmarked for Spain, Ireland, Greece, Portugal and some for the new member states.

In fact, Ukraine has been told that they cannot have association status because they will not be ready for membership by 2007, supposedly the next expansion date that will see Romania, Bulgaria and, possibly, Croatia entering. How they will be accommodated is anybody’s guess.

In the meantime there will be further developments in the famed Neighbourhood Policy, that will include free-trade agreements (this I must see), visa agreements and various kinds of aid for the building of infrastructure. Unfortunately, under French pressure the Neighbourhood Policy was extended to include the North African countries as well as the former Soviet ones. They will probably demand equal treatment.

Then there is Russia. It is not the EU’s policy to say boo to a goose (except the United States, who is not a particularly threatening goose) and certainly not to the Russian bear. As M Barnier, the French Foreign Minister has explained, Poland, Ukraine and all other former Communist states must learn to respect Russia. Presumably, M Barnier and his boss, l’empereur Jacques rather regret taking those pesky East Europeans into the Union.

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