Ukraine undecided over a strategic partnership with the EU

In the in the margins of the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission (on the right) and Herman van Rompuy, President of the European Council (on the left) met with Viktor Yanukovych, President of Ukraine. (EC Audiovisual Services, 24/09/2013).

In the in the margins of the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission (on the right) and Herman van Rompuy, President of the European Council (on the left) met with Viktor Yanukovych, President of Ukraine. (EC Audiovisual Services, 24/09/2013).

The Eastern Partnership, EU’s major and expensive initiative to extend its influence up to the southern borders of Russia is faltering dangerously. Ukraine doesn’t seem ready to sign the Partnership, after Armenia recently rejected it. This is the second opening of the European Union to Eastern Europe, after the successful historic enlargement of the Union to the eight former soviet-bloc ex-communist states of Central and Eastern Europe. This time it was the turn of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

Out of those six countries the most important of all, is obvious Ukraine. The European Union has been very actively preparing the Vilnius Summit scheduled for 28-29 November, where Ukraine is expected o sign an Association Agreement with the EU. Ten days ahead of this Vilnius Summit and Ukraine doesn’t appear ready to fulfil the prerequisites set by Brussels, to a great embarrassment of the EU dignitaries.

“Ukraine has recently achieved a lot. It has shown determined action and tangible progress in many areas; but we are not there yet. It would be highly misfortunate to slip from the road just before the finish line,” said the Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevičius at the EU Foreign Affairs Council, which took place yesterday in Brussels. Lithuania currently holds the EU Council’s rotating Presidency.

Last key decisions missing

It was very characteristic that the 28 EU foreign ministers, who make up the powerful Foreign Affairs Council of the EU, appeared ready to sign the Association Agreement with Ukraine, if “some key necessary laws will be adopted without further delays”. Obviously this is a direct reference to the release from prison of the former Prime Minister Julia Tymoshenko. However Viktor Yanukovych, the President of the Ukraine, doesn’t seem ready to release Tymoshenko from prison. This would have been Yanukovych’s last and decisive step in directing his country towards the West, cutting off ties with Moscow.

If Ukraine finally doesn’t sign the Association Agreement with the European Union, it will be the second blow to the Brussels new strategic opening to the East and a personal victory of Vladimir Putin. This summer Armenia, instead of promoting its ties with the EU, suddenly changed course and signed a membership agreement with the Eurasian Union (EAU). This EAU is a personal stake of the Russian President who launched it in 2011. Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus have practically united their economies. Now Armenia decided to join them. It is a strong economic union, with common tariffs and even a common legal system. The EUA can become soon a global player. Apart from Ukraine, Russia eyes also Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova and Tajikistan to be incorporated in its anti EU, Union.

It’s not only that though. The members of the EUA participate also in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Russia systematically presses the member states of the CSTO group to increase the cooperation of their military and security services. Unquestionably the participation of Ukraine in both the EUA and the CSTO would have been a personal triumph for Putin and Russia. On the contrary if Kiev sides with the West, Moscow would look helpless, not being able to attract under its sphere of influence a once inseparable part of the USSR. Ukraine was a part of the Russian Empire before communism.

Moscow calls Kyiv

In view of all that, Moscow has been relentlessly working to stop Ukraine from drifting westwards. In reality this is an already divided country. Its three western regions are traditionally attracted by Western Europe, while the populations living in the other three regions in the east consider Moscow as their trusted stanchion. The River Dnieper is so wide that it actually divides Ukraine not only in two distinct geographical areas, but in two widely differing parts. Even the Orthodox church of Ukraine is divided in two, the eastern part belonging to the Moscow Patriarchate and the other part to the Kyiv Patriarchate.

All in all, ten days ahead of the Vilnius Summit and the Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine is practically in the air. In reality it’s a matter of the next 72 hours, that Ukraine has to decide its political and economic future.

 

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