The EU accuses Russia of bullying Ukraine to change sides

José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission (in the centre), Dalia Grybauskaité, President of Lithuania and President in office of the Council of the EU and Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, participated in the inaugural meeting of the Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the EU with the EC in Vilnius.

José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission (in the centre), Dalia Grybauskaité, President of Lithuania and President in office of the Council of the EU and Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, participated in the inaugural meeting of the Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the EU with the EC in Vilnius.

It took four days to European Union two presidents to grasp the magnitude of the Ukrainian full U-turn, with Kyiv signing the Moscow led customs union, after cashing in the advance of EU’s financial aid. The unprecedented complete turnaround of Ukraine’s foreign policy took place last Thursday and the President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso and the President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy issued a joint statement on Monday 25 November. They probably waited for the impressive rally the Ukrainian opposition staged last Sunday against their country’s siding with Russia.

Reading the text of the Presidential statement leaves a bitter taste. It also contains strong indications over the future EU’s stance towards Ukraine and its President Viktor Yanukovych. Barroso and Rompuy start their appraisal of the situation by stressing, that what the EU offered to Ukraine is a unique and super generous arrangement.

Offering full membership

The Association Agreement and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) which were supposed to be signed by the two sides in Vilnius on 28 November are an unprecedented package, specially created for Ukraine. It could lead in a few years to negotiations for full membership. No other candidate country or Eastern Partnership state is offered such a lucrative EU package, containing large advances. The two EU presidents clarify though that “The offer of signing an unprecedented Association Agreement and a DCFTA is still on the table”.

The next thing the Barroso-Rompuy statement stresses is that the EU will continue being present in Ukraine’s internal affairs, by supporting those political parties and citizens, who are in favour of their country’s western affiliation, opposing the Russian embracement. The Press release clearly notes that “The EU stands ready to be more open and more supportive to those who are willing to engage in reforms and modernisation”. This reference indirectly exposes the authoritarian environment of the Moscow led custom union, where the executive strongly influences the other pillar of democracy, namely the judiciary.

This said, the EU presidents let their wrath be directed against Russia and “the external pressure that Ukraine is experiencing”. In this respect Brussels try to underline the basic difference between the means used by the West and Russia to gain influence in Ukraine. The press release states “However the European Union will not force Ukraine, or any other partner, to choose between the European Union or any other regional entity”.

Influence at any cost

This is an effort to expose the non-transparent means and the threats used by Russia, to extend its sphere of influence. To underline the difference between what the EU’s and Russia’s offer to Ukraine, the two presidents note “We therefore strongly disapprove of the Russian position and actions in this respect. The Association Agreement and a DCFTA are opportunities to accompany our common neighbours towards modern, prosperous and rule-based democracies”.

Barroso and Rompuy have another direct message for Moscow. They tell the ruler of Kremlin that the EU doesn’t mean to harm Russia by offering partnership to Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus. The relevant part of the text goes like that, “Stronger relations with the European Union do not come at the expense of relations between our Eastern partners and their other neighbours, such as Russia”. This allegation is bit awkward though. Looking at the map of the region, the six countries for which the EU has designed its Eastern Partnership initiative can practically encircle Russia. They create a buffer zone in the south-eastern borders of the EU.

In any case the two EU presidents want to make it clear that the Union is not abandoning the efforts to extend its influence in the south borders of Russia. The tug of war between the West and Russia will continue in this vast region, which extends from the borders of Poland to the shores of the Caspian Sea.

 

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