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EU-Ukraine Relations after the Ukrainian Parliamentary Elections

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A "Plan B" for Brussels 's Policies towards Kyiv

ABSTRACT: After the manipulated elections to Ukraine 's Verkhovna Rada in October 2012, Brussels ' relations with Kyiv are in deadlock. Ukraine is not fulfilling the conditions for signing the already initialed Association Agreement with the EU. Against this background, we outline an eight-point plan of further and alternative actions. We recommend (1) a clearer EU statement on the preconditions for signing the Association Agreement, (2) leaking the Agreement's text, (3) signing Association Agreements with Moldova and Georgia, (4) offering these two countries conditional EU membership perspectives, (5) accelerating the visa liberalization process with Ukraine, (6) supporting current Ukrainian efforts at sectoral approximation with the EU, (7) engaging with some of Ukraine's "oligarchs," and (8) creating a Ukrainian research and information center. We conclude with a brief reminder on the geopolitical relevance of Ukraine .


By Iryna Solonenko ( European University Viadrina of Frankfurt/Oder) and Andreas Umland ( National University of " Kyiv-Mohyla Academy ")


In summer this year, Ukraine and the European Union finally initialed a far-reaching Association Agreement. Apart from paving the way for a close political association between Kyiv and Brussels , this unique treaty text includes extensive provisions for a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area. If signed, ratified and implemented, the Association Agreement - the EU's largest ever treaty with a non-member state - would make Ukraine part and parcel of the European integration process. The Agreement would put the relations between Kyiv and Brussels on entirely new grounds, and provide for a comprehensive "Europeanization" of Ukraine 's economy, political system, and public administration. It could one day be seen as having been the first step towards a full membership of Ukraine in the EU.


In view of how the Ukrainian parliamentary elections of October 28, 2012 , went, the prospects of signing the Association Agreement anytime soon look now, however, dim. After the last EU-Ukraine Summit of December 2011, Brussels had repeatedly made clear that the quality of these elections will be decisive for the future of the EU-Ukraine relationship. Two further conditions, namely ending selective justice against political opposition leaders, and implementing the reform priorities - above all legal reforms - outlined in the bilateral Association Agenda were also voiced. Yet, the vague language and cautious communication of these conditions indicated that the EU also wanted to leave some room for maneuver, in case not all of them would be fully met. Unfortunately, however, extensive manipulations took place both, before elections day, and during the counting and tabulation of votes leading the deputy head of Ukraine 's Central Electoral Commission Zhanna Usenko-Chernaia to admit that the October poll was the "dirtiest [parliamentary] election in the history of independent Ukraine ." This leaves little freedom of action for Brussels ahead of the foreign ministers meeting where the fate of the Association Agreement and future of the EU's policy towards Ukraine is to be discussed.


What should the EU now, that the Association Agreement seems off the table, do? Below, we present a list of concrete steps that the EU should consider undertaking soon. We are here not repeating general calls for more support of civil society initiatives, closer people-to-people relations, or intensifying academic exchange. These suggestions are valid, to be sure. Yet, not only have they been made before and are partly self-suggestive. They will also take effect only in the mid or long term. What is now needed are urgent steps that have the potential to re-intensify EU-Ukraine relations, in the short run. We therefore suggest to:


1. Set out, in a single and clearly formulated written document, the conditions Ukraine has to fulfill for the EU to sign the Association Agreement! So far, there has been a cacophony of EU representatives' statements on this issue, including in writing. As a result, it is unclear what exactly Brussels expects from Kyiv in order to make association and free trade between EU and Ukraine feasible.

The exact formulation and mode of communication of these conditions are important. Such a document should reiterate the EU's commitment to association and outline priority reform areas which are prevalent, in the short-term perspective. These could be human rights and fundamental freedoms, the functioning of the judiciary and public procurement procedures, as well as the business climate. Those are areas which have seen significant deterioration, but in which acts of political will could also bring swift improvement. The issue of selective justice is more sensitive and requires special attention. On the one hand, the EU cannot simply ignore the fact that the leaders of political opposition are still in prison. On the other hand, this condition might never be fulfilled and the EU-Ukraine relations will be stuck indefinitely. We suggest that the EU mentions in the document that Ukraine should ensure that decisions of the European Court of Human Rights are implemented (the revelant cases are under the ECHR consideration) without further specifications and condinue pressuring Ukraine's authorities on this issue via diplomatic channels. The EU's statement has to be made public and be presented as an appeal to the society as much as to the political elites. In that way, such a document could become a common reference point and instrument of domestic advocacy for various civic and political actors in Ukraine .  

2. Leak the text of the Association Agreement - preferably, its Ukrainian-language version - to the public! So far, the EU's offer has been a pig in the poke: There is much talk about the treaty, yet very few people have ever seen it. To be sure, the Agreement's text is reportedly very long, heavy reading, and full of technical terms. It is not to be expected that millions of Ukrainians will start examining the text when it becomes freely available. Yet, once leaked, journalists, politicians, business people, lawyers and academics will start reading and analyzing those sections that interest, and could become relevant to, them. While, perhaps, being fully studied by only very few Ukrainian experts, the published Agreement text may, as a reference point and quotations source, substantially change Ukrainian public discourse about European integration and Ukraine's role in it.

3. Sign and ratify the Association Agreements with Moldova and Georgia once negotiations are concluded, and do not wait for Ukraine ! This way, the EU would kill two birds at once: First, Brussels will show that its announced More-for-More Principle does indeed apply which should strengthen the credibility of its Eastern Partnership policy. Second, an EU association with Moldova and Georgia will embarrass the current Ukrainian leadership, in the eyes of Ukraine 's pro-European elites, if not parts of the population, at large. Ukraine had, under President Yushchenko, been the first country to start Association negotiations with the EU in 2007. If now, however, Moldova and Georgia get Agreements that have been modeled on the Ukrainian one, and start implementing, as well as benefiting from, them, this would further undermine the legitimacy of Yanukovych's erratic foreign and domestic policies. Obviously, in the case of Georgia , signing the Association Agreement should be made dependent on the Ivanishvili government's continuation of democratic reform policies, and strict observation of the rule of law.

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============================================================================== Andreas Umland, CertTransl (Leipzig), MA (Stanford), MPhil (Oxford), DipPolSci, DrPhil (FU Berlin), PhD (Cambridge). Visiting fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution (more...)
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