Ukraine and the EU: A Relationship in Distress

A few days ago, about 20% of the population of the Netherlands voted against the association treaty of the EU with Ukraine. Though this small number is by itself both insignificant and irrelevant, it is enough to put the fate of this treaty in dire straits.

Let’s leave aside why governments keep putting stuff for a referendum to start with. Everyone knows that the electorate doesn’t care about the concrete issues, nor is it modestly well informed about them, but rather uses the opportunity to express anger about the respective government.

The real issue here is where the relationship and attitude towards Ukraine from the EU side is standing two years after the Euro Maidan protests. We should also remember that the failure of the then Ukrainian government to sign an association agreement was the trigger for the civil protests in Kiiv and other Ukrainian cities, and also for the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia, as well as for the emergence of rebels/ terrorists in two Eastern Ukrainian regions.

But now, things are looking different. Europe is engulfed in a row of crises (euro, migration, Russia, Brexit, terrorism, populism), and Ukraine is just one issue here, and not the most relevant one. At the same time, the current Ukrainian elites are involved in repeating their operetta from 2004 when they, for the first time, found the competition of their egos much more important than continuing to develop the first Maidan, and establish Ukraine as a European country. And now – here we go again.

What should the proper EU attitude be now, facing disarray in the political structures and economic situation of Ukraine?

– Prof. Dr. Klaus Segbers

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  1. Alexei Voskressenski 2 years ago

    I think that this decision is not particularly about Ukraine but is at first about EU policy: 53% of Dutch want to leave the EU and this is a sign of a serious discontent about Brussels policy that must be somehow addressed. It means also the emergence anew of the extreme right in Europe and in the Netherlands particularly – a much stronger and profound euroscepticism and in the end a general indecisiveness toward Ukraine as being a European state. At least a part of the Russian scepticism toward Ukrainian politics happened to be true. However this does not explain what European politics toward Ukraine will be and how the EU-Russian relationship may be reconstructed. So, we probably will witness a fourth year of crises with no sign of turning to the better for continental population and also the lack of political will to stop talk about war and to start a real negotiations. Some Europeans may be sceptical about China’s egoism, but by moving with a New Silk Road China at least proposed something constructive for the continent. Is there such a plan at Brussels?

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  2. Jochen Wermuth 2 years ago

    It must be clear to the EU that what happens in Ukraine is key for the future of Europe including Russia. To my mind there is no question that the EU must move to a defacto visa-free regime with Ukrainian citizens to give them a feeling they are part of Europe and for them to learn what life under the Aquis Communautaire is like. Also, the EU should look to benefit from regions of strong wind for power production and the great agricultural potential in Ukraine and look to provide seed capital to project developers and to help provide political risk insurance to help Ukraine to reach energy independence asap. On the other hand, reminding the Ukraine of the obligations under the Minsk agreement is key as is a firm stance against any head of state calling for tax collection but using off-shore schemes him or herself – be it in the UK or the Ukraine.

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  3. Andrey Makarychev 2 years ago

    Ideally, the strategic EU attitude ought to be based on two pillars. First, the EU should not support Ukraine’s explication of the lack of reforms by the Russian intervention. Second, the EU should not allow Russia to use the obvious weakness of the Ukrainian state as a justification or a pretext for interference. Apparently, it is very hard to decouple domestic changes in Ukraine from the external security challenges this country obviously faces, but this decoupling might be beneficial for Ukraine itself first of all.

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  4. Sergei Medvedev 2 years ago

    For the 2nd time in a decade, Ukraine risks to lose the results of a popular revolution to a corrupt and incompetent elite. The result could be a total state collapse with unforeseen consequences for Russia and for Europe.

    To avoid this, the West needs to re-activate its Ukraine policy. A new Marshall Plan may not be in the offing, but Western institutions need to reinforce their commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty, modernization, reform, and a Western orientation – a choice which had been made by the Maidan and sealed by blood. By the same token, sanctions imposed on Russia, should not be relieved.

    There’s much more at stake for the West here than yet another post-Soviet nation risking to fall into Russia’s grip. Indeed Ukraine is a bulwark against the resurgent Russian imperialism, and a key nation for deciding the fate of Eastern Europe. Unfortunately, the West is unwilling to act on Ukraine, and would rather sacrifice it, for the sake of a new rapprochement with Putin.

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  1. Joerg Lohse 2 years ago

    I am not sure if the introduction is worded appropriate, example: “the electorate is not modestly well informed (..regarding the issues)”, we have to take people’s fears and worries seriously.

    Joining the non-alignment movement (NAM) would be the best option for the Ukraine in the long run. The east expansion of the EU created the tensions with Russia in the first place. Suggesting free visas for Ukrainian citizens would raise further the tensions and would be seen as provocation on the Russian side. Instead of pushing the EU’s influence boundary east, the EU should lead by good example and focus on implementing and enhancing democracy and diversity. So far the Ukraine has still to prove that it deserves membership in the democratic international society. If the EU leads by example in regard to democracy and diversity, Russia will come around eventually, as its citizen will demand similar standards from the Russian authorities.

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  2. Ye Shengxuan 2 years ago

    Ukraine issue should be regarded as the a alarming matter of European integration, and western powers should make comprise with Russia to some degree.

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  3. Stefan Schmitt 10 months ago

    The case of Ukraine is highly complex. Especially academics should therefore start their analysis before Janukowitsch’s plea for more time to reconsider the EU/Ukraine association agreement in February 2014. Ukraine was and is severely suffering from corruption and social as well as economic disruption. The Ukrainian people need change. Many of them pursue a European orientation, but there is also a huge part of the population which feels strongly connected to Russia.

    Highly respected scholars as well as journalists such as John J. Mearsheimer or Peter Scholl-Latour to name only two of them, agree on the issue that both the Orange Revolution of the year 2004 and the Euro-Maidan protests of 2014 were heavily supported by the West. Justified protests of the Ukrainian people were instrumentalised to pursue Western strategic interests and led the country into chaos.

    Therefore, the real issue is not where EU-Ukraine relations stand, but rather to rethink Western behaviour in the heartland of the former Sowjet Union. Russian foreign minister Sergej Lavrov as well as Vladimir Putin mentioned on many occasions that the integration of Ukraine as well as Georgia into the Western system of alliances, namely NATO and EU, would be seen as a direct threat to Russian strategic interest and therefore as a red line. A neutral Ukraine is the only solution to the problem. What if this solution is not viable? Instead of continuing to tear the country apart, one could actually start by – what a foolish idea in a democracy – asking the people of Ukraine. Letting the people decide about their own future. Isn’t that truly democratic and what the West should stand for? A referendum overseen by Ukrainian, European as well as Russian observers would be the perfect opportunity to show our frequently mentioned values.

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  4. Bassam Abdulkhaleq 9 months ago

    Well, I think, the proper EU attitude from now and go on toward Ukraine, is to lower its support to Ukraine gradually, and to call for normalization between Russia and Ukraine to reduced tensions between the two neighboring countries.
    Russia while it tries to restore the influence of the soviet union that it had once before in its struggle for power against US policies, considers Ukraine as buffer zone which if it is not allied with Russian policies, should not be against them or being a close ally to EU or US in military cooperation, or being member of EU because this will mean that the US missile shield in Poland and Romania will creep to Ukraine slowly, and Putin will not stand watching what is happening in the front-yard of the Russian bear.
    The pressing card for Russian policy toward Ukraine is to exhaust economy which is subsides by EU, especially Russia still control all gas supplies to Ukraine., with weak economy and political corruption in Ukraine, with more economic deterioration, and involvement of EU to resolve its crisis like migration, Brexit and terrorism
    while Russia by its move to build strong relationship with Turkey, by selling S 400 missiles and bring turkey to negations with Iran and Syria in Astana, try to make the relationship turbulent between second largest member in NATO and the rest of the members which includes most of EU, regardless the threats of Erdoğan toward EU.
    Secondly Russia maintained a close relationship with the right wings parties in Europe like French National Front and Alternative for Germany, which the latter has entered the Bundstag recently for the first time, this can affect the decisions made in the European parliaments related to Ukraine.
    Russia is investing in time and working on more the one axis to protect its own strategical political interests in Ukraine, and any intervention from EU for integration with Ukraine, will lead to the drainage of financial resources of EU on lost case, even though Ukraine withstands for sometime in alliance with EU against, Russia will gain more pressure cards to negotiate with EU about Ukraine support in exchange for EU unity.

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