Tensions in the EU have been simmering for some time. There were ongoing quarrels and contradictions during the Euro crisis, and then, as a consequence of unregulated immigration flows. In addition, the Italian government is planning to seriously run up their debts, violating all relevant stability rules. The EU reactions to Russian assertiveness in Crimea, Eastern Ukraine, Syria, the poisoning scandal in the UK (with fallout now in Switzerland) and, notorious violations of anti-doping rules also raised different levels of concern. The governments in Hungary, Italy and Cyprus have expressed understanding towards Russian leaders. More relevant, there are serious quarrels over perceived violations of the independence of the media, legal institutions and educational organizations in Poland and Hungary.
Until recently, the EU’s reactions have involved a mixture of talking and admonishing, but not much action. But now, both Poland and Hungary are exposed to different stages or Article 7 procedures which have been initiated by EU bodies. Even the conservative party grouping in the EU parliament is becoming agitated.
What is your expert view on these issues? Should the EU respond to rule violations by members in the same manner that they would when non-, or not-yet member states commit violations? What is the prospect of achieving success through further talks? What is the leverage of the EU? How do we factor-in the broader context of rising populism? Can the EU still defend its credibility against spoilers?
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
The situation in and around Eastern Ukraine reached a climax last week, when the Malaysian Boeing 777, flight MH 17, was downed en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur with 298 passengers and crew members, over the settlement of Torez, close to Donetsk and the Russian border. There is hardly a reasonable doubt that the plane was shot down by militia or Cossack groupings fighting for an independent Donbas, openly bragging their deed, inspired and supported by the Russian military. Increasingly it is becoming clear that Russia is moving away from being part of a solution for a new post-Cold War European order. Rather, it is major problem. Finally implementing level 3 sanctions and redistributing the 2018 World Cup will be debated now, once more.
(Photo: E. Arrott/Voice of America)
(Florian Richter/Flickr/Creative Commons)
(Sasha Maksymenko/Flickr/Creative Commons)