It is widely mooted that political chaos reigns in Ukraine. What goes unmentioned in these appraisals, however, is that the Ukraine’s principal Western partner, the European Union, is partly to blame for keeping the country unmoored and adrift with no political destination in sight.
Hardly anyone would deny that the prospect of EU accession went a long way toward expediting the stabilisation and democratisation of Central Europe after the Soviet bloc fell apart. Precious few European politicians, however, are prepared to publicly pronounce the obvious corollary for the Ukraine. If participation in the European integration process, the prospect of and negotiations toward EU accession, had positive repercussions from Tallinn to Dublin, then the Ukraine, if denied even a shot at future EU membership, remains at sea and sorely deprived of the beneficial beacons that lit the way for its western neighbours.
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It’s a long way to Brussels – at least from Kiev
“Of all the former Soviet Union countries, none bar Russia matters as much to the EU as Ukraine – and none tries the EU’s patience as much,” writesTony Barber in the Financial Times. “For one thing, Ukraine is the conduit for 80 per cent of the EU’s natural gas imports from Russia. As the bloc learned to its cost in January, when a Moscow-Kiev dispute cut off gas supplies for two weeks, events in Ukraine can cause havoc in member states that depend entirely on Russian gas. Some experts fear another gas crisis in January. However, gas is far from the whole story,” Barber adds. “With 46m people, a 1,400km border with four EU nations and frequent tensions with Russia that have nothing to do with gas, Ukraine is pivotal to the security of the EU’s eastern flank. After Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution, some EU strategists hoped that the path to liberal democracy, the rule of law and economic prosperity would become irreversible in Ukraine. But it has not turned out that way.”
Moreover, “the Russian-Georgian war of August 2008 shocked the EU into realising that the Kremlin was prepared to use force if necessary to halt the expansion of western influence into former Soviet republics.(…) Then the global financial crisis laid low Ukraine’s economy, which at present survives on a $16.4bn loan from the International Monetary Fund.(…) Worst of all, the Orange Revolution failed to clean up the corruption that runs deep in Ukraine’s business world, especially the energy sector. Corruption is bound up with the personal animosities and shadowy connections with Russian interests that bedevil Ukraine’s political scene. All these difficulties,” concludes the FT, “explain why many in the 27-nation bloc are unwilling to offer Ukraine even a vague promise that it may one day be invited to join the EU.”
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