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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

So close and yet so far

7 October, 2008 - 00:00

Summits are the greatest landmarks in the relations between the EU and its neighboring and partner countries. At a summit all parties take stock of their cooperation, set new goals, outline areas for further cooperation, and identify existing shortcomings.

The September 9 EU-Ukraine summit in Paris followed a similar scenario. Both sides shared their views on the past and future of their relations. The resulting joint declaration underscores that Ukraine has attained considerable success since the adoption of the EU-Ukraine Action Plan in 2005. Substantial achievements have been made in foreign policy, crisis management, economics, the energy sector, as well as in the fields of justice, freedom of expression, and security.

At the same time, both parties emphasize the need for political stabilization in Ukraine, implementation of the constitutional reform, consolidation of the state reform, and full implementation of measures that are linked to Ukraine’s entry into the WTO.

The declaration mentions great progress in negotiations on the new, enhanced agreement in which the chapters on political cooperation, justice, freedom, and security are almost entirely ready, like the greater part of the chapter on economic and sector cooperation. Progress has also been made in the negotiations on the introduction of an expanded and comprehensive free trade zone.

The parties have expressed their will to intensify mutual relations and agreed to develop a new practical instrument to replace the Action Plan, which is set to expire in March 2009.

From the strategic point of view the most important thing is that the new agreement, creating a framework for future relations, will assume the form of an association agreement and a statement in which the EU will acknowledge and welcome Ukraine’s European aspirations.

Until very recently we could not even dream about such statements from the European Council. Out of all the institutions in Europe, only the European Parliament was demanding a European prospect for Ukraine. The European Council and the European Commission never expressed any such desire. Used in connection with certain Mediterranean partners of the EU, the title “Agreement Association” was perceived as a promise or symbol of future membership and, as such, evoked a nervous reaction in most Western European countries.

Now, despite the so-called enlargement fatigue and the Irish referendum, there is less concern and more realism inside the EU regarding its future relations with Ukraine. Symbolically, this declaration was signed during the French presidency in the EU, although France has never been a great supporter of EU enlargement, to put it mildly.

Of course, as always, skeptics can gripe that the summit’s conclusions are insufficient, and membership prospects could have been stated clearly. Nevertheless, I would ask them to be content with what Ukraine has received at this point. The signed declaration hints at great domestic problems, but only in a delicate way. We know all too well what is happening in Ukraine now. That is precisely why we have to be satisfied with what was publicly announced in Paris. Considering the ongoing political conflict in Ukraine, it is clear that it did not stand a chance of obtaining more.

In my previous column I wrote about the favorable climate and the great opportunities that Ukraine received as a result of the tense relations between the EU and Russia after the Russia-Georgia conflict. However, most political players seem not to have noticed them. I have to agree with the statement made by Arsenii Yatseniuk, the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, when he was announcing the dissolution of the ruling coalition. “Unfortunately, we have again failed to make use of opportunities and realize our chances.”

It is even more unfortunate that the results of the latest summit point to the fact that, despite all the failures, the EU has a serious intention to deepen its relations with Ukraine. One thing is certain: we all need to remember that the EU will not do this against Ukraine’s will.

Marek Siwiec, special to The Day