Victor Tkachuk on Democracy, Ukraine & the EU

Today the Eastern Partnership initiative ceases to be the prime and obligatory tool of achievement, or understanding of prospects of the EU membership for Ukraine. Unfortunately, the Eastern Partnership has transformed into one of many international meetings which revive only in times of summits of heads of the states-participants. Since 2008 the uniqueness of each of 6 countries of Eastern Europe promised to become a competitive mechanism for leadership achievement in such sectors, as freedom of speech, law and justice. However, approaches and reality of observance of general values declared by the European Neighbourhood Policy differ very much. Expectations that EU-Ukraine relations will become a model for other Post-Soviet countries didn’t come true. And it looks like in the near future Ukraine won’t be able to share a successful experience of eurointegration. Hence, the leadership of Ukraine has concentrated on other contact points in relations with the EU. First of all, they have to do with visa-free regime and expansion of border infrastructure. In turn, the EU only ascertains democracy curtailment in Ukraine.

The overwhelming majority of official representatives of new EU members have concentrated on fair criticism of internal political processes in Ukraine. However, the tendency of them using “ascertaining of the Ukrainian negative” for their own PR can be traced clearly enough. Especially when electoral campaigns come closer in the countries they represent. It is clear that amid the euro zone crisis, Poland is building its own foreign policy, turning around to the main centers of force in Europe. Both Germany and Great Britain profess their own economic pragmatism in the sphere of EU enlargement.

The European tactics of criticism of Ukraine testifies to the absence of the long-term strategy of EU-Ukraine relations, and the Eastern Partnership has come down to short-term demands. We wouldn’t want to think that the diplomatic isolation of Ukraine is a part of the future EU enlargement strategy. Meanwhile, we are ascertaining that the question of eurointegration of Ukraine is postponed to the time when the economic crisis in Europe is overcome and once again is connected with the termination of another electoral cycle in Ukraine. In due time the Eastern Partnership initiative was supported not by particular politicians, but by the European states.

The authorities and opposition in Ukraine have mercantile interests prevailing over national ones. Ukrainian people know it. Half of the population of Ukraine supports Ukraine’s entering the EU. A large part hesitates. They are still thinking not because they have hope for the Ukrainian political establishment, but because that don’t hear the voice of Europeans. Hence, the necessity of a new dialogue and development of a new strategy of relations becomes as topical as ever.


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  1. Viktor, I agree there is no long term vision of the EU Ukraine relations, at least no AGREED vision. I would add that we also need a long term vision for European integration itself. The old moldel of adding relatively small countries (Poland being the exception) to the EU as it is has reached its limits.

    Hence my advocating a pan European market. I was glad to discuss this in the margins of the EurActiv / People First workshop at the European Parliament. This idea is also developped on my own blog (not as frequent as yours):

    Christophe Leclercq, Founder EurActiv

    1. Dear Christophe,

      Thank you for support! You are also right that Europe greatly needs new long-term models of integration where the introduction of the all-European market can act as one of the key elements. I am also sure that it will allow all countries to realize their uniqueness.

      To my mind, now the EU faces a choice between two basic scenarios. The first one is movement towards the “EU-federation”. This is confirmed by the last statements of the EU leadership, and also steps on the creation of the unitary finance administration of the European Union. The second one is preservation of a wide national sovereignty with optimization of the existing EU model by means of economic, political, public and civil innovations. This way is more complex, but exactly it opens more chances for Ukraine’s integration into the EU.

      Yours sincerely,

  2. There is – as always was – an Eastern Partnership interest from the EU. For the EU, it is crucial what’s happening in its neighbourhood.

    The sanctions and the isolation of Ukraine is a natural consequence of its controversial Russia-EU foregin policy and most recently the very harsh internal push on political rivals. As far as political elections cannot be considered fair and the leader of the political opposition is still in jail because of political and not criminal reasons, I can hardly see an European future for Ukraine. But things may change.

    But other countries (Belarus, Azerbaijan, Moldova) have also similar difficulties.

    On the one hand, the EU will always make distinction between the political leadirship and the ordinary people (in other words the Ukrainian people are not responsible as such for the leaders’ deeds)

    On the other hand, due to its size, geographical situation and special status, Ukraine has a special responsibility in the region and especially in the Eastern Partnership.

    Therefore, we all are waiting for Ukraine to recognise its own best interests and act according to them.

    I remain at your disposal.


    1. Dear Zoltan,

      Thank for your attention to my blog!

      I agree with you that the principal reason of the failure of the European integration is in the Ukrainian politics, to be exact – in its elite. Their detachment from people and national interests and concentration exclusively on personal profits and commercial benefits have led to the total absence of the unitary strategy of the foreign policy of Ukraine. Consequently, failures both in the European and Russian directions have taken place.

      New elections have a chance to change the situation. But the political establishment, opposition and power are equally not ready to and don’t want the modernization of the country. They have already conserved the today’s state of the parliament by the corresponding electoral law. On the other hand, disappointment of the people in these same elites, politicians, parties, slogans and methods of actions of the government and parliament also conserve the existing state in Ukraine.

      Awakening of the people and emergence of the new system elite is necessary for changes to take place. It is a new interesting task today.

      Yours sincerely,

  3. Dear Victor,

    thank you for your reply and the additional arguments.

    I would like to highlight another thing which is not directly linked to the “failure” of Ukraine butit is rather a positive thing / aim.

    What am I talking about? About national minotirties.

    When the current President Viktor Yanukovych came to the power against Julia Tymosenko, he enjoyed the wide support of the russian speaking population of the East (17% of the population). Before, as I can remember, there were controvesial, discriminating laws in force in the country.
    And I hoped that time that based on the numerous Russian minority, Ukraine will be a model for its neighbourhood as regards a tolerant, European minority policy.

    The collective rights of national minorities are very important mainly in the long term future of Europe. At the time when Hungary were seeking to join the EU, the EU established in 1993 the so called criteria of Coppenhague and one of the 4 conditions was the respect of national minorities.

    Unfortunately, the minority rights are not as widely recognised in Europe as they should be. The former Yugoslavia (but also the de-facto independent Trasnistria in Moldova) are important examples of that.

    So, this dimension of national minorities during the examination of the status of rule of law in Ukraine should be highlighted in future discussions since Ukraine has quite many of them (Poles, Bulgarian, Romanian and nontheless, the Hungarian minorty in the Zakarpattia regions)

    I remain at your disposal.


    1. Dear Zoltan,
      For the People First Foundation the achievement of the Copenhagen criteria by Ukraine (without binding to the EU membership itself) is in many respects identical to the fulfillment of the mission of our organization. The mission of the Foundation is to revive dignity of the Ukrainian people. We aspire that each citizen of Ukraine felt his/her importance, the weight of his/her voice, had confidence in tomorrow and could be proud of his/her country. We clearly realize the availability of close interrelation between the level of development of democracy and the level of well-being of the population. This interrelation was proved by the countries of the former socialist camp on their own example (including Hungary), which have joined the EU not so long ago. The achievement of the criteria by these countries, which are required by the European Union for the countries-candidates for accession, considerably promoted the accelerated democratic development and economic growth.
      Meanwhile, Ukraine is far from conformity to the Copenhagen criteria. But, I can assure you that the situation with observance of the 4-th criterion (protection of rights of minorities) is far from being the worst, in comparison with criteria 1-3 (democracy, rule of law, human rights). Recently the pro-presidential majority has adopted the law “On the principles of the state language policy”. At first sight, it may seem to care about rights of minorities. But deeper consideration allows to see that it is cynicism of the pre-electoral race. You can read more details about this in our weekly edition “Democracy Watch” ( ).
      Yours faithfully,
      Viktor Tkachuk

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