‘Ukraine, make an offer Europe can’t refuse’

Author : Volodymyr Inozemtsev

17:48, 30 May 2016

‘Ukraine, make an offer Europe can’t refuse’

Author : Volodymyr Inozemtsev

Analyst argues three main ways how post-Soviet states should prove themselves worthy of Europe

17:48, 30 May 2016

Read the original text in Ukrainian at NV.UA.

In the president's Europe Day address, Poroshenko said Ukrainians "today protect Europe from barbarism, terrorism, aggression, and militarism that has hung over all our continent." Of course, Russia was labelled as a threat to Europe. Ukraine is represented as a kind of frontier, around which a fight between good and evil erupted. It’s this mission Kyiv and the country uses to justify its right for a European future; a ‘the struggle against Russian aggression is a struggle for Europe.’

From the first days of the Revolution of Dignity, I have completely supported Ukrainians but nervous because of its kleptocratic regime. In the future, I hope Ukraine will enter the European Union and the Ukrainian language will become an official language of the E.U. That is why I would like to express doubts about the discourse that is dominant in Kyiv. 

In my opinion, pro-European Ukrainian politicians are not aware of one simple fact. Europe has its own identity, which for decades provided a boundary between Europe and Russia. This edge, in general, is on the border of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, and it has not disappeared from the minds of the European political class.

Related: Not by the EU alone: alternatives of European integration for Ukraine

The process of political consolidation in the European Union stipulated members of the association welcome all Europeans who were ready to accept the "pan-European" norms. After Spain, Portugal, and Greece were liberated from military dictatorships, they were quickly integrated into the E.U. The other states, freed from Soviet domination by the policy of Mikhail Gorbachev, were also quick in this kind of integration. All the countries from Portugal to Poland and from Greece to Estonia "by definition" were recognised European, and their desire to rejoin ‘Europe' was perceived as something natural. Meanwhile, when the European Union’s boundary approaches those areas the Kremlin calls ‘historical Russia’, the logical process (of integration) is broken. 

Europe doesn’t perceive Ukraine (as well as Georgia or Belarus) like it perceives Slovakia and Bulgaria. All these countries are of the non-European world and Europe does not take the conflicts between them as something really close.

Related: Percentage of Ukrainians supporting integration with EU dropped, - survey

We are witnessing the period of post-Maidan Ukrainian-European rapprochement. Unlike the mid-2000s, Kyiv has reached something more serious this time. The Association Agreement with the EU entered into force; soon Ukrainians will travel to Europe without visas. The country has received major financial assistance. Apparently, this is the limit; Europe must step over. We hope the Europeans are truly interested in Ukraine and do not give just pay tribute to the heroism and the will of the Ukrainian people. The potential exploitation of the old thesis that ‘Ukraine is not Russia’ has been exhausted.  

In my view, the post-Soviet states need to demonstrate at least three points. Firstly, the willingness to quickly solve all conflicts within its borders. Secondly, the ability to neglect the interests of their own oligarchs in the name of European integration. Finally, given the relations between the European Union and Russia, all these ‘frontier’ states should not be a wall that separating Europe and Russia. They should become the link between them. The logic of economic development of the E.U. involves a shift of industrial potential to the east. In this case, Ukraine should do everything possible to become the most liberal, safe, and business friendly country for European businessmen.

Related: European Parliament: visa-free regime for Ukraine is closer than ever before

It is difficult to argue Russia has brought Ukraine many problems. To overcome these problems though, I believe, we must shift the current emphasis. We should not claim that Ukraine is Europe but rather we must really prove it. Ukraine should make offers that Europe just cannot refuse.

Ukraine is valuable for the European Union. It is not about stopping Russia. It is about changing the vector of its development. An Orthodox, post-Soviet, previously corrupt and criminalised country may build a European society. But in order to do this, we need to stop the confrontational rhetoric; stop to explain our problems of aggression and just begin to solve them.

Related: European Parliament might vote for granting visa free regime to Ukraine in late July or September

Related: Russian sociologist: "I believe it is too painful for the Russian mind to assume Ukrainians are successful in their movement toward Europe"

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