The most difficult period of EU-Ukraine relations: view of MEP

Author : Dita Haranzova

Source : 112 Ukraine

Dita Haranzova compares Czech’s and Ukraine’s ways of the European integration
16:27, 11 January 2017

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A year and a half has passed since my last visit to Kyiv, and last month, I have arrived in Ukrainian capital again in order to meet not only with representatives of the private sector and civil society, but also with  parliamentarians, officials, and students. It was a very interesting experience. And I would like to sum up the results and share some personal conclusions.

The current discussion of relations between Ukraine and the EU reminded me of a time when the Czech Republic was only planning to join the EU. As well at the then Czechs, Ukrainians now are facing fundamental issues related to the functioning of our state.

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We had to go through the required reforms of administration and legislation, judicial reform (in order to meet the requirements for joining the EU). Some requirements seemed to us a bit absurd, such as, for example, establishing a form of bananas. They, in particular, were critically accepted by the media during a public debate on accession.

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But despite this partial wave of anger and dissatisfaction that the Czech Republic must submit to the dictatorship of Brussels, our nationals were firmly convinced that the EU is the right place, where we, as a European state, belong.

This fact was accurately reflected on the referendum, when three-quarters of voters said "yes" to joining the European Union.

In my opinion, here is the difference between the past experience of the Czech Republic and Ukraine now. One of the lessons that I have learned in Kyiv, was a bitter admission that the general perception of the EU in Ukraine is not straightforward; it balanced between positive and negative side.

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Compared with the then sentiment of the Czech Republic, differences in Ukraine’s perception is visible at different levels. Even Ukrainian "Euro-optimists" call into question the country's accession to the European Union.

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First, the Czech Republic joined the EU 15 years ago. Just after the Velvet Revolution, it was still optimistic, having first success back in the form of joining NATO. Secondly, of course, when we joined the EU in 2004, it was a completely different union. Today Europe is experiencing many problems in numerous areas, it is looking for solutions and answers to fundamental questions related to the future direction of European integration. The EU has to deal with the complex developments in the neighboring region and far beyond the borders of the Schengen area. And thirdly, the EU has been a strategic partner for us. We felt a strong necessity not only of economic interests and benefits such as free movement of people or goods, but also as a guarantee of security and defense.

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

It is just in this part our interests coincide. I have never doubted that the decision to join the EU was right and only possible way in our situation. I am convinced that the future prospects for Ukraine should be the same. Indeed, the current European approach and its ambiguous messages sent to Kyiv cause concern.

However, according to the decision of the Council of Europe on Dutch disagreement on Association Agreement and the European Parliament decision on visa liberalization, it might not be as bad as it looks in the process. These two decisions show a serious signal to Ukraine that the EU looks forward to it and considers Ukraine a valuable partner for further discussions.

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Relations between the EU and Ukraine go through a gradual progress. We have also passed through it. This is probably the most difficult period of relations between Ukraine and the EU.

Much things remain to be done, Ukrainian side should perform a lot of "homework." It is not easy, but you must keep in mind that Ukrainian do it primarily for themselves. Not for the EU and the rest of the world. This must be done for the benefits of Ukraine and its citizens.

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In a situation when all newspapers around the world write about Ukrainian corruption, when deep and comprehensive reform of public administration, the judiciary, education, health care did not take place, Ukraine's desire to join the EU will not be proved satisfactory.

If Ukraine completely abandon it, this would a lost opportunity. This decision will be bitter for both Ukraine and the EU.

I believe Ukraine should move closer and closer to the EU. And for this we have to remember that these two sides just need each other.

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