Ukraine’s Euro-atlantic Integration At Dead End

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 1 Issue: 12

First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Oleksandr Chalyj, Ukraine’s last remaining government lobbyist for Euro-Atlantic integration, resigned on May 15 (Ukrayinska Pravda, May 15). This came only days before the annual Ukraine-EU Cooperation Council meeting on May 18.

Since the removal of pro-Western Foreign Minister Borys Tarasiuk in October 2000, there has been a steady hemorrhage of pro-Western figures from Ukraine’s foreign policy establishment. The establishment is now controlled by lobbyists for the CIS United Economic Space (UES) and Russia, including the head and deputy head of the Presidential Administration, Viktor Medvedchuk and Anatoliy Orel, and First Deputy Prime Minister Mykola Azarov.

Chalyj followed in the footsteps of former Ambassador to the U.S., Anton Buteiko, who resigned late last year as Ambassador to Romania in protest at the CIS UES. In September 2003, the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Justice, and Economics and European Integration voiced their opposition to Ukraine’s admission to the CIS Single Economic Space. This was followed in January by the resignation of Valeriy Khoroshkovskyy, Economics and European Integration Minister.

These deep internal divisions within Ukraine’s foreign policy establishment over the CIS UES come at a time of growing high-level disillusionment on Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic integration. President Leonid Kuchma has continued to call for a “signal” from the EU about the prospect of Ukraine’s future membership. At the same time, Kuchma, Prime Minister and centrist presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych and Azarov have expressed their support for “Constructive Euro-integration” to slow down Ukraine’s drive to quickly join the EU or NATO (UNIAN, April 29). This represents a retreat from President’s Kuchma’s May 2002 ‘European Choice” program which had outlined three stages for Ukraine to eventually join the EU by 2011.

“Constructive Euro-integration” is linked to an undefined Ukrainian path that focuses on domestic changes that would, “take into account the risks and threats of forced Euro-integration”. Kuchma added, “Haste here is absolutely not required” (Ukrayinska Pravda, May 15).

Defense Minister Yevhen Marchuk has supported this position by claiming that Ukraine’s membership in NATO is not possible until 2015 at the earliest. This is a retreat from last year when Marchuk talked of 2010. This view was backed by Lieutenant-General Yaroslav Skalko, Commander of Ukraine’s Air Force, who said this month, “We should not rush to join NATO” (UNIAN, May 14).

Yanukovych has compounded the issue by claiming that it makes no difference if Ukraine is a member of the EU or not. The “strategic aim”, he said, was to “increase the standards of living of Ukrainians to European levels” (Ukrayinska Pravda, April 26). Opposition pro-Western Our Ukraine argues to the contrary that living standards will only be possible if Ukraine integrates into the Euro-Atlantic community, and not into the CIS UES.

Ukraine’s growing Euro-Atlantic disillusionment is confounded by the lack of EU expertise in foreign and security policy. U.S. think-tanks, such as the CATO Institute and the Heritage Foundation, place Russia and Ukraine’s market economic transformation at roughly the same level.

Nevertheless, only Russia was granted “market economic status” in 2002 in gratitude for its support of the war on terrorism. On a visit to Brussels last week, Yanukovych was told that Ukraine would not obtain this status at today’s EU-Ukraine meeting (Ukrayinska Pravda, May 14).

President of the European Commission Romani Prodi also contributed to Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic disillusionment by stating that Ukraine would never join the EU. Again, as with “market economic status,” Kyiv complains about double standards. Prodi accepted that the Western Balkans and Turkey would be eventually allowed to join the EU – but not any CIS state (Financial Times, May 4).

As Ukraine approaches the end of the Kuchma era in October, none of Kuchma’s Euro-Atlantic goals have been achieved. These included WTO membership, “market economic status” and a free trade zone with the EU as preliminary steps to associate and eventual full membership. Worst still, in June, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe will debate whether to suspend Ukraine. Later that month, NATO’s Istanbul summit will decide not to give Ukraine a Membership Action Plan.

Kuchma and his allies have responded to this crisis by blaming the West for “double standards” while re-adjusting Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic time frame. The pro-Western opposition, like Western governments and international organizations, have blamed Ukraine’s domestic policies. These policies, Our Ukraine leader and presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko argued, “contradict basic European values” (Ukrayinska Pravda, May 3).