Correspondent's Choice

I recently spent several days in Ukraine, both out of personal interest for the country and also to assess on behalf of EurActiv the fit of the country with European integration, EU enlargement or not. EurActiv articles are seldom drafted by the publisher, this being an exception under the guidance of our Senior Editor dealing with enlargement and neighbourhood policies, and foreign affairs.

You probably have a view yourself, be it from Western Europe, from Central Europe, from Ukraine or gladly from Russia. I attach below the questions we put to Ukraine’s Vice Prime Minister, in charge of relations with Europe. After reading his own responses or a shorter summary, you may pick and answer any item yourself, or indeed put some others. Egalement en français, oder auf deutsch?

My personal tip: Turkey and Ukraine are still among open questions defining Europe’s future. And most Europeans have never visited Ukraine. So, I encourage you to visit this country (or at least read about it) and make your own opinion. For example the capital Kyiv (fewer people still call it (Russian) Kiev), and the attaching Crimea, including famous Yalta and Sevastopol.

Looking forward to your views on this page, which I’ll read on my way back from holidays,

Christophe Leclercq


If you would like to leave your thoughts to any (or all) of the following questions, please use the Comments box at the bottom of this page.

Q1. The EU and Ukraine are preparing an association agreement, notably preparing free trade between their economies. What is the tentative timetable for it, and what areas could be difficult for Ukraine, justifying special measures like transition periods?

Q2. How will the Ukrainian government make the population aware of the competition and difficult changes ahead, instead of hoping for ‘European’ living standards soon?

Q3. In exchange for such progress and awareness, there is strong popular demand for visa facilitation, and then visa free travel to the EU. People talk about this for the Euro 2012 football championship in Poland and Ukraine. What could you do to make it happen even earlier?

Q4. Many politicians from Ukraine and Central Europe stress the ‘European perspective’ for your country, meaning negotiating to join the EU once the association agreement is fully implemented. However there are several issues.
Firstly, a number of commitments to reforms have not been fulfilled, also due to domestic politics. What indications are there that the situation could improve after the January presidential elections?

Q5. Secondly, Ukraine’s population seems less convinced about the security aspects of Euro-Atlantic integration, notably NATO, and about creating an artificial border to Russia. And there are a number of open issues with this neighbour. How could these be settled before applying to the EU?

Q6. Thirdly, the EU itself faces some ‘enlargement fatigue’, due to public opinion in Western Europe and to institutional challenges, especially regarding large countries like Turkey or Ukraine. How would you convince the EU population of the benefits of Ukraine joining?

Q7. If things go perfectly, in a classical EU enlargement path, we hear of a tentative ‘2020 scenario’. The association agreement would be signed in 2010, implemented in a few years, with some exceptions until 2017. Ukraine’s EU application would be deposited at the end of the presidential mandate 2010-2015, not triggering any response until a new European Parliament and new Commission are in place, leading to negotiations of several years, and joining just in time for the next EU institutional renewal in 2019-2020. Is this the scenario you work under or is it too optimistic? What is your own tentative timetable?

Q8. Given the number of challenges on both sides, and the slow pace of EU negotiations with Turkey, should one envisage other scenarios, building on the vocation of both countries as ‘bridges’? How about creating an Eastern European Market, with unlimited access to the EU and stronger consultation than in a customs union, and renouncing NATO membership? Would stressing full Ukraine independence from both Moscow and Brussels be helpful?

Q9. Finally, you know that EurActiv reaches political audiences in 10 countries in 10 languages, notably six countries of Central Europe. Do you have a message to these readers in particular? Any comments on the recent open letter to President Obama by Central European leaders, asking for US support to Ukraine’s sovereignty versus Russia?

Thank you very much for any and all opinions about this interesting and complex issue.

Author :


  1. I think that point 6 and enlargement fatigue is a real issue. Not only do many people in the ‘older’ EU not feel or see the benefits of an enlarged union, but the EU communicates so poorly that they never will.

    With the political wrangling that has already occured relating to the potential joining of Turkey, this could be another long and drawn out process that few will understand.

    My own feeling is that pushing Ukraine into joining the EU will enrage Russia and cause renewed energy hostilities. While I understand that higher living standards and long-term peace are the goals, I am not sure that pulling Ukraine closer will assist in keeping the peace.

    I would also worry that DG enlargement has too much influence in these matters. It must be in their interests to find new candidate countries so that they can keep their jobs. Is that good for everyone else already in Europe?

    Those are my 2c at least.

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘1055386704 which is not a hashcash value.

  2. Do Ukrainians really want to join? The country is split into two halves, with pro-Western and a pro-Russian inclinations. And pro-Western does not necessarily mean pro-EU.

    Fast enlargement inevitably translates into shallow enlargement, limited to securing the economic advantages of EU membership. As we have seen with several ‘new’ member states, that is not enough. The political elites of the country must be ready to accept the rules of the game: advance reforms, fight corruption and organised crime.

    If Turkey with its secularised and Europeanised elites has not managed to comply with EU standards yet, I doubt Ukraine will be ready for accession any time soon.

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘1055386704 which is not a hashcash value.

  3. Ukraine policy requires Russia policy?

    Thank you readers for your reactions above and more that I received off line, also from diplomatic and think tank circles.

    Here are three more EurActiv article, post August holidays:

    Guerre en Géorgie : la Russie accuse l’Ukraine

    Russie-Ukraine : la guerre comme seule option

    indirectly related:
    La Géorgie quitte l’ex-communauté soviétique

    Do not hesitate to continue reacting, or contacting me separetely, as we will continue monitoring these topics.

    Christophe Leclercq

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘1055386704 which is not a hashcash value.

Comments are closed.