Dec 19, 2013

IMPLICATIONS OF UKRAINE’S MEMBERSHIP OF THE EUROPEAN UNION


Dr. Olumide K. Obayemi*

I.          Introduction

The Eastern Partnership signifies the western industrialized Europe’s use of economic empowerment as a tool to infiltrate the splinter ex-communist states of the east. Presently, the European Union (“EU”) is targeting Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, and Georgia.

 Sandwiched between Poland and Russia, Ukraine is the second largest member of the old Union of soviet Socialist Republic
(“USSR”). With the collapse of the old USSR, Ukraine has been pulled –ideologically both ways --, i.e., towards the capitalist west and the highly conservative Russia.

On November 21st, 2013, Victor Yanukovich, the present Ukrainian president suspended Ukraine’s assent to the European Union (“EU”) Agreement.

This thesis identifies the three (3) major factors that will determine whether or not Ukraine would join the EU: (a) Ukraine’s readiness to adopt democratic measures within its political process; (b) Ukraine’s readiness to adopt much more competitive economic and political policies (“Rule of Law”); and (c) Ukraine’s adoption of an open market/economy.

II.        The Dilemma.

The soft competition between the richest western nation—Germany and Russia should not be underrated. With the image of the big brother—Russia, looming larger than before, there is a very steep uphill task before Kiev-based government and the EU, as well

If EU relaxes its rules and admits Ukraine, EU will be legitimizing half-hearted reforms by an authoritarian government—which is both unpopular and uncooperative at home. An antithesis of the principles that the EU stands for.

No doubt, the full admission of the present-day Ukraine may infuriate an upheaval that may arise from selective rules of admission and the selective application of the Free Trade Rules

Yet, on the other hand, a non-admission of Ukraine, will definitely rob the Western Europe of its leverage to influence Ukraine into making more reforms and may allow Russia to take over.

III.       Admission into the EU

On October 21, 2013, in Luxembourg, at the meeting of the EU Foreign Ministers, it was clear that the EU was placed in the middle of the devil of the Devil and Deep Blue Sea concerning Ukraine. One option was to relax the rules governing admission into the EU. Strict adherence for democratic principles, rule of law and open market would freeze out Ukraine. On the other hand, Russia with nits Eurasian Customs Union was waiting with open hands. To deny Ukraine admission outright would reduce the impetus for reforms that had already began and also drive Ukraine into further authoritarianism and overt dependence on Russia.

Below are the issues for consideration

a.         Requirement for Democratic measures

Prior to recent ascendance of Yanukovich, Ukraine’s former prime minister was Yulia Tymoshenko. In 2004, the Orange revolution forced Yanukovich out of office and enthroned Tymoshenko. Curiously, in 2010, Yanukovich was re-elected and soon after, Tymoshenko was jailed for abuse of power and for negotiating natural gas with Russia while in power.

Tymoshenko remained jailed despite plea for pardon and for temporary release under supervision for medical treatment in Germany. Cases against Tymoshenko are frozen. She is also barred from participating in electoral process towards the 2015 elections.

Nevertheless, towards being accepted by the west, Yanukovich has released some high profile political detainees who were being punished via selective justice. In addition, travel bans have been lifted against these detainees and opponents as well.

These minute improvements n the social justice system are what the EU wants to be developed upon rather than stultified by Ukraine’s leaning towards Russia

If Ukraine can sustain its electoral reforms and conducts a free and fair election in 2015, even if Yanukovich loses out of office, its admission into the EU would be smooth

b.         Rule of Law

Earlier on, in December 2012, the EU had accepted Ukraine conditionally upon making necessary reforms in three (3) areas (a) Justice; (b) the electoral system; and (c) institution reform—i.e., a demand that Ukraine separate politics, business and organized crime from each other.

In the western parlance, the Rule of Law entails the equality of all persons before the law and processes. In Ukraine, demand is being made towards that the tax service, the interior ministry and the prosecutor’s office be sanitized. Both the criminal code and the criminal procedure rules should be reformed. The appointment and ratification of officials into government positions must be democratized.

The trial and prosecution of citizens and opponents must be transparent. Justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done.

c.         Open Market.

Capitalism is bases on laissez faire –open market, competition and lack of monopoly and/or manipulation.

Ukraine must sign the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement that will create a Free Trade Area. Ukraine must curb abuses of predatory and deprofessionalized state that discourages entrepreneurship which in turn turns away commercially oriented citizens.

IV.       Tempting Eurasian Customs Union

Sensing the lure of the western world towards Ukraine, Vladimir Putin and Kremlin have coerced Armenia to jettison the EU. Putin’s Eurasian Union is a neutralizing factor against the EU. Formed as political bloc, the Eurasian Union aims to provide an umbrella force for all former USSR splinter states, without requiring major economic or political reforms as the EU does.

In contrast to EU’s demand that Ukraine lower its tariffs, Putin’s Eurasian Union has countered with protective measures which may include subtle economic and political coercive measures. For instance, against Armenia, Russia threatened to withdraw security guarantees, and, against Moldova, Russia increased the cost of energy supply and blocked the workers influx into Russia.

V.        Conclusion

With its attenuated political position at home, with opponents gaining grounds against Yanukovich and with Russia breathing trade blockages and/or sanctions against Ukraine, Ukraine would probably maintain a middle ground by refusing to bow either to the west or east.

Yet, the EU is more determined to get Ukraine to institute free trade and political reforms. We must heed German Chancellor Angela Merkel:

Eastern European countries must decide themselves on their future direction…Third parties cannot have the right to veto.
The EU must counter Russian pressure on Eastern Europe, be it in the form of additional sales opportunities for products from our partner countries, which for instance may not be exported to Russia, or in the form of assistance to diversify their energy supply.

Perhaps the time has come for the EU to be as proactive as it was during the 2004 orange revolution by engaging the Ukranian government and the opposition in dialogues towards resolving the impasse.

The EU must also provide political, financial, and institutional support as it had given to new democracies in the past—e.g., the Marshall Plan.

The EU must mobilize, directly and indirectly—through the IMF, the resources for Ukraine to weather the imminent financial collapse.

Further, the EU must shield Ukraine from likely Russian retaliation, coming through economic sanctions, trade blockages and political intervention.

Dr. Olumide K. Obayemi is of the Bars of the State of California and Nigeria.
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