EU wants Ukraine – unsurprisingly
According to British Ambassador to the Ukraine, the European organization is “trying to find reasons to say yes” to Ukraine on signing the all-important Association Agreement. This hardly comes as a surprise, given Ukraine’s obvious value as a trading partner and future member state – not to mention the benefits of keeping it out of Russia’s grips.
The British ambassador to Ukraine, Simon Smith, has expressed the European Union’s wish for Ukraine to sign its Association Agreement at November Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius. Although he also warned “there is no guarantee of its signing,” the diplomat gave a positive attitude to the next step in Ukraine’s journey towards Western Europe.
“The European ministers said clearly that they expect, I quote, 'decisive action and tangible progress in these three areas.' I want to emphasize that they did not give any narrow or personalized recommendations, but rather pointed to the wider spheres of activity in which progress is expected," stated Smith when interviewed by Interfax-Ukraine.
He later added, “I do not believe that the EU foreign ministers are looking for reasons to say no to Ukraine. I think that, quite the contrary, they are trying to find reasons to say yes.”
The Association Agreement is a contract which would put Ukraine in a positive position for eventually joining the European Union. That the EU is eager to make this happen hardly comes as a surprise: with 36.1 tons of gold in international reserves and extremely valuable gas pipelines, Ukraine would constitute a considerably advantageous ally.
Further, EU officials know they would do well to bring Ukraine closer to them – and keep it away from Russia. In recent years, Ukraine has been getting inundated by sticks and carrots from neighboring giant Russia, which is clearly not ready to let go of its ex-Soviet bloc property. Russian president Vladimir Putin has done his best to seduce and intimidate Ukraine into joining the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC), which would threaten Ukraine’s future in the EU.
These efforts, which have included hosting a personal meeting with the country’s president Viktor Yanukovych on the eve of the Kazahkstan EurAsEC summit in May, have so far been decidedly rejected by Kiev. Indeed, the Ukrainian government has been working to make itself more EU-friendly in an effort to bring itself closer to Brussels.
Regardless, European ambassadors like Simon Smith know they need to send positive signals Ukraine’s way. For all their demands of the required democratic reforms (which are – don’t mistake me – imperative, and are indeed being addressed by Ukraine), top Europeans will be extremely anxious to find a path to signing the document.
They know that if the Association Agreement is not signed in November, it will have corrosive backlashes in the country’s concerted efforts to democratize. The European Union has a lot to lose – so it is no wonder it wants so much to say yes.