The Ukrainian membership in the EU – more problems than benefits?

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The statements, made by the newly-elected Ukrainian president Jushchenko, concerning the necessity of the country’s accession into the EU, raise a number of questions. It would be difficult to say what effect for the EU would have the simultaneous accession of the Ukraine and Turkey (the population of both countries is comparable to that of France), having in mind the fact that the negotiations with the latter are still pending.

The efforts of Kiev to sneak into United Europe, without waiting properly for its turn, are met with ill-disguised hostility by the other applicants for accession and by the newly-acceded member countries, which fear losing some of Brussels’ subsidies because of their re-allocation to the Ukraine. Furthermore, they regard such an “unplanned integration” as breach of the major EU principles, in accordance with which the applicant countries could be acceded only after they meet all European criteria, which in itself is a time-consuming process.
This is on of the reasons for the unwillingness of the EU leadership to press for Ukrainian integration. Thus, less than a year ago the Chairman of the EU Commission at that time, Romano Prodi, underlined that Kiev’s chances to enter the Union “are not greater than the chances of New Zealand”. During the last year the economic situation in the Ukraine worsened. In January 2005 the Euro-Commission representative, Le Bail, again reiterated that the Ukrainian membership is not on the agenda as it would be a very difficult process, requiring enormous efforts as to the meeting of criteria, set by Maastricht. The EU Commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, in her turn stated in the European Parliament that the Ukraine cannot be granted with the status of an affiliated member, because in accordance with European legislation when a country has this status then sooner or later it will become a full member of the EU. Ferrero-Waldner considers that in its policy for EU enlargement Brussels is mainly led by its capacity to integrate new members without hindering the normal functioning of the Union as a whole. The very functioning of the EU will be questionable if not only Turkey, but the Ukraine as well, accede.
Brussels is fully aware of the fact that the European policy to the Ukraine should not take the form of competition with Russia for spheres of influence. The European Union should bear in mind that the relations between Russia and the Ukraine should be approached in a specific manner for a number of objective reasons. In 2004 the commercial turnover between the two countries amounted to 20 billion USD, while the Ukrainian export for Russia accounts for 60% of the overall Ukrainian export. Let alone the total dependency of the Ukraine on Russian fuel. Therefore, any break in the transport and energy infrastructure would have negative consequences for Europe as well, because is would endanger the guaranteed delivery of Russian fuel and the logistics of transit transports.
The living standard of Ukrainian population, which is rather low in comparison with the East - European countries, and the large degree of unemployment force many Ukrainians to look for a job abroad. Hitherto, most of them went to Russia, as Europe was inaccessible to them. If the process of Ukrainian Euro-integration speeds up, though, at the expense of the country’s relations with CIS, then the emigration flow would surely be directed to the EU, which in itself would heighten the social tension in EU member countries.
Finally, it is clear that the US continue to make use of the “Ukrainian factor” in order to facilitate the implementation of their own geo-political objectives, thus transferring the burden of Ukrainian economic “integration” upon the Europeans. Encouraging the more and more active engagements of Poland (which is among the most openly pro-American countries on the Old continent) in Ukraine-related matters, Washington is trying to strengthen the pro-American “Atlantic buffer zone” in Europe (the newly acceded NATO members) in order to counterbalance for the rather independent attitudes of France, Germany and Italy, as well as to restrict the Euro-integration process, which could transform Europe into a political and economic entity, highly competitive to the US.