October 17, 2011
The condemnation of former Ukrainian prime minister Julia Timoschenko for having negotiated unfavourable terms in the 2008 gas agreement with Russia has raised a storm of outrage in EU quarters. However justified, passion should never be a guide to external relations which need to be rationally defined on the basis of long-term political and economic interests.
The EU has a long-term interest in developing close relations with Ukraine and preventing it from falling back into the Russian sphere of influence. That is also the desire of the majority of Ukrainian citizens.
Despite continuing efforts, Ukraine is far from living up to EU standards of law and justice. Its democracy is flawed. Corruption is endemic. Its administration lacks efficiency and transparency. But it is a civilised Christian country that has made great strides in the last 20 years to overcome its Soviet past.
Ukraine and EU are in the final stages of negotiating an Association Agreement, including provisions for “deep and comprehensive free trade”, which is meant to pave the way for bringing Ukraine up to EU standards and enable bilateral trade to soar. That will be a long process, at the end of which Ukraine might even join the EU. But this is will depend on political developments on both sides that nobody is presently able to foresee.
EU relations with Ukraine will determine the future the “EU Eastern Partnership”. Ukraine’s exclusion from it would be the end of that partnership. It would therefore be a capital mistake to sacrifice the emerging EU-Ukraine relationship to what is a political trial for Western eyes, but looks different in the light of the Ukrainian criminal code that is about to be amended.
Author : Eberhard Rhein