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RUSSIA — UKRAINE — THE EU:
Kiev suddenly understood the advantage of the Customs Union

RUSSIA — UKRAINE — THE EU: Kiev suddenly understood the advantage of the Customs Union

If Euro-bureaucrats haven’t dared to criticize Ukraine on their own, they should have been asked of that. Thanks to European remarks Ukrainian officials have finally started speaking the language that common Ukrainians understand. As if by a wave of a magic wand, the authorities became aware of the CU advantages and ghost-like benefit of the FTA, the difference of the actual economic pros and some make-believe bonuses.

The fact the «Timoshenko case» brings quite different results, from the ones its initiators planned become more obvious with each passing day. Despite the fact that Ukrainian authorities have actually driven themselves to the dead-end, state apparatus keeps moving in the same direction. It might be sheer inertia, yet the more likely reason is the plain lack of short-term plans of Timoshenko’s rivals. Official Ukrainian leadership still do their best keeping aloof from the trial and regularly express their condolence to Tymoshenko’s hardships and hope for the ease of her lot. Simultaneously with that ex-Prime Ministers’ crimes are burdened furthermore. State security service of Ukraine decided to take out the ancient details of the 90s, when the Ukrainian energy has been establishing, brush the dust off them and complement them to the accusations. So Timoshenko was recently charged that being a President and owner of the «United Energy Systems of Ukraine», she conspired with the former Prime Minister Lazarenko and attempted to peculate the budget funds, putting her debts to the Russian Ministry of Defense ($405 million) onto the Ukrainian Cabinet. Other issues like the misuse of state funds (earned by the sale of greenhouse gases emission quotas) are also incriminated to Timoshenko government. We can’t rule out the possibility that other «dark pages» of her biography are revealed or re-written.

Mind though that the «criminalization» of the ex-Prime Minister will have the most baneful consequences for Ukraine itself — precisely, for the ideas that made up the basis of Ukrainian «domestic» ideology. European, American and Russia statesmen (regardless of the existing ideological discrepancies) voiced up a single opinion concerning the stand of Ukrainian court and the situation in Ukraine in general. Russia, whose interests may suffer the most from Timoshenko’s conviction, wasn’t the loudest protester at all. Europe — where Ukrainian leaders strived so much and even justified the linguistic and cultural segregation of its own citizens and systematic destruction of all ties between Russia and Ukraine — took arms against Ukrainian authorities and personally President Yanukovych. Every good, pretty and useful thing bore the adjective «European» in Ukraine. For the sake of European friendship Ukrainian authorities paid no attention to the costs and the very commons sense at times.

And all those twenty-year-long efforts vanish before our eyes. Apart from the euro-integration prospects, which were pushed to the utterly distant future (the meaning of life for today’s Ukraine), the Ukrainian dream #2 also got in bad. Bundestag sports committee member Frank Schteffel called for the UEFA to deprive Ukraine of a Euro Cup 2012 host status. «A country that tramples down human rights and legal state cannot be granted a tribune for self-representation» — Schteffel said. «UEFA regularly bans matches at the stadiums with misbehaving fans and depravity. When a country infringes upon legal system it has to be excluded» Schteffel emphasized. According to the European official, «seven-year-long imprisonment term for Timoshenko and €137 million fine have nothing to do with a European legal state. It means that Euro Cup 2012 is to be held only in democratic Poland, rather than in two states» — Bundestag spokesman emphasized.

British and the U. S. response were symmetrical. The countries presented the European Union a list of 50 raid misappropriations, which have taken place during the rule of President Yanukovych. The report also mentioned involvement of certain Ministers of Yanukovych’s cabinet.

Meanwhile, annual Euro-Ukrainian summit on the associated EU membership of Ukraine, scheduled for 14 Dec was postponed for an indefinite term. Oleg Voloshin, Director of Ukrainian Information Policy department assures everyone that this is «merely technical issue with no political background». «Specific date depends on a working schedule of the Ukrainian President and the EU leadership» — Voloshin stressed. The summit will actually take place on 14 Dec, albeit featuring only Russia and Ukraine, which Ukrainian media prefer to omit.

Official Kiev keeps convincing the population that nothing has changed in its relationship with the EU. They keep saying that Europe is still about to greet and embrace Ukraine. It’s the same ten- and twenty-year-old song that Ukrainians have to wait just a bit more and they’re about to live as happily as the German burgers themselves.

Trying to put up a good face during a really bad foreign-policy game, Ukrainian government is still more aware of the actual picture of Ukrainian hopes than the rest of the population. And that causes utter sensations. The proper moment is at hand and the certain representatives of the Party of Regions decided to respond to the EU criticism and explain Europeans that if they behave this way, Ukraine may change its mind regarding entering the European Union.

Party of Regions deputy Vladislaw Lukyanov has given a profound interview, expressing the party point of view on the statements of the foreign politicians regarding the sentence of the ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. We have to denote that he supplied analysts and political scientists with a considerable amount of food for thoughts. Lukyanov pointed out that «the position of political partners of Mrs. Timoshenko is quite clear — they protect their own». Answering whom he considers to be her political partners — Foreign Ministries of Germany, France, Poland, Czech Republic, Switzerland or other EU member-states — the deputy specified: «I refer to the political parties of the said countries». Speaking about his attitude to official criticism of the West, he said: «I consider this to be one of their mistakes. We’ve made a European choice and haven’t followed the easiest way — we haven’t gone East. If the visit of President Yanukovych to Brussels, scheduled on 20 Oct doesn’t take place, we’ll consider this as a pressure upon the independent state of Ukraine exerted by other political powers» — Lukyanov stated. He has also said something previously unthinkable for the Ukrainian politician, questioning «the need to join the European community». «I think this is a subject for the public debates, i. e. if Europe doesn’t respect us as a sovereign state, we barely need that burden» — deputy said. He specified that the matter of «putting Ukraine onto its knees» is «on the agenda of the day» for the West.

Given such a drastic chill-down of relations with the EU, Ukraine is left with the single option, which all the Ukrainian Presidents have brushed aside. «If the European Union insists upon discontinuing the dialogue on the signing of association agreement with Ukraine, Kiev would also give up these initiatives and stake upon the economic benefit, i. e. the cooperation with Russia within the framework of the Customs Union» — Verkhovna Rada speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn told the parliamentary TV-channel during the interview. It means that apart from causing the thoughts, whether Ukraine actually needs the EU, criticism of Euro-bureaucrats allowed to discover an economic fact — it turned out that Ukraine might benefit from joining the Customs Union. As far back as in summer, that theory sounded like a sheer heresy — Ukrainian officials and Lytvyn himself used to say that the European market has a lot more prospects, that the CU is a step back and that it brings no profits.

«At first, economic component of cooperation with the EU won’t be considered, because Ukrainian goods are not that competitive. You’re fully aware that entering the markets and biting the share of them with our agricultural products would be a tough goal. The essentially important aim for us is not to lose the outlets we already have» — speaker emphasized. Within a single minute he calculated what is more profitable foe Ukraine — FTA with the EU or the CU, although two months ago President Yanukovych stated that estimating the CU advantages would require substantial economic and expert research and take plenty of time. It turned out that the speaker of Verkhovna Rada may substitute all the structures that Yanukovych considers necessary for picking the kind of integration that Ukraine needs.

Lytvyn reminded that Russia promised Ukraine $9 billion a year in case it joins the Customs Union. «Multiply $9 billion by 8 and we’re about to mend all the holes of the pension fund. That’s why I may forecast that if the events tend to develop in that direction or European politicians calling to break up the ties with Ukraine because of Timoshenko case or wage mere technical negotiations regarding the FTA prevail, I believe Ukraine to give up such position and stake at economic pragmatism» — Lytvyn explained.

I think that even if Euro-bureaucrats haven’t dared to criticize Ukraine on their own, they should have been asked of that. Thanks to European remarks Ukrainian officials have finally started speaking the language that common Ukrainians understand. As if by a wave of a magic wand, the authorities became aware of the CU advantages and ghost-like benefit of the FTA, the difference of the actual economic pros and some make-believe bonuses.

Nevertheless, two questions arise. Given the implacable rivalry of Yanukovych and Timoshenko, their peaceful coexistence is hardly possible and as long as he’s at power, the road to the EU is barred for Ukraine. It’s quite possible that President Yanukovych will actually make some substantial moves towards Russia out of sheer hopelessness. Yet, does Russia actually needs allies, who are only willing to cooperate in the absence of viable alternatives? And who might guarantee that the next Ukrainian President won’t restore the crusade to the West, looking back to Russia only in case of major troubles?

By Andrey Polevoy

 

 

 

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