Ukraine between Europe and Asia
©H. Nemyria, 2001
Ukraine’s path to Europe will be more complex and painful compared to the majority of Central and East European countries. The major reason for this is the inconsistency in fulfilling the reforms during past nine years. Due to this fact a long-term orientation to Euro-Asia is the proposed geopolitical alternative. However, do they wait for us there?
The Ukrainian questions and their treatment by ‘Great Europe’
Ukraine seeks to position itself over the territory of Europe, but factually, it is not perceived as a European nation by major countries who control the process of the Euro-alignment. For the time being Ukraine is rather ‘specialized’ on the export of disappointments. In 2004–2005, when Poland and Hungary join the European Union, Ukraine will have a common border with it. After Romania and Slovakia join the NATO, Ukraine’s border with the North Atlantic alliance will extend. The Schengen Treaty will be effective on the borders of four out of seven member-countries. Ukraine will join the WTO. This latter event will mean first, an increase of influence of the external factor, secondly, a significant reduction of time necessary to solve the decisions concerning domestic reforms.
The ‘Ukrainian’ issue is just a part of the process of ‘Great Europe’ creation. We are the witnesses to an exciting process of Europe’s ‘europization’ and to an expansion of the European political and economic space.
Where is the limit of Europe’s borders? How far may the ‘institutional’ Europe expand without loosing its cultural and civilizational peculiarity? How much can it absorb? The answers to these questions directly concern Ukraine’s geopolitical future.
If one imagines the contemporary political process that takes place over the European continent as a trajectory of a pendulum, it is possible to state that currently it approaches its highest point. In course of the next 10–15 years (‘the expansion period’) a new dynamic balance will be created which will last a rather long period (‘the intensification period’). The pendulum metaphor helps to visualize the combination of the dynamics and parallel uncertainty of the political processes as well as the probability to influence the amplitude of its oscillations.
Hence, the time factor stipulates for Ukraine two European scripts.
The first one: by way of superefforts to accelerate the process of domestic reforms and democratization, to latch on to the last carriage of the European train, to increase the oscillation of the ‘European pendulum’, and get to the EU. The second: to master a new specific form of association with Europe within the framework and terminology of a ‘specific partnership’, which does not stipulate precise prospects for the future membership or, in the best scenario, leaves this issue open. Due to the fact that the expanded European Union will need some time to ‘digest’ new members, to establish new institutional procedures, and to adapt to the asymmetry of the new immediate neighbourhood, this period of Ukraine-European Union’s ‘specific partnership’ may last for 20–30 years. Remember that the eastward expansion of the EU will amplify economic and social disproportion in the EU itself by several times compared to its previous expansion. Even the powerful and economically developed Federal Republic of Germany is still years away from equalizing relations between its eastern and western halves following the reunification of Germany ten years ago and the absorption of the former German democratic Republic.
However it is not Ukraine’s choice alone, but the EU’s as well. Ukraine is a country with 50 million inhabitants, and its territory is larger than that of France. However, it occupies a peripheral position in the mentality of the EU’s bureaucracy. On the other hand, the EU is constantly expanding. If we assume that Turkey (population of 63 million) which is only two thirds a European country, will become a member of the European Union, then the EU will have mutual borders with Iraq, Iran and Syria.
In any case, the inner factor remains decisive. The politicians of such countries as Greece, Spain and Portugal considered (in 1981 the first, and the two latter in 1986) the option of joining the European Union in order to overthrow the totalitarian regimes; this option was closely related to their domestic transformation.
The transformation paradigm was probably considered in case of Ireland (1973). Close integration into the EU and their transformation course was considered by the upper echelons of these countries as integrity. Not less important was the fact that Brussels also shared such a view as to the perception of interrelation and mutual dependence of integration and transformation.
Today it is already obvious that Ukraine’s path to Europe will be more complex and painful as compared to that of the majority of other Central and Eastern European countries. This is explained not only by the heritage of the distant past, but also its inconsistency in fulfilling the reforms during last nine years. Besides, the physical parameters of Ukraine (its territory and population) influence the additional carefulness on the part of the European Union and its certain member countries. It is obvious that in different circumstances ‘small’ countries, e.g. Slovenia and Estonia who enjoy the status of special relations with neighbouring EU member countries (Scandinavian for Estonia, and Italy and Austria for Slovenia) have a much better chance for accelerated integration into the EU. In that respect, neighbouring Poland is the best source of successful integration experience as the largest regarding its territory and population candidate to join the European Union.
The principle of differentiation deployed by the European Union means that each candidate country is estimated in terms of its level of aptness. This new approach suggests maximum flexibility in terms of time, which stimulates the countries lagging behind to join the successful claimants. Therefore, differentiation complements the principle of consolidation.
Though this paradigm does not bear a direct relation to the current state of the art in relations of Ukraine with the EU, it may serve as a useful instrument to develop the Ukrainian way and methods to come closer to the European Union.
The Russian-Chinese alternative
One of geopolitical alternatives proposed to Ukraine, is its long-term orientation to Euro-Asia, first of all to Russia and China. The alliance of Russia with China is a possible structural component of the 21st century. The essential element in this situation is ‘ad absurdum’: “They do not wait for us in Europe!” Do they wait for us in Euro-Asia? Apart from new markets, China requires money in the form of direct foreign investments and the latest technologies. In the near future Ukraine cannot provide either. Naturally, China cannot provide them to us as well. The Russian Federation is far from stable. Its economy is eleven times less effective than that of the European Union. Compared to Ukraine, Russia has never expressed its desire to join the EU. However, this does not mean that the course of integration with Europe should compete with the any possible cooperation with Russia. If cooperation promotes the development of the domestic economy, it will promote Ukraine’s approach to the European Union. On the other hand, Ukraine’s successful advancement down the path of integration into the EU will help bring Russia closer to Europe, improve Ukrainian-Russian relations, which meets the national interests of both the countries.
Integration into the European Union is not for the poor. To go back to Europe Ukraine should become a European country with regards to its functional, motivational, and institutional capacities and by way of transforming its economy and society; by replacing old staff in the governmental apparatus; by regularly modifying its laws, and by employing its stabilizing potential in regional cooperation.