The Independent cultural journal “¯”

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N 14 / 1998 (Ukr.)


Bohdan Pankevych

Ukraine and the Idea of European Integration

Initiative of Lviv Region

1. Accession of Central European countries to EU.

At the European Council Summit in Copenhagen in 1993 it was agreed that membership of the European Union was a goal shared by Central European countries and the European Union. In December 1994, the Essen European Council adopted a strategy to help Central European countries prepare for the integration. Accession of Poland, Hungary, Check Republic and other countries of Central Europe to EU are preceded by the help in improving the living standards, economic development, creating correspondent visa and economic barriers on “external” boundaries. The President and the Government of Ukraine have been making the steps to associate Ukraine to EU with the aim of its further integration.

However, it seems to be worthless to count for future integration of Ukraine to the EU according to the scheme, prepared for Central European countries. Firstly, there is lack of clear policy directions for both Ukraine and the EU. Secondly, Russia gives a strong geo-political rebuff. Thirdly, economic and social backwardness of Ukraine, amorphism of the society, and high officials’ fear to lose the privileges of their position will be obstacles for integration. Although, the main obstacle, probably, is a latent fear of the EU to accept a country which is potentially a strong leader in Central Europe. Thus, there is a real threat of creation of a new “iron curtain” in Europe, initiated by developed European countries in order to protect their economic area. This new “curtain”, unlike the previous one, established by Soviet authoritarism as a barrier to democracy and market economy, will be created to protect Europe from victims of communist system.

2. Possible consequences for Ukraine.

Two different development concepts are struggling now in post-socialist East-European countries. Politicians and economists, who are strong for reforms, support market economy, development of democracy and gradual integration into Europe. Their opponents prefer establishing order with a “firm hand” and support the idea of self-sufficiency of national economy, which should develop without any influence of foreign investments. At that, supporters of these two concepts are among both socialists, directed to Moscow, and among national and liberal-oriented politicians. There is a real threat that creation of a new “iron curtain” may lead to the triumph of adherents of authoritarian socialism in several post-Soviet states, including Ukraine.

Some features of this threat can be traced even today, therefore, it is necessary to elaborate and gradually implement effective counteractions to prevent undesirable consequences. Creation of a special transition “buffer” zone on the Ukrainian territory bordering with EU, first of all, along Ukrainian-Polish boundary, is one of these actions.

3. Possible problems of EU and Ukraine.

3.1. Global problems.

If integration of Ukraine to EU follows the above-mentioned unrealistic scheme, the result will be in Ukraine’s deviation from Europe and creation of the “iron curtain”. In consequence, the European Union: will lose considerable market for selling goods and services; will be out of any geo-political influence on a part of Central European territories; will have additional problems in functioning of transport, including energy, corridors; will lose Ukraine as an important factor for European security.

Ukraine will be forced to become an influential participant of an alternative to EU block of countries with all possible consequences. Main sources of the country’s development - ideology, social and cultural values - will be non-European origin. Energy dependence and sale markets will strengthen the link of Ukraine with Asian, first of all, Muslim countries.

3.2. Problems of border regions.

The number of persons, illegally trying to cross the border with the intention to emigrate or to take up a job, will increase in Ukraine’s border territory. High living standards in Central European countries as compared with Ukraine’s conditions will increase the number of potential emigrants among the population of border regions. Environmental problems of border regions in the future will be a threat on EU new territory. Development of infrastructure, first of all, the transport one, according to European standards, will take place on Central European territory in the near future. Problems, existing now, namely: shortage of border crossing points, absence of properly developed highways on Ukrainian territory, difference in railway gauge standards, poorly organized airports, etc, will become more acute. This may lead to undesirable delays in crossing the EU border by passengers and goods. It should also be taken into consideration that for inhabitants of Western Ukraine Warsaw and Budapest airports still would be optimal departure points for distant trips.

Export-import quotas and customs requirements may lead to considerable bunching of goods, which are to be distributed in EU and East European countries, in border area. It is necessary to have well-developed infrastructure (storehouses, transport, forwarding, insurance and distribution companies) for proper servicing large commodity flows in Ukraine’s border zone.

4. “Buffer” zone as real alternative.

For providing future global integration of Ukraine to EU we suggest taking, as soon as possible, real and strategically important steps. That means integration measures concerning Ukraine’s regions most prepared for this purpose. Concept of “buffer” zone is the key notion in the proposed scheme.

“Buffer”, or transition zone is the territory of Ukraine’s regions bordering with EU, economic and infrastructure development of which will create favorable conditions for developing a wide-scale cooperation between Ukraine and EU countries and reducing economic differences.

The “buffer” zone is created to prevent establishing a new “iron curtain” in Europe. More and more effective Ukraine’s northern and eastern borders and the “buffer” zone will play the role of efficient double filter instead of the “iron curtain”. Cooperation of Ukraine and EU in the zone’s territory will further social-economic development of border regions and facilitate future integration of Ukraine into European Union.

Concentration of EU funds for the development of the “buffer” zone will enable to reach soon tangible results what will be impossible if the EU help funds are spread all over Ukraine’s territory.

Creation of “buffer” zone is aimed at realizing the following tasks: stimulation of economic development of border regions; improvement of living standards; development of transport infrastructure and adjustment to the European standards; improvement of ecological conditions; creation of favorable investment climate.

The following considerable results are expected after creation of “buffer” zone, namely: extending of entrepreneur activities, SME, in particular; increase in exchange of goods and services between Ukraine and EU; high employment and living standards will prevent local population from emigrating; sufficient filling of local budgets will allow to provide proper financing of environmental policy measures, keeping public order and work with illegal emigrants; tourist and service infrastructure will develop; strong financial infrastructure will be established; the border territory will become an investment area that will promote market economy, privatization, modern technology mechanisms for other regions of Ukraine.

Thus, we suggest creating in border zone the base for Ukraine’s integration to EU. Besides, global actions on Ukraine’s approach to EU should be taken simultaneously.

5. Creation of “buffer” zone.

Post-socialist Central-European countries have received recently considerable technical and financial aid from EU. Such assistance will increase substantially after the accession, in particular through the EU Structural Funds. As a consequence, it is possible that EU will not be able financially to allot big funds for Ukraine to help it to access EU as an associated member. However, it is quite real for EU to assist in creation of “buffer” zone along new eastern border of EU.

To create such a zone common efforts are needed.

The Government of Ukraine should establish a special favorable economic regime in border regions through creation of free economic zones, making experiments on implementation of land reform, further privatization and restructuring of enterprises, providing state guaranties for infrastructure projects, etc.

EU, in its turn, would have to give to border territories a special status of cooperation, which Central European countries already possess (PHARE). It concerns, mainly, the projects on development of border and transport infrastructure, SME development, environmental policy and tourism development, financial infrastructure development, in other words, the directions, where TACIS mechanisms are not very effective.

The first step in this direction has already been made through implementation of several projects on improving border-crossing infrastructure under the common PHARE-TACIS scheme. Good will of both parties, Ukraine and EU, will be the best guaranty for gaining a positive result.

6. Practical implementation of the concept.

It is well known that in spontaneous disintegration of the USSR, which took place in the 80s, Western Ukraine played the role of catalyst of Ukraine’s identity. Nowadays this spontaneous process goes on and Western Ukraine is the catalyst of economic reforms. Historically, geographically and mentally Western Ukraine is the territory, linked with Central Europe, so the perspective of European integration is perceived there as a vital necessity.

It is expedient to start creating the “buffer” zone and try out the proposed concept in Lviv region, which is the most prepared area in Western Ukraine.

Lviv region borders Poland (278.2 km of boundary), it is a member of the Carpathian Euroregion and, partially, of the Euroregion “Bug”. Three main European transport corridors pass through the territory of the region. First in Ukraine toll-road is being constructed there. There are 7 border-crossing points in Lviv region; free economic zones “Yavoriv” and “Kurortopolis Truskavets” are created as an experiment there. The region is a “pilot” in Ukraine in agriculture reform and TACIS infrastructure projects.

Consultations of Lviv regional state administration with the Polish officials showed readiness of our neighbors to provide an active support for creation of the first “buffer” zone in the region territory along EU Ukraine to help it to access EU as an associated member. However, it is quite real for EU to assist in creation of “buffer” zone along new eastern border of EU.

Common efforts are needed to create such a zone. Ukrainian government should establish a special favorable economic regime in border regions through creation of free economic zones, conducting experiments on implementation of land reform, further privatization, working on non-profit basis for implementing grants and technical assistance projects.