Ukraine’s prospects for EU membership in the light of the war with Russia
Watching the addresses of Ukraine’s president to the European institutions and leaders and parliaments of EU countries one certain question is coming to mind again and again, namely whether there is a real opportunity for Ukraine to get EU membership or is it just a strong tool in the hands of Zelenskiy who uses this motto as an element of communication to maintain the patriotic spirit of Ukrainians in order to provide them a hope for a better future?
As for Ukraine’s accession to the EU, although the EU several times stated that Ukraine has chances for a full membership, I believe it most certainly cannot be realized in the foreseeable future. (The same regarding NATO.) The prospects of the Euro-Atlantic integration have always served as a unilateral tool used by Ukrainian politicians (presidents and party leaders) solely for domestic political reasons. But people believe in campaign messages — this is how election campaigns work!
What is performed by Ukraine’s president today, and by that I mean the addresses to the Ukrainian nation and different EU members, cannot be called an ’election campaign’ in its traditional meaning. Anyway, in my opinion, this is the ever strongest political campaign in Ukraine with the ever strongest motto of EU membership in the near future.
It is quite clear that joining the EU has never been a real option for Kyiv, but this has changed at least a bit with the war. Anyway, for me, Ukraine’s full EU membership as a realistic possibility which is bound to happen soon is still uncertain and doubtful. Right now I must admit that my assessment sharply contradicts to what Zelenskiy has been saying recently. He considers that Ukraine will come out of the war as a winner, and ’there will be a new story’.
First of all, I would like to point out that messages of Zelenskiy like ’there will be a new story’ and ’there will be a new dream’ do not really differ from any previous promises of his predecessors about a future welfare and prosperity, etc., but the question arises: how and on which funds a new and happier life could be born in a war-affected and destroyed country?
Looking at the reverse of the medal this particular question looks like this: does the European Union really want to grant full membership to a huge but war-worn and destroyed country evolved in a military conflict with Russia, and having ’temporarily occupied territories’ at its borders?
The Netherlands have already raised their voice against Ukraine’s EU accession and I am sure that if it comes to voting, there will be several more countries which would veto the accelerated reception of Ukraine in the European family. I hesitate to name Germany at this point, but I am really not sure about the German position. In a pro-contra voting, Berlin may join the contra side, at the same time offering to Ukraine billions of euros of recovery funds, similarly to many other prosperous net contributors to the EU. We should mention Austria’s basically ’contra’ position, as well, whose foreign policy leader recently said that Austria would support the deepening of the relations between the EU and Kyiv, excluding the full membership; at the same time, Vienna would provide economic aid to Ukraine, mainly through its involvement in the European Economic Area.
On the other hand, Ukraine, obviously has a strong supporter of its EU membership in Eastern Europe, namely Poland, a newly-come but committed associate of Kyiv. I say newly-come because some years ago the Polish-Ukrainian relations were quite another story, defined by tensions, e.g. following the incident in Western Ukrainian city of Lutsk where the building of the consulate general of Poland was attacked with a grenade launched from a grenade thrower hidden in a passing by car… Meanwhile a great change has been effected, and now, when considering the advocacy of a possible Ukrainian EU membership by Poland, we should not disregard the fact that Warsaw plays in team and brings along the three Baltic states, as well.
Anyway, although I am personally concerned in this issue (and, basically I am for deepening the relations between the EU and Ukraine), I try to assess the situation without bias. My instincts say that the EU family which has its own precisely calculated budget and a precious inner peace, does not really whish to accept a new and, extremely problematic family member.
I believe that what we can see now is nothing more than an impermanent love of Brussels towards the heroic Zelenskiy, but this love is mainly inspired by regret and the intention to have an easy conscience which has always been very important in Europe.
I wonder whether the Brussels bureaucrats, besides the suffering Ukrainians, really want to press the oligarchs of Ukraine to their breasts…? I doubt it.
Some more thoughts about Ukraine’s prospects for EU membership
Now, that I once again turn to the topic of Ukraine’s possible EU membership, I would like to note that I believe that Zelenskiy had chosen EU membership as his campaign’s motto, both on the international arena and on the field of domestic politics, not by chance. He is perfectly aware of the power and the potential of this promise, and clearly can recall the atmosphere that emerged at the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014 from the situation that Yanukovich did not sign the articles of EU-Ukraine Association Agreement…
One should not forget about the fact that the EU started talks with Ukraine in 2007, i.e. fifteen (!) years ago. The visa liberalization may be mentioned as the biggest achievement of this long process — it really was an important success, from which Ukrainian people have been profited a lot.
Analyzing the single components of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, besides the above-mentioned visa liberalization, the synchronization of Ukraine’s electric energy network with the European networks in 2022 is also definitely welcomed, the same as COVID-19 vaccine aid shipments provided for Ukraine in the past two years. All the listed components are tangible and contributed to a better life of Ukrainians. I am very sure, that Ukrainians appreciate this kind of palpable help.
But European decision-makers should take into account one certain aspect, namely that Ukrainians do not need future promises. What they need is obvious, concrete and immediate humanitarian aid and accessible recovery funds — this serves Ukraine’s future, not empty promises about a pink-coloured dream.
I consider that the EU should continue to provide financial assistance to Ukraine — it cannot be elseways, it is a kind of moral obligation. Speaking about sanctions posed by the EU against Russia, many Western experts have certain doubt regarding their effectiveness, because these will not influence the decision making process of Putin. Besides that they hit not exclusively the Russian political elite and its oligarchs but each and every citizen of Russia. I suppose that instead of debates about the approval of the next package of sanctions against Russia, each member states should provide shelter for Ukrainians fleeing the war — I consider it a primal duty of the EU, and this is the biggest help that now can be provided.
In my opinion, it is the humanitarian aid that can save Ukraine, not the unfulfilled promises of the EU membership. If the EU would put the stress on financial and humanitarian aid, after a while Ukrainians would be able to return to the normal life, and only following that, they would be able to return to the issue of EU membership, if they still want it.
As they say, truth is the daughter of time. In this case Europe will be able to compound with its conscience, as well, and consider the questions of partnership with Ukraine in peace time. Because regardless who we are and where we live, it is peace what we all need above all.