Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic Integration: What is Next?

On 18 October 2018, the Office attended an expert panel on the topic „Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic Integration: What is Next?“. The event was organised by Vocal Europe and Science 14. The expert panel discussed the key topics surrounding the accession process, as well as the implications that EU accession holds for a region that is increasingly seen as a geopolitical target by other powerful players.

Opening the conference, Ebubekir Isik, Policy Analyst at Vocal Europe, researcher at the Free University of Brussels (VUB) and moderator of the event welcomed the speakers and participants of the conference. After briefly introducing the speakers to the audience, he briefly explained what Vocal Europe does. Vocal Europe is an independent, not-for-profit platform dedicated to fostering dialogue and coordination among the European Union (EU), Iran, Israel, Russia, Turkey and the Western Balkans.

Isik: „I am happy to welcome the speakers and audience to talk about Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic integration.“

Henri Malosse, Honorary Chairman at Vocal Europe, member and former president at the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) shared with the audience his vision of Europe, which is the vision of a great Europe. He told the audience about his first engagement with Ukraine, which was in November 2013 when he was asked to speak as president of the EESC at the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius. When he spoke at the summit he was already of the opinion that we cannot ask Ukraine to choose between Russia or Europe. A country cannot choose its neighbour and Ukraine is a part of Europe. Mr. Malosse was in favour of the Ukrainian reform process. Furthermore, the speaker disagreed with the way how the situation in Ukraine is dealt with in the „Brussels bubble“. First off, business continues as usual, despite the fact that people are in prison on no legal basis. Secondly, the situation in the East of Ukraine is unacceptable, according to him. Thirdly, Ukraine made all the efforts in the reform process. Nevertheless, a clear perspective regarding EU membership in the future is not given. The speaker called this attitude irresponsible.

Malosse: „My vision of Europe is a great Europe.“

Director of the Ukrainian Think Tanks Liaison Office in Brussels, Olena Carbou, reminded the audience that 2019 will be an important election year. Ms. Carbou explained that according to a survey by the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation, that was conducted in summer 2018, 52% of Ukrainian citizens are in favour of future EU membership and 60% consider that Ukraine should continue reforms no matter whether EU membership is in sight or not. Two third is of the opinion to push the Ukrainian authorities for reforms. Furthermore, she pointed out that there is a considerable growth of the number of those Ukrainian citizens that are in favour of Ukrainian integration into NATO. Since 2012 this number has grown three times: from 13% to 43% in 2018. If the NATO referendum would have been held tomorrow – 63% of citizens would take part. 67% of them would say yes to NATO membership. The main argument in favour of the membership is providing a guarantee for Ukraine’s security. The results of the upcoming elections cannot be foreseen. The speaker mentioned riskes she sees for the elections next year. A growing number of professionals leaving the country, what may have consequences for the process of reforms. Moreover, the difficult economic situation can be fuel for populism. In addition to that, the electoral law is still not fully reformed. The reform has always been crucial.

Carbou: „The number of Ukrainian citizens in favour of Ukrainian integration into NATO has increased.“

H. E. Ihor Turianskyi, retired ambassador of Ukraine, was of the opinion that there is limited information available about what is really happening in Ukraine. Furthermore, he emphasised that the EU is responsible for ensuring integration of Ukraine into the EU. His number on Ukrainian citizens supporting full membership of EU (56%) and NATO (44%) differed from the numbers Ms. Carbou presented to the audience. He explained that the numbers depend on the agency that conduct the surveys and that the opinion of people changes daily. Moreover, the speaker was of the opinion that appropriate political key measures have to be taken towards the EU and towards the East.

Turianskyi: „The EU should ensure the integration of Ukraine into the EU.“

Associate Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), Michael Emerson, made the audience aware of the fact that Yulia Tymoshenko is the most popular figure in Ukraine when we speak about the upcoming elections. He was of the opinion that her economic programme is a pure populist one. Regarding the relationship between Ukraine and the EU, the speaker emphasised that it is important for Ukraine to know what will happen beyond the Association Agreement and DCFTA.

Emerson: „For Ukraine, it is important to know what will happen after the Association Agreement and DCFTA.“

Bruno Lété, Senior Fellow for Security and Defense at the German Marshall Fund (GMF), emphasised that Ukraine should prioritise its domestic policies because this is where it all starts from. If this fails, the rest will not succeed. Furthermore, Ukraine is responsible for its own Euro-Atlantic integration. The speaker was of the opinion that the change in the past 5 years has been tremendous. Nevertheless, a lot needs to be done. Moreover, Mr. Lété talked about the Ukraine-Us relations, where he pointed out that the Trump Administration is supportive towards Ukraine. Regarding the relations between Ukraine and the EU, the speaker suggested both sides work on their economic security.

Lété: „Ukraine should improve its domestic policies first.“