The European Union maintains great attractiveness to its immediate neighbours. The prospect of joining the EU was the strongest external factor influencing reform in the former communist bloc. After 11 years of great expansion, we see the positive impact on the lives of many millions of people. Ukrainians are the latest people striving to join this community of democracy and prosperity. Many Ukrainians gave their lives for the possibility of implementing the Association Agreement with the EU.
Bearing in mind that 2015 is also the European Year for Development, cooperation on the part of the EU and its member states to help Ukraine develop would bring mutual benefits. This means being open to the aspirations of ordinary Ukrainian citizens, including leaving open the possibility of membership of Ukraine within the EU in the future, and working together to liberalise trade.
A fair deal
The Free Trade Agreement between the EU and Ukraine protects the EU agricultural market. This means that the best European soils in the most favourable climate conditions, the soils that cover half of Ukraine, cannot be used to their capacity to provide inexpensive and competitive food for EU markets. According to the FAO and World Bank assessment, Ukraine could triple its food production if it were open to EU markets. With this in mind, it is absurd that the EU is paying high subsidies to its farmers, with greater subsidies for soils that are more difficult to cultivate, and at the same time preventing its consumers from access to Ukrainian food. The full opening of the EU agricultural market to Ukrainian products would be beneficial for European consumers, and, of course, Ukrainian farmers, whereas the only losers would be those European farmers who are less competitive. The Free Trade Agreement with Ukraine should be changed on these agricultural issues as soon as possible. Opening EU markets could help the Ukrainian economy to develop more than all the taxpayer money sent to Kyiv thus far.
The European Union is the largest market in the world, about 10 times as large as the Russian economy. Moreover, the EU population is 3 times larger than the Russian population. Meanwhile, the EU’s response to the violation of international law by Russia was disproportionately weak, because sanctions require unanimity within the 28 member states. The lowest common denominator approach reduces the possibility of joint action. 28 foreign, defence and energy policies cannot be effective. To mitigate this, in foreign policy, energy and defence the EU should adopt more of a community method, with a more federal approach to be effective in delivering peace and stability.
An uncertain future
Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan have formed the Eurasian Economic Union. A geostrategic union, some may comment, that also has free trade as its main element. The EU could declare that it is open for future negotiations on free trade with this Customs Union as soon as it is based on WTO rules, in the hope that engagement would help determine stability. At this point, however, neither Belarus nor Kazakhstan is a member of the World Trade Organisation, and Russian membership is still in the implementation phase.
In case of failure to comply with the Minsk2 agreement by Russia, the EU should close international financial transactions via SWIFT for Russia, and widen personal sanctions on all members of the Russian Duma and Federal Council that authorised intervention in Ukraine and approved annexation of Crimea. Finally, the EU should introduce import quotas on oil, gas and coal from Russia and cut them by half in 10 years. This would be sustainable for the EU economy, given that Russia provides only 12% of energy consumptions in Europe. It is not sustainable for Russia, given that the export of energy provides her with 70% of export and 50% of budget revenues. As such, the EU could stop ‘financing’ Russian expansion.
The work of the European Movement Poland
The European Movement Poland promotes stronger engagement with the EU through its active work organising seminars and conferences, and by producing informative brochures and publications. In particular, the European Movement Poland seeks to deeper integrate Europe’s Eastern partners into the structures of modern Europe, and it works for more decisive action, on the part of the EU, to counter violations of international laws. In March 2014, the European Movement Poland also took part in the European Movement International’s delegation to Ukraine to talk with different civil society groups, and forge links.
Marcin Święcicki – President, Forum Ruchu Europejskiego (European Movement Poland)
Source: European Movement International blog.