Well dear readers, the day before yesterday I was asked by an “official someone” why the media consistantly states Ukraine is heading “Eastwards” and more precisely, back to Russia. I was asked not doubt because I was a random European not talking to anyone else…….and had slipped away for a quite cigar.
The circumstances of the question followed yet another “cautions welcome and first step” speech by an EU official……this time relating to a law on gas……at a meeting held here in Odessa.
The answer I gave was two-fold.
Firstly, it is much faster to make deals with Russia, China, India and Turkey as Ukraine has been doing recently because they make decisions for themselves……whereas the EU speaks for 27 nations and all those nations have to agree to the exact wording used in an official statement. Therefore deals with nations are far easier and far quicker to make than with an economic block making decisions by committee and consensus.
Secondly, bilateral deals do not mean that a whole raft of parity laws need to exist between nations as will be the case between Ukraine and the EU before any eastern European Agreements can be signed later this year/early next year.
For the past 6 years there has been no cohension in government, only in-fighting, which has prevented any steps towards the EU and allowed the EU to leave Ukraine to its own divices as long as it held a notion to join.
Explaining that to achieve just one EU orientated goal held by Ukraine, can mean 20 new laws to bring them in line with existing EU laws suddenly seemed to strike an understanding with my “interrigator” whilst immediately a recognition as to why nothing had progressed in the past 5 years was also observed.
As sure as night follows day, the next question came stating Ukraine now has a government and president that has and absolute legislative passing machine in place, so why isn’t anything happening?
Herein is the great disconnect between the EU, Ukraine and the people of Ukraine.
With relation to the EEA, Ukraine knows exactly what it has to do leglatively, however it has not communicated to the public what is expected. Therefore seemingly ad-hoc and often sensitive laws are being passed without any context as to why and how it fits with european intigration.
Examples being, the gas law at the meeting I was at in Odessa, the government procurement law passed a few months ago, the pending tax codes, the pending judicial reform laws (mostly in line with Vennice Commission recommendations), the now more independent National Bank……the list of new legislation is quite long, and my chosen statutary acts are by no means exhustive.
Seen individually though, and not held against a framework of EU requirements, it is hardly surprising the public see no movement between Ukraine and the EU because they don’t have a a frame to put bits of the picture in.
Quite simply exceptionally bad PR by Ukraine and also by the EU when it comes to promoting the EU within Ukraine.
With regards to Visa-free travel, again there is much movement but you cannot see the wood for the trees.
Ukraine and Russia are now demarkating their land boundaries as I speak (or rather type today), This is a pre-requisite for Visa-free travel as without accepted bordes, you cannot inforce immigration. The same demarkation has occured with Moldova and Romania.
If, as I expect, Ukraine will be given a road map/action plan similar to that of the Balken nations, the historical timelines that these nations have achieved visa-free travel from recieving the same road maps, Ukraine should have Visa-free travel with the EU by 2013/14.
Albania, Bosnia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia all received a road map to Visa-free travel in May 2008. Within 2 years 3 nations had achieved visa-free travel and the other two should reach it by the end of this year.
Historically, therefore, it should take Ukraine no more than 3 years to achieve Visa-free travel once they have their goal posts identified to them……and the current Ukrainian government is, if nothing else, not stupid and are already passing laws and acting on the road maps given to the Balken nations like Serbia. I don’t think they will achieve it before the next governmental elections in 2012, but by 2013/14 it should be there or there abouts……both EEA and Visa-free travel will be delivered during this President’s first term.
In defence of Ukraine, when it comes to Visa-free travel, they have not been given their definitive goal posts by the EU yet, there is another 2 or 3 months to wait, so they have no framework (as yet) to show the public and allow the public to fit the jigsaw pieces of legislation to when passed……unlike the EEA……..if they actually manage to get the PR right and allow people to see what they need to do, what they are doing and what is left to do.
Won’t this lead to a mass exodus? Hardly. Visa-free travel means nothing more than free movement. It does not entitle anyone to work, those beaurocratic issues still remain as Visa-free travel is not the same thing as EU membership. Those caught overstaying will simply be sent back to Ukraine…….and Ukraine will be obliged to take them……just as is the case for Serbia, Macedonia etc. There has been no mass exodus from those nations.
Thus far, I feel quite comfortable and on reasonably safe ground……with history and factual events on my side……but much will depended upon the currently administrations political will and momentum.
In the meantime, both Ukraine and the EU need to step up their PR offensive towards the Ukrainian people and actually identify frameworks and legislative jig-saw pieces that fit within these frameworks so things do not seem so……ad hoc…..when laws are passed and the reasoning behind the laws in a wider (european) context can be easily identified.
Things do not look so “eastwards orientated”……if you can make sense of the pieces in the jigsaw and know how they fit together…….no matter how slowly they are put into place.
Having given such an answer, let’s see if there is a PR offensive to informed those of us “great unwashed” as to what is happening.