Are the words of the prophets written on the subway walls?June 28, 2012
As is well known to all EU citizens (and some other nationalities), they do not need a Visa to enter Ukraine for up to 90 days in a 180 day period. It has been this was since 2005/6 for most.
As is well known to all Ukrainians, the reciprocal approach has not yet been delivered, although an official roadmap to achieving this was given to Ukraine in October 2011 and through Ukraine’s own ineptitude, (or rather business squabbles over who will produce the necessary biometric passports required) matters have not progressed as far and as quickly as they could have.
The issue of who will produce the passports was resolved last week and production of biometric passports will commence in December. Thus there remains the matter of data protection of the biometric data to legislatively deal with at RADA level.
All jolly good except there is also the issue of several amendments to the initial roadmap that need to be signed and ratified by certain EU entities. Those entities namely the European Commission and European Council. For those unaware of exactly who does what and how things work between the European Parliament, European Commission and European Council, I wrote a a very brief explanation back in February.
However, one wonders why MEPs are now calling on the European Commission and European Council to sign and ratify the amendments to the roadmap.
Firstly, European Commissioner for European Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policies, Stefan Fule, is consistently on the record stating that Visa-free is not an issue to be tied to any other political issues. He continuously rattles off the policy line that Visa-free is about people to people contact and is not subject to any other political influences or policies other than the required statutory and technical obligations of those nations offered Visa-free with the EU. A pure and wholesome policy motivator indeed, and a founding overarching principle from the conception of the EU itself.
Ergo, if the European Commission are to believe and act upon the words of one of their most prominent and public figures, let alone one of the EU’s own founding principles, there is absolutely no reason for the delay in the European Commission in signing and ratifying these amendments to a roadmap the Commission itself gave to Ukraine only last year. By signing the amendments, they do not speed up the readiness of Ukraine to meet the legal and technical requirements or decrease the evaluation time to see these legal and technical changes work, which is likely to be a year or two.
What possible reason can the European Commission give for delaying the signing and ratifying of the amendments to their own roadmap that does not make Stefan Fule seem a liar, namely political strings that he regularly states are not attached? Does he speak for the EU Commission or not? Is Visa-free really about people to people contact without any other political influences as he so often states, or is it to become a political lever to use against the current Ukrainian government over unrelated issues the EU has concerns about, in complete and utter contradiction to what Stefan Fule says on behalf of the European Commission?
Next we have the European Council who also have yet to sign and ratify the amendments. Quite possibly a more tricky proposition given it is compromised of 27 sovereign national representatives each with their own position and thus consensus must be reached. However, consensus must have been reached for the initial roadmap to be given to Ukraine in the first place and the pending amendments negotiated either with or in the full knowledge of the European Council are unlikely to be much of a hurdle if at all.
This becomes even more difficult to explain when only this week, the European Council penned and passed very quickly, a roadmap for Visa-free with Turkey. That would be Turkey with a worse reputation for human rights abuses than Ukraine, Turkey with a far worse reputation for media control but also Turkey who will be very useful regarding Syria right now, not to mention a booming economy and a key reliable energy producing and transportation route for the EU. A carrot for Turkey of course, but a carrot tainted with politics in contradiction to the people to people ideology the EU claims is the pure and only motivator behind Visa-free agreements.
That is not to say Turkey will get Visa-free any faster than Ukraine, but it serves as an example of just how quickly the EU institutions can act with a third nation if it suits their interests.
It has become quite apparent from the Turkish opinion polls that the Turkish public have less and less time for the EU (much like the public of the EU nations to be fair) and now in Ukraine, anti EU graffiti stating “Stop EU” is starting to appear (above the red scrawl in the below photograph) where once it was never seen, despite all major political parties claiming to be pro-EU.
For the EU to loose the public goodwill of the Turkish is careless, to loose that of Ukraine as well is shear stupidity. The writing, as we can see, is now starting to appear on the wall. That said, both Turkish and Ukrainian public are very well aware of what Stefan Fule says relating to Visa-fee and also quite aware of the actions of the EU which do not seem to add real substance to his words, all to often seeming to contradict them in fact.
This is also something reflected in comments by some of the greatest friends the EU has in Russia who continually appeal publicly for the EU to do as it says and not spout empty promises and rhetoric in various policy areas.
It seems generally amongst the citizens of the nations in the EU neighbourhood, they are getting very tired of hearing “Yes” when it really means “No”, and are getting rather bored of waiting for the EU to actually walk its own talk. The people of the surrounding nations, maybe unsurprisingly, are becoming rather dismissive of EU plans, strategies and promises meant to engage them.
That said, the EU is rapidly becoming perceived as an irrelevance when it comes to influence, even amongst its most ardent supporters, so maybe the dismissive attitude of the people outside the political classes on its borders has some merit.
Meanwhile, let’s see what happens with the signing and ratification of amendments to the EU Visa-free roadmap. In all honestly, even if signed and ratified tomorrow, Ukraine is unlikely to be in a position to push for the implementation of Visa-free for 3 or 4 years due to its own ineptitude.