Much has been said and written about the EU-Ukrainian Association Agreement and DCFTA. Much has been said and written about how it would necessarily anchor Ukrainian policy within the EU normative. Much has been said and written about whether – or not – the Association Agreement will be signed in November.
But what if it does get signed – apart from the much repeated long term economic benefits to Ukraine – not to mention short term geopolitical victory for the EU (and perhaps Ukraine depending on your point of view) – where does democracy fit into this equation in a relationship with an EU in flux which seems to simply add layers of complexity where they are not needed but ignoring necessary layers of complexity where they are required?
There are already nations outside the EU that are in the European Economic Area (EEA) such as Switzerland and Norway which in short are effectively regulated and somewhat controlled by the EU through decisions relating to the single market, without having the voting or veto rights of full EU membership – EU-Lite for want of a better expression.
Debate rages in the UK over EU withdrawal – or not – and a much mentioned issue is the de facto issue that by leaving it would put the UK in a very similar position to the EEA nations – whereby a certain amount of arbitrary compliance will be necessary for trade without any voting rights over the rules and regulations that come with compliance.
And so, taking that issue one constituency further from the centre, to the most ambitious agreement ever attempted between the EU and an external State (Ukraine) – where does that leave Ukraine should the Association Agreement and DCFTA get signed? A position that is likely to be effectively EU Lite-lite or EEA-Lite.
It will be left to implement EU and EEA rules and regulations without any voting rights whatsoever over EU or EEA decisions.
It is hardly likely when lobbying the Ukrainian cause without any robust voting or veto rights, that Ukraine will change EU minds when future decisions change the EU internal political/trading/economic environment to which it may have signed up to. 28 internal nations will have already agreed – what chance an EU Lite-lite nation making any impact on that decision?
If the decision is made that all bread sold within the EU must be coloured green, then any Ukrainian bread imports into the EU would have to be green, whether Ukraine can make green bread or not – or whether it can do so cost-effectively – to make a point in a rather juvenile way.
Basically, if the EEA (EU-Lite) is a constituency without democratic normative tools to influence the EU, then what is equivalent to being EU-Lite-lite – should the agreements be signed – is no different.
Should these documents be signed and all content within effectively implemented by Ukraine, it will be as close to being an EEA nation without being an EEA nation as is possible – part of a constituency with no effective democratic tool box or representation within the EU.
The more integrated it becomes in that EEA or EU constituency, the more Brussels decisions with impact within Ukraine will seem undemocratic to the Ukrainian society – a society already desperately clinging on to democratic ideology despite seeing absolutely nothing delivered by the democratic system since 1991.
How can this be overcome when there are no explicit promises of accepting Ukraine into the EU other than vague references to Article 49 of the Treaty of the European Union?
An EU-Ukrainian council in which, should no agreement be reached, a third party with a decisive vote in case of deadlock – the EEA nations perhaps, in the form of the EEA Council – can settle matters?
If not that way, or in cases of appeal, who would act as the final court if legal challenges were made? The ECJ or another jurisdiction?
How do you deal with an effectively enlarged constituency when denying it the basic rights of the democratic tool box and representation to rules and regulations are made by the core?
After all this is not a simple matter of bilateral relations – nothing is simple when it comes the EU foreign policy!