Archive for September 12th, 2013

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“Stronger together” – EU awareness campaign in Ukraine (for how long?)

September 12, 2013

Yesterday I touched upon an event in Mykolaiv that is part of a broader EU campaign to raise awareness of the benefits – or not – of the signing and ratification of the Association Agreement and DCFTA between Ukraine and the EU, creatively named “Stronger together” – and it appears that creativity is the key if we are to believe that cartoon presentations in Mykolaiv is the Delegation of the EU’s master plan when it comes to framing public opinion.

Anyway, a broad brush-stroke outline of the awareness campaign has now made its way to the Internet.

“The project includes a range of informing events in Ukraine’s regions aimed at informing the local population about the country’s European integration course. The agenda includes visits by Ukrainian journalists to the EU member states, as well as the creation of television programs about European integration on regional TV channels of Ukraine.

 The project will be funded by joint contributions of EU member states’ embassies and the EU Delegation.”

Jolly good – but for how long will this continue?  Between now and any AA/DCFTA signing at the Vilnius Summit – or beyond?

Whilst I recognise the need (and have written about the need numerous times over the years) to try and enthuse the Ukrainian people to get behind the political and economic frameworks, policies and philosophies within the agreements, one has to hope that the “stronger together” campaign extends far beyond the signing of these agreements and continues until ratification – for it is during this period that things will become worse before they get better.

Not only will there be external shenanigans from Russia economically, politically and socially within Ukraine, but there are the effects of the costs of vastly reduced EU products flooding into Ukraine, the removal of government subsidies in previously assisted industries and businesses, and the slow accreditation of Ukrainian goods to EU standards allowing the expansion of Ukrainian goods abroad.

In the short term, jobs will be lost and businesses will suffer.

In the longer term that may prove to be worth while, but Ukrainian society is very much one that lives for today.  An EU “stronger together” campaign that suddenly disappears when things get tougher will have a very negative effect when it comes to the perception of the EU – something I am sure will not be lost upon the diplomats and mandarins dealing daily with Ukraine, but likely to be lost by the politicians in Brussels and beyond who don’t, very quickly indeed.

As with any policy, it is easy to create it, but one of the keys to successful implementation is time.  When a policy is not driven bottom-up by society – and the AA/DCFTA is not driven thus, but is a top-down decision with almost no public consultation whatsoever  – there is a genuine and often prolonged lag by society to either accept it, or willingly get “on board”.

How long do the EU and Member States sponsoring the “stronger together” campaign expect the societal lag to last, and over what period of time are they prepared to pay to keep the programme running consistently until real and lasting societal impact has been made?

If it is to run only until the Vilnius Summit at the end of November, it will have little to no impact at all.  A campaign that is little more than form without substance and duration, will not fortify public opinion during the period between any signing and eventual ratification when times get tougher and belief weaker – particularly when public opinion is at best tepid towards the AA/DCFTA now.

I have a very real concern that after 20 years of failing to engage with the constituency that is the Ukrainian people directly, that this “stronger together” campaign will disappear as swiftly as it arrived – thus appearing to be nothing more than hollow to the Ukrainian people when things get tougher.

I hope this is not the shallow, short-term concept I think it is – if so, it is probably better not embarked upon at all, for Russia plays the long game!

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