And so, as expected, the Vilnius Summit passed without EU – Ukrainian signature, and quite rightly from a European principled position, despite the anguish it will cause for many within Ukraine and no shortage of sadness from myself as another chance to consolidate democracy through a transparent framework passes by.
євромайдан must now maintain upward pressure on the Ukrainian authorities and high visibility in EU capitals and Brussels somehow – even if it is via a monthly gathering to mark “Black Thursday” and with a particular and special effort at the next EU-Ukraine Summit at the end of February 2014 – though there are numerous possibilities should Ukrainian civil society actually amount to something – eventually.
Listening to the civil society discussion in Vilnius yesterday, I was somewhat saddened by what I heard from what appeared willing and energetic, but seemingly clueless Ukrainian civil society actors, as to what to do next that would have impact. Some apparently expecting others to give them a plan to carry out.
Perhaps somebody will take pity today and provide one. If not, just as євромайдан began from a Facebook call by Mustafa Nayyem, undoubtedly society rather than the feckless political class and ineffective civil society will deliver an answer once more.
The EU, for its part, must keep Ukrainian reform in the public and political arenas both internally and externally of Ukraine. It cannot be seen to give up on those that gathered proclaiming their desire for European integration. Pressure for reform must remain constant and highly vocal.
European integration must be insured as an election issue both from the bottom up, from within both the political class and civil society. If President Yanukovych is to rue this decision then he must suffer the consequences at the voting stations, and no other way, if the European democratic values many want to identify with are to be respected.
Current opinion polls would indicate a loss so severe that no amount of vote rigging and result manipulation could be plausibly achieved – though things can and do change.
Anyway – As expected in such circumstances of “mutual disappointment”, declarations of intent to continue the process are made by both sides – though we all can expect that the Ukraine leadership will selectively continue any integration process rather than take on the entire process wholeheartedly.
That will be after a visit to China with a begging bowl? After threats to leave the European Energy Community that would effectively kill the Association Agreement? Neither of which will deliver, and the same decision to go towards Europe of Russia remains? Which Ukrainian oligarch wants to be a vassal for the Kremlin having export issues decided for them?
In effect the statement by President Yanukovych will prove to be no more than flapdoodle and codswallop and Cabinet of Ministers will only do enough to try and convince any onlooker, domestic or foreign, that the process continues. The usual case of being seen to do something without actually doing anything too disadvantageous to their own interests .
President Yanukovych’s calls for a tri-party negotiations with Russia are an affront to both Ukrainian and other EaP nation states sovereignty. Yet more flapdoodle and codswallop that should be publicly given short shrift by the EU, EaP nations and every member state.
Relations and agreements between the EU and EaP sovereign nations are bilateral and must remain so.
To invite Russia as a third party into any negotiation over such agreements is to de facto acknowledge not only a sphere of influence but also to acknowledge Russian hard negotiation power as a back door veto to any EU policy that may affect Russian interests.
That simply cannot be the case – now, or in the future.
Once bilateral agreements like the Association Agreement/DCFTA are concluded and sealed via initialing, it is then a matter of choice to sign – or not – when the next occasion of suitable pomp and ceremony presents itself to fulfill the promotional need for mutual and public back-slapping by those concerned.
If the Kremlin has an issue with such agreements they can take them up with the EU at the numerous EU-Russia summits, or with the sovereign nations concerned requesting information and/or details – whether they get them or not is a different matter – but Russia has no place or right to sit at anybody else’s bilateral negotiation table than their own.
If the EU feels that sovereign nations are being unduly pressured by Russia contrary to the OSCE Charter, then it needs to do something about it other than grumble, tut and mutter. No partner in a bilateral agreement can simply stand by and watch it unravel due to malevolent third party interference.
Similarly, certainly for the EaP nations who know first hand how Russian foreign policy works – and thus what to expect – they have a responsibility to robustly stick to their choice once made, and receive as much EU support as is possible for doing so in what will be difficult circumstances.
In short, both bilateral partners must have faith in each other to defend the agreements against external forces – and hopefully that is what they have when agreements are signed. If not, then the agreements themselves are little more than flapdoodle and codswallop from the start – not that “bad faith” negotiations are anything new on the international scene.