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Not in my lifetime

May 25, 2015

Stripping away the rhetoric, the reality of the Riga Summit sets in, and the reality is that the EU seems very pleased with itself for essentially standing still/firm, rather than retreating, before a belligerent Kremlin.  Perhaps rightly so, as The Kremlin begins to work its insurgency within the EU (Greece, Hungary and potential EU Member Serbia, notwithstanding its sponsored political parties, NGOs and business friends across various EU nations).  The EU and its Member States, short of a major Kremlin escalation in Ukraine such as the taking of Mariupol or the introduction of air interdiction, has gone as far as it is collectively going to go regarding Russia.  The leadership burden/baton, has been handed back to the USA as the sole bearer if the West is to go any further in reaction to numerous and accumulating minor escalation.

Meanwhile, a convenient pause under the guise of reassessment of the EaP (and ENP) policies takes place, thus not irking The Kremlin further.  The battle over “rules” between the EU and The Kremlin will switch to lawfare, with Gazprom first up in the EU sights.

As has been written here, and as was tweeted prior to the Riga Summit, it is not the lack of ambition and political will displayed at the summit that was likely to disappoint, for a lack of combined political will and any sort of ambition it was expected.

It is what now follows that may prove to be the most disappointing of all when any new/revamped policy emerges.  Indeed for the three nations that have signed and ratified their respective political Association Agreements and trade DCFTAs, the EaP perhaps offers no major opportunities as a platform any further.

Moldova is already Visa-free, and Georgia and Ukraine seem likely to get it by the end of 2016 – That being if the government of Ukraine (and the Rada) manage to make the few decisions necessary to address the 6 points summarised below.

Visa free

If the government of Ukraine can’t address these points before the end of 2015, thus allowing for Visa-free sometime in 2016, then they are not going to address the far, far more difficult and prickly decisions required to reform the nation by 2020 laid out in the “Presidential Plan”.

In the 12 years the ENP (and 7 years the EaP) have been EU policy, only Tunisia can be reasonably held aloft as a success – though some progress can be claimed with Morocco, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.  The latter three all bringing the EU policy into dramatic conflict with The Kremlin these past 18 months.  Therefore, with regard to the ENP, it can be argued that 1 success from 16 ENP nations is a disaster, or 5 positive work-in-progress from 16 ENP nations is a (barely) acceptable result – particularly in light of the rather lackluster effort put in by (major) European capitals in support of the EU institutions.

That said, if we consider the ENP (and EaP) as “transformational” in character, then transformation and nation-building depend in a large part on the nations themselves actually wanting to transform – and that means the political elite, oligarchy and society acting in concert.  When they don’t, conflict can arise internally – and if you happen to be unlucky enough to live next door to Russia and don’t want it meddling in your affairs, externally too.

Internal conflict avoidance generally, very much depends upon time frames/timeliness, often in exchange for guaranteed/implicit immunities.  In short, the ruling elite releases its grip on power within and agreed time frame, often in exchange for no action for previous acts being taken against them, and the retention of some ill-gotten gains, no questions asked.  This, in turn, occurs in an attempt to insure the “retired” elite remain retired and do not try and “come back”.  Society is the convinced that this is required to achieve their aims, distasteful as it may find the arrangement.

The issue with timeliness is that firstly all must know the timescale, secondly they must accept it, and lastly they must abide by it.  If not, transformation is a rocky road, and consolidation of desired gains far more difficult.  Conflict within and without the rule of law occurs.

Another issue with transformation, and specifically in the case of the “under review” EaP, is that “under review” when faced with Kremlin belligerence, may actually result, not in a more ambitious, tailored policy – but a politically expedient retreat and partial/complete appeasement of The Kremlin as the outcome.  The transformation of this policy may yet be exceedingly negative for those attempting to break out of The Kremlin orbit.

How fortunate it will prove to be that AA/DCFTAs have already been ratified and therefore (theoretically) are far harder to row back from, remains to be seen – for when all is said and done, there is a transformational plan within them that simply need be followed.  A plan in fact, that would take the EaP nations that have ratified, well along the way to reaching a realistic platform from which to initiate their Article 49 EU membership requests and go the remaining distance to meet Acquis Communautaire Chapter requirements – and if Ukraine is to ever become an EU Member, it is likely to have to invoke its Article 49 rights (when it is far closer to meeting the requirements than it is today), rather than be invited in.  It will have to force a “rules based” suprastructure to follow own its rules, whether it likes its own rules or not.

This brings us to the title of this entry – “Not in my life time”.

Without being precise, your author is as close as makes no difference to half a century on this earth.  Certainly of an age where to look back in years takes longer than to look at those that can be reasonably expected to still lie ahead.

With a fair wind (which clearly there isn’t and won’t be for a decade or more whilst Russia is under its current management), it will take Ukraine somewhere between 7 and 10 years to effectively implement the AA/DCFTA.  To then invoke the AQ EU Membership system, and comply with all 31 Chapters therein, on average has taken other nations 7 years (discounting the farce that is the Turkish application) – though Ukraine will have already traveled part of the reformation way.

There is then the matter of the 7 year EU budget cycles which must account for any envisaged enlargement (and enlargement is an expensive process – not withstanding for a nation the size of Ukraine to join, the EU structures themselves need to change, for example some current Member States giving up some of their seats in the European Parliament for the Ukrainian MEPs to take up).  Ukraine will still be implementing the AA/DCFTA when the next 7 year budget is decided upon some years from now.  Thereafter, the following cycle will not account for Ukrainian entry, whilst it tackles the AQ Chapters. It may, but probably not, be in the next budget cycle.  Thus 3.5 EU budget cycles (about 24 years) from now?  Probably.

With smooth sailing, no ill-winds, no one step forward, two steps back Ukrainian politics, no stalling on closing AQ Chapters by certain EU Member States etc – would bring Ukraine at the very earliest to a 2035 (ish) EU membership.  More realistically, 2042 (or even later).  This would make your author approximately 80 (or more) years young – or dead.

Further, by 2042 (or later), whatever the EU is today, it most certainly won’t be the same by then – for better or for worse.  It may, indeed, have shrunk with some current Members having voluntarily (and foolishly) left of their own accord, whilst others may have been forced out/ejected.  Moldova, and perhaps Georgia may be in, as well as the Balkans, as they are not too large to change the EU internally – unlike Ukraine.

The point being, however, Ukraine may simply not want to join what the EU becomes by the time it is truly ready to join.  It may even rebut EU overtures to join by the time we reach  2035 – 2042+.

Otherwise, lest a force majeure incident hit the EU so hard and in such a way that its rules based system is politically expedient in return for the needed additional bulk of Ukraine within its number for whatever reason – Ukrainian entry into the EU?  Probably not in my life time.

That said, despite the EU having little appetite for expansion today, it will ultimately have to expand to remain relevant globally.  1 billion Indians, 1 billion Chinese, would seem to suggest 1 billion (EU) Europeans makes for that multilateral equilibrium.

Within my life time, however, a democratic, rule of law adhering, Visa-free, market economy driven, EU integrated Ukraine?  I expect so – though not for at least a decade, perhaps two, will a consolidated, irreversible “European (values) Ukraine” strut confidently on the continent.

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