|Author (Person)||Hennis-Plasschaert, Jeanin, Saryusz-Wolski, Jacek|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.11, No.9, 10.3.05|
Two MEPs give their views on the Orange Revolution and its effects on the European Union
Only a handful of my fellow MEPs enjoyed Yushchenko's show, a majority felt overwhelmed, says Jeanin Hennis-Plasschaert
The speech of the Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko in the European Parliament on the 23 February was passionate, came straight from the heart and expressed a clear ambition: accession to the EU.
An ambition that did not just appear out of the blue, but an ambition that has been fed by the EU itself. Making promises without being too concrete can quickly evolve into a so-called fait accompli. That is exactly what happens when a clear vision on the enlargement process (and the speed thereof) is missing.
Yushchenko played the game very well indeed. In 2007, if not sooner, negotiations could start, he said. Only a handful of my fellow parliamentarians actually enjoyed the show, a majority felt overwhelmed. "We are trapped," they said, even though that same majority voted more or less in favour of the accession of Ukraine not even two months ago. A little hidden within a resolution, but there all the same. "Why look for problems if there are not any," they said at the time. "Voting in favour of this resolution will not have an enormous impact." Well, it did. Yushchenko considers the European Parliament as his ally and I cannot blame him for that.
Of course, through this resolution, the Parliament rightly expressed their support and appreciation for the progress made on freedom and democracy. But a vast majority got carried away and voted for facilitation of visa-approvals, a quick recognition of a market-economy status, a substantial increase of financial support, support for the accession to the World Trade Organization and a clear prospect on EU membership. The argument being that the Union created expectations because of its close involvement during the Orange revolution. Reckoning that we were promising, yet again, too much too quickly, I simply could not vote in favour of this resolution.
The absorptive power of the European Union has its limits. Although part of the so-called Copenhagen criteria, no one seems willing to recognise these limits. Instead the EU is starting negotiations with Turkey later this year. The people pleading for Turkey now acknowledge that possible simultaneous accession of both Turkey and Ukraine will be the downfall of the already firmly stated ambitions of the EU. They hold on to the statement that nobody could have predicted the turnaround in Ukraine. But we have witnessed similar processes and subsequent chain reactions before, in Poland and the Baltic states for example. And they are all now members of the EU.
So how to proceed? The enlargement process dominates the political agenda of the EU while the Europeans have no idea where or when the enlargement process will end. The debate about the definite borders of the European Union has not even started.
Will the expectations that have been raised concerning the accession of Ukraine soon become faits accomplis? Member states such as Poland, Hungary and Lithuania are stepping up the pressure as they are strongly in favour. And one could argue that, from a geological perspective, Ukraine is more European than Turkey. Given that Turkey has been given a 'Yes', it would not make any sense to say 'No' to Ukraine. One can be very sure that the European leaders will give in to President Yushchenko in 2006 at the latest, if not in 2005. That is the danger of lacking vision on the enlargement process.
I would urge European leaders to determine the definite borders of the Union as soon as possible, so as to leave EU citizens as well as our neighbouring countries in no doubt. A clear strategy and agreed timetable for further enlargement (if any) should be worked out and the impact of enlargement on the EU and its ambitions should be analysed. Meanwhile, Ukraine should be given a 'No'. And if I could turn back time that would also be the case for Turkey. It is high time for the EU to consolidate.
What the Ukrainian revolution has shown is that peaceful change is possible, argues Jacek Saryusz-Wolski
Yesterday Georgia, today Ukraine. Tomorrow? Ambitions for freedom, for a better life, are now indelibly associated with the colour orange, and the Ukrainian spirit even seems to have spread to the Middle East.
But there are still policymakers in Brussels who believe, perhaps sincerely, that the wisest reaction is to do nothing except make pretty speeches about liberty. I can remember this reaction to Solidarity in Poland in 1980. It was wrong then and it is wrong now. But it is clear that fundamental changes in Ukraine's near-abroad are inevitable. Only the 'when' and 'how' are unclear and so the implications for the EU.
The reasons for the Orange Revolution in Ukraine were not complicated. Its roots can be found in a desire to end corruption, poverty and the malaise of hopelessness associated with Russian domination. This humiliation of being a colony in all but name is familiar to a great swathe of central and eastern Europe which is now safely part of the Union.
If Russia has a parallel national longing it is, at least in part, the other side of the coin, nostalgia for a lost empire. Freedom, democracy, or even economic prosperity, are no doubt present, but not at the top of the list.
I doubt that Gorbachevism can be warmed up, or is any more likely to succeed a second time around. If that is indeed what is on offer, it amounts to a kind of 'USSR lite', with all the incoherence and contradictions that implies. Is such a formula really likely to convince Ukraine's neighbours that they are better off with post-Soviet standards than with European ones?
Belarus is a case in point. Post-Soviet nostalgics sponsor the autocratic president Alexander Lukashenko who tries to suppress information in the traditional way. But it is becoming ever more difficult. Belarussians travel to Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine, and they draw their own conclusions. In the capital, Minsk, last autumn, young people gathered repeatedly, and in their thousands, to register their protests. In Kiev in November and December, the nests of white-red-white Belarussian protest flags in the sea of orange were proof that the democratic virus had spread.
Moldova, seized by the USSR in 1940 and then 'russified', is also leaning westwards, as elections last weekend showed. That is hardly surprising. Torn apart by a war in 1992 against breakaway, self-styled Transdniester (a rogue criminal state run by the Mafia and supported by the Kremlin) this is the poorest country in Europe, exporting mainly people.
The Union - and Ukraine, in its new, more EU-oriented state - are exercising an ever more magnetic attraction. Often forgotten in Brussels is the awkward fact that a million of Moldova's 4.5m population hold dual Moldovan and Romanian citizenship. In other words, after 2007 nearly a quarter of the inhabitants will be EU citizens.
The spread of democracy puts the enlarged EU on a potential collision course with imperial Russian nostalgia which it makes sense for both sides to deal with. But this cannot come about by pretending it is not the case.
'USSR lite' will not work, on the evidence. Slobodan Milosevic is on trial. Slovakia's former dictator Vladimir Meciar, another old client, is out of the picture. And Ukraine's former president Leonid Kuchma is publicly accused of murder and corruption.
What the Ukrainian revolution has shown is that peaceful change is possible, very much in contrast with the western Balkans - and that is in itself inspiring and an agent for wider political change. The EU's role is above all to remain true to its values: support for democracy, the rule of law, freedom of speech, and human rights. It is the basis on which the EU was built and the most powerful tool of any Common Foreign and Security Policy to be built.
Two MEPs give their views on the Orange Revolution and its effects on the European Union.
|Countries / Regions||Ukraine|