On May 26, Ukrainian students participating in EU Study Days (an education project launched the EU Delegation to Ukraine) heard a first-hand analysis of EU-Ukraine relations from Paweł Zalewski, a member of the European Parliament representing the European People’s Party and vice-chair of the European Parliament Committee on International Trade. The MEP focused on the role of the upcoming EU-Ukraine Association Agreement and discussed bilateral relations between Kyiv and Brussels by situating them within the broader context of the EU’s foreign policy. MEP Zalewski highlighted the following:
On the key issues of EU-Ukraine relations. The EU is focused first and foremost on standards. These are vital for Ukrainian integration into the European Single Market following the signature of the Association Agreement, including the creation of a deep and comprehensive free trade area.
On the Polish pre-accession experience. The upcoming EU-Ukraine Association Agreement is more ambitious than the Polish equivalent that Warsaw negotiated with Brussels before launching the official accession process. The Polish Association Agreement was focused on economics and mainly benefitted European businesses. As a result, the first years following the signature of the deal were difficult for the Polish economy, which suddenly faced tough competition from European producers. These challenging years, however, were necessary for the country’s economic modernisation. After undergoing comprehensive reforms stimulated by the Association Agreement, the Polish economy became competitive at the European level as it began to function based on European norms and standards. If Kyiv signs the Association Agreement in 2013, it will be just the beginning of Ukraine’s European integration.
On the impact of the Euro crisis on the Eastern Partnership. The EU is suffering a deep economic crisis that ultimately affects the Union’s overall policy. The economic difficulties originated from budgetary policy and affect various aspects of human life, resulting in, among other hardships, a high unemployment rate. These challenges force the EU to focus more on internal affairs, which is not good news for the EU Neighbourhood Policy and the Eastern Partnership. At the same time, the EU remains committed to its partner countries and is willing to move forward with the integration process by negotiating and signing association agreements with prospective member states.
On different approaches to Ukraine in Brussels. There are different opinions in the EU with regard to Ukraine. Although the Union’s official policy toward Ukraine is a positive one, looking toward the country’s eventual European integration, some believe that Ukraine is too big and too unpredictable for the EU to invest effort in encouraging much needed reforms. Others follow the principle ‘Russia first’, feeling that the EU should not confront itself with Moscow while dealing with Ukraine. As to the Polish position, Warsaw is confident that the EU will overcome the problems associated with Ukraine. Kyiv, moreover, is considered by advocates of closer EU-Ukraine relations as a key factor contributing to successful reforms in Russia itself. Positive outcomes from Ukraine’s European integration could spill over the country’s eastern borders. Thus, Kyiv’s entrance into the European Single Market could eventually contribute to the establishment of a common economic area from Lisbon to Vladivostok.