Ukrainian Ambassador to Moscow says EU leaders need to give clear signal
On September 8, the German Marshall Fund of the United States organized an event in cooperation with the Centre for European Reform (CER) in Brussels, Belgium, entitled "EU-Ukrainian relations: Where next after the Georgian crisis?" The event was held in advance of the EU-Ukrainian summit in France in order to examine the political dynamics in Ukraine and the potential for integration into the European Union. Ukrainian Ambassador to Moscow, Konstyantin Gryshchenko, and Thomas Valasek, CER's director of Foreign Policy and Defence, were the speakers.
According to Gryshchenko, the EU has a unique opportunity to further integrate Ukraine, a country with shared values, in its framework. Additionally, he said, accession talks would signal to Russia that Ukraine is a natural part of Europe. Integration should therefore not be seen as merely charity for Ukraine. "It is in the EU's own interest to face the new international realities," Gryshchenko said. "It is important that Europe's leaders make clear that we are determined on a long-term relationship with Ukraine with membership as a long-term goal. If the EU gives a positive signal, this would ultimately lead to more stability in Ukraine."
Valasek presented a report that asserts that Ukraine matters for Europe. He said many regional experts think that the Europeanization of Eastern Europe is the EU's best defense strategy, and that EU enlargement should continue. According to his report on Ukraine, however, this is not going to be an easy process. Ukraine is very different from the latest aspirant states which joined the EU, like Poland and the Czech Republic. Ukrainians do not share the sense of urgency that the Poles and Czechs possessed before joining. Therefore, Ukrainian hearts and minds need to be won over for a constructive accession of Ukraine. Valasek also said that the EU needs to revamp its Eastern European policy to account for the new realities created by the conflict in Georgia.
Gryshchenko said the EU needs to show its ability to generate political will when it matters the most, in order to shake off some of the skepticism about the width of its power. He went on to further state that the international community should make clear that the principal of national sovereignty should never be neglected again as it was in the Georgian conflict. Although there is some public fear in Ukraine about Russian aggression, Gryshchenko said he does not see a plausible military solution to the situation on the Crimea when international law will be respected.
Gryshchenko acknowledged that Ukraine is still a very fragile democracy, as the current situation in Kiev makes clear. Ukraine is, however, already a real and open democracy. While NATO membership is still being debated internally, all major political parties are supportive of Ukrainian aspirations toward EU membership.