Well, after Turkey and Croatia, now it looks like Brussels is turning its attention to Ukraine, with Orange Revolution head Victor Yuschenko’s Prime Minister (no, not the fit one, she’s gone – the new one…) heading off for talks in Belgium today.
However, despite some friendly talks between Ukraine and Finland over the last few days with Finnish PM Matti Vanhanen’s trip to Kiev (including hints that Finland’s EU presidency could see the start of discussions about an EU-Ukraine free trade zone), plus positive Commission comments about a new visa agreement, not all’s well.
After all, considering the on-going EU/Iran nuclear standoff, and especially considering yesterday’s somewhat idiotic public announcement from Britain blaming Iran for British troop losses in Iraq (way to heighten tension there, whichever moron decided to make these claims public), the idea of opening negotiations with another country with a less than tranquil past is going to be made somewhat less fun by the news that Ukraine’s just been involved in talks with Iran to set up energy and aircraft manufacture co-operation…
Either way, Ukraine still has some way to go before it can meet the standards required. It’s a complex, unstable mess over there: a slowly recovering post-Soviet new state torn between Russia and Europe, riddled with petty corruption and powerful politico-industrial factions working behind the scenes. While Yuschenko may be a decided improvement on his predecessors, there are still doubts, and whether the crisis has been resolved is, as yet, uncertain.
Either way, I think we can probably – no matter our views on the EU – all agree it will be better for the people of Ukraine if the country shifts westwards to Brussels, high ideals and human rights rather than back eastwards to Moscow, Putin and political repression. Yet another case where the promise of possible EU membership could do much good. That’s the thing, guys – the EU is as important for its aspirational, ideological, symbolic value as it is for what it actually achieves. Ukraine may currently have only the first foot on the path to revival, but these early talks with the EU could help ensure that the next steps are taken in the right direction – and the EU is in by far the best position to do this.