THE VILNIUS “PAUSE”: A TRIUMPH OF CYNICISM? AMBASSADOR SIMON SMITH'S BLOG

27.11.13


FCO.  The great dramatist and aphorist Oscar Wilde wrote that a cynic was someone who “knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

By this definition, the recent decision to put on hold the signing of the EU/Ukraine Association Agreement was an egregious piece of cynicism.

Like a great many disappointed people, I listened last Thursday evening to the first public explanations of the decision, putting the emphasis on the need for “compensation” for the losses to the Ukrainian economy anticipated from the damage that Russia had made clear it would inflict.

It was clear that the perceived price of Ukraine’s signing the Agreement was high.  It would also have been clear to many of those listening that this was a price completely unnecessarily exacted.  One might even say extorted.

At the same time, my dismay and disappointment was deepened by hearing in the public justification of the decision how badly it failed to recognise the value of what was on offer from the EU.

The decision was presented as necessary to avoid economic disaster in Ukraine.  Nobody would argue against the proposition that Ukrainian economy shows signs of vulnerability.  But many of the decisions needed to address these have been, and still are, firmly within Ukraine’s grasp.

The need for urgent and significant steps to improve performance and stimulate growth was already obvious.

A sincere and committed approach to tackling corruption and the raiding culture would be a great start, and would itself cost little.

A commitment to the fiscal disciplines reasonably expected by the IMF’s experts and shareholders would also help.

But alongside these steps, seizing the chance to compete in the Champions League of business in the European Single Market would have been a great stimulus to growing Ukrainian businesses that are fit for the future.

It’s been encouraging for me and EU colleagues to travel around Ukraine meeting so many people who understand this opportunity, but who know that it takes farsighted vision and strong nerve to grasp it.  Neither was discernible in last Thursday’s decision.  It was a triumph of cynicism over hope and confidence in the future.


UK Ambassador to Ukraine 



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