Negotiations at a summit later this week will revolve around the question of “how European is Ukraine”?  It sounds a bit academic, since anyone looking at a map can see that Ukraine is a European country.  But negotiations at the Eastern Partnership Summit on 29-30 September will revolve around the question not of geography but of values and actual changes on the ground.

The values in question are those in Article 2 of the EU Treaty, to which I also referred in another recent blog.  Article 2 in turn is referred to in Article 49 of the EU Treaty, which states that: “Any European state which respects the values referred to in Article 2 and is committed to promoting them may apply to become a member of the Union.”

In the run-up to the Eastern Partnership Summit, there has been a debate about whether Ukraine and some other countries of the Eastern Partnership which aspire to EU membership should receive a “membership perspective”.  A membership perspective means the EU saying that a particular country should, one day, definitely become a member of the European Union.  This is a difficult issue: naturally, countries keen to join the EU want a membership perspective as soon as possible; equally naturally, the member states of the European Union as a whole want to make sure that they are ready themselves to cope with any future expansion of the Union and that the aspirant countries themselves fully meet the conditions required – including both political and economic requirements.  A likely outcome for the forthcoming Summit is that the declaration which concludes the Summit will include language on membership which moves closer to what aspirant countries want, without quite giving them as much as they would like.  Such compromises are often the way with European Union negotiations, either between the member states or between the EU as a whole and third parties.

The key point is that aspirant member states should not become too concerned about this.  Negotiations on membership always take time.  In the medium term, the best way to drive forward integration is to create facts on the ground by delivering actual reform and, ideally, economic growth.  I was struck by the comment by the Turkish Minister for Europe at the Yalta European Strategy conference that “Turkey has followed the dieting advice of the EU and has become fit and healthy.  Ukraine should do the same, even if the dietician personally has become rather stout and has a few clogged arteries”.  This seems good advice.  It may be that Ukraine and those other Eastern Partnership countries keen to join the EU may not secure this week quite the language they want, but they will receive a clear, balanced message: we see you as part of Europe, but there is still a lot of work to do – on both sides – for you to join the EU.   You can continue to drive forward integration by maintaining economic reforms, ensuring consistency with Article 2, and concluding negotiations on the Association Agreement and the DCFTA.  All those things will also make the Ukrainian economy fitter and more healthy. 

Leigh Turner

Ukrayinska Dumka


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