What future for EU-Ukraine relations? 3 interviews to understand it

Interview to Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, first Polish Minister for European Integration and Member of the European Parliament since 2004 (Foreign Affairs committee and NATO, Ukraine delegations). 

Question 1.

EU gave Ukraine a visa free regime and EU Commissioner Hahn said this is a well deserved reward for reforms in Ukraine. What would you be your next objective to increase the Ukraine EU path? What are the next reforms Ukraine needs to pursue for a complete EU integration?

It is indeed a well-deserved reward for the reforms in Ukraine, which were strongly pushed by the civil society, as well as supported and monitored by the international community. As the result of this reinforced teamwork Ukraine made an unprecedented and to some extent revolutionary reforming effort (for example e-declarations or e-procurement). However, what is now important to ensure is to maintain the results of those reforming efforts in place, for example anti-corruption institutions and procedures. The system in Ukraine fights back and oligarchs are still strongly present in Ukrainian politics. Therefore, for now it is very important to celebrate the success of the well-deserved visa free, but also to monitor that the reforms remain in place. If all the reforms are maintained, if Ukraine continues to slowly reform itself and if visa-free works properly, as a result in few years Ukraine will be a very different country.

Regardless of any additional incentives and ‘carrots’, only the EU membership prospective has a real transformative power. However, it is not only Ukraine, but also the EU that needs to grow into this idea.


Question 2.

Do you think there will be big changes in the new NATO policy now that Donald Trump became President of the United States of America? Should Ukraine be worried about a possible appeasement between Trump and Russia?

Recent Donald Trump has restated the US commitment to Article 5 as well as to NATO in general. Observing actions of the US leadership in this regard, there were no major changes. This leadership is also committed to sanctions against Russia. Therefore, there will not be U-turns.


Question 3.

The European Union reiterated sanctions against Russia. There are some countries, including Italy, which are sceptic about this instrument of dissuasion and want to re establish their economic ties with Moscow. What would be your message to these countries and to their leaders?

EU Member States always had a different experience with Russia. The luck Italy had was not to experience what a real Russia is. The economic sanctions, for example against the agriculture products, were not installed by the EU, but by Russia. Italian mozzarella is banned from Russia; however it enters the elite Russian markets as a product of Belarus. What EU did was establishing sanctions targeting individuals and companies involved into actions against Ukraine. Moreover, there is also a set of diplomatic sanctions. EU has also suspended its support to some EU programmes that Russia was benefitting from. EU’s message is clear and Russia knows what are the requirements for the sanctions to be lifted. All EU Member states support this approach.


Question 4.

Many European politicians took the defences of Putin’s political opposition Navalny when he was arrested last February. He is trying to re organise himself and continuing to protest against Kremlin. He said that his political presidential campaign will proceed independently of any court decision which could block him. What is your opinion about him and what would be the relations between Moscow, Kiev and Brussels be if Navalny could get more political power?

There can be only 1 president and we know who that will be. I do not think that Putin will give Navalny any access to political power as this young politician and his team are too dangerous for the current political establishment. Nevertheless, EU should continue supporting any Russian politician who is fighting for Russian state to become democratic and obeying rule of law.

 


Interview to Iryna Friz, Member of the the Ukrainian Parliament and head of Ukrainian delegation to NATO Parliamentary Assembly

Question 1.

EU gave Ukraine a visa free regime and EU Commissioner Hahn said this is a well deserved reward for reforms in Ukraine. What would you be your next objective to increase the EU integration of Ukraine?

EU integration of Ukraine depends on our internal reforms. We must continue to fight corruption, developing economy, improving business climate, defending the property rights, implementation of EU standards – all these are our objectives on the way to EU.

Question 2.

You are the head of the Ukrainian delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, What do you think there will be any big changes in the new NATO policy now that Donald Trump became President of the United States of America? 

I don’t think so. It seems to me, NATO since 1991 till 2014 was almost blind about new risks and threats for euro-atlantic space. Sure, we saw the rising of global terrorism since 2001. But all of us missed the threats from Russia: attempts to  destruct the united Europe and common defense system, intervene and influence the political and electoral processes in democratic states. We missed them despite even the dangerous signal in 2008 in Georgia. I think that NATO during presidency of Donald Trump will be stronger. It is very important that today in NATO issues of budgeting and financing defense and security sector sound so loud. We in Ukraine have tragical experience of what happen if the country try to save money on its own defence. So I’m sure that questions asked by Mr.Trump about more responsibility of each member-state is very important in context of NATO’s security. All those I’ve heard during spring NATO PA session from US delegation make me sure that the United States continue to stay strong supporters of NATO and its role in euro-atlantic security. New threats and challenges could not be solved without NATO, so I think it will play the main role in security issues.

Question 3.

The European Union reiterated sanctions against Russia. There are some countries, including Italy, which are sceptic about this instrument of dissuasion and want to re establish their economic ties with Moscow. What would be you message to these countries and to their leaders?

I can understand political elites of these states. Today the war that Russia wages is far from their borders. But the main problem is these states sure that their security risks have no ties with Russia. But they are wrong. The migration crisis was supported by the Kremlin and stimulated via social networks by information warfare units. I’d like to remember words of one Minister of Finance of France who said immediately after WWI: only united Europe is guaranteed from the great war. Well, Europeans can blame existing finance system, trading rules, EU quotes etc. But you should appreciate all that make EU secure, economically powerful and prosperous. Sanctions keep Russia on the leash not only in Ukraine, but in Europe. Please remember recent intervention in French elections. Attempts of coup d’etat in Montenegro, multiple violations of international law. If you stop sanctions, Ukraine could fall under Russian further aggression. But no one can guarantee that next victim of Putin’s regime will be your country.

Question 4.

Many European politicians took the defences of Putin’s political opposition Navalny when he was arrested last February. He is trying to re organise himself and continuing to protest against Kremlin. He said that his political presidential campaign will proceed independently of any court decision which could block him. What is your opinion about him and what would be the relations between Moscow and Kiev be if Navalny could get more political power?

I’m very skeptical that any of Russian opposition forces could lead Russia to real democracy. Navalny supported the annexation of Crimea, so I have doubts that he could improve he relationship between Ukraine and Russia.

 


Interview to Volodymyr Ariev, Member of the Ukrainian Parliament and member of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly

Question 1.

EU gave Ukraine a visa free regime and EU Commissioner Hahn said this is a well deserved reward for reforms in Ukraine. What would you be your next objective to increase the EU integration of Ukraine?

We shouldn’t`t speed up the process of EU integration too much. First our goal is to change legislation in accordance to EU requirement. Second is continue to fight corruption and make business climate better. It will take years, so it`s difficult to predict next practical step but routine work is ahead.

Question 2.

Do you think there will be big changes in the new NATO policy now that Donald Trump became President of the United States of America?

Mr Trump have brought some mess to the western world order but as for me its not critical for a while. As for me political process in Turkey concerns more in NATO scope considering rule of consensusB.

  Question 3.

The European Union reiterated sanctions against Russia. There are some countries, including Italy, which are sceptic about this instrument of dissuasion and want to re establish their economic ties with Moscow. What would be you message to these countries and to their leaders?

To sold out principles is a first set to self destruction. Contemporary so called Western world based on democracy, justice and rule of law first. Economy growth is a consequence. If we have no military or political instrument to stop aggressive state the only way out is to impose sanctions. The same states wouldn’t`t call to establish the same ties with Iran for example despite this is the same nature case. To stay strong on principle is to make Europe more safe in current very difficult circumstances.

Question 4.

Many European politicians took the defences of Putin’s political opposition Navalny when he was arrested last February. He is trying to re organise himself and continuing to protest against Kremlin. He said that his political presidential campaign will proceed independently of any court decision which could block him. What is your opinion about him and what would be the relations between Moscow and Kiev be if Navalny could get more political power?

It`s just a speculation for a moment. Difficult to predict how Putin`s Russia will be looking without Putin. Now he has a typical level of support in dictator state. Once dictator goes the state mainly goes troubles. It will be happening in Russia for sure soon or later, but I don`t think Navalny could win in current condition using legal and democratic instruments only in frames of so called sovereign democracy. Russia always has it’s own way. It mostly end up there with coups or street bloodshed as we see it from the history. But now I see no options to change situation in Russia in democratic way as well as democracy is not working there anymore.