Making #UkrCEnter happen

Yevgeny Magda
16:40, 16 July 2016
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Opinion

Europe and the rest of the world respond to #Brexit, trying to find an adequate response to a rather unexpected decision of the Brits to withdraw from the EU. What is Ukraine to do in this dramatic situation, not to fall on splits of the country’s European integration?

I believe that a combination of two things is needed – to realize that the European Union has other things to think about except Ukraine and to create our own agenda, which would allow Ukraine to unlock its potential. It is becoming increasingly dangerous to live only feeding on the illusions of European integration in this situation. As recent events show, the world is becoming an increasingly hectic and unpredictable place, and Ukraine shouldn’t expect any exceptions for itself.

The fact that Ukraine belongs to Central Europe can’t be denied even by the most vocal critics of Ukrainian realities. After all, the geographic center of the continent lies in Ukraine’s territory. Therefore, it should be materialized into actions aimed to ensure the development of the "central status" of our country. This can become a competitive advantage in the struggle for proper positioning and facilitate the formation of real integration horizons. Of course, this should be filled with concrete content, not just the mantras of some "unique transit potential."

"Presenting" attractive features of modern Ukraine in a “wrapper” interesting to the world is not an easy task, as we are living in an environment which is far from being Ukrainian-centered

The first priority is forming an attractive and modern image of Ukraine. Russian aggression is not only a challenge to the future of our country, but also a catalyst for increasing interest of the international community to Ukraine’s events. "Presenting" attractive features of modern Ukraine in a “wrapper” interesting to the world is not an easy task, as we are living in an environment which is far from being Ukrainian-centered. However, it is certainly worth a try. Moreover, the current whining tone at an official level does not encourage other countries to any fruitful dialogue with Ukraine.

The official Kyiv’s primary focus should be the neighboring states. It with them that Ukraine must build up effective bilateral relations, search for promising projects and areas for cooperation. The experience of reforms in these neighboring countries accumulated over the past 25 years is more useful for Ukraine than some template U.S. or German developments. Visegrad Four as a formal alliance of Central European states or Warsaw-proposed Intermarium can become for Ukraine the effective instruments of development, but only if the country clearly defines its objectives. So we need to create our own vision of the Central European region, put forward the Ukrainian accents, and suggest concrete steps for its development.

The failures of Eastern Partnership should be critically reconsidered, while the attention to Minsk and Kishinev – substantially increased.

Obviously, Ukraine needs to develop cooperation programs, serving not only as a donor but also as a recipient. Today Ukraine can share experiences in countering Russian aggression, but this is a commodity with a limited demand. It is therefore necessary to find ways to reach success, which would be unexpected for the neighbors and capable of drawing attention to Ukraine. In particular, it can act as an energy hub or an intersection of trade routes. It should be noted that we need to not only rely on the country’s transit potential and significant amounts of agricultural land but also make certain changes to the economic model. The current oligarchic model closes Ukraine’s path to Europe more effectively than Russia’s numerous geopolitical moves.

There is an important caveat – Ukraine should step up its policy toward Moldova and Belarus, which are also in the focus of the European Union. The failures of Eastern Partnership should be critically reconsidered, while the attention to Minsk and Kishinev – substantially increased. If Ukraine claims the status of an active player in Central Europe, it cannot sit and wait for a stronger wind to sail the seas. Unlike #Brexit, #UkrCEnter is a matter of getting an effective impetus for development, and we should make every effort to get the things going.

Yevgeny Magda

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