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20 September 2017
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OpinionImitation of European integration

We will not be “assessing our mistakes”, we will not be looking for the ones guilty in the EU not having made a decision on visa liberalization for Ukraine. And there is no way we will be criticizing those who worked hard to fulfill the Visa Liberalization Action Plan, to adopt laws and thus give the EU institutions a carte blanche to vote on a visa-free regime for Ukraine. Let's try to understand what was happening in the background / behind the scenes in a non-public plane, because it would be naive to think that the EU did not notice anything. Ironically, there are many positive things in what we have come through without actually obtaining a visa free regime...

First, we bet a lot on this visa free regime.

Ukrainian politicians turned out to be not ready for the "architecture" of the very process of obtaining a visa-free regime, when, in order to get an EU decision, it was necessary to adopt more than 20 laws in Ukraine, implement reforms in the areas of migration and borders, biometric documents, to set up a number of anti-corruption bodies and establish a new system of declaration of assets.

Why were there so many tasks? The EU officials saw how politically important visa liberalization was and what weight it gained in Ukraine’s internal discourse, and how much Ukrainian politicians invested into this promise, so they took advantage of this opportunity... to stimulate reform. Obviously, some steps of the VLAP were technically necessary to prevent abuse in the application of a visa-free regime, but the others were definitely just political steps aimed to encourage Ukrainian reform in general.

Probably these states question the sincerity of our intentions. They may not see prospects for cooperation with Ukraine outside the visa process

Of course, this does not suit many. First, in the fall of 2015, there were attempts to push through parliament a so-called pseudo-special confiscation. Then there was an amendment to the budget to postpone the introduction of e-declarations for a year.

The very process of overcoming this internal resistance, as was in the case with setting up a National Agency for Prevention of Corruption and the launch of the system has led to the fact that we became bound to the suspension of a visa waiver suspension.

Secondly, we did some things not exactly in a European way.

There is a problem with the moratorium on the export of timber. There remains a problem with a failure to sign the two laws on environmental protection that are key for the implementation of the Association Agreement in the field of environment. There are also statements of Ukrainian politicians that the EU does not deserve respect after the decision on OPAL pipeline.

This is seen in Europe as a non-European position. Why is that?

They judge us by our deeds, so when we declare the priority of European integration, while demanding to abolish important European integration laws, of course, the Europeans just take a break.

Thus, we should not make policy decisions in the interests of European partners because we are as a sovereign state. Indeed, there are interest groups that are against the position of Brussels or the Agreement provisions. But the problem lies with the other thing: the actions of our politicians are spontaneous, unpredictable, and peremptory.

So why should we wonder how similar unexpected things come from some influential EU member states? Perhaps, these states question the sincerity of our intentions. They may not see prospects for cooperation with Ukraine outside the visa process. They judge us by our deeds, so when we declare the priority of European integration, while demanding to abolish important European integration laws, of course, the Europeans just take a break. Brussels sees the signals that politicians and big business in Ukraine are not the actual supporters of the European integration course, while they mimic the process for some certain financial incentives. For example, these very agrarians agree to assess the impact on the environment when it comes to the EBRD and EIB loan. However, it turns out that passing a law and confirming the integrity of their intentions has proved problematic in the Ukrainian context. It would seem that if stakeholders would be interested in increased export quotas to the EU, while the environment is part of a puzzle, they should have asked the president to give line-item proposals to the laws, within a deadline set by the Constitution. But it all went in a different way...

 There will be much more such surprises as the practical part of European integration is just beginning. Moreover, there may be various problems in relations with some EU Member States throughout the process of European integration. It is important to understand that in the EU, the divergence of interests does not mean denying the very European idea that we often dismiss as legal rules to be applied in a conflict with certain political or business interests.

Imitation of European integration

Denys Chernikov

We will not be “assessing our mistakes”, we will not be looking for the ones guilty in the EU not having made a decision on visa liberalization for Ukraine. And there is no way we will be criticizing those who worked hard to fulfill the Visa Liberalization Action Plan, to adopt laws and thus give the EU institutions a carte blanche to vote on a visa-free regime for Ukraine. Let's try to understand what was happening in the background / behind the scenes in a non-public plane, because it would be naive to think that the EU did not notice anything. Ironically, there are many positive things in what we have come through without actually obtaining a visa free regime...

First, we bet a lot on this visa free regime.

Ukrainian politicians turned out not to be ready for the "architecture" of the very process of obtaining a visa-free regime, when, in order to get an EU decision, it was necessary to adopt more than 20 laws in Ukraine, implement reforms in the areas of migration and borders, biometric documents, to set up a number of anti-corruption bodies and establish a new system of declaration of assets.

Why were there so many tasks? The EU officials saw how politically important visa liberalization was and what weight it gained in Ukraine’s internal discourse, and how much Ukrainian politicians invested into this promise, so they took advantage of this opportunity... to stimulate reform. Obviously, some steps of the VLAP were technically necessary to prevent abuse in the application of a visa-free regime, but the others were definitely just political steps aimed to encourage Ukrainian reform in general.

Probably these states question the sincerity of our intentions. They may not see prospects for cooperation with Ukraine outside the visa process

Of course, this does not suit many. First, in the fall of 2015, there were attempts to push through parliament a so-called pseudo-special confiscation. Then there was an amendment to the budget to postpone introduction of e-declarations for a year.

The very process of overcoming this internal resistance, as was in the case with setting up a National Agency for Prevention of Corruption and the launch of the system has led to the fact that we became bound to the suspension of a visa waiver suspension.

Secondly, we did some things not exactly in a European way.

There is a problem with the moratorium on the export of timber. There remains a problem with a failure to sign the two laws on environmental protection that are key for the implementation of the Association Agreement in the field of environment. There are also statements of Ukrainian politicians that the EU does not deserve respect after the decision on OPAL pipeline.

This is seen in Europe as a non-European position. Why is that?

They judge us by our deeds, so when we declare the priority of European integration, while demanding to abolish important European integration laws, of course, the Europeans just take a break.

Thus, we should not make policy decisions in the interests of European partners because we are as a sovereign state. Indeed, there are interest groups that are against the position of Brussels or the Agreement provisions. But the problem lies with the other thing: the actions of our politicians are spontaneous, unpredictable, and peremptory.

So why should we wonder how similar unexpected things come from some influential EU member states? Perhaps, these states question the sincerity of our intentions. They may not see prospects for cooperation with Ukraine outside the visa process. They judge us by our deeds, so when we declare the priority of European integration, while demanding to abolish important European integration laws, of course, the Europeans just take a break. Brussels sees the signals that politicians and big business in Ukraine are not the actual supporters of the European integration course, while they mimic the process for some certain financial incentives. For example, these very agrarians agree to assess the impact on the environment when it comes to the EBRD and EIB loan. However, it turns out that passing a law and confirming the integrity of their intentions has proved problematic in the Ukrainian context. It would seem that if stakeholders would be interested in increased export quotas to the EU, while the environment is part of a puzzle, they should have asked the president to give line-item proposals to the laws, within a deadline set by the Constitution. But it all went in a different way...

 There will be much more such surprises as the practical part of European integration is just beginning. Moreover, there may be various problems in relations with some EU Member States throughout the process of European integration. It is important to understand that in the EU, the divergence of interests does not mean denying the very European idea that we often dismiss as legal rules to be applied in a conflict with certain political or business interests.

Denys Chernikov is a coordinator of the Parliamentary Expert Group on European Integration

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