There was no EU-Ukraine summit in 2012, while the summit of 2013 is coming in the tense atmosphere of the still unresolved Yulia Tymoshenko case and in the wake of crucial parliamentary elections in Ukraine, held in the fall of 2012, and partial boycott of Euro-2012’s Ukrainian events by European ministers. Although Kwasniewski and Cox’s mission continues, it is not meeting the expectations of the European Parliament’ Martin Schulz and leaders of the parliament’s political groups. New accusations against Tymoshenko which allege her involvement in the Shcherban murder have not improved the mood in Brussels, even though the matter surfaced long ago. The EU-Ukraine relations are maintained in their present state by personal likings and influence of the Ukrainian ambassador in Brussels Kostiantyn Yeliseiev and his European counterpart in Kyiv Jan Tombinski, as well as personal commitment of the EU Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Fuele, which probably has the greatest effect. It might seem that the bilateral contacts would wither to nothing if not for the efforts of a few people who are actively discussing the Association Agreement and preparing the talks with Ukrainian politicians.
Cynics say that should the Association Agreement with Ukraine be signed in 2013, it will be due to a chilly phase in the EU-Russian relationship and some people’s desire to show the Kremlin its place. Ukraine’s new foreign minister has been tasked with restoring the positive dynamics to the EU-Ukraine relationship. Leonid Kozhara’s latest visit to Brussels was not a breakthrough, but it has somewhat improved the mood. Admittedly, even if Kozhara’s views were not approved by everyone, he was greeted cordially and nobody refused to receive him. While a member of the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Cooperation Committee in Verkhovna Rada, he spent many years in the cafe-bars of the European Parliament and offices of European ambassadors. His mission was also helped by the Ukrainian side’s statement on energy issues. It is hard to say whether Kozhara was correct in stating that Gazprom’s monopoly had been broken, but one can clearly see the determination to increase energy independence, the said objective to be furthered during President Yanukovych’s visit to Turkmenistan, too.
Increasingly, however, we see that the lack of political will is preventing the association agreement from signing in 2013. The situation is so difficult that the agreement’s signing may be, in fact, impossible unless certain legal aspects of the Tymoshenko case are satisfactorily resolved.
The jailed former prime minister, known in the West as Miss Ukraine, has become a curse of Ukraine’s European policy, has not she? Is the government in Kyiv really willing to remain under this curse? Would not Ukraine do better with such symbols as the Shakhtar soccer club or the Klitschko brothers, not overshadowed by Tymoshenko?
We must also take into account that Yanukovych, should he try to solve the Tymoshenko problem, will need to find a way to save face and keep his tough guy image intact in Ukraine. The West stands ready to help him to do so. Similarly, the EU politicians, while signing the Association Agreement, need to save face in front of their constituents. However, we see lack of progress on this issue, so Ukrainian diplomats should not lose the initiative, because the EU expects a positive signal from the other side.
It seems like Tymoshenko’s imprisonment is a good reason for Kyiv to follow the fictional non-alignment rulebook. Kuchma transformed Ukraine’s geopolitical double-dealing into a long-term policy of abstaining from alliances.
He was not the first to see it as a good idea for the nation. Khmelnytsky was the first, followed by Hetman Pavlo Skoropadsky in the early 20th century. The year 2013 will be crucial for Ukraine, with approaching elections to the European Parliament and looming personal changes in the European Commission, so that Commissioner Fule may leave the Ukrainian problem to another official.
Soon no one in the West will care about developments in Ukraine. Hence, Ukraine has not even as much as six months of time left, let alone an entire year. By delaying a decision on the nation’s orientation, Ukraine runs the risk of falling down into a geopolitical abyss from a tightrope it is now walking. As happened before, Ukraine can then spend several decades in the abyss.