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In Transcarpathia, near the Ukrainian village of Delovoe, there are three geodetic signs indicating the geographic center of the European subcontinent

    25 January 2021 Monday

    The first sign was put up in 1887 under Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria, by the members of the Royal Academy of Sciences of Austro-Hungarian Empire. The second one was set up by the members of the Soviet Academy of Sciences. The third one was put up in the first years of Ukraine’s independence after the Soviet Union had collapsed.

    Nevertheless, summing up the recent Ukraine-EU Summit, which took place in Paris on September 9, President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko rejoiced, “Today Ukraine is qualified as a European country”.

    On the other hand, this statement cannot be called ironic in view of the fact that for the recent decade and a half the geographical notion of Europe has almost turned into the political one and now Europe is identified with the European Union. Building the relations with the core Europe Ukraine only tries to convince the latter that it also belongs to Europe.

    In the joint statement by President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko, President of France (which holds the EU presidency) Nicolas Sarkozy, and Head of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso, which was made public after the twelfth Ukraine-EU Summit, Ukraine is recognized as “a European country having the common history and common values with the EU countries”. Sakrozy stressed in a grand manner, “We have officially produced such a wording for the first time”.

    However, there was no the slightest hint about the prospects of Ukraine's joining the EU in the statement or in the European politicians’ comments. That means that as a result of the long negotiations only the geographical location of Ukraine was recognized. But Ukraine’s European location was not cast doubt on even by Gunter Verheugen, who, as the EU Commissioner for Enlargement, said that Ukraine’s chance of joining the EU was equal to Mexico’s chance of becoming the fifty first U.S. state. The New Enhanced Agreement (NEA) between the EU and Ukraine, which is being drawn up, contains no clear refutation of Gunter Verheugen’s opinion.

    Nicolas Sarkozy stated on behalf of the EU, “This agreement does not deprive Ukraine of any opportunity to join the EU, and at the same time it offers no new opportunities”. But in that case, where is the novelty of the relations between Ukraine and the EU after the “historic summit” as the President of Ukraine called it? Doesn’t Brussels’ consent to call the new document ‘Association Agreement’ resemble a marketing method advertising goods in new packing in order to promote the same goods?

    The fact that Brussels and such countries as, first and foremost, France, Germany, Italy and the Benelux countries flatly refuse to recognize Ukraine’s right to join the EU some day (!) is much more conspicuous than meaningless words uttered every year. Such words were also found in the joint statement in question following the EU-Ukraine Summit and concerned “recognition of the European aspirations” and “welcoming of the European choice” of Ukraine and recognition that “progressive development of the relations between Ukraine and the EU in the political, economic and legal spheres will further the improvement of the EU-Ukraine relations in future”. However, if to take into consideration how difficult it is for the Ukrainian citizens to obtain visas, it seems that the decision to start “a dialogue on the visa issues to create favorable conditions for abolition of visa requirements between the EU and Ukraine” will not be made for a long time.

    It is important that in Ukraine, unlike the prospects of country’s joining NATO, there is a consensus among the political elite on Ukraine’s course towards European integration. The majority of the Ukrainians also have a positive attitude towards this issue. So, the refusal to allow Ukraine to join the EU can be accounted for by the Ukrainian government crisis only if a formal pretext is to be found. Although, this pretext turned up just at the right moment for Brussels.

    The Association Agreement, which is expected to be signed by Ukraine and the EU in the second half of 2009, will not be a great success, however hard the Ukrainian party may try to present this agreement in a favorable light. The word “association” in the agreement with the EU may mislead the common Ukrainian people. But Viktor Yushchenko acted against his conscience when comparing the future Association Agreement with those signed by “about 15 countries in the 1990s, which afterwards became the EU member states”. The Association Agreements with such countries as Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania, Hungary, Czech Republic, Croatia, Montenegro and, earlier, with Greece and Turkey were signed as preparation for those countries’ joining the EU, which was clearly indicated in the documents. (Incidentally, the Agreement on Association between the EU and Turkey took effect as long ago as 1964, but this country has not become the EU member state yet in spite of the fact that this prospect was prescribed in the document).

    At the same time, the agreements with Egypt, Algeria, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia or Syria are also called the Association Agreements like the treaty with Chile or the draft treaties with Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Salvador, Guatemala and Panama. But those documents are part of the treaties on the creation of free trade area with the EU. Those countries are not supposed to join the EU, of course.

    The future Agreement on Association between Ukraine and the EU will not offer Ukraine the prospect of EU membership either. The point is that, like it or not, Ukraine is located neither in North Africa, nor in West Asia, nor in Latin America, nor in Central America. It is located in Europe. But probably the European officials would like to move this “gray zone” between Europe and Russia into another continent to put an end to Kyiv’s bids for EU membership once and for all.

    Such European ‘chauvinists’ have won a kind of small victory. In 1989 the scientists of French National Institute of Geography figured out that Europe’s centre was located in the more “proper” place, 26 kilometers north of Vilnius, in the Lithuanian village of Purnuškės, rather than in Ukraine. Then the Lithuanian Parliament founded a cartographical reserve there and when, on May 1, 2004, Lithuania joined the EU, the sign of the European center was inaugurated in that place.

    Anyway, those unwilling to see Ukraine in the EU should not lose heart. The geographical border of Europe, which goes on the Ural Mountains, is also rather relative. On the one hand, the inhabitants of the Russian cities of Novosibirsk or Irkutsk may consider themselves to be the Europeans like the inhabitants of Moscow or St. Petersburg. On the other hand, in the 19th century the famous German naturalist, geographer and traveler Alexander von Humboldt stated that there were no two separate continents, Europe and Asia, but there was the single continent, Eurasia. Here his follower was British scientist William Parker, who in the early 1960s published the book “Europe: How Far?” where he divided Eurasia into six subcontinents: Europe, the USSR, China, India, South-East and South-West Asias.

    Today the actions of Brussels and the West European politicians show that, despite the collapse of the Soviet Union, the USSR subcontinent still lives in their minds.

    Ivan Gayvanovych is a Ukrainian journalist, laureate of the competitions “MASS MEDIA – for civil society», «Golden Era of the Ukrainian TV”.

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