The Orange Revolution is over. In it, the Ukrainian society demonstrated its democratic credentials, its respect for the rule of law and its awareness of its right to free media. As a result of this, Ukraine has proved indisputably that it is a European state, not only in terms of geography but, most importantly, in terms of upholding key European values. This has been recognised as such by nearly all EU Member States.
However, although one of the immediate consequences of the Orange Revolution has been the characterisation of Ukraine as a European state, this has not led to an immediate change in the nature of the relationship between the two bodies. For example, despite the fact that the recently signed Action Plan (AP) was negotiated under the regime of president Kuchma, president Yushchenko’s government was given the option of ‘take-it-or-leave-it’: there was no scope for its renegotiation. Similarly, no significant change in the EU’s position towards a membership perspective for Ukraine can be expected in 2005.
This year and the beginning of 2006 are crucial for the future prospects of Ukraine’s integration with the EU. During this period Ukraine must prove that its can be a reliable partner of the EU, primarily by implementing the kind of basic reforms which pave the way to the EU (Ukraine cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of the Kuchma regime, namely of making pro-European declarations without implementing any actions); similarly, the EU should be prepared to react to positive developments in Ukraine in 2005 and respond with proposals for moving towards some form of integration for Ukraine in 2006. In other words, Ukraine’s authorities have to implement reforms without any expectation of reciprocation on the part of the EU, in terms of an offer of a membership perspective. But, at the same time, if Ukraine was to perform well over the next 10 months, the EU should start an internal discussion about a vision of future relations with Ukraine which goes beyond that offered by the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP).
In sum, 2005 and the beginning of 2006 are a period of tests for both sides. The EU and Ukraine need concrete results in bilateral relations. In doing so, they would establish the kind of mutual trust between partners which is indispensable for the future integration of Ukraine with the EU.
The time frame is limited for a number of reasons. Firstly, the Council agreed on 28 February 2005 to conduct the first review of the implementation of the EU–Ukraine Action Plan at the beginning of 2006. Secondly, Ukrainian parliamentary elections are due to take place in Ukraine in spring 2006; their outcome will be very important for the future of European aspirations of Ukraine.
This paper aims to explore the above mentioned issues and problems by:
Firstly, analysing the origins and effectiveness of the current framework governing the EU’s policy towards Ukraine, by focusing on different EU actors, namely the Council (Member States), the Commission and the European Parliament, each of which adopted a different approach to the Ukrainian question. Secondly, examining the record of the new Ukrainian leadership – especially the effectiveness of different governmental structures and personalities that are responsible for driving Ukraine’s integration with the EU. Thirdly, highlighting the prospects and putting forward recommendations concerning EU–Ukraine relations, especially for 2005 and the beginning of 2006.
The overall question we seek to answer is: will the Orange Revolution bear fruit in EU–Ukraine relations?