The meeting which the EU and Ukraine held on Thursday in Kiev, was celebrated very solemnly. European Council President Donald Tusk handed just signed the Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine. This free trade agreement and closer political ties to the Pro-European Ukrainians started a revolution in 2014, and then paid a high price with the subsequent Russian annexation of the Crimea and armed conflict in the East of the country.
Another important point, which also was celebrated, began visa-free travel for a short time in the Schengen area. This possibility Ukrainians got in the last month after several years of waiting.
But in a barrel of honey of the events of the celebrations was a fly in the ointment, because this meeting and the many friendly words couldn’t hide the fact that the EU is still divided on the question of whether Ukraine one day become an EU member. And the result of these differences was the lack of a concluding statement on the outcome of the meeting because the EU was unable to come to unity about the text of the Declaration.
President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko said at a press conference that the EU and Ukraine so close that the movement towards the “European family” had become “irreversible process” for Ukraine.
Donald Tusk at the same press conference held the door open for Ukraine to become a member of the EU, and stressed that the main clause in the Association agreement is “the EU recognizes the European aspirations of Ukraine and welcomes European choice of the country”.
Tusk added that if Ukraine will continue its struggle together with the hard reforms, not least the fight against large-scale corruption in the country, she will be able to “realize his dream and reach his goals.”
Flash old differences
But the statement on the recognition of “European hopes of Ukraine” caused a rift in the EU. Last spring in the referendum in the Netherlands, a large majority voted against the Association agreement with Ukraine, and the Netherlands ratified the Association agreement just because all EU countries in December signed a provision stating that the contract does not oblige the EU subsequently to grant Ukraine the status of a candidate country.
The same Netherlands wanted in the draft final Declaration of the meeting in Kiev included the link to this December’s wording. But it was opposed by the Baltic States, led by Lithuania, which I would very much like to see Ukraine become an EU member.
Therefore, the statement was not made. And despite the Association agreement and visa-free travel, dream of the realization of Ukraine’s membership in the EU, apparently, is far in the future.
The path to NATO too
A similar problem arises in relation to even bigger dreams of Ukraine about NATO membership. On Monday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg visited in Ukraine, and here Poroshenko said that the country is currently making efforts to fulfill all the requirements for membership in NATO in the year 2020.
Stoltenberg stressed that only Ukraine and NATO, not Russia determine whether Ukraine to become Alliance members. But one of the requirements is full control of Ukraine over the territory of the country, what prevents an armed conflict with Russia-backed separatists, which continues in the East of the country for more than three years and killed more than 10 thousand people.
And while in the East of Ukraine continued armed conflict, Ukraine can become a NATO member.