When the Soviet Union collapsed more than two decades ago, and Ukraine opted for independence, many expected the country to do better than Russia in the years to come. But events turned out differently. Most notable is the comparison with Poland: at independence, the two countries had roughly the same GDP per capita; today, Poland’s is more than three times higher.
By contrast to Poland, Ukraine became the worst managed of all the post-Soviet states with cronyism and corruption thwarting productive capacity, and causing the country to fall further and further behind other post-communist countries in transition.
In 2009, the European Union established its Eastern Partnership to advance political association and economic integration with six neighboring nations to its east, including Ukraine. Although the EU long asserted that the framework was not directed against Russia, the agreement with Ukraine was perceived in Moscow as crossing a red line. The proposed pact with the EU certainly was not compatible with Putin’s Eurasia project.
Leaders of European Union at EU summit meeting this week made a commitment to cut their dependence on Russian gas. The Ukraine crisis has highlighted the issue. What is more, the European Union is better placed to withstand a disruption of gas supplies than it was in 2009.
In the wake of the ongoing Ukraine crisis, Ukraine’s voters go to the polls on October 26 to elect a new parliament, not only the fate of their country will be at stake; so will the future of a significant part of Europe. At the same time, it is clear that Russian authorities occupying Crimea and Russian-backed separatists in parts of eastern Ukraine prevent many Ukrainian citizens from exercising their democratic rights to participate in the national elections and cast their votes.
A strong and democratic Ukraine to tackle the pressing problems facing the country from decades of failure is needed now. Those problems include not just the situation in the east and the troubled relationship with Russia, but needed economic and political reforms as well as measures to curb corruption. The election this Sunday is crucial for Ukraine, but it also holds the key to encouraging the transformation of Russia into a true member of the democratic European family. That is why the emergence of strong and democratic Ukraine is needed.
The election on Sunday must give rise to a government that is truly determined to bring radical reform to the country. Such a government must be able to count on the strong and determined support of the wider international community. And the Ukraine´s agreement with the EU must be used to drive the reform process forward. The EU-Ukraine Association Agreement will be a key instrument for carrying out the much-needed reforms in Ukraine in the years to come, underpinned by the EU’s support.
If this agenda succeeds, the Kremlin’s revisionist bid will be blocked; as this becomes apparent, there might even be an opening for a new and urgently needed wave of reform in Russia itself. But if reform fails, there is little doubt that the Kremlin will continue its policies until it reaches its aims in Kyiv”, writes Carl Bildt. It is in these circumstances that the real danger for Europe could arise. The future of Ukraine will decide the future of Russia, and the future of Russia will have a substantial impact on the future of Europe.
The Association Agreement does not constitute the final goal in EU-Ukraine cooperation. As stated above, in the same fundamental causes of long -term, the EU is committed to supporting Ukraine in its path towards a modern European democracy. The inaugural meeting of the Association Council, which will define priorities and launch the monitoring of the implementation of the Agreement, will be held before the end of the year.