Yesterday, Yulia Tymoshenko had an interview published in Ukrainskaya Pravda in which, aside from belatedly trying to re-frame her financially ruinous gas deal of 2009 as part of a strategic plan to force Ukraine off of Russian gas – obviously re-framed for the very gullible now things have worked out the way they have – she stated “I believe that the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU will be signed and this faith is enough for me. Today I don’t have doubt that despite the global resistance Ukraine has made its historical European choice and Ukraine will sign the Association Agreement for sure and will become a full member of the EU even sooner than we expect.”
“Ukraine is guaranteed to sign the Association Agreement and, before we know it, will become a full-fledged EU member.”
Though there does seem to have been a change in EU political will since Russian shenanigans were directed toward the EaP members and thus subverting a successful EU Vilnius Summit, allowing for cautious optimism where once gloomy prospects loomed – to go beyond that and talk of expedited EU membership seems to be populist bluster without foundation.
Now there is no definite time frame mentioned, other than “sooner than we expect” and “before we know it”. Such words are perhaps meant to be inspirational. However, populism and empty promises/statements have been the downfall of Ms Tymoshenko before. I still remember her as Prime Minister, stating the financial crisis would not affect Ukraine – immediately before Ukraine became one of the worst casualties of the financial crisis.
There are numerous such instances of grievously misleading the public through populist – or perhaps she would consider them inspirational – statements that she has made that I can raise to be honest. There is little point in doing so however – the point being, once again there seems to be a complete absence of any foundation to her latest statement should the Ukrainian public take her words at face value.
Let us look at the reality. Ukraine has not made a formal application to join the EU. If and when it does, there are 31 chapters of the Aquis Communautaire to open, negotiate, close and implement. The Association Agreement and DCFTA may well take Ukraine closer to those chapters than it currently is – but the Aquis bar is higher than the agreements Ukraine may well be about to sign. My best guess would be a minimum of 7 years for Ukraine to reach – and be seen to reach – the Aquis benchmarks should it apply tomorrow – which it won’t.
It seems very unlikely Ukraine will apply before 2017 – post both presidential and parliamentary elections. Depending upon the result, possibly the election cycle after that.
Meanwhile, whether or not Ukraine applies to join the EU and latterly goes through the rigours of the Aquis Communautaire thus qualifying for EU Membership under Article 49 – there is then the costly matter of actually initiating a new EU Member State – which needs budgeting for. Particularly so when it would be a nation with a larger geographical are than France and one of the biggest by population as well.
Whether Ms Tymoshenko knows it or not – EU budgets are agreed on a 7 year cycle. The next budgetary cycle beginning imminently and is one that has absolutely no financial scope for enlargement for a nation as big as Ukraine. Perhaps Serbia can be accommodated in the next budget should it make the grade – but certainly not Ukraine.
With that in mind, we have already moved passed 2020, with the following EU budgetary cycle negotiations beginning around 2018. Therefore with no Ukrainian EU Membership request likely before 2017 at the very earliest, Ukrainian membership will miss the subsequent 7 year EU budget as well.
We are now almost at 2030 – which can realistically be seen as the absolute earliest that Ukraine could enter the EU. More realistically we are looking at 2035 – and quite what the EU will have morphed into by then, who knows? It certainly will not be the same animal it is today.
Ms Tymoshenko is currently 52. In 2030 she will be 69/70. In 2035 she will be 75 years old. Perhaps her vision of “sooner than we expect” and “before we know it” means within her natural (rather than political) lifetime. If so, that would be a reasonable and yet still ambitious goal.
Unfortunately, the Ukrainian public, and both her political followers and rivals alike, are more than likely to interpret “sooner than we expect” and “before we know it” as a time frame far earlier than the current realities dictate. Thus there is every reason to expect this statement to turn into yet another populist/empty rhetorical anchor around the neck of any political comeback she may think to make.
There is a fine line between inspirational statements and empty rhetoric in the public domain by politicians – and as EPP Vice President Jack Saryusz-Wolski said to me only a few weeks ago, “Polityka jest sztuką robienia maksimum,w granicach tego co możliwe” – or in English, “Politics is the art of making maximum, within the limits of what is possible.”
The above being quite true, anything that falls without that statement ultimately and eventually is filed by history within the category of empty rhetoric.
So, inspirational or empty rhetoric?