By Yuliya Tymoshenko, Taipei Times
Taipei, Taiwan, Friday, Apr 30, 2004, Page 9
Groucho Marx once famously quipped that he wouldn't join any club that would
have him as a member. But in today's EU, Groucho need not apply. The EU now
does not want to accept anybody who applies for membership, because the
countries queuing up to join are too big or too poor, or both.
Tomorrow the EU formally admits 10 new members, eight from central Europe.
All are far poorer than the EU average. Bulgaria, Romania and possibly
Croatia are supposed to join in 2007. By the end of this year, the EU is to
decide whether to open membership talks with Turkey -- a country that is not
only poor and big, but Muslim. If the EU is to talk about membership with
Turkey, is there any legitimate reason for keeping out my country --
Current EU thinking, however, holds that Ukraine should be placed in the
same framework as countries in North Africa and the Middle East. The EU's
"Wider Europe" strategy does call for closer ties to Ukraine, and for
allowing us increased access to the EU's "single market." But it does not
view Ukraine as a candidate for EU membership, at least not in the
One reason for this is that the EU does not want to pick a fight with
Russia, which still sees us as its close ally, natural business partner and
as members of an enlarging Russian-led economic zone. Indeed, last week
Ukraine's parliament ratified a treaty creating "a single economic space"
with Russia. But this supposed free-trade zone seems more like a recipe to
enrich oligarchs and stifle competition, not promote trade.
Of course, Russia won't look on happily if the EU tries to lure Ukraine. But
membership in the EU does not mean estrangement from Russia. Besides,
excluding Ukraine from eventual EU membership will encourage Russia's
imperial ambitions. This will diminish Russia's chances of ever becoming a
full democracy, for it can rule an empire only as a militarized state.
It is the mark of a good club that people clamor to become members. An
ever-larger EU including Ukraine would create a political unit with a huge
population, furthering the EU's ambitions to be a global power.
As the latest round of enlargement proves, the EU is very effective at
molding the governance and behavior of would-be members. Preparations
for EU entry strongly motivated the eight former communist Central European
states to entrench or restore democratic institutions and market economies.
The further Europe exports its laws and values, the more it expands a zone
committed to peaceful, democratic and prosperous co-existence. A country
equipped to join the EU is a country equipped to make its way in the world
peacefully, if it chooses to do so. Europe needs such countries on its
So far, the EU's actions have achieved the opposite. For example, three
years ago Ukrainians crossed the border with Poland 6 million times. Most
were small traders buying goods for resale at home, boosting the economy of
eastern Poland, the poorest part of that country. Others worked cheaply in
Poland as cleaners and building workers.
As a step toward imposing EU border controls and visa rules, Poland began
demanding visas from its neighbors. Crossings at Polish border stations
quickly fell by over two-thirds. Thus the new EU border with Ukraine is
making its presence felt in the most negative way imaginable -- by hurting
business on both sides of the border.
In the EU, only Poland seems to want Ukraine as a prosperous, stable and
accessible neighbor, not as a poor and rickety one with a dodgy democracy
and even dodgier nuclear power stations. Poland worries that the more
Ukraine is shut off from the EU, the more it will fall behind, economically
But today's other EU members view the prospect of an ever-expanding EU that
includes Ukraine with fatalism and dread, for several reasons. The first,
inevitably, is money. The EU redistributes billions of euros from rich to
A second is immigration. One of the EU's fundamental principles is that
there should be freedom to move from one member country to another. But
anti-immigration parties are gaining ground across western Europe; they
could make huge political capital out of potential Ukrainian membership.
There is also a feeling that a larger EU might simply be unable to function.
Creating plausible-sounding objections to Ukrainian membership is easy. We
are not really European, we are too poor, we are too different. But the EU
has consistently rejected the idea of insisting on a minimum income level
for members. Its only serious economic demand is that members have a
"functioning market economy."
Where Europe, Russia, Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus rub up against one
another, an economic fault line is forming. What the EU does now to bridge
this fault line will determine whether these countries Westernize or
stagnate. The dream of a Europe free and whole, from the Atlantic to the
Urals, is yet to be realized.
Yuliya Tymoshenko is a former deputy prime minister of Ukraine and a leader
of the opposition in parliament.
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