The recent events in Ukraine exemplify in a depressing and bloody way that old adage that a week is a long time in politics. As Ukraine enters into a new and still uncertain phase, only a fool would attempt to predict how things will develop. So I will resist the temptation to comment on the future of Ukraine. However I will venture forth to make a couple of observations about the reactions to these changes in the rest of Europe, including the UK.
Ukraine and EU – joining the club?
The new Ukrainian government has lost no time in announcing its ambition to join the EU. Immediately on her release from jail, former Prime Minister Julia Tymoshenko was reported as saying that she is “sure that Ukraine will be a member of the European Union in the near future.” This has been followed up by the new Interim government which has also signalled that it will push for European integration. It seems that Ukraine might get a warm welcome from the EU. The Polish Foreign Affairs Minister, Radoslaw Sikorksi, has already gone on record to declare that the European Union must make a clear commitment for the future membership of Ukraine. While the EU’s economics commissioner, Olli Rehn, has commented favourably when he said, “We are at a historical juncture and Europe needs to live up to its historical moment and be able to provide Ukraine with an accession perspective in the medium to long term – if it can meet the conditions of accession.”
But, hey, hang on a minute. Isn’t joining the EU supposed to be extremely difficult, if not impossible? Where, oh where I wonder is our old friend José Manuel Barroso, President of the Commission? Apparently ready at the drop of a hat to fly over to London to warn us Scots that EU membership is virtually impossible, but seemingly silent in relation to the claims from Ukraine. Or is it only Scotland that will be rejected? Everyone else, including Ukraine, on the other hand will be warmly welcomed. I am a bit confused here. Perhaps Sr Barroso will enlighten us with some more of his pearls of wisdom.
I also note that no-one in the UK media seems to have challenged this assumption on the part of Ukraine that it can join the EU. Even more astonishingly no-one in the media seems to have made the slightest connection with their, and the EU’s warm reaction to recent developments in Ukraine with their apparent rejection of Scotland. Then again, what else could one expect from our betters in the media.
Ukraine and Russia – Better Together?
The Ukraine is clearly in an enormous economic and political mess. There also seems to be a gigantic hole in its finances – it appears that billions of dollars are needed to prevent bankruptcy. Surely this a clear example where one smaller state would be better off by uniting with its much larger and economically stronger neighbour? If the concept of Better Together is to mean anything more than a cover for scaremongering Scots into rejecting independence, then it must surely to goodness apply to the Ukraine and Russia?
Even more so than England and Scotland, Russia and Ukraine share a common history that goes back over a thousand years. Do not the origins of Russia begin in what is now Kiyiv? Think of all that shared struggle in defeating Napoléon and overcoming Nazism. And given the mess that Ukraine has made of its brief experiment with independence, it clearly is not up to the task on its own. Yet these stubborn Ukrainians seem determined to refuse the kind offer from the Russian bear. Despite their current economic woes they appear to be in no mind to give up their independence. They do it seems, want to join the EU, so they will not really be independent anyway, will they? Not sure how well that argument will go down in Kiyiv! And to think that we in Scotland get mocked on a daily basis for daring to aspire to no more and no less independence than Ukrainians want for their country. Independence in the EU is good enough not just for Ukraine, but for Poland, Czech Republic, Romania, France and even Germany. Yet somehow it is portrayed as either unattainable or bad for Scotland. Truly we must be an exceptional country – the rest of the UK desperately wants us to stay, while the rest of Europe, apparently, unanimously rejects us, while simultaneously welcoming Ukraine. Strange times we live in.