The Dilemma of EU’s Diplomacy : What to Do with Ukraine?

Written by | Thursday, February 13th, 2014

As EU envoys – recently it was namely Catherine Ashton and Stefan Fule – go back and forth to Kiev, the protest are actually no longer so much about Ukraine’s  is no longer about Ukraine’s place (or not) in Europe. In reality, however, there is not much information in the local media about their visits and most people in Ukraine do not seem to know much and also do not really care about Europe’s role in solving the ongoing crisis. Quite a lot of people also seem to believe that while Europe does not take Ukraine seriously, EU envoys come to Kiev to score political points, to show their own public that they care about what’s going on. Contributing to this is the fact that while the EU diplomats get coverage almost exclusively only on internet media, TV and radio is dominated by government messages saying, for example, that protests are preventing authorities from paying state pensions on time.
The protests, which began as a reaction to President Viktor Yanukovych’s rejection of an EU treaty in November last year, have a different agenda two months down the line. This is essentially because the question of Europe was long forgotten by the end 2013 and now it is all about a general dissatisfaction with the overall state of affairs in Ukraine. People now focus more on the single most important issue that plagues the country and its society: Corruption. People in Ukraine get irritated by the omnipresent corruption – financial corruption, but also moral corruption, the fact that in 90 percent of cases, they have to pay bribes to get basic government services.
With Ashton and Fuele focusing on talks between Yanukovych and opposition MPs Vitali Klitschko, Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Petro Poroshenko, none of the three men appear to command real support of the Ukrainian public. The opposition movement has yet to produce its own leader, such as Lech Walesa in Poland in the 1980s, a shipyard worker who captured the popular imagination. Only Yulia Tymoshenko, the jailed former PM, could perhaps aspire to play this crucial role if she gets out one day. However, for the time being, f the EU wants to help Ukraine, it should consider imposing financial sanctions on Yanukovych’s inner circle and drop visa requirements for ordinary Ukrainians. The US already imposed visa bans on some top officials, gaining recognition on the Maidan. But for EU’s part, its plan is based on engagement not sanctions.

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