March 13, 2018

European Week of Ukraine

Most Important Issues Concerning the Interests of the EU and Ukraine

In March 2018, Russia became one of the most sensitive factors of influence on the interests of Ukraine and the EU as it started another “gas” war against our state and the European Union. The reasons for such Moscow's actions are intentions to strike back on Ukraine and the EU for the positive decision of the Stockholm Arbitration regarding the suit of “Naftogaz of Ukraine” to Russian “Gazprom”, and to make Europe support the Russian “Nord Stream 2” gas transportation project bypassing Ukraine's territory. At this, as always, Russia chose the most favorable for it moment — the onset of colds in Europe and Ukraine since the end of February 2018.

As in Russia's previous “gas” wars, the European Union supported Ukraine. Thus, the European Commission condemned Moscow's actions and proposed to become an intermediary in the gas conflict. However, Russia refused, which once again confirmed the aggressiveness of the Kremlin's policy, which tries to act dictatorially both in relation to Ukraine and the EU. According to Russian Minister of Energy A. Novak, Russia will not enter into tripartite negotiations.

Decision of the Stockholm Arbitration regarding the suit of “Naftogaz of Ukraine” to Russian “Gazprom”
Decision of the Stockholm Arbitration regarding the suit
of “Naftogaz of Ukraine” to Russian “Gazprom”

Against this background, the whole complex of problems in the relations between Russia and Ukraine and the EU in the gas sphere has become actualized. First of all, it concerns the prospects for the implementation of the Russian project “Nord Stream 2”. For example, a number of European politicians, experts and the media have already supported this project as if it would allow to strengthen EU energy security, to avoid the negative consequences of permanent disagreements between Russia and Ukraine, and to expand European countries' access to cheap Russian gas.

A different point of view was expressed by the Members of the European Parliament from the European People's Party. According to their estimation, the Kremlin's repeated attempts to blackmail Ukraine and Europe with gas is a manifestation of Putin's regime's strategy of using the energy factor as an instrument for its foreign policy.

That is why they point out possible negative consequences of the “Nord Stream 2” project, which will allow Moscow not only to gain additional leverage to influence Ukraine and Europe, but also to change the geopolitical situation in the region altogether. Thus, the construction of Russia's new gas pipeline would let it abandon the gas transportation systems of Ukraine and Poland and to actually monopolize gas supplies to Europe. Besides, Russia would receive “legitimate” grounds for further strengthening its military presence both in the Baltic Sea and in the North Sea on the pretext of protecting gas supplies to the EU.

“Nord Stream 2” will allow Moscow to change the geopolitical situation in the region
“Nord Stream 2” will allow Moscow to change the geopolitical situation
in the region

Taking into consideration the above-mentioned circumstances, the emphasis is placed on the need to strengthen support to Ukraine as well as to intensify cooperation with the USA for the increasing of American gas supplies to the European market. At the same time, according to Member of the European Parliament E. Brok, Ukraine should clearly determine its position in confrontation with Russia in the energy sector and publicly present it during the session of the European Parliament.

 

Other Areas of Cooperation Between Ukraine and the EU

The EU leadership is showing readiness to continue financial and economic support to Ukraine. March 9, 2018, the European Commission has adopted a proposal for a new Macro-Financial Assistance (MFA) programme for Ukraine worth up to €1 billion to support economic stabilisation and structural reforms. The proposal of the European Commission is subject to approval by the European Parliament and the EU Council.

The Memorandum of the European Commission recognizes the significant reform efforts undertaken by the Ukrainian authorities in recent years, including in crucial sectors such as energy, public administration, social safety nets, public finance management and the judiciary. At the same time, emphasis is placed on the need to continue and speed up such reforms, especially in the struggle against corruption. Because it is on this that the implementation of the program will depend.

 

In turn, the leadership of the European Parliament emphasizes the importance of speeding up the process of reforming the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. In this aspect, there is a need to adopt clear rules for parliamentary discussions, to establish a constructive dialogue between the ruling majority and the opposition, and to establish a positive interaction between the Parliament and government.

Besides, they emphasize the importance of Ukrainian political forces' giving up speculations on the issue of European integration of Ukraine. First of all, this concerns the conclusion of European integration laws, some of which are unpopular. In turn, this is used by Russia to create (through the Russian lobby in Ukrainian political circles) obstacles to Ukraine's movement to Europe.

 

Some Factors Affecting the EU-Ukraine Relations

Against the background of the EU's positive attitude towards Ukraine, changes in the governments and parliaments of European countries may become a significant factor in influencing the European Union's policy towards our state.

In this regard, the completion of the process of forming a parliamentary majority in Germany is favorable for Ukraine, namely the creation of the so-called “Grand Coalition” within the bloc of the Christian Democratic Union and the Social Democratic Party of Germany. Due to this, A. Merkel retained the post of Federal Chancellor of Germany, which will actually mean the immutability of Germany's policy towards Ukraine.

Results of Italian general elections (2008–2018)
Results of Italian general elections (2008–2018)

In turn, during the parliamentary elections in Italy (March 4, 2007), the largest number of votes was received by the bloc of the right-populist parties: “Forza Italia” (led by the former Prime Minister of the country S. Berlusconi), “Lega Nord” and “Brothers of Italy” — a total of 37 % of the votes, as well as the left-wing “Five Stars Movement” — 32 % of the vote. The ruling center-left Democratic Party received only 23 %. The result may be Italy's moving to more pro-Russian positions, including louder demands of the new leadership of the country to resume the EU's cooperation with Russia and to lift the sanctions against it.

 

An additional problem is the growing contradiction between the USA and Europe in trade and economic issues, which may have a negative impact on the unity of the Western world (including the issue of a common sanction policy against Russia). The reason is the decision of US President D. Trump of March 8, 2018, on the introduction of duties on the imports of steel and aluminum. In view of this, President of the European Commission J.-K. Juncker expressed the EU leadership's intention to take decisive measures to protect the interests of European producers. In particular, the European Commission may impose its own restrictions on the imports of certain types of machine-building, textile and food products from the USA.

 

In contrast, a powerful incentive for Ukraine's European integration is the official recognition by NATO of our country's desire to become a member of the North Atlantic Alliance. Ukraine thus has obtained the status of an “Aspirant country”, which opens to it the prospect to be invited to engage in an Intensified Dialogue with NATO.

 

Based on the above-mentioned circumstances, European experts recommend Ukraine to focus its efforts on the following main areas:

  • to develop a clear position in counteracting Russia's next “energy” war and to completely get rid of Ukraine's dependence on Russian gas, as well as to publicly present it at the session of the European Parliament;
  • to engage Ukrainian and other lobbies in the blockade of the “Nord Stream 2” project, which is causing significant damage to the Ukrainian economy and unleashes Moscow's hands in its aggression against Ukraine;
  • to improve the situation at Ukrainian customs, in particular to solve the problems with the smuggling of wood-cobblestones, including through rigorous penalties and other sanctions against offenders on both sides of the border;
  • to reform the Ukrainian Parliament in order to establish a constructive dialogue between the ruling majority and the opposition, to introduce clear rules and regulations, and to establish positive interaction between the Parliament and government.