Lessons from Ukraine’s Maidan for the Eastern Partnership Countries

By Hans-Jürgen Zahorka
Chief Editor, European Union Foreign Affairs Journal

http://www.eufaj.eu

Today night, Saturday, 22.2.2014, Yulya Timoshenko spoke for the first time after her release on the Kiev Maidan, and the questions about the whereabouts of ex-president Yanukuvich and about what he declares now reach the field of the ridiculous. He undergoes the fate of other dictators who have been chased away, and from which fates he did not learn anything.

Now those who have political responsibilities in the EU (and not only of the EU) should however discuss what may or will happen in the next future, i. e. the impact of the Kiev Maidan on Russia and on the other European Partnership Partner states of the EU, as well as on the West Balkan and on Turkey. All these countries, except Russia, have one thing in common: they are possible EU Member States, in the making, in the waiting room. Of course, with different individual distance yet to the European Union.

First, it must be congratulated and thanked to the Ukrainian people, to the heroes – and the dead – of Maidan. This was the latest European revolution which became accelerated by the horror of those who were marched by the government against the protesters, and who felt – on their own or upon the opinion of their families, relatives, colleagues etc. – that this was too much. It is not possible to excuse the Ukrainian government of the deadly snipers who killed by one single shot protesters in an arbitrary way. We will all be witnesses to trials who will be necessary, and – for the sake of the rule of law oif Ukraine – it must be hoped that they are fair. Yanukuvoch must be aware that he might come in a similar situation as Ceaucescu of Romania. Because the state Forces who served him without thinking on their role may become disappointed in a way that they might take revenge.

The impact of the Ukraine events may be also a heavy load on the present Russian government. What e.g. Foreign Minister Lavrov said shortly before and after Yanukovich was lifted out of his position by the Ukrainian parliament, went into a direction, which implied that he has not learnt anything. While Russian (state) TV was a bit more diplomatic, it can be expected now that the Kremlin tries out (again) the collective intelligence of its own people, civil servants and politicians. That means without doubt, that there will be also protests, demonstrations etc. in Russia. But the Kremlin would be totally wrong to react with the usual hard measures: police, arrests, trials, the modern gulag etc. The way, the Kremlin will react on the next demonstrations will indicate if they have learnt anything. It they react as harsh as ever, this may end up in a similar situation like in Ukraine, especially after Sotchi. Of course, the EU played a bigger role in the Ukraine, with its Draft Association Agreement, than in Russia, as Russia is not waiting ante portas of the EU – but it is clear that the so-called „European values“ will now play a bigger role: pluralism, democracy, participative democracy, tolerance, human rights, the rule of law (in all its facets), solidarity, equality, non-discrimination etc. Article 2, 3 et al. EU Treaty (Lisbon Treaty) will be a guiding line for all the countries which are or were foreseen for Putin’s Eurasian Union.

This Eurasian Union, if it were a pragmatic integration tool alone, would not be a problem for the EU. But evidently Putin wants to restore „Soviet Union 2.0“. And the predecessor of the Eurasian Union, the Eurasian Customs Union, is, I am sorry, „ga-ga“. Because e.g. Armenia has to raise its import tariffs from the member countries now from 2,7 to 6,5% to become a member of this Customs Union. There are moer than 800 kinds of goods which should be exempted. This is a huge task to negotiate, and then the Armenian government has to allow to be asked why they want at all into this Customs Union. Any integration System which raises tariffs and therefore prices works against the people – for whom it is originally intended to exist. The EU knows this perfectly, and the Armenian government knows this, but they act against all reasons. It is difficult to understand the Armenian people to swallow this, and above all the government in Yerevan to accept this in principle. The Association Agreement would not have jeopardized any close cooperation between Yerevan and Moscow. The objective of the Association Agreement EU / Armenia would have been the decrease – until zero! – of any custom tariffs, and a free access to the EU Single Market, which is a unique success story for every participant country. The other member states of the Eurasian Customs Union Belarus and Kazakhstan, who take this Customs Union as serious as it merits, sometimes shake their head in view of the Armenian eagerness to join this. Nota bene: Armenia had declared their attachment to the Customs Union on 3rd September 2013, after having celebrated the end of negotiations of the EU Association Agreement/DCFTA only on the 24th July, 2013. Both are imcompatible. This, of course, is the product of pression by Russia,and of nothing else, except an evident weakness in negotiations with Russia from the Armenian side. How this was communicated afterwards, was not subject to any beauty contest, and many European politicians ask themselves now, if they can trust any Armenian declaration. But to complete this, it must be said in the same moment that also Azerbaijan policymaking has many deficits, like e.g. the breach of Council of Europe conventions.

From the Eastern Partnership countries, Georgia and most probably Moldova will continue their way to the EU. Of course sometimes with small curves, but here may be optimism the appropriate position. Armenia will, if it really implements the Customs Union laws, soon be disappointed, and I do not exclude a kind of civil society-based movement there pleading openly for an accession to the EU. This would, of course, also help Armenia towards its problems with Turkey (and also Turkey with Armenia), and with Azerbaijan, including the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan will probably not be the Primary subject of any Maidan fallout, as the president, Ilham Aliev, has the Country in not too democratic grips – but in general, the opposition against the present system will be encouraged as well, and nothing can be excluded – and Azerbaijan may be the most corrupt Council of Europe Member State.

Rests still Belarus, the 6th Eastern Partnership Partner state. In Belarus, where many activists helped on the Maidan (and some of them have even been killed by the Berkud Police Forces and/or the Secret Service sniper units), this may become an issue. Above all, the economic situation of this country is deplorable, and it can not be expected that Russia feeds open-end barrels without bottom. So Belarus will soon have another look for more EU support. Belarus is a country which cooperates already now, so far it does cooperate, correctly with the EU. This is not the way its president Lukashenko preaches, but it – and he – does.

After all, there will be further centripetal power of the European Union. The EU is not a nationalist event, nor a military or likewise system (as the German party „Die Linke“ recently said), but a chance for all of the Eastern Partnership countries to join. Sooner or later this will happen, and we are now exactly in the situation when the Soviet grips have been loosened to the e.g. Baltic countries in the early 1990s – states are today seasoned, experienced and very positive European Union members. After all, the EU enlargement policy will get a new boost, even if the issue of enlargement is not explicitly pronounced – as the EU often had fears to tell it to its own people. This has to finish, and in the EU everything which has to come has to be discussed. The Ukraine events have probably woken up the EU citizens, or a great deal of them, and the fact that the next Ukrainian election will be held on the same date as the 2014 European Parliament elections, namely the 25th May, indicates that Ukraine is now ante portas as well. Maybe not in the next 5 or 10 or even more years. But nobody should forget that e.g countries like Latvia have been a EU Member State exact 10 years after the application was made. And that the economic development of all new Central and Eastern Member States went into the right direction. It is not necessary that the same economic Level has been reached by any future member state immediately – it is only important that the economic policy follows the right direction, to join the EU which has also high disparities within its Member States.

So, nobody should be astonished, if in other Eastern Partnership states, like e.g. Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, or in Russia, or in Bosnia-Herzegovina or Turkey, similar movements like on Maidan might occur.

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