European Union diplomats currently describe Ukraine as the biggest foreign policy "challenge" of the day.

Last week, Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Radoslaw Sikorski, the German and Polish foreign ministers, wrote to their colleagues to warn of "destabilising effects" of potential developments in Ukraine's "external relations".

"Negative developments in Ukraine could have wide ranging consequences," they wrote.

Ukraine is becoming the main location of a strategic battle between Russian and the EU over the country's future as an Eastern or Western facing country.

Following the Georgian war last year, the Ukraine has complained that Russia is systematically issuing Russian passports to Ukrainian citizens living in Crimea.

A document recently circulated by German diplomats in the EU warns that the Crimea issue could lead to "a serious deterioration of relations" between Russia and Ukraine.

Berlin has suggested "raising the issue of Crimea with Ukraine in a more systematic way" with the goal of "strengthening 'European' identity in Crimea, fostering ties with Europe and the West".

But there is a problem.

The EU is meddling without offering the Ukraine anything. The EU as a more-or-less cynical diplomatic bloc of officialdom is certainly not being a good European in the internationalist sense.

Ukraine is seen as health and safety, stability problem not as country whose peoples might see themselves as European.

Last night, just before the substance-light "Eastern Partnership" summit in Prague on Thurs, the EU retreated from cementing a firm alliance with countries such as Ukraine because of fears of a domestic popular backlash against migration from the east.

The term "European countries", to refer to the six former Soviet countries, was dropped from draft texts to avoid any hint that it would imply future EU membership and migration rights.

The EU ambassadors also watered down commitments to "visa liberalisation", allowing people from the region greater work and business access to European countries.

EU visa liberalisation, allowing more Ukrainians, including people from the Crimea, to work in Europe could play a vital role in taking tension out of the region by offering people something new.

Russia offers passports, the EU won't even ease up on visas.

Germany and the Netherlands forced changes to the summit communiqué because they are running scared of popular opposition to immigration. It is a political, public argument Europe's elites are not prepared to have.

Why should Ukraine or its peoples look to the West and Europe when they are regarded as a threat, not as fellow Europeans?

Without giving the Ukraine and its peoples a real prospect of being European, particularly via the freedoms of travel and work, the EU will end up destabilising the region further. 

By Bruno Waterfield

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