The Vilnius "Eastern Partnership" Summit went down in history. Some people had big expectations, others expressed concerns, but the results of the summit turned out competently different, not better or worse, just different. The reality has revealed real problems of real Ukraine, which must be solve here and now regardless of strategic focus on Europe.

More and more experts agree that taking a pause in Ukraine-EU association Kyiv proceeded from this very reality. Talks of President Viktor Yanukovych with EC President Jose Manuel Barroso and President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy lasted till late night, which proves complexity of the issue. The situation forces Ukrainian authorities to be steadfast to national interests and interests of every citizen, including those protesting in the main square, economist Ruslan Pavlenko told ForUm's correspondent in Vilnius.

The idea that Ukrainian authorities act following objective conditions was confirmed during the summit by President Barroso, who said Ukraine had been suffering heavy pressure imposed by Russia lately. According to him," Eastern Partnership" was developed as a mutually beneficial deal for all parties involved - participants and neighbors. "The EU is ready to explain mutual benefits to Moscow, including trade turnover growth with full observance of sovereignty and independence of partners," European official assured.  

In turn, President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy promised to raise the question of relations with Kyiv and the association agreement at the next summit Russia-EU. He specified that such agreements would benefit Russia as well. At the same time, all EU officials agreed that "Moscow could not be handed a veto over sovereign Ukraine's relations with Europe."

Remember about economy

It seems Europe has finally understood that "values" and "democracy" are good, but Ukraine also has real economy with its real problems. Several officials and experts said that Western governments, including the United States, badly underestimated Russian opposition to the expansion of European economic and political influence. While Europe promised mostly esoteric benefits, they said, Russia leveled concrete threats, involving the economy in the case of Ukraine.

"Russia did a much better job of explaining pocketbook issues in a very forceful way than Europe did in explaining abstract political benefits," said Bruce Jackson, the president of the Project on Transitional Democracies, an American nonprofit group that has concentrated on Eastern Europe. "Russia wanted this more than we did, certainly more than America did; we didn’t even show up," Mr. Jackson said.

Well, better late than never. And now we see that Europe expresses readiness to up concrete economic offers, and most probably the talks will gain momentum. Thus, EU special envoy Aleksander Kwasniewski said "the EU is ready to talk seriously about economic aid to Ukraine."

Ukraine, in turn, does not change its course, and European politicians recognize it. Thus, Lithuanian MEP Vytautas Landsbergis does not think that Europause will force Ukraine to join the Russian-led Customs Union. "If it is forced to join the Customs Union, it would be for long, as it would mean subordination and satellization, but I think Ukraine’s ambitions are different – it does not want to be a satellite and yield to Russia’s military protectorate," said the MEP.

Landsbergis also noted that the stance taken by other Eastern Partnership countries, primarily Moldova and Georgia, which initialled their association agreements at the Vilnius Summit, is very important for Ukraine. According to him, "whatever the final decision is and the formulation of Ukraine’s future and present with respect to the European Union, the two smaller countries will help Ukraine a lot, if they stay on their line of European course."

In general, the European integration continues, and the keynote of statements and comments of European officials says "the doors remain open". Thus, even "without hope for success" German chancellor Angela Merkel said "the door is open." In turn, President van Rompey confirmed that the European Union's position remains clear. "The offer of signing the most ambitious agreement the European Union has ever offered to a non-Member State is still on the table." And though disappointed with non-signing of the Association, EU enlargement chief Stefan Fule said "the European Union will be ready to resume the preparations for signature of the association agreement as soon as Ukraine is ready to resume on its part."

Journey continues

In this respect, we want to recall the words of Ukraine’s First Deputy Prime Minister Serhiy Arbuzov, who explained in lay language that Ukraine had made every effort on its European integration path, and only special circumstances forced it to take a pause. "Ukraine knew that the European integration process and the associated transformations would not be easy. But a lot of work has been done, and we will definitely fight for our right, for the decision that we made," he said speaking Thursday in Vilnius during a business forum at the summit of "Eastern Partnership".

And when back to Ukraine he added that the agreement would be signed after the development of a mutually acceptable road map. "I still have optimistic mood, because there are agreements on road map. And I'm talking not about the conditions of the Association but about the problems that we planned to resolve before signing and after signing of the Association Agreement. We know the risks and we have made calculations. We told Europe about our problems and we found understanding," he stressed.

... In the evening following the summit and then during the weekend, Ukrainian speech was heard at every turn of Vilnius streets - in squares, transport, theaters and museums, which means Ukraine has already come to Europe... Ukraine is already there, even if someone does not see it (or pretend not to).

Europause is not the end of the world. Our journey continues, and there is "life after Vilnius". And even if the signature did not happen at summit, the EU does have the tentative schedule for a bilateral summit with Ukraine in late winter or early spring. Thus, the day will come, and we will sign the Association, but first we still have work to do.

Andriy Boyarunets, Vilnius


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