01 Oct 2004

Is Ukraine Turning Away from Europe?

Marius Vahl

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Regardless of the merits of Ukrainian criticisms of the European Neighbourhood Policy, its reception in Ukraine indicates that the EU has already missed one opportunity to foster the reforms in Ukraine that the EU ultimately seeks. Yet the presidential election in Ukraine on 31 October represents another opportunity for change, as the country will decide between a pro-reform candidate and a pro-government, authoritarian one.
As Ukraine prepares to vote, the EU needs to ensure that it sends the appropriate signals concerning the conduct of the elections. If the elections are not free and fair and the government uses the administration machinery inappropriately to guarantee the victory of pro-government candidate, this should have clear and immediate consequences for relations between the new Ukrainian president and the EU.
If on the other hand the elections are free and are followed by steps towards pro-European reform, the EU should reciprocate, above all by making sure that the Action Plan between the EU and Ukraine moves the bilateral relationship significantly and noticeably beyond the current state of affairs.