Ukraine and the European Neighborhood Policy: Can the EU Help the Orange Revolution Bear Fruit?

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The accession of ten new member states in May 2004 expanded the borders of the European Union (EU). In anticipation of this expansion, the EU developed a more structured and institutionalized relationship with neighboring states that do not have immediate prospects for membership. First expressed in 2003 in a proposal for a Wider Europe Neighborhood Policy, this policy was more formally advanced in 2004 with the proclamation of a European Neighborhood Policy (ENP). The ENP expressed a number of objectives, the overall thrust of which was to enhance security on the EU borders as well as providing a means for political, economic, security, and cultural cooperation.

The ENP is designed to cover sixteen countries, twelve of which to date have been the subject of ENP activity. (1) Seven--Israel, Egypt, Lebanon, Tunisia, the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, and Morocco--had longstanding ties to the EU through the Barcelona Process but are disqualified for eventual membership in the EU on geographic grounds. Three--Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan--could argue that they possess some European credentials, but at present the prospect of membership is not seriously discussed. The two remaining countries presently in the ENP--Moldova and Ukraine--have expressed interest in joining the EU, border on EU members (none of the other ENP countries share a land border with the EU), and would appear without question to meet the geographic requirements of membership specified in Article 49 of the Treaty on the European Union. Thus, for these two countries, the ENP is a bit of a disappointment, as it separates them from EU aspirant countries in the Western Balkans and groups them with countries which have no prospects for membership. Indeed, the very term "Neighborhood" is objectionable to many Ukrainians because it implies that Ukraine lies outside Europe.

This paper will focus on EU relations with Ukraine, where the country's leadership has for over a decade made much of the country's "European choice." Despite this rhetoric, however, membership in the EU was never put on the table, in large measure due to the country's economic woes and creeping authoritarian leadership under former President Leonid Kuchma, as well as fear of complicating relations with Russia. One observer, citing the country's aspirations to join the West, noted that its lofty foreign policy rhetoric mixed with its corrupt domestic political life like "oil and water" (Garnett 1999; see also Molchanov 2004). Indeed, despite the EU efforts to foster democratization and growth of "common values" with Ukraine, under Kuchma the country made little progress toward democracy. In this respect, in 2003 the ENP represented a reasonable choice for the EU, as it was a policy that recognized Ukraine's ostensible desire for closer ties with Europe while at the same time offering nothing concrete in terms of membership. Indeed, given fears that EU expansion to the East would create a "velvet" or "paper" curtain along Ukraine's western border, the ENP seemed a wise move to assuage the concerns of Kyiv.

While one could perhaps argue that in 2003-2004 the ENP was the best Ukraine could hope for, expectations changed dramatically as a result of the "Orange Revolution" and the inauguration in January 2005 of pro-Western Viktor Yushchenko as Ukraine's new President. The EU played an active role as a mediator during the standoff between Yushchenko and his supporters and the "Party of Power" headed by Viktor Yanukovych. Yushchenko, in turn, declared that the revolution is proof of Ukraine's European credentials and that his goal is membership is membership in the EU. While Ukraine has found supporters in some European capitals and in the European Parliament, (2) and among Europeans is viewed as a more attractive candidate for membership than Turkey, (3) the EU has refused to open the door to membership in Ukraine. In the immediate wake of the Orange Revolution in February 2005 the EU put forward a new Action Plan under the aegis of the ENP. …