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President Victor Yushchenko during the annual European Union Summit with Ukraine, Paris, 9 September, 2008. © Haley/SIPA

A dislocated and mistranslated EU-Ukraine Summit

Opinion - 17 October 2008

by Kataryna Wolczuk

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The EU-Ukraine summit held in Paris on 9 September brought vague promises of progress but produced few tangible results. Its concluding document used the metaphor of ‘the open door’, saying that the Union ‘leaves the door open to progressive further developments in EU-Ukraine relations’. With only President Yushchenko present at the summit and not his political rival Prime Minister Tymoshenko, and amid continued divisions among member states as to Ukraine’s prospects for membership, this was perhaps, as President Nicolas Sarkozy put it, ‘the maximum that we could do’.

In this article Kataryna Wolczuk of the Centre for Russian and East European Studies at the University of Birmingham looks at the current state of EU−Ukraine relations in the light of the Georgia crisis and the current domestic political instability. With a belligerent Russia seeking to reclaim its ‘near abroad’, and the issue of NATO membership being too controversial in and outside Ukraine, she argues that Europe has become the only viable and consensual option within Ukraine.

A clearer Ukraine strategy from the Union and closer engagement, without necessarily committing to eventual membership of the European Union, could help the country stay on the path of reform.