News / Europe

'Time is On Our Side,' Says EU in Ukraine Showdown

FILE - People attend a meeting to support EU integration at European square in Kyiv, Ukraine, Nov. 25, 2013.FILE - People attend a meeting to support EU integration at European square in Kyiv, Ukraine, Nov. 25, 2013.
x
FILE - People attend a meeting to support EU integration at European square in Kyiv, Ukraine, Nov. 25, 2013.
FILE - People attend a meeting to support EU integration at European square in Kyiv, Ukraine, Nov. 25, 2013.
TEXT SIZE - +
Reuters
— If there is a consistent message the European Union has tried to send since Ukraine rejected a trade deal last November in favor of stronger ties with Moscow, it is that it does not want to end up in a tug-of-war with Russia.

But whether the EU likes it or not, that is precisely what has come to pass and the future of Ukraine - its 46 million people and its faltering economy - hangs in the balance.

In a speech to a security conference in Munich last weekend, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy laid out the nature of the struggle in simple terms.

The EU, he said, had offered Ukraine a free trade and association agreement to help it build bridges with its neighbors to the west. That offer still stood, as long as the conditions agreed between Kyiv and Brussels were met.

“Some people think Europeans are naive, that we prefer carrots to sticks,” Van Rompuy told the conference, whose delegates included Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and a leader of Ukraine's opposition movement.

“Now I am not saying that we cannot sometimes play our hand more strongly. But surely it is a bad idea to let foul play undercut the very values that constitute our power of attraction in the first place - a power of attraction that brought down the Berlin Wall,” he said.

“Our biggest carrot is our way of life; our biggest stick: a closed door.”

Arm wrestle

The targets of Van Rompuy's words, without being named, were Russia's Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, who sparked the crisis by abruptly turning his back on an EU free trade deal and throwing his lot in with Moscow.

Yanukovich's security forces have cracked down on pro-EU demonstrators - at least five protesters have been killed -  while Russia has enticed Kiev away from the EU with the promise of $15 billion in cheap loans and cut-price gas.

Some diplomats expected the EU to wash its hands and walk away. It cannot match Russia's inducements on either the financial or energy-security front. Instead, it appears to be playing a long game.

After EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton was quoted as saying Brussels and Washington were working on assistance for Kiev, EU officials were quick to say there was no new plan apart from the promise of financial help that Brussels had held out if it signed the trade agreement.

Even without the impact of the last four years of financial crisis, EU leaders are not about to open their coffers and disburse huge sums to Ukraine. It was hard enough to do so for Greece, Portugal and Ireland.

And, dependent on Russian energy themselves, EU member states cannot hope to provide Kiev with the gas it needs, especially as much of it flows to them via Ukraine.

What Europe has to offer is more conceptual: rule of law, democratic accountability, civil liberties and long-term trade and investment, as long as certain objectives are met.

Next to the sugar rush of money and cheap gas, it may not seem particularly attractive, especially given the costs Ukraine faces if it is ever to meet EU standards on judicial, industrial and environmental reform.

But as Van Rompuy pointed out, the course of history is not decided in a matter of weeks or months. The Berlin Wall may have collapsed almost overnight and the Soviet Union crumbled quickly, but those moments were years in the making.

“Sometimes in the heat of events, in the stream of declarations and tweets, we lose sight of the time factor,” he told the Munich conference.

“We frantically look at hours and days, forgetting the years and decades. We lose sight of slow evolutions, of subtle trends. Subtler than the 'decline of the West' or the 'rise of the Rest'.”

Moscow views Ukraine as a heartland of Russian culture and identity, a country that should never have left the Soviet Union. Russia remains Ukraine's biggest trading partner.

Putin wants Ukraine to join his Eurasian Union, a new economic and trade bloc he hopes will some day rival the EU. In that regard, he sees Brussels' overtures to Kiev as a threat.

In an arm-wrestle with the EU, Russia has the muscle. But in a long-run contest involving a way of life and integration with the global economy, the EU hopes it has a persuasive case - and one it says is not to the detriment of Russia.

“The offer is still there,” Van Rompuy said of the agreement Yanukovich rejected last year. “We know time is on our side. The future of Ukraine belongs with the European Union.”

You May Like

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid