Orange revolution

How can Europe help Ukraine to preserve the achievements of the Orange revolution?

, by Translated by Peter Matjašič, Katarzyna Korolko

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How can Europe help Ukraine to preserve the achievements of the Orange revolution?

These days Ukraine is once again facing tensions after the pro-Western President Yushchenko decided to dissolve the Parliament and called new elections. The events of the last days are likely to produce a civil war or put an end to the Orange Revolution. Let us return to one of the principals at stake in the revolution: Ukraine’s path towards Europe. Is that still possible?

In 2004, the crisis of the communist-like regime and the determination of the Ukrainian people led to the Orange revolution. Ukraine decided to make a change from within the system and in this way undertake the path towards democracy. The free elections were the first such step. New elites emerged.

Two years later, it became clear that these new leaders were not able to restore the political and economic order quickly. In 2006, Viktor Yanukovych, symbol of the old dictatorship and adversary of president Yushchenko in the last presidential elections that sparked the famous Orange revolution, returned on the Ukrainian political scene as Prime Minister. A few months prior to the parliamentary elections (March 26, 2006), Moscow used its last argument to make pressure on Ukraine, namely the price of gas…

Bringing Ukraine closer to the European Union in order to preserve its independence

The ruling political class in Ukraine made the European Union a prospect for the country to overcome its permanent crisis. That does not mean that the idea of integration in the European structures appeared only now.

The relations between Ukraine and the European Union were regulated in 1998, with an Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA). One year later (in 1999), the European council of Helsinki adopted a common strategy of the European Union towards Ukraine. But what was not possible during the regime of Leonid Kuchma (pro-Russian) became a currency of the Orange revolution. Today, joining the European Union represents a strategic objective of the Ukrainian state and a priority of its foreign politics. Why?

First of all, because it was recognized by the countries of Western Europe as a European partner, and to be integrated in the European political and economic structures, represents for Ukraine the best possible guarantee of its independence. Fearing a reintegration with Russia (following the example of the risk Belarus faces), Ukraine regards the European Union as a potential guard in the event of a rebirth of Russian imperialists tendencies and as a significant factor of stabilization inside the country.

The support of the West in the process of cleansing up the Ukrainian economy as well as the establishment of bilateral economic relations plays an outstanding part here. The Ukrainian leaders count on a real assistance on behalf of the European Union. It hopes to benefit from the same solidarity that the old Eastern European countries at the time of their integration to the European Union.

Europe to make Democracy in Ukraine flourish

Moreover, the European Union is synonymous with strong democratic values. Each adhering country is obliged to respect them. It is the most significant argument not only for the elites, but also (or rather above all) for the citizens.

Economic integration will reinforce the rules of the market which are still fragile in Ukraine. Thus, the membership of the political structures of the European Union would guarantee its territorial sovereignty at the same time as economic - in particular at the time when Europe starts to speak with one voice in connection with the energy questions. With those, the Ukraine seems to be particularly sensitive.

There is no doubt that Ukraine is a European nation. Its implication in the history of Europe and its rich traditions clearly testify this. Beyond the political and economic reasons, the Orange revolution was the proof of a feeling of belonging to the “old European continent” and not only to a Slavic history.

The dissolution of the Parliament opened a new stage in the Ukrainian crisis. The choice of President Yushchenko carries a full price. The possible victory of the pro-Russian camp of Prime Minister Yanukovych would mean a big division of the society and the return in the orbit of Russian influence. While the prospect of a possible EU membership, would become much less probable…

Image: Photographe of Viktor Yushchenko during the Orange revolution; source: wikicommons.

 “Les rapports russo - ukrainiens: empire ou démocratie?”, Annie Daubenton, Politique étrangère, 3/2002
 “L’Ukraine joue son unité et son identité”, Thierry de Montbrial, Le Monde, 16 décembre 2004
 “Révolutions en trompe-l’oeil à l’Est”, Le Monde diplomatique, octobre 2005

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