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7 June, 2013 12:00   ▪  

Polish experts: the mere act of signing the memorandum with Customs Union has worsened Ukraine’s image in the West

The signing of the memorandum with Customs Union proves that blocking the progress of Ukraine’s integration with the EU is an important goal for Russia, Szymon Kardaś and Tadeusz Iwański, experts at Polish Institute of International Affairs, Polish think-tank, write in their article.

“It can be assumed that Ukraine signed the CU memorandum for tactical reasons. On the one hand, Kyiv intends to ease the pressure from Russia to integrate fully with the CU; Ukraine will not benefit very much from it, but nor will it commit Kyiv to anything formally binding. On the other hand, we may assume that Kyiv sees the memorandum as an instrument for putting pressure on the EU, so that Brussels will ease the conditions for Ukraine to sign the AA at the summit in Vilnius in this November,” experts claim.

“The Ukrainian side’s calculations, however, may prove to have been incorrect. The mere act of signing the memorandum has worsened Ukraine’s image in the West. The content of the document, which was negotiated during Viktor Yanukovych’s unexpected visit to Vladimir Putin in Sochi on 26 May, was not consulted with the EU, a fact which Brussels received with concern. It was only after the memorandum was signed that Kyiv made any attempt to explain to Brussels that the document is not inconsistent with the obligations of membership in the WTO or Ukraine’s stated desire to move closer to the EU.”

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Kardaś and Iwański believe that Moscow is aware of “the political game Kyiv is playing, and in fact assumes that the difficult economic situation in Ukraine, its continued energy dependence on Russia, and its unpreparedness to meet all the conditions set by the EU, will prove to be the factors which force the Ukrainian government to accept the Russian offer”.

“The signing of the memorandum proves that blocking the progress of Ukraine’s integration with the EU, in particular preventing Kyiv from signing the AA with the EU in Vilnius, is an important goal for Russia. In the coming months, we should expect Russia to attempt to cool relations between Ukraine and the EU. Firstly, Moscow will try to exploit in the media the declarations that Ukraine accepted in the memorandum, specifically its readiness to recognise the principles forming the legal basis of the CU and EuEU, and that it will refrain from making any actions or statements which may be prejudicial to the interests of these structures’ member states.

Secondly, it will seek to implement the measures announced in Astana: preparing by this October the appropriate changes in the agreements governing the Eurasian integration process, which would allow Ukraine to sign the legally binding documents at the next summit of the CU presidents in December, formalising its observer status in the CU and the future EuEU. Thirdly, it cannot be ruled out that Moscow will try to exert political pressure on Kyiv as part of their ongoing, difficult gas negotiations (which have lasted many months), which concern both Russian gas supplies and Russia’s willingness to gain control of Ukraine’s gas pipeline network,” analyst conclude. 

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