Advice at the Sickbed

21 November 2013, 13:33

Let’s be honest: They’re sick of us! How much longer can Europe be bothered with its “sick person”?

This is an honorary title that has changed holders a dozen times, from Turkey to Great Britain, over the past two centuries. It is now finally Ukraine’s turn, after the epic efforts of brave and fearless Western politicians to somehow ensure its place in Europe. The efforts have been persistent but left a feeling of embarrassment, or rather downright shame for my native country.

I am writing these lines when nothing has yet been lost formally and a miracle can still save us. But I don’t believe in miracles. Otherwise, I would have to assume that the current Ukrainian leadership will suddenly learn to respect the rules, keep promises or abide by something other than violence or dirty cash. Overall, I would have to assume that the current government will behave properly, and that is nothing but fiction.  

On the other hand, has the United Europe actually always viewed Ukraine as one of its priority interests? Couldn’t it have stimulated positive processes in Ukraine by allowing it to join the MAP – NATO Membership Action Plan – five years ago, for instance?  

We should admit that the Western political establishment does not yet automatically keep Ukraine in focus as a priority sphere of the United Europe’s interests in the process of decision-making. Its present interest is more of entomological curiosity in the incomprehensible and unpredictable territory between comfort and danger zones. Not an independent subject or object, but a geographic location on the map. However, nobody has yet managed to change or cancel geography.  So, Europe still has to get used to the fact that Ukraine is a part of its territory, worth fighting for and worth protecting, because it is its frontier. A historical frontier between the world of established values, self-improvement, discipline and development, and the world of complete unpredictability, paternalism, hierarchies, absolute power and absolute inert obedience, and irrational insecurities that can take decades and centuries to cure.  

Any nation, just like any individual person, has several faces, which it demonstrates depending on the situation and motivations. One country can be a centre of totalitarianism and a source of problems for its neighbours, and a territory of progress, a generator of hope and a visible role model within literally several years (although, of course, the opposite can also happen).

Yes, we should admit that Ukraine as an independent state has so far not demonstrated its most attractive side to the world. But this does not mean that there is no alternative Ukraine with traditions that go back for centuries, democracies and self-governance; an ancient and strong European culture, powerful resistance against evil – from the hopeless partisan battle against occupants and colonizers to impressive manifestations of solidarity in peaceful resistance. Europe should learn to address this Ukraine – over the heads of politicians – and try to get this modern country onto its side.

Yes, Ukrainians need medicines against depression and disillusionment, from the heavy legacy of totalitarianism and colonization, from the poison of communist habits and stereotypes, which cannot be removed from an organism quickly and poison each of its organs. Grants are not the effective vitamins to build the immunity – they are unreliable and spoil quickly. It is better to appeal to the buds of the currently existing civil society. To independent business, which has survived in spite of all attempts to take over and bury it in the interests of the leadership and its circle. It is also important to open the door as wide as possible to those who wish to study in Europe, adopt its experience and cooperate with it in the horizontal dimension. The embassies of EU countries should transform into portals between the past and the future, rather than reserves of moss-covered Euro-robots, which mechanically decide who should go to heaven or who should go to purgatory.

Excuse my impudence, but the future of Ukraine is first and foremost the future of the entire continent. Having this problematic land with a population of nearly 50 millon on its doorstep, the United Europe will never feel whole and safe. The sick person of Europe, you say? Yes, sick, but – of Europe?!

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