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6 July 1998
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Borderline Case Europe -
Chances and Risks of the New Neighbourhood
Statement by Borys Tarasyuk, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine
International Bertelsmann Forum
Berlin, July 4, 1998
I dare agree with President Herzog and many other speakers who were right to point out that a truly united Europe is far from being completed. The ambitious title of the presentation paper refers obviously to the European Union which is not the whole Europe, not a community of all Europeans. It's a pity that the authors of this publication left many countries outside Europe, among which Ukraine.
When we look at contemporary Europe in the context of EU enlargement, we can see at least its three major parts: European Union proper, first candidates for accession, and all the rest "in the proximity to Europe". This is a picture seen by many European politicians, who are enchanted by their puristic dream of building a safe and prosperous society for the elected few. The honest alternative to this distorted picture is to endeavour a vast Euro-Atlantic area of co-operation with the participation of all states of the region who wish to join, meet the conditions and can make their contribution.
In place of old "grey zones" of security – now being successfully removed by NATO and its partners – new powerful danger is emerging. A new division line is taking shape along the western borders of the European newly independent states, despite all declarations of European leaders to be willing to avoid it (Prime Minister Bondevik was sharp to mention this threat, though Norway is not an EU member). A new division line which is more dangerous than arsenals of weapons, and which reflects regretful viability of old stereotypes of those politicians who still speak of "former Soviet republics". This is not just a matter of terminology or false conveniency, this is a disturbing and very tangible misconception which runs contrary to public declarations of an undivided Europe.
Until now there is no clear vision or strategy aimed at involving all CEE countries, including those beyond this former borderline.
In the meantime Ukraine knows pretty well what it wants to do with its future. Integration into European and Euro-Atlantic structures is not just of interest to us, as this paper says, it's not an entertaining political game, but a real serious business, a conscious choice, a long-cherished return to Europe of a state with a millenium-old history. A state which gave Eastern Europe christianity, which set an example of a democratic republic in 16th century middle age Europe can hardly be classified as the continent's periphery. Besides, it would be blatantly wrong geographically. Short memory can not be an excuse for exclusion policy. Strategic partnership has become a commonplace term. But it is really valued when supported by concrete deeds.
Ukrainians and Poles had to dig many centuries back to reach a true reconciliation. And it works. We have excellent relations. The same applies to Polish-German reconciliation, or that between Germans and French. Why? Because their leaders took a political will, and because people are united by one idea of a better Europe for all. Let's do it wider, let's do it for the whole Europe. Artificial barriers may serve immediate purposes, but the ultimate cost will be too high.
One thing surprises me. In communist times, desire of Westerners to help free their Eastern friends from totalitarism coincided with internal drives for indepedence of many nations within the Soviet Union. We knew then that we were fighting together to see Europe free, democratic and prosperous. Now, when the old dangers disapeared, Western Europeans suddenly lost sight of what they were fighting for.
We may not lose a historic chance to shape together an integrated Europe. How? Some of the answers are also in this document: through expanding the space of stability and democracy; through avoiding new division lines with their dangerous tensions; through closely cooperating according to civilised rules with those outside the EU, instead of creating tough, harmful and short-sighted competition. By competition I mean here a push-out protectionistic policy.
A good example is set by NATO. And I fully support the idea of H.E. President Kwasniewski about creating a "Partnership for Prosperity", similar to NATO PfP programme. Let us not leave it by words. This idea should become a cornerstone of EU's adopted policy towards Central and Eastern Europe. And here I mean a real whole Europe.
EU enlargement process faces two major challenges: dealing with Europe's so called "enclaves" like new Balcan countries, and reaching out to Eastern and South-Eastern Europe. Ukraine would welcome accession to EU of Croatia, Macedonia or Albania. The same should as as naturally apply to Moldova, Ukraine, Slovakia and all Baltic states.
I was upset to read here matter-of-fact phrases about potential ethnic conflicts or present military threat coming from Ukraine. I should believe that it was done with a thought-provoking purpose. Anyway, It requires a serious response. How can Ukraine be considered in the context of any conflicts or wars, when it is one of little few newly independent states which avoided ethnic or religious violance? Its titular Hungarian, Romanian or Russian minorities enjoy equal rights and have opportunities to develop freely their culture and language. Let alone the problem with repatriated Crimean tartars who are welcomed to Ukraine, even though the international community is still not fully appreciating the huge financial burden for us. Talks about ethnic or religious instability in Ukraine which may cause a split in the society is a myth, dead for almost 7 years now.
Speaking about weapons, was it a charity to extend invitation to Ukraine to Wassenaar agreements, MTCR? Wasn´t it Ukraine which succeded in implementing CFE and START-I, or renounced its nuclear weapons? Are there any grounds to assert that Ukraine's uncontrolled weapons pose a threat to European security. Or is it again the old stereotype of using a convenient generalised approach? While Europe has certainly common values to be shared, each country's merits or failures must be judged individually.
Politicians often point that membership in enlarged European institutions presupposes that a newcomer should be able to make its lasting contribution. Ukraine is already doing this, making political, economic and military contribution to a more stable and united Europe. The fact is that Ukraine not only plays a consolidating role in Central and Eastern Europe, but has become a strategic link between various regions, like between the Baltic and Black Sea countries.
The paradox is that instead of promoting regional cooperation and good-neighbourly relations, European Union actually threatens integrity of these ties by introducing border and visa regimes in new candidates. The problem is that while these current EU policies are obviously designed for new members, they often directly affect political and economic security and well-being of other CEE countries, including Ukraine. Potentially they jeopardise also dynamic relations and large-scale economic and cultural cooperation between Ukraine and the new members. This is an argument for those who believe that EU's internal affairs do not influence outsiders, and therefore those can wait. A strong concerted and urgent approach is needed to avert this danger because otherwise we may be thrown back which will significantly complicate Ukraine's future negotiations on border regime and many other issues when we are ready to start accession negotiations. So far Brussels doesn´t even recognise Ukraine as inseparable part of Central and Eastern Europe.
From our side we are ready for cooperation to strengthen our borders against illegal migration as part of an overall package of activities envisaged by Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between Ukraine and the European Union.
For better illustration of this serious problem for Ukraine and other CEE countries, I would like to remind you of a simple children's game when one has to arrange a dozen of numbered blocks on a plate in their numerical order, with a little space for manouvre. Every kid knows that for a succesful solution of this puzzle he has to move all blocks in a broad pattern. Whenever he tries to place them neatly one by one, ignoring the rest, he fails, because in the end he has several blocks which are impossible to arrange without breaking the whole picture. That is exactly what's happening in Europe - accomodating 3-4-5 newcomers while ignoring the others which are indispensible for an integrated picture of a truly united Europe.
Fortunately, Ukraine has gained many European friends who support its policy course for integration into European and Euro-Atlantic structures, including association membership of the European Union.
It is evident, that EU enlargement puts Ukraine and other states, involved into the integration process, in a new environment that requires a thorough study with immediate participation by member-candidates, their Eastern neighbours and EU. It is urgently necessary to elaborate and introduce corresponding measures which would help to avoid new dividing lines in Europe, minimise negative consequences of EU enlargement, promote trans-border co-operation.
Remembering that strong economy makes a strong Europe, Ukraine is also trying hard to boost its internal development. Recent economic decrees issued by President Leonid Kuchma in the face of a paralised Parliament were appreciated by international experts. Macroeconomic figures provided by OECD for 1997 testify to viability of Ukraine's economy. We achieved also significant progress in democratic practices, respect for human rights, ethnic tolerance and civil society building.
Borderline case Europe is undoubtedly one of the most important issues of contemporary history. All the parties involved should take it seriously, prepare a plan and act on it. The time of static observation is over. The West has a conspicuous nature to forget about a country's problems as soon as the emanating potential danger for the West - be it Chornobyl, internal instability or nuclear weapons - is eliminated.
We have to think of our future, and to prepare this future today, not follow down the stream. Drastic changes require unconventional ideas, a broader vision. We may not lose the forest behind the front line trees.
Following the choice menu proposed in this document, I would strongly recommend Europeans to opt for their geopolitical interests which means integrating Ukraine and all other Europeans to their common homeplace.
On the eve of an important event for Europe - the 10th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall - we still have to make a lot of tough choices. But even more so - we have to materialise in practice declarations about all-inclusiveness, open dialogue, non-double-standards treatment. Only concrete deeds will serve a better continental and transatlantic community of diversity and prosperity, free of artificial borders and dividing lines.
A few years ago one of the prettiest places in Kyiv changed its old communist name becoming the European Square. This symbolic act reflects a dramatically changed picture in our society and people’s mind. There is a wide national consensus in the country that Ukraine’s return to Europe is beneficial for all - for ourselves, for our neighbours, for Europe itself. But this consensus is seriously damaged by procrastination of time and lack of adequate reaction. Discreditation of Ukraine’s European integration policy may trigger a chain of unpredictable and dangerous geopolitical changes which shall know no borders indeed. My appeal for you is to prevent such developments, to prevent new division of Europe - Europe which is still far from being completed.