The state of votes
A geopolitical game larger than Euromaiden
The future of Ukraine should be decided by Ukrainians
Alexandra Azarkhina | 2013. December 06. 08:41
Demonstrations which took place following President Yanukovich's refusal of the EU Association agreement show that Ukrainians have a strong opinion on the topic. However, the outcome of the recurring Ukrainian dilemma. “allying with EU or Russia?”, is just one component of an ongoing larger geopolitical game.
On 21st November, the Ukranian Cabinet of Ministers unanimously decided "to stop the process of preparation for the signing of the Association agreement" (AA) between Ukraine and the European Union. This decision caused spontaneous protests in the capital of Ukraine, Kiev. After some protests were hashtagged as #Euromaidan the name was appointed as a general tag for protests all across the country. The Euromaidan started in the evening of 21 November and was broken down by the units of special-purpose police "Berkut" on 30 November.
Ukraine's occidental foreign policies have always attracted much controversy. There is no unanimity on this issue in public opinion either. Yet, the decision of Ukraine's government shocked a great part of the population, while people in favor of a closer Russian cooperation were certainly satisfied. Earlier, President Victor Yanukovich announced his willingness to sign the AA, but it seems that Russia succeeded in changing his mind. Sometimes, the situation around Vilnius looked like a battle game with Ukraine trapped between choosing Russia or the EU. The problem is that while both Russia and the EU are interested in winning Ukraine's favour, the negotiations about the integration processes have never been held simultaneously with Russia and the EU. Though, Ukraine could hardly take a decision, without being influenced by one or the other major international power. In order to find a solution which could satisfy both Ukraine, the EU and Russia, intelligent, multilateral talks would be indispensible.
Euromaidan shows that the traditional diplomatic game – which Ukraine is quite familiar with – may have been enriched by a new dimension. The current demonstrations show that a new political actor is emerging inside the country. More than 300,000 Ukrainians showed that they do not agree with government officials and that they demand the AA to be signed. Taken into consideration that an important number of Ukrainians made it clear that they are in favor of an EU cooperation, the latter may have the right to express a stronger opinion about what is happening in Ukraine. Of course, the EU could also opt for a more conservative option: respect the decision of a sovereign government and say: “we made a proposition to you, you refused it and that is all”. But after the demonstrations and especially the events that ocurred on 30th of November, when the police cracked down peaceful protests, the EU may want to implement measures against Yanukovich's disregard of civic rights and liberties.
However, we should not forget that Ukraine is far from becoming a member of the EU. The country’s fundamental problem is its poorly performing economy. For the past three years the economy has stagnated.(On the other hand, the economic situation within the EU is not simple either.)
Also the Eastern Partnership has not been a major priority of the past years. France, Italy and Spain preferred to make steps in favor of a Southern Neighborhood.
However, there are some encouraging signs, such as the approach of Poland and Lithuania. These EU Member States are fully devoted to cooperating with their Eastern Partners. The increasing level of eurosceptisism within the EU is also a negative sign which would hardly motivate Ukrainians to push for accession. Finally, even if conditions for an AA were not very hard to fulfill, the “now-or-never” language from the European side made the process of negotiations much more stressful. Why are we “now-or-never”? We speak about an important strategic decision and the EU shouldn’t consider Yanukovich as the sole actor in EU-Ukrainian relations forever.
Ukraine is at the crossroads of interests of both Russia and the EU and any integration process in the region cannot be solved without participation of all actors. In respect of massive protests in Kiev and high level of involvement of Ukrainians in this issue, EU shouldn’t consider Yanukovich’s decision as a definitive choice on behalf of the whole country.
Nastya Tyshko | 2013. December 06. 08:41
The events of Euromaidan manifestations show that Ukrainians do not tolerate third parties deciding their future anymore. Demonstrations are not only against Ukrainian foreign policy but also in favour of regaining and protecting basic human rights and democratic liberties.
Thousands of Ukrainians came out to Maidan Nezalezhnosti( the main square in Kiev) after the Ukrainian government had abruptly backed out of signing the Association agreement with the European Union. For nine days the demonstrations, while attracting more and more people, remained peaceful – until the special police forces, Berkut, attacked the protesters at 4 am on Saturday, November 30th. Since then more people than ever before have come out to the streets and events have taken a violent turn.
From this point on demonstrations were not only against Ukrainian foreign policy but also in favour of regaining and protecting the basic human rights and democratic liberties of fellow citizens. Obviously this fight has to be fought by Ukrainian people themselves.
Today in the epicenter of the protests, in Kiev, no one is sure of what is exactly happening. The struggle is neither easy nor completely clear. There is no general agreement on a particular agenda or demands of the protesters. While some agreed upon their principle demands (say the resignation of the current president), they are not united when it comes to deciding which methods could be used legitimately. Every new information provokes a new debate. And this is good, this is the way it is supposed to be.
The problem in the current situation is that everyone has to decide for themselves whom or what to trust or to rely on. Every new controversy which emerges makes it harder for Ukrainains to do so. Today we are not able to decide yet – and we do not need to do so! – whether or not we should be trusting the EU to protect our rights and liberties, in case it decides to take any action in Ukraine. It is possible that any action taken by our European neighbors would create even more chaos in the current political and civic arena.
Even though the last couple of days the events on Maidan Nezalezhnosti have taken different turns, one should not forget that the vast majority of people who are there right now prefer for the demonstrations to remain peaceful. Numerous Facebook posts (social networks have been the main tool for communication and coordination during the riots) and statements made by protest leaders can be taken as evidence. Looking at the vulnerable position Ukraine as a nation-state has reached, any serious action or initiative which does not come from within the heart of the protests is automatically perceived as “illegitimate” and provokes strong reactions. In some cases this percieved “illegitimacy” may lead to violent outcomes.
One cannot teach democracy and one cannot learn democracy as a mere theory. These days thousands of Ukrainians have come to realize the importance of possessing basic democratic liberties and are ready to fight for it. And this time people are fighting for it not because of an abstract vision of democracy as a “greater good”. The present situation of contestation was brought about by the negligence of people's basic rights and liberties, because Ukrainians do not want negligence of rights to become a general rule.
The state's fate depends on its people's choice. Current events prove that Ukrainian people do have a say in politics and that they are not willing to delegate their decisions to third parties anymore, whether it means actors within the country or foreign ones.
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