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Monday, April 10, 2006

European Commission Unmoved by Europarliament’s Suggestion of Associate Membership for Ukraine

Impressed by Ukraine’s stride for democracy, the Europarliament has petitioned the European Commission to open talks with Ukraine on associate membership. To no avail, so far: The European Commission nixed the initiative.

The counties of the so-called New Europe, Poland and the Baltics especially, have been the most enthusiastic observers of Ukraine’s ideological exodus from Putinese Russia. They have witnessed the difference democracy makes on the other side of the EU curtain. Alas, their ugly duckling neighbor Ukraine equips itself with checks-and-balances avionics and takes wing as a benchmark democracy in the non-EU airspace of the former Soviet Union.

That’s why the rookies in the Europarliament have been steadfast in cheerleading for Ukraine. They never stopped persuading the European Commission, dominated by apparatchiks from the Old Europe, to keep the door open on Ukraine. Undoubtedly, Ukraine deserves a little bonus for its “Le Bourget act,” not the blind eye it has been getting from the European Commission. A little change of heart from countries like France and Germany — the heart of the Old Europe — would mean a lot.

Now that Schroeder has shriveled out of sight and Berlusconi bombed out, Putin’s “Old Europosse” will no longer dog Ukraine with the knee-jerk intensity they used to. Prodi hardly counts among the fans of Ukraine, but he no longer presides over the European Commission. And his intellectual capacity leaves room for hope. Is there a disconnect between the Ukrainian Dream and the European value system? Not really, if we scan the younger cohorts. When it comes to the social contract, French youths never hesitate to stage their own version of Maidan.

Europe has a vast array of burning issues: the welfare state, immigration, demographics, etc. Of course, it will take years for the EU to absorb new members and for Ukraine to be considered for full membership. Still, the Old Europe should not confuse Ukraine’s “values voyage” with a mere “vacation.” We’ve come a long way and we’re in for the long haul. So please don’t try to leave us out in the cold. Don’t “good neighbor” us. Let’s build a Europe that is not embalmed with Euro-euphemisms.

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