The Europeanization of Ukraine

KIEV/BERLIN (german-foreign-policy.com) March 24 – Last week’s signing of the political part of the EU Association Agreement began Ukraine’s transition into the German-European hegemonic system. That country, whose current government, which came to power through a putsch and lacks democratic legitimacy, will now have to align itself on EU standards at all levels.

Besides adopting Brussels’ system of norms, the country, first of all, will face its integration into the German-European foreign and military policy. Ukraine is already participating in EU Battle Groups and EU military missions. Western – including German – energy companies are seeking to take over the Ukrainian gas sector. This even includes the use of controversial “fracking” methods to weaken Russian influence on Kiev in the natural gas sector. As in Greece, the country will now face the glaring impoverishment of an “extreme austerity” policy, according to experts, which could “torpedo Ukraine’s recent political reorientation.”

Human rights and deportations

Last Friday, with Ukraine’s signature under the political part of the Association Agreement the country’s structural integration into the European hegemonic system has begun. The political part of the agreement provides for adapting the Ukrainian legal system to that of the EU, which allegedly would strengthen human rights – as one can usually hear in public. However, this will be tantamount to standardizing the Ukrainian legal system to fit the interests of West European businesses and governments. This will not only serve West European business expansion. The Association Agreement also provides for close cooperation in the field of migration and asylum, usually aimed at stopping undesirable immigrants from entering the EU. Participation of the ultra right Svoboda party in the government in Kiev could therefore, be beneficial to the EU. According to its party program, Svoboda wants to “establish stricter anti-immigration measures and improve the system of detention and deportation of illegal immigrants” as well as “strengthen state border protection and cut off channels of illegal migration.”[1]

Battle groups

Intensifying Ukraine – EU cooperation in the fields of foreign and military policies is of high priority. The Association Agreement speaks of a growing “convergence of foreign and security policy.” At the signing, “Prime Minster” Arseniy Yatsenyuk declared, “this agreement corresponds to the aspirations of millions of Ukrainians, wanting to be part of the EU.”[2] The cooperation in foreign and military policy includes the Ukrainian military’s participation in EU Battle Groups. Following a test run in the second half of 2011, it was revived last January 1, in the framework of the EU Battle Group “HelBRoC” as in 2011.[3] Ukrainian soldiers will again be integrated into an EU Battle Group in 2016. Ukraine had already participated in a mission of German-European forces: From January 3 to March 4, the Ukrainian frigate “Hetman Sagaydachnyi” participated in the “EU NAVFOR Atalanta,” the EU intervention at the Horn of Africa. It is particularly interesting to note that Ukraine’s military cooperation with the EU is developing in rivalry with its military cooperation with NATO.

From West to East

Ukraine’s growing accessibility for the economic interests of German and other Western energy companies is accompanying the incorporation of Ukraine’s military into the German-European system of alliances and their use for German-European conflicts. Already in November 2012, the German energy corporation RWE began supplying natural gas to Ukraine. This was politically motivated by Kiev’s ambitions to reduce the country’s dependence on Russian gas supplies, in light of Moscow’s foreseeable resistance to what, at the time, was the approaching signing of the EU Association Agreement.

This opportunity was provided by the “reverse flow” technical option, wherein, instead of the pipelines pumping natural gas from east to the west, the west would now pump gas eastward. RWE – the German energy company that has repeatedly been involved in anti-Moscow projects, such as the Nabucco pipeline [4] – had assumed responsibility for this project. First Poland, then Hungary willingly made their pipeline networks available, only Slovakia had to come under quite heavy pressure to agree.[5] In reference to the eastward direction of gas sales, “Prime Minister” Arseniy Yatsenyuk said at last Friday’s EU summit, it is important that in the future even more natural gas will flow “in the reversed direction.”[6]

Ukrainian shale gas

Ukraine’s western gas supply has become possible thanks to the growing liquid gas production by countries such as Qatar, but, above all, thanks to the US shale gas boom. The new flexibility in gas production facilitates western companies’ becoming more competitive with the pipeline-bound Russian industry. Ukraine is but one example. It is already foreseeable that, in a few years, US companies will be on the lookout for a large export market for its “fracking-”produced shale gas. Beyond this, for some time, major US and European energy companies have been tapping new sources – even in Europe – to stabilize their “fracking” leadership on the world market. The Yanukovych government in Ukraine has placed the country at the disposal for this effort – a move that would also weaken Russian influence. In January 2013, Shell signed a contract for shale gas exploitation in East Ukraine and Chevron concluded a similar deal for West Ukraine in early November of the same year.

Until now, resistance to the foreign energy companies has mainly come from the fascist Svoboda Party, which has massively hampered Chevron’s West Ukrainian projects. Last week, Svoboda leader, Oleh Tiahnybok, met with a representative of the US energy sector – and agreed to no longer hamper their “fracking” plans.

Extreme austerity

While attractive opportunities are appearing on the horizon in pro-Western Ukraine for the German-European military and western energy companies, German-European scenarios of impoverishment à la Greece are looming for the broad masses of the Ukrainian population.

In an initial step, considered, according to economists, as being “in anticipation of IMF demands,” the Ukrainian National Bank has now ceased to prop up the country’s currency. The subsequent devaluation was “quite dramatic” and “resembles serious historical monetary crises in other emerging markets,” says one expert.[7] It is evident that massive budget cuts are imminent. In fact, interim “Prime Minister” Arseniy Yatsenyuk has already announced his intentions to cut government spending by about 15 per cent.[8] The Ukrainian economy will thereby be pushed even deeper into the crisis and “shrink from at least three to seven percent” in this year alone, according to a recent analysis, which predicts a simultaneous inflation rate of from ten to fourteen percent. “Given the extremely low Ukrainian wage levels,” this immanent austerity program would, “engender enormous risks” and could even “torpedo Ukraine’s successful political transformation that has just recently been achieved.” The author of this analysis notes that “in this context, reference should be made to the experiences with extreme austerity policies within the Eurozone,” where “in some countries, such as Italy and Greece, technocratic governments” were needed, “whose democratic legitimacy is, to some extent, questionable.”[9]

In this sense, Ukraine has long since arrived in the EU. Its current government has not come to power through democratic means.

More reports and background information on the current German policy in reference to the Ukraine can be found here: Problems of Eastward Expansion, A Broad-Based Anti-Russian Alliance, Expansive Ambitions, Our Man in Kiev, Integration Rivalry with Moscow, On the Offensive, At all Costs, The Crimean Conflict, The Kiev Escalation Strategy, Cold War Images, The Free World and A Fatal Taboo Violation.

[1] All-Ukrainian Union “Svoboda” program – “Program for the Protection of Ukrainians”. en.svoboda.org.ua.

[2] Jazenjuk will Energielieferungen aus der EU. http://www.faz.net 21.03.2014.

[3] Foreign and security policy. ukraine-eu.mfa.gov.ua

[4] See Southern Corridor and Das letzte Kapitel.

[5] See Kampf um die Pipelines and Battle for the Ukraine.

[6] Jazenjuk will Energielieferungen aus der EU. http://www.faz.net 21.03.2014.

[7] Gunter Deuber: Neue Regierung, IWF und EU vor extremen wirtschaftspolitischen Herausforderungen. Ukraine-Analysen Nr. 129, 11.03.2014.

[8] See Kiewer Zwischenbilanz.

[9] Gunter Deuber: Neue Regierung, IWF und EU vor extremen wirtschaftspolitischen Herausforderungen. Ukraine-Analysen Nr. 129, 11.03.2014.

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