Atelier Europe

UKRAINE
TEST OF THE EUROPEAN EFFECTIVENESS?

Tatyana Augrand
Melody Defforge
Vera Lamprecht
Nino Pruidze
Augustin Roncin

Sciences Po.
Master Affaires Publiques
Master Affaires Européennes

Avril 2015

Ukraine, test of the European effectiveness ?

Abstract
L’Ukraine, test de l’efficacité européenne ?

« Ce qui était un rêve il y a un an est en train de se transformer en réalité, même si ce
n’est pas aussi vite que nous le voudrions. Nous avons retrouvé la liberté. Nous avons signé
l’accord d’association avec l’UE »1 a déclaré Petro Porochenko le 21 mai 2014. Ce jour-là,
l’Ukraine a commémoré la « Révolution de la dignité » commencée un an plus tôt par le
soulèvement populaire suivant le refus de Victor Ianoukovitch de signer l’accord d’association
négocié de longue date avec l’Union Européenne. Pour pro-européenne qu’elle soit, cette
révolution n’en a pas moins mis en lumière les défis auxquels l’action extérieure européenne est
confrontée.
La crise ukrainienne actuelle s’insère dans le contexte des « conflits gelés » survenus
depuis les années 1990 au sein de l’ère post-Soviétique. Constituée d’États nouvellement
indépendants, la région est caractérisée par des frontières politiques différant des frontières
ethniques et linguistiques historiques, et conséquemment par l’éclatement de conflits
séparatistes soutenus par la Russie. À l’image de ces séparatismes, l’Est de l’Ukraine a montré,
depuis l’indépendance du pays, des tendances géopolitiques globalement différentes de celles
du reste des Ukrainiens. La volonté russe de sécuriser son « étranger proche » et de le maintenir
dans sa sphère d’influence a donc pu s’appuyer sur ces séparatismes afin de justifier sa présence
dans ces régions et son poids dans les négociations internationales afférentes. Au sein de cet
environnement l’Ukraine se révèle emblématique des défis de l’espace post-soviétiques. En
effet, eu égard à l’héritage soviétique, le pays est divisé entre des minorités ethniques et
linguistiques à la fois différentes et mêlées : si la minorité ethnique russe représente moins de
20% de la population, la majorité des ukrainiens sont bilingues. À cela s’ajoute l’entrée difficile
de l’économie ukrainienne dans le capitalisme, marquée par un impact inégal de par le pays
ainsi que la collusion entre hommes politiques et nouveaux oligarques. Dès 2004, la place
Maïdan a connu les rassemblements de la Révolution Orange, révélant les aspirations
démocratiques de la population ukrainienne, sa volonté de se rapprocher de l’Union Européenne
et mettant en lumière les réformes encore nécessaires.
Dès la fin des années 1980, certains dirigeants européens ont appelé à une ouverture
diplomatique puis, à la chute de l’URSS, politique vers les pays d’Europe de l’Est jusqu’alors
maintenus sous la domination politique de Moscou. Le pouvoir normatif européen s’y est ainsi
progressivement déployé à travers la méthode de la conditionnalité attachée aux différents
accords conclus avec l’UE, tâchant d’inciter aux mesures de réforme, encourageant la

1 Guillemoles,

2014

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Ukraine, test of the European effectiveness ?

démocratie et l’économie de marché. L’Union européenne développa ainsi spécifiquement à
l’intention de son voisinage Est-européen le Partenariat Oriental, qui visait à soutenir le
développement économique et la stabilité politique par le biais de son soft power. Mis en place
en 2009, le Partenariat prévoit un certain nombre de réformes suivant la Révolution Orange.
Toutefois la Russie, percevant négativement ce qu’elle considère comme une incursion de l’UE
au sein de sa sphère d’influence, réagit à ce rapprochement par des guerres commerciales
successives parmi lesquelles la Guerre du gaz. L’Ukraine dépendant largement du commerce
avec la Russie, particulièrement en matière énergétique, ces procédés ont soulevé de larges
préoccupations parmi la population, et l’UE s’est alors impliquée dans la crise en tant que
médiateur. Prise entre deux grandes puissances, les choix de l’Ukraine apparaissent ambigus,
hésitants, et le Président Ianoukovitch se tournera progressivement vers la Russie, sans pour
autant se détourner tout à fait de l’Union. Le Partenariat menace en outre de se fissurer sous le
poids de différentes dynamiques qui l’animent. Se pose la question de l’accession au statut de
membre des pays, car c’est là la finalité initiale des accords d’Association vers lesquels tendent
les partenaires. Les membres actuels apparaissent de plus divisés quant à la conduite à adopter
face à l’agressivité de la Russie.
La capacité de l’Union européenne à trouver des réponses immédiates et unies aux défis
auxquels elle est confrontée dans son voisinage oriental et plus particulièrement lors de la crise
récente doit ainsi être questionnée. Aujourd’hui les relations entre Kiev et Bruxelles sont
étroites tandis que des négociations sont en cours dans les domaines politiques, économiques et
militaire. Face au soutien russe apporté aux séparatistes qui combattent dans l’Est de l’Ukraine,
l’Union a voté trois séries de sanctions économiques contre le Kremlin et ses proches tandis que
les États-membres continuent à négocier le règlement du conflit. Cependant la crédibilité et la
force de la politique étrangère européenne ont été compromises par son action au sein de
l’espace post-soviétique. En éloignant des acteurs majeurs comme la Russie des négociations, le
Partenariat oriental a effectivement ébranlé la stabilité et la sécurité des États de la région. De
plus, les divergences croissantes au sein même de l’UE ont freiné une action collective qui se
serait peut-être montrée plus à même de résoudre les conflits. L’intérêt national s’ingère ainsi
dans les affaires européennes, les États dépendant à divers degrés des approvisionnements
gaziers russes. À cela s’ajoute la complexité du conflit à l’œuvre dans l’Est du pays et de
l’implication russe, offrant des possibilités de réponse diplomatique et militaire limitées.
Face à ces difficultés l’Union Européenne s’est remise en question. La crise ukrainienne a
sans nul doute contribué à relancer le projet d’intégration par la voie énergétique grâce au projet
d’Union de l’Énergie. Le débat portant sur l’opportunité d’une armée européenne a en outre été
ravivé, une telle force pouvant être de nature à faire de l’Union une puissance plus complète en
la dotant directement de mécanismes de hard power propres à appuyer la volonté politique de
stabilisation du voisinage européen. Considérant l’histoire de la coopération militaire sous égide

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Ukraine, test of the European effectiveness ?

de l’UE, il semble cependant plus probable qu’à court et moyen terme, les États membres
continuent de s’appuyer sur l’OTAN pour assurer leur sécurité collective. La politique étrangère
de l’Union européenne tend à être renouvelée tandis que se prépare le Sommet de Riga de mai
2015. Ainsi en mars dernier la haute représentante de l’Union pour les affaires étrangères et la
politique de sécurité, Federica Mogherini, ainsi que Johannes Hahn, commissaire chargé de la
politique européenne de voisinage et des négociations d’élargissement, ont lancé une
consultation sur l’avenir de la politique européenne de voisinage. Ses axes principaux visent
ainsi à promouvoir une plus grande efficacité de la politique européenne en prenant acte des
difficultés rencontrées jusqu’alors : la prise en considération des « voisins des voisins » dans le
processus de déploiement normatif et politique, la lutte contre la corruption en faveur d’une
émancipation de la société civile ainsi que la mise en œuvre de partenariats plus centrés sur les
spécificités inhérentes à chaque État.

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Ukraine, test of the European effectiveness ?

UKRAINE
TEST OF THE EUROPEAN EFFECTIVENESS?

“Ukraine has no history without Europe, but Europe also has no history without Ukraine.
Ukraine has no future without Europe, but Europe also has no future without Ukraine.
Throughout the centuries, the history of Ukraine has revealed the turning points in the history
of Europe. This seems still to be true today. Of course, the way things will turn still depends, at
least for a little while, on the Europeans.” – Timothy D. Snyder

Back in 2009, when the Eastern Partnership (EaP) was launched it was expected to
become a significant move forward and would project EU soft power into the post-Soviet space.
The EaP had notable positive outcomes on partner countries, including Ukraine, by promoting
its core values of rule of law, human rights, freedoms and democracy. Yet, lacking a clear
strategy with an ultimate objective, it was becoming obvious from the very beginning that the
EU initiative risked to become less efficient in time. There was a clear imbalance between the
interests of the EU on the one hand, which was focusing on stabilizing its neighborhood through
exporting European values, and EaP member states on the other, especially Ukraine, Georgia
and Moldova, which were showing high motivation in implementing needed reforms for deeper
integration with the Union. Five years later, with the events that broke out in December 2013 on
Maidan, these gaps in the policy were entirely unveiled. The 2013 Vilnius Summit was deemed
to be a major breakthrough due to the initialing of Association Agreements between the EU,
Georgia and Moldova. Yet the run-up to the summit was marred by Ukraine (along with
Armenia) rejecting similar agreements under Russian pressure, and in the end, the EaP came to
look like a policy in serious disarray.2
EU’s interests in projecting its soft power beyond the borders lacked clarity as well as
financial resources directed towards the region. It also failed from the EU’s perspective, as it
did not turn out to be a successful tool for the pursuit of “milieu goals” – “that is of indirectly

2 K.

L. Nielsen, M.Vilson, 2014. pp. 243–262.

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Ukraine, test of the European effectiveness ?

shaping the external environment by means of diplomacy and soft power”.3 Five years later
Eastern Europe did not become more stable as a result of EU policy. This raised questions
among scholars as well as politicians. Some argued that the EaP played a part in destabilizing
the region by creating sufficient EU presence to provoke a Russian reaction (which always
perceived this region as its exclusive sphere of influence), but putting too little vigor in it to be
effective. Others continued to defend the position that the internal divisions of member states
over the further enlargement (or “enlargement fatigue”) required them to direct less focus on
enlargement issues.
However, the crisis in Ukraine served as a turning point and learning moment for the EU
to realize the urgency of updating its strategy to meet the existing challenges. The events in
Ukraine once again illustrated the importance of a stable neighbourhood, which was reflected in
the joint consultation paper recently published by the European Commission. In 2015, a decade
after the European Commission issued a first concept paper concerning the integration and
association of its future Eastern and Southern neighbours, the EU clearly admitted that it failed
to implement major ambitions of its policy. Thus, the importance of the change and adaptation
to the new environment created on EU’s borders represents a lesson for the Union to rethink its
neighborhood policy, devise more effective instruments for its implementation, and most
importantly define ultimate objective of the strategy to ensure its effectiveness.
In this paper we have tried to show the extent of EU’s capacity as a normative power
through analysing its efficiency in Ukraine pre and post Maidan. By placing the EU-Ukrainian
relations in historical context, we have demonstrated the important outcomes and challenges,
which existed or were formed in these relations. We have further assessed the role of EU in
coping with issues that arose, particularly with regards to Russia. Moreover, by demonstrating
the flaws of the Union’s policies towards Ukraine, especially after Maidan, which became the
critical test of its efficiency, we have tried to show the questions that it unveiled and urgency of
change that it brought. Finally, we introduced the possibilities that the Ukrainian crisis created
for the European Union the necessity to rethink and reform its Eastern neighbourhood strategy
to make it more efficient and resilient.

3

Ibid.

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Ukraine, test of the European effectiveness ?

I.

THE UKRAINIAN CRISIS

WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF

POST-SOVIET “FROZEN

CONFLICTS” (1991-2014)

A.

The birth of a new geopolitical space

1.

The birth of Post-Soviet nation states

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, fourteen newly independent republics emerged,
founded on the principle of uti possidetis. However, these entities were not constructed
according to clear ethnic and linguistic boundaries. In fact, citizens of these new republics have
been displaced, exiled4, and the Russian language represented a link throughout the whole
region, constructing national identity5, from Ukraine to Dagestan and Vladivostok.
Consequently, they included varied populations, representing religious, cultural and linguistic
diversity. As early as the 1990s, secessionist conflicts broke out in Azerbaijan (NagornoKarabakh), Georgia (South Ossetia and Abkhazia) and Moldova (Transnistria) when national
minorities rose against central powers and claimed for independence. The eruption of these
conflicts was linked to historical, ethno-linguistic and geopolitical factors, and can not be
reduced to solely ethnic ones6. These conflicts remain unresolved until today. By means of
passportization policies or the deployment of “peacekeeping forces”, Russia managed to expand
its influence within the area and created so-called “frozen conflicts”. Another pattern that can be
observed in the post-soviet space during the 2000-2010 decade was the phenomenon of ‘colour
revolutions’, which followed elections denounced as fixed: Georgia in 2003, Ukraine in 2004,
Kyrgyzstan in 2005, Belarus in 2006 and Moldova in 2009. Protesters used mostly non-violent
means to demand democratic reforms, which led to shifts in power and different levels of policy
changes.
Arguably, the recent Ukrainian crisis bears the potential of creating new dynamics similar
to a frozen conflict. Through history, the western part of the country was influenced by Central
European kingdoms while the eastern one was closely integrated with Russia. As a result, the
country became increasingly divided in three areas, the western one being Ukrainian-speaking
and generally more likely to concur with so-called ‘European values’ and the eastern part is
mostly Russian-speaking and with strong ties to Moscow. As a result, most of Ukraine is
bilingual. The clear separation between a Western and an Eastern Ukraine appears exagerated,
since the linguistic division proved to be more complex. Yet, figures showing that Crimea and
Donbass are largely Russian-speaking have to be linked to the fact that most of Russian4

Polian 2005.
Saparov 2003.
6 Parmentier 2015.
5

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Ukraine, test of the European effectiveness ?

speaking medias in Ukraine are backed by Russian-owned companies, thus influencing public
opinion toward a ‘pro-russian’ stance. Opinion polls illustrate that these internal political
division lines continue to exist. A survey conducted in 2008 showed that two-third of Southern
and Eastern Ukrainians did not believe their country would one day join the EU, while western
citizens were massively in favour7. A more recent poll highlighted the fact that half of the
surveyed in South and East are in favor of concluding a Customs Union with Russia, while in
the West three-quarter prefer to join the EU8. Similarly, while most of western Ukrainians are
convinced the country should join NATO, most of Eastern ones estimate it would not be a good
idea9. However, concerning the youth aged between 18 and 29, the aspiration to Europe appears
to vary very little between the East and the West10. This supports the idea that an important part
of Eastern Ukraine and Crimea showed different geopolitical yearnings during the last two
decades.

2.

Russia’s will to secure its ‘near abroad’

Russian Foreign Minister Andrey Kozyrev soon qualified the newly independent
republics as Russia’s “near abroad”11. These republics are under Russian influence for which
they represent a multifaceted asset. Their location on its southern and eastern borders makes it a
buffer zone impeding potential invasions. Moreover, Ukraine and Belarus are both among
Russia’s top five trading partners, while the Baltic states and Caucasus represent a way for
Russia to access “warm waters”. Moscow perceived successive EU and NATO enlargements as
encroachments of their interests, fearing that the promotion of Western state’s interests could be
detrimental to its own influence and power12. Thus, Russia is concerned that covert operations
could be conducted on its own territory or within its near abroad in order to undermine its
authority. This is why its government implemented measures to strengthen its NGOs
international financing regime following the Colour Revolution13. From the Cold War and the
NATO intervention in Yugoslavia, Moscow drew the conclusion that major foreign powers
violated international law which then limited Russian compliance to it. Russia’s answer
consisted of destabilizing interventions, such as in Georgia in 2008, which were then justified
by narratives of alleged American covert actions14. Russian governments have made use of local
conflicts to ensure their political predominance over governments in its sphere of vital interests.

7

Annie Daubenton 2014.
Ibid.
9 Ibid.
10 Ibid.
11 Litera 1994/1995, p. 45.
12 Wikileaks (online).
13 Baranovsky 2008, p. 45.
14 Bratersky, April-June 2014, p. 56.
8

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Ukraine, test of the European effectiveness ?

This destabilizing action was achieved through support of separatist groups in various frozen
conflicts, from Moldavia to Ukraine. Trying to enhance its security, Russia takes advantage of
internal division to slow down the distancing of these countries and maintain them under its
control. Moscow could not have triggered these conflicts on its own and based its action on
existing separatists group15 whose independent existence could hardly be denied. The Kremlin’s
intervention consisted in providing economic, political, diplomatic and security support to these
groups, which would however, never have played such a role without Moscow’s support.
Given this context, the resurgence of the Eurasian Union project evidences the fact
Russia aims at establishing its own geopolitical project by exploiting its geographical location
which straddles two continents. As a consequence of its failure to integrate the western system,
Russia hopes to be at the centre of a new multilateral alliance with countries that are ready to
assume Moscow’s leadership. Putin’s government, more particularly, appears highly willing to
turn Russia into a Eurasian superpower. This shift became obvious during the 2006-2007 winter
when occurred a clear decrease of diplomatic contacts with western powers compensated by a
strong rise of contacts with Oriental countries16. The Economic Eurasian Union came into
effects in January 2015, bringing together Russia, Belarus, Armenia and Kazakhstan. This
Union aims toward integrating more countries and implementing a potential political and
military cooperation. It thus appears to compete with the EU on the integration of Eastern
Europe countries.

3.

The deployment of European normative power

The EU’s orientation toward Eastern European dates back to the 1980s, when Margaret
Thatcher suggested the EC should open up to Eastern Europe17, remembering that the European
Community did not correspond to geographical and cultural Europe and making this point a
recurrent one in discourses concerning the construction of the European Political Cooperation.
In line with the approach of conditionality, in post-Soviet countries the EU tries to
provide incentives toward democracy and market economy. Therefore, concrete criteria have to
be met before economic and political agreements with the EU are concluded which provide for
further integration. Most importantly, the European Neighbourhood Policy launched in 2004
includes commercial agreements based on article 310 of the Treaty on European Communities,
also called Association Agreements (AA), meaning that the EU concludes commercial
agreements with Eastern European and Caucasus countries in return to which theses states must
launch comprehensive reforms. This policy of conditionality covers a broad range of fields
15

Parmentier, January 1st, 2007
Baranovsky 2008, p. 38.
17 Ibid.
16

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Ukraine, test of the European effectiveness ?

concerned with the implementation of so-called European standards, such as democracy, good
governance, market economy and sustainable development. Further steps are to be implemented
if countries fulfil the conditions.
This method is supposed to promote the sharing of common political and economic
systems and thus the stabilization of Eastern Europe. In other words, Europe uses its normative
power to secure its milieu18. However, involved states do not systematically follow the agreed
conditions, manifesting or hiding difficulties to translate commitments into tangible policies, an
issue the EU failed to tackle properly19. This has to be linked to the fact that the conditionality
method suffers from ambiguity, since it can serve as an accelerator to adhesion or a simple
framework for close partnership. Indeed, it was initially developed as a method for integration,
but its use has evolved toward a soft-power tool to incite states to comply with European
political and economic standards and thus spread the European model20. Moreover this policy
can appear patronizing to involved states since the EU seems to have the upper hand on
negotiations. Finally, the EU external action proved unable to ensure the territorial integrity of
its partners and the intangibility of borders as evidenced by frozen conflicts becoming the status
quo. The EU progressively became more involved in the settlement of post-soviet frozen
conflicts due to its own institutional reform momentum, the development of the Common
Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and enlargements to the East21. The Union possesses a
special representative on Transnistria in Moldova since 2005. Yet, European action toward
frozen conflict is limited and has not produced dramatic effects so far. This could have been
caused by the lack of opportunity and willingness for member states to intervene, and could
possibly reveal the need for a more comprehensive European defence system.

B.

Ukraine, emblematic of Post-Soviet challenges

1.

Ethnic minorities

The premises of a growing tension between Ukrainian distinctive minorities were already
being obvious with the 1991 referendum. Indeed, the ethnic groups of the Ukrainian population
consisted of 77.8% of Ukrainians and 17.3% of Russians (2001)22, while other ethnic groups
also shared the Russian language as their native mother tongue. This distinctive feature reappeared in the forefront when Viktor Yanukovych in 2012, permitted the use of two official
languages in regions where the size of an ethnic minority exceeds 10%. This led to quarrels in
18

Nielsen/Vilsons 2014.
Balzacq 2007.
20 Korosteleva et al. 2014, p. 2.
21 Nielsen/Vilsons 2014.
22 Radvanyi 2011, p.76.
19

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Ukraine, test of the European effectiveness ?

the Rada covered by the media23. The division line among languages became the watershed
between two different systems of values.
In order to obtain unity throughout the territory, Ukraine had to distance itself from the
imperial body it has previously been embedded in24. This would have required a great
involvment from the elite to deal with Ukraine’s bipolarity. Indeed, the country is rather
fragmented apart from the mere distinction of the language. In order to cope with this bipolarity,
and reinforce the sense of unity, several incentives were undertaken to gather people around
common values: such as the declaration by Viktor Yushchenko regarding the Holodomor
famine in 1932-1933, which was recognized as “Ukrainian national tragedy”25, and an entire
narrative was conveyed and supported in order to legitimize alienation with Russia. The
Holodomor famine episode is still very debated among historians26, yet it have been endured by
most of Ukrainians and if the figures may be contested, it’s existence is a fact. It is one of the
explanations for the very strong anti-soviet feeling that is simultaneously provoking hate against
soviet Union and against Russia, the latest manifestation being the memorial laws voted by the
actual Ukrainian Parliament, Douma, on April 9th 201527.
A few analysts have also pointed out that the fragmentation of the population would have
of a minor impact if the elite were not corrupt and if the were trusted. Indeed, “Ukraine always
pursued a multi-vectored foreign policy, flexibly moving from the right to the left, from the East
to the West, regardless of who was in power” argues H.J. Spanger28.
The recent uprising in Maïdan and the consequent independent movements that it created
highlights the impossibility to pursue the “two-chair policy” all former presidents tried to
implement in Ukraine29. After the failure of the elites who were expected to be loyal to people’s
aspirations expressed during the Orange revolution, the current dilemma at stake is to reinforce
Ukrainian national consciousness. That is possible through the empowerment of the civil
society Euromaïdan brought to light. One may emphasize the pluri-ethnic contributors to
Maïdan who embodied the national component that was previously missing to every political
unity: 21% of the protesters were from the East, the first one to call to protest was an Afghan
Ukrainian and the first to die an Armenian Ukrainian30. However, the structural and symbolic
maneuver at work in nation building needs to be supported by a positive economic context.

23

Le Monde, August 8th, 2012.
2014, p.80.
25 Ibid.
26 Werth 2007.
27 Vitkine, April 11, 2015.
28 Interview with Hans-Joachim Spanger, 2015.
29 Shevtsova 2014, p.80.
30 Guillemoles, February 19, 2015, p.29.
24Shevtsova,

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Ukraine, test of the European effectiveness ?

2.

Economic liberalization and rule of law

The 2004 and the 2014 revolutions can be read as a total failure of transition to the
market economy in Ukraine31. The period was characterized by the lack of investments,
relatively slow increase of revenues, growing inequalities and cross-country high level of
corruption. An economic line of division adds to the cultural one : the West is more agricultural
and was consequently less exposed to fraudulent privatizations while the East is traditionally
more developed and wealthier thanks to its big, but uncompetitive industries. While Ukraine did
not follow the Russian path of the shock therapy (reforms started in 199432) the country did not
manage to build a strong domestic demand and was too dependent on the foreign, and more
especially Russian, demand for iron. Ukraine perspectives did not benefit from macro-economic
fundamentals to take-off (such as low inflation rate, confidence in the banking sector…), which
led the GDP to decrease about 60% between 1989 and 1999. The 2000-decade witnessed an
improvement of the Ukrainian GDP though there was still a lack of structural reforms to endow
the economy with a long-lasting competitiveness. The system was dominated by oligarchs,
preventing institutional and small-scale investors to do business33. Furthermore, Ukraine did
not diversify enough its energy resources, putting its GDP in the hands of the Russian
government after the Kharkov agreement. Indeed the pact signed in 2010 offered Ukraine a
discount of 30% for the gas prices in exchange for the Russian lease of the Sevastopol fleet to
be extended to 204234. The 2014 revolution added a conjectural component that led to the
collapse of the GDP and the skyrocketing of the debt, to the point that no foreign loans managed
to aid.
Despite the ratification of the European Neighbouring Policy in 2004, Ukraine hardly
managed to meet the Rule of Law criteria, since it was suffering from weak economy and lack
of a reliable government. Ukraine first suffered from the collusion between L. Kuchma
(president between 1994 and 2005) and the oligarchs.35 The country’s aspiration to more
political transparency expressed during the Orange Revolution has been smashed to pieces by a
chaotic political arena during Yushchenko mandate. Indeed Ukraine had to face a political
instability illustrated by the modification of its constitution on December 8, 2004 in order to
give more power to the Parliament and weaken the presidential regime in favour of the
legislative body. Most importantly, during Ukraine’s recent years, political instability has been
the main reason behind the lack of any institutional and economic reform. The EU has been
practically non-effective to cure Ukraine from its ailment. A test for democracy will be the

31

Denysyuk, December 2014, 2014.
Radvanyi 2011, p.80.
33 Sutela, March 9, 2012.
34 Flikke et al. 2011.
35 Sutela, March 9, 2012.
32

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Ukraine, test of the European effectiveness ?

Constitutional reform, Maïdan, and the recent Minsk II agreement. Ukraine will have to devise
its decentralization process in order to give more power to regions, and establish a genuine
democratic culture. Finally, Ukraine will have to cope with the local elections in October that
are of major importance to spread the transparency and the democratic energy demonstrated on
Maïdan.

3.

The Orange Revolution, foretaste of of Ukraine’s democratic endeavours

Intrinsic tension existing between Eastward/Westward-oriented people prevailed in the
political sphere and played an important role during the Orange revolution as well as for the
2004 presidency. Viktor Yanukovych, former Donetsk Governor, was first elected as president
in a controversial vote, being denounced by many NGOs. Soon after Viktor Yushchenko, the
former president of the Central Bank and former Kuchma’s Prime Minister, invited people to
demonstrate embodying the first shout towards Europe coming from Ukraine. Ukraine not only
expressed its will to deepen ties with the European Union but also to witness necessary reforms
and foundations of the rule of law. After a compromise stemming from the willingness to
amend the constitution towards a more parliamentary-presidential system, V. Yushchenko was
elected as President in January 2005.
At that time, the EU managed to bring fast answers to the crisis. The EU’s brokering role
has become active again after the breakup of the current crisis in Ukraine. Back in Yushchenko
years, the EU got involved with Moldova and Ukraine in the Border Assistance Mission
(EUBAM). If no formal adhesion has ever been put on the table, a proposition seemed within
reach. In 2007, both parties entered into negotiations that lasted over 6 years leading to the
Association Agreement. Nevertheless, it should be pointed out that the EU missed the boat after
the Orange Revolution: it did not give Ukraine any prospect or clarity about the adhesion plan
while the country had been seeking for it not only in order to bring clarification but also to put
an end to Russian pressures.

II.

EASTERN PARTNERSHIP:

SOFT POWER AND ECONOMIC SUPPORT TO

COUNTRIES’ REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT (2004-2014)

A.

Establishing the framework of the Partnership

13

EASTERN

Ukraine, test of the European effectiveness ?

Launched in 2009, the Eastern Partnership meant to start on “europeanisation beyond the
EU” , joint initiative of the Polish and Swedish governments37, focusing on post soviet
36

countries, usually still very dependent on Russia. As a matter of fact, the partnership started at
the same time that Russia revealed a new role in the Neighbouring policy, starting a new
dialogue with the EU. Both dynamics had to maintain a very stable balance, yet the more
pressure Poland exerted in its relations with Russia, the more the EaP created issues that would
challenge its own existence, questioning the promises underlined and leading Ukrainian former
President Viktor Yanukovych to file it away for Russia’s offer: immediate economic inputs.
Countries such as Sweden and Poland promoted very strongly the Eastern part of the ENP,
placing “their imprint in Europe’s collective foreign policy”38.the Eastern Partnership aimed at
reinforcing the links between 6 former soviet countries: Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine, Armenia,
Azerbaijan and Belarus. The aims have been clearly identified as political association and
economic integration. The three key basis were: democracy and rule of law, respect for human
rights and commitment to market economy. The “Democracy-promotion program”39 from the
Eastern enlargement, started in 1999, had echoed as a promise for the Eastern Partnership
countries, even though EU’s position was rather the opposite: if they met the criteria for
Europeanization, or the “acquis communautaire” (the body of European law), these countries
were expecting to be offered membership. Therefore, the majority of these countries and among
them Ukraine, was settled on such hope and expectation, however the EU repeatedly stated the
contrary.

1.

Post-Orange Revolution reforms

The Orange Revolution and Constitutional amendment gave birth to a new political
system in Ukraine: the economy opened investment to western businesses, and relations with
the EU and NATO became more substantial. The executive was split, since a lot of powers have
been transferred to the Prime Minister (at that time Yulya Tymoshenko). Internal quarrels
became a never-ending routine in the Parliament, consequently the reforms longed for never
happened. The economic recession impacted Ukraine even more harshly during this period; the
beginning political plurality and the dual form of executive power froze the needed reforms so
longed for. Subsequently, Yushchenko government lost total credit over the chaotic situation in
the country, and in 2006, Viktor Yanukovych became, once again, Prime Minister for one year.

36

Müller 2012.
Miltner 2010.
38 Müller 2012.
39 Meunier and McNamara 2007.
37

14

Ukraine, test of the European effectiveness ?

However, the Revolution sent a direct message to the EU and to the EaP, especially after
the 2008 Georgian conflict40.
The regional development programme from the EU has been perceived as a great
opportunity for Ukraine. However, the approach towards the Black Sea region evolved “from
contractual bilateral relations to a more holistic package”41. The delay and the economic
pressure forced President Yanukovych to ask Russia for help: the demand for a loan having
been rejected by the EU, Russia offered to cut gas prices and a 15 billion dollars loan on
December 17, 201342.

2.

The Russian response to western rapprochement: gas wars

Nevertheless the Ukrainian economy was strongly dependant on trade with Russia,
especially with regards to the very sensitive energy sector. The issue of gas supply became the
point break of the geopolitical struggle in the region. The Orange Revolution and the
subsequent political changes have posed to Russia great challenges with regards to its relation
with Ukraine. The Orange Revolution and the political change have been great challenges for
cooperation with Russia. Diminishing influence in one of the uppermost important partners of
the CIS was not an option. Therefore, the Kremlin started playing with gas prices in order to
orient the new Ukrainian government towards more flexibility. From 2006 until 2009, Gazprom
and Naftogaz managed to reach an agreement. At Viktor Yushchenko’s request the EU43, which
was highly dependant on Russian energy flowing through Ukraine, engaged in a long process of
negotiations oriented towards solving the conflict through international mediation. The 2009
international gas conference failed. Yulia Tymoshenko and Vladimir Putin settled on a solution
after many hours of negotiations44. However, for the European countries this series of conflicts
over gas prices and supply significantly shaked Russia’s credibility as a reliable energy supplier
and also revealed Ukraine’s vulnerability to its neighbour.
Back in 2012, Viktor Yanukovych, with significant backing from Vladimir Putin, came
to power again. Yet the political dialogue with the EU and NATO did not come to an end. The
negotiations on the Association Agreement with the EU were initiated, and the EU’s Foreign
Affairs Council remained hopeful to sign the initialled Association Agreement, including a
Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, as soon as the Ukrainian authorities demonstrated
determined action and tangible progress in the three key basis of the EaP (democracy and rule

40 Englund

2014.
Homorozean 2011.
42 Kyivpost, December 17, 2013.
43 Interfax Ukraine, January 1, 2009.
44 BBC, January 19, 2009.
41

15

Ukraine, test of the European effectiveness ?

of law, respect for human rights and commitment to market economy), “possibly by the time of
the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius in November 2013”45.

3.

Yanukovych’s return: Ukrainian hesitations

Initially relations between Ukraine, EU and NATO were deepening, although in an
uncertain way. Meanwhile relations with Russia were becoming more ambiguous. Like the
Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko, Viktor Yanukovych settled his game in a fragile
balance, aiming first of all at reaffirming his position in the political spectrum.
In fact, the situation was problematic: the 2008 global economic crisis importantly
weakened the Ukrainian economy, public debts were increasing and the country absolutely
needed support. The EU offered a package with many compromises: to free former Prime
Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, accepting IMF’s proposition, a loan against the increasing gas
price, et alii… Furthermore, the FTA with Europe was bringing to an end the possibility of
Ukraine joining the Eurasian Economic Union. And feelings towards Russia were at that time
still somewhat neutral, being a model for the Ukrainian country, which did not recover from the
fall of the USSR.
As a result, in november 2013 just before the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius,
Yanukovych abandoned the Association Agreement and instead opted for economic benefits
that were offered by Kremlin.

B.

First cracks in the Partnership

1.

Inter-EU division lines

The Ukrainian crisis raised doubts on the efficiency of EaP as a policy strategy,
demonstrated the lack and need of the ultimate objective of the program and underlined the
sharp disagreement of the EU member states on the Union’s foreign policy. Clearly, for the EU
the Ukrainian crisis can be considered as the greatest test of its twenty-year old Common
Foreign and Security Policy, an area that has resisted integration more than any other. While in
spheres such as trade, regulation and monetary policy, the EU has forged increasing cohesion,
foreign policy still remains a platform for disunity.46
The first firm stance that the Union managed to take towards Russia as a response to its
annexation of Crimea was the round of sanctions of March 2014. However, the western

45

Council conclusions on Ukraine, 10 December 2012
Byrne, May 8, 2014.

46 A.

16

Ukraine, test of the European effectiveness ?

countries were late to react. Beyond the indecisiveness of the Member States lies a clear reason
– such as the discrepancies existing between them on the EU’s foreign policy and on its
relations with Russia. When Easter European governments took hawkish positions towards the
Kremlin since the very beginning of the crisis, the western countries remained more reserved.
The division lines of the Western European countries like Germany, France and the UK to agree
on the common position towards Russia resulted in their vested interest in the energy, defense
and financial sectors respectively. There was a serious lack on the part of EU to exercise
genuine power though, finally, the “reserved member states” started showing evident red lines
to Russia against its expansionist policy.
The governments in Berlin, Paris, and London managed to put their interests aside:
Germany, Europe's largest exporter to Russia (which also prior to the sanctions regime provided
the country with much of the high tech equipment used in its energy and extractive industries)
sacrificed a significant share of its export as a result of the embargo placed on the export of
these goods by the EU.47 France suspended the contract with Russia on the delivery of the
Mistral warship for which the payment had already been made. London unilaterally decided to
send about 75 soldiers to Ukraine to carry out tactical intelligence and some basic 'defensive'
infantry training there.
However, the Western countries, especially in the beginning of the crisis, demonstrated
naivety by blocking robust EU action towards Russia, hoping that Russian expansionism could
have been contained just by blacklisting people with direct links to the events in Ukraine. The
annexation of Crimea was not followed by the adequate response from the EU in order to oblige
the Kremlin to withdraw from the territories of a sovereign state. On the contrary, while the EU
member states had hard times in finding the common position for the first round of sanctions,
the Kremlin started the preparations for applying the traditional policy model of expansionism
through the pretext of protecting minorities in Eastern Ukraine. This highlights a fundamental
gap between the European and Russian means for action. The destabilization of bordering
territories with the aim of creating frozen conflicts has been a “traditional strategy” practiced by
Russian for years - the one used in Transnistria, Moldova and Georgia before August 2008
when Russia ultimately invaded two Georgian regions.
The differences between the Member States position were also highlighted by the
historical memory some EU member states had from their relations with Russia. The Eastern
European states, which still have a strong memory of Russian expansionist policy, have been
alarmed by the Russian actions since the beginning of the crisis. They have been calling for
NATO troops to be stationed in Baltic States and Poland to guarantee their security. Some
argued that NATO could claim that Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea in violation of

47 F.

Bermingham, August 26, 2014.

17

Ukraine, test of the European effectiveness ?

its international obligations and the 1994 Budapest Memorandum guaranteeing Ukraine’s
territorial integrity, could have been used as a justification giving right NATO member
countries to station troops (permanently) in eastern Europe. However, such measure does not at
this stage seem to be realistic in particular due to the opposition of France and Germany who
remain reluctant to breach 1997 NATO–Russia accords that pledged no additional permanent
stationing of “substantial combat forces” in this region.48 Yet Eastern European countries
succeeded to see the boosted naval presence in Baltic Sea along with a new network of
command centres, which NATO recently decided to set up in order to protect the region from
any potential threat. This move was the biggest reinforcement of the collective defense since the
end of the Cold War 25 years ago. NATO made clear that it would not intervene in Ukraine,
but would reinforce defences of alarmed eastern allies who were under Russian domination four
decades until 1989. The six command centers, which will be set up in Poland, Romania,
Bulgaria and the three Baltic States will plan exercises and provide support to these countries in
an emergency. 49

2.

Association promises vs. membership perspectives

The Ukrainian crisis reinforced the idea that policy strategies should be balanced (in
terms of requirements and rewards) in order to provide sufficient incentive and support,
especially since compliance costs are high. If we compare the 2004 enlargement policy with the
EaP, it becomes clear that the membership perspective was a much stronger incentive for the
countries to meet all the requirements in complying with EU standards. As Romano Prodi
recognized, when speaking of the CEEC candidates of the 1990s, “by holding up the goal of
membership we enabled these governments to implement the necessary reforms”50. If the
membership perspective strengthened the reformers in their efforts to overcome national
resistance, its absence would have played a serious role on the willingness and readiness of
these countries to implement [often] painful reforms. Hence, the rejection of President
Yanukovych to sign the Association Agreement, including the DCFTA, with the EU and instead
opting for a package of economic benefits which the Russian President offered as a reward for
that move, reinforces this idea.
The Eastern Partnership launched by the EU in May 2009 was definitely a significant
step to consolidate Europe’s zone of attraction but too embryonic. The EU has to diversify its
relations with the Eastern neighbors. Countries like Ukraine along with Georgia and Moldova
show much more interest towards the European project then the rest of the partnership
48 H.B.L.

Larsen, 2014. p. 38.
A. Croft, D. Alexander, 5, 2015.
50 Prodi, 2002.
49

18

Ukraine, test of the European effectiveness ?

members. In this normative and technocratic approach the EU made another crucial mistake in
failing to understand how Russia viewed Europe. Indeed the EU’s normative external policy did
not integrate the need to take into consideration “the Neighbour’s neighbourhood”. This led to
Moscow reading the attempts of post-soviet states to deepen their ties with the Euro-Atlantic
organizations (EU, NATO) as largely conspiratorial. At minimum, in Kremlin’s mind these
activities have been aimed to drastically reduce Russia’s influence in its neighbourhood, at
worst, they have constituted a concealment to export European values and morals to Russia,
which could significantly shake the current regime. Thus, the thinking patterns of the West and
Russia are radically different. While the EU considers tensions and crisis in neighboring states
as a potential threat to the stability of liberal democracies, the Kremlin does its utmost to
destroy democratic regimes and create instability in order to have more room for tactical
maneuvering.51
The Ukrainian crisis clearly demonstrated the flaws of the Eastern Partnership program:
Firstly, the reluctance to irritate Russia, secondly the discrepancy between the interests of its
members (the program included 6 countries, which had little in common except the fact that all
of them were post-Soviet), and finally, the lack of the ultimate objective of the strategy. Many
in Europe believed that the Eastern Partnership would have served as a bridge between Russia
and Europe, although, the Kremlin itself erased these illusions with its actions in Ukraine.52
Therefore, a whole misunderstanding has been attached to the EaP concept. The EU failed at
convincing Eastern partners that EaP was no promise for further integration. Russia, on the
other hand, was strongly containing the EaP seeing it as a direct threat to its foreign policy,
especially when the program included Ukraine - a symbolic partner for Russia, who was seen as
a fundamental candidate for the Eurasian Economic Union.

3.

New opportunities for reviving the Partnership

The Ukrainian crisis seriously undermined the “more for more” policy, which the EU has
been pursuing in its Eastern Neighbourhood. Meeting the Copenhagen Criteria, which includes
strengthening democracy, rule of law, human rights among others, requires huge efforts from
the part of the EaP states. Therefore, the absence of the ultimate objective could only undermine
such policy. Hence, the EaP message was more than complex: calling for radical reforms,
democratization, human rights and economic stability but all this without giving a clear prospect
of accession to target countries.

51
52

L. Shevtsova, 2014.
Ibid.

19

Ukraine, test of the European effectiveness ?

The diplomats in Brussels seem to have finally embraced the idea that the EU must have
a more strategic approach to the politics of the Eastern neighborhood. Current commissioner for
the European neighborhood policy and enlargement negotiations, Johannes Hahn, pointed out
that the developments in EU’s close vicinity directly impact Europe’s stability, security and
prosperity. Moreover, the commissioner acknowledged that the current policy was devised in
2004 and that Europe's “neighborhood is now very different”. Therefore, he demonstrated the
need of true tailor-made solutions rather than “one-size-fits-all approach”, especially
considering that each partner country has “different challenges and levels of engagement”.53 If
the member states do not significantly enhance the EU’s foreign policy instruments,
reconstructing Ukraine or even keeping countries like Moldova and Georgia on their European
path will become difficult in the long run.54 The shift towards a more strategic approach would
definitely be a step forward for the EU.
The Ukrainian crisis has strengthened the idea that it is essential to demonstrate the
potential and the willingness to back up the promotion of European values and norms with
strategic actions. Thus, in the absence of improved foreign policy instruments in order to deal
with Russia and the post-Soviet space, it is doubtful that existing strategy can have any visible
impact on the ground. The review of the European Neighborhood Policy planned for May 2015
will be a good indicator to what extent the EU is willing to invest in creating new foreign policy
tools for dealing with its eastern neighbors.55

III.

QUESTIONING

THE

EU’S

CAPACITY TO FIND IMMEDIATE AND UNITED RESPONSES

(2014-2015)

A.

EU-Ukraine relations since Maidan

1.

EU’s assistance to Ukraine

On June 27th Ukraine’s newly elected President, Petro Poroshenko, signed the
association agreement (AA) along with the deep and comprehensive free trade area (DCFTA).
By doing so, Ukraine showed to the international community its firm standing towards
European integration, and took its revenge on the Russian vested interest to block its signature.
The Association agreement is the most advanced version of any agreement made by the
EU and commits Ukraine to economic, judicial, and financial reforms to converge its policies
53

J. O'Brien, February 20, 2015.
C. Nitoiu, March 3, 2015.
55 Ibid.
54

20

Ukraine, test of the European effectiveness ?

and legislation to those of the EU. The country will benefit from transitional periods to
gradually undertake all the necessary steps to transform and democratize its political and
economic sectors, though it does not seem to be enough for a country trying to defend itself
from the ongoing invasion of its territory by Russia, having deep economic recession and failed
institutions dominated by corruption.56 Furthermore, Russia managed to put pressure on Ukraine
to postpone the launch of the free trade area with Europe to the end of 2015.
The European Commission has agreed on a number of measures for the short and
medium term to help stabilizing the economic and financial situation in Ukraine, to assist with
the transitional period and to encourage political and economic reforms.57 In order to meet the
challenges presented by the situation in mid-2014, the Commission established the Support
Group for Ukraine. The Support Group coordinates the resources and expertise of the European
Commission in order to monitor and assist Ukraine in the implementation of the Association
Agreement and, crucially, in undertaking the necessary systemic reforms. Despite the fact that
this is the first time such a Support Group has been established for any country outside the
borders of the EU,58 unfortunately, few measures have been put in place to respond the crisis on
the short-run.
The European Union’s executive is providing a significant financial assistance package to
Ukraine which is being supplemented to the significant assistance provided by the International
Monetary Fund (IMF). In the framework of the Macro Financial Assistance (MFA), which is a
crisis-response instrument available to the EU’s neighbouring countries, the Commission in
January 2015 proposed an extra assistance of €1.8 billion to help Ukraine stave off bankruptcy.
The European executive already disbursed €1.36 billion under two previous MFA programs.
Thus, the EU became the biggest international donor to Ukraine. According to the Commission
in total the EU will provide at least €11 billion assistance from its budget and the EU based
international financial institutions (IFIs).
The financial support is definitely crucial for Kiev government to revive the economy and
save the country from bankruptcy though it is not enough to solve Ukraine’s other big problem,
which is $3 billion bond owed to Russia. A bizarre clause in the debt that matures in December,
states that if Ukraine’s debt-to-GDP ratio exceeds 60%, Russia can demand early repayment of
the bond. That, in turn, would trigger a cross-default on a big mass of the government’s other
debts. Currently Ukraine has already passed the 60% threshold; therefore, Russia holds the
leverage over Ukraine’s economy. 59
The challenges that Ukraine is currently facing can hardly be perceived as attainable for

56

Transparency International ranked Ukraine 142 (out of 175) in its annual corruption survey, while a 2012 study by
Ernst & Young placed Ukraine as one of the three most corrupt countries in the world.
57 European Commission Press Release Database (online), January 29, 2015.
58 Ibid.
59 The Economist, January 24, 2015.

21

Ukraine, test of the European effectiveness ?

any country. Kiev has to undertake fundamental structural reforms in the wide range of sectors
(which are Soviet-inherited under-performing structures), while fighting a “hybrid” war. It has
restrained itself from announcing a state of war, even when parts of its territory are occupied.
Instead the new government started conducting an “anti-terrorist” operation against Russiabacked militants.60

2.

Sanctions against Russia

The use of economic sanctions in international affairs is very delicate and can be
divided into two schools. Critics of sanctions argue that economic sanctions only legitimate an
aggressive behaviour from the local government, the sanctions being a proof of external
aggressivity. Moreover, the economic impact tends to lead to the implementation of mafia type
economic channels that will support the government. The pro sanctions stand is that they isolate
and quickens the end of a fragile and unbalanced government and economy. Furthermore, it
represents a strong political tool, symbolising disapproval of a given political action. In this
sense, the EU sanctions can be regarded as a rejection of the violation of the 1994 Budapest
Memorandum. Subsequently, sanctions can also be an intimidating instrument, identifying a
“red line” and potential further action. It has been said that EU and US sanctions put an end to
Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territories61, letting it’s President know that his actions would
bring further consequences. In this viewpoint EU’s sanctions can be considered as efficient, still
some other arguments have to be examined.
Different issues are at stake when using economic sanctions, and raises questions of
various types62. Firstly, whether sanctions are likely to reinforce and/or promote radicalization
of the current elite and population, depending on whether the sanctions are hitting too hard on
the country’s economy. This factor can be adjusted by using more or less comprehensive
sanctions. Since the 1990s, targeted economic sanctions became a standard as they are said to
produce a maximum effect on political key actors while sparing populations. The example of
Irak is quite relevant: critics pointed to many “serious flaws, including the humanitarian
suffering of innocent civilians, the lack of clear criteria for lifting, and the failure of the
sanctions to put direct pressure on Iraq's leaders”63. Passing sanctions is a political instrument,
but if the country cannot recover from the sanctions, then autocratic forces will be able to
achieve power by creating a “rally around the flag effect” among the population. Finally,
whether or not the sanctions are affecting third countries, including ones passing them. The
counter productivity of the sanctions will probably lead to abandon or simple inefficiency.
60

Sohn, February 10, 2015.
Guriev 2015.
62 Wallensteen 2004.
63 Global Policy Forum, August 6, 2002.
61

22

Ukraine, test of the European effectiveness ?

The first row of EU sanctions towards Russia was launched in March 17th, with level 1
sanctions64, imposing first “travel bans and asset freezes against Russian and Ukrainian
officials”65. On April 28th, the list is extended66 and on July 31, the third round of sanctions
targeted the financial sector (all majority government-owned Russian banks), trade restrictions
relating to the Russian energy and defence industries, and additional individuals and entities
designated under the EU asset freezing provisions.67
The EU targeted sanctions aimed at denouncing Crimea’s annexion and deterring
Russia’s involvement in the Donbass war. However, the sudden increase in Vladimir Putin’s
popularity that went along with the 2013 Ukrainian crisis appears dangerous. The Levada
Center indicates that since November 2013 to March 2015, the approval rate of Vladimir Putin
rose from 61% to 86%. The Russian “narrative” has been fed by the sanctions, exaggerating a
so-called hatred of EU and the US toward Russia and its President. Considering such a public
support, it is very uneasy to Putin’s opponents to express a different position and many affairs68,
revealing negative actions from the government’s part, didn’t affect the rate of approval.

End of June, the EU members should decide whether or not new sanctions should be
engaged, the current sanctions expiring in July69. However, the EU appears persistently lacking
of unity since Germany has opposed sanctions from the very beginning70 and a few countries
are politically against them, even though there is no sign whether they will vote them or not:

64

European Union Newsroom.
Ibid.
66 International Trade Compliance Update 2014.
67 Council regulation 31 July 2014.
68 Euronews, March 9, 2015.
69 Croft/Pineau, March 19, 2015.
70 The Telegraph, April 24, 2015.
65

23

Ukraine, test of the European effectiveness ?

Greece, Hungary, Cyprus, Czech Republic and Italy71. These critics are more understandable
that they are linked to EU member States either economically intertwined with Russia or
politically opposed to EU policies.

The “boomerang effect”72 of the sanctions, the counter-sanctions imposed by the
Kremlin, arose many critics, especially if the sanctions aim at de-escalating the situation.
Sanctions policy should be applied in support of the EU foreign policy, clearly exposed to
international actors, and not “being the strategy per se”73 focusing on economic impact rather
than on russian policy changes. The balance between hard and soft power is also at stake, if EU
sanctions aim at being more politically and economically efficient.

3.

EU’s negotiations with Russia

As opposed to the mediation led during the Orange Revolution, the different attempts of
the EU member states that took place in order to de-escalate the conflict did not show tangible

71

Russia Today, April 13, 2015.
Dolidze 2015.
73 Ibid.
72

24

Ukraine, test of the European effectiveness ?

progress so far. The only breakthrough that the EU had in negotiations with Russia was the
October 2014 Russia-Ukraine gas deal, when the European officials managed to broker an
agreement on the resumption of gas supplies to Ukraine over the winter. The agreement was
widely seen as the “first glimmer” of hope in easing tensions between the two parties.
According to the agreement the EU accepted the obligation to act as a guarantor for Ukraine’s
gas purchases from Russia and to help Kiev meet its outstanding debts.74 Yet, the Minsk I
ceasefire agreement of 5 September 2014, which was aiming to end five months of fighting in
the Eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk turned out to be a shaky deal. The agreement
brokered by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Minsk, which
involved former Ukrainian president, leaders of the pro-Russian rebels, and a Russian delegate,
soon turned fragile, as the Kremlin did not cease its activities in Donbass region. The most
recent one – Normandy Format, with Franco-German leadership, came at the time of intense
discussion that was taking place in the US on providing Ukraine with defensive lethal
assistance, and probably undermined any US decision to arm Ukraine. While EU Member
States themselves rule out the possibility of providing any lethal weapons to Ukraine and
remain focused on a diplomatic solution of the conflict.
The renegotiated agreement of February 11, 2015 under Franco-German leadership did
not meet the expectations of Ukraine. In particular, it failed to acknowledge the threat of
Russian requirements, which is the Kremlin’s insistence on federalization of Ukraine (while the
Ukrainian government advocates for decentralization). To many, federalization is understood as
dismemberment of Ukraine, which fits well in Russian interests to better control local
governments. The autonomy for Donbass marionette governments effectively means putting
Ukraine’s statehood at high risk. Examples of such model, which currently are entirely
controlled by Russia, are Georgian occupied regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Thus,
Ukrainians fear that Western diplomacy will result in a frozen conflict effectively creating a
Russian stronghold in Donbass and Crimea, which will ultimately impede Ukraine’s
development. 75

B.

A policy of missed opportunities?

1.

EU’s limited margins of manoeuvre

At the latest since the Russian annexation of Crimea, the EU has been repeatedly
criticised for its timidity and timorousness vis-à-vis the crisis.76 Indeed, for a long period, the
74

BBC business, October 31, 2014.
Euobserver, February 10, 2015.
76 MacFarlane/Menon 2014, p. 95.
75

25

Ukraine, test of the European effectiveness ?

European reaction was strictly limited to public condemnations of the Russian aggression on the
one hand (fuelling the anti-western propaganda in Russia), and rhetoric support for proEuropean forces on the other hand. Both internal and external factors can be consulted for this
failure to find an effective and common European position. Firstly, it has already been shown
that the EU’s foreign policy tools as provided for by the CSDP and within the ENP are not only
mostly soft in nature but also have a very limited scope.77 Due to this, European foreign policy
efforts have been materialized only through sanctions.78
Secondly, from the outset, energy questions limited the margins of manoeuvre of all
parties involved. Under Yanukovych, the experience of Russian energy blackmailing heavily
played into the initial non-signing of the AA in the run-up of Vilnius Summit in 2013. Ukraine
remains strongly vulnerable on Russian energy supply and can hardly oppose its pressure.
Admittedly, the EU can more easily oppose this pressure due to its economic importance.
Indeed, the May 2014 Energy Security Strategy issued in response to the Ukrainian crisis
provides for a larger degree of independence from Russia through diversification and enhanced
energy efficiency. Nonetheless, strong and long-lasting commercial and political ties between
Russia and several EU member states impede a more resolute approach towards Russia in the
energy sphere.
In a next step, with regard to consistent decision-making the EU is increasingly bound by
growing discrepancy between the positions of its member states and the transnational rise of far
right and far left parties. The “EU-wide dissonance”79 about the Ukrainian crisis – which is
closely intertwined with the question of how to deal with an increasingly assertive, authoritarian
but strategically and economically still important Russia – reveals a structural failure of the
European construction. Far from achieving a transnational European public sphere and
consciousness in the Habermasian sense, the EU remains divided on most fundamental
questions and consequently proves unable to unite in its external actions.
This is accurately illustrated by the Ukrainian case: even though there have been several
bi-, tri- or multilateral initiatives (i.e. the Normandy Format, the Weimar Triangle, Baltic
initiatives…), the European Union member states remain deeply split along national boundaries.
France and especially Germany – supported by changing coalitions, mostly from Central
European countries – have clearly took the lead within the efforts for a conflict settlement.
Interestingly, despite their regional vulnerability to Russia, central European countries
failed to find a common stance towards the crisis. On the one hand Poland and the Baltic
countries are most fervently insisting on a tough European reaction80. By contrast, in the Czech

77

Cf. Witney et al. 2014, p. 2.
Cf. Nitoiu 2015.
79 Forbrig 2015, p. 1.
80 MacFarlnae/Menon 2014, p. 100.
78

26

Ukraine, test of the European effectiveness ?

Republic and Hungary “vocal pro-Russian voices” 81 continue to be raised. Countries such as
Italy and Spain are cautiously pondering their policies vis-à-vis Ukraine in order not to
exacerbate the improving relations with Russia.
The strengthening of far right and far left wing parties in European member states,
however, pose a serious challenge to responsible European policy-making. Indeed, the links that
can be established between both far right and left wing, mostly eurosceptic parties and the
Kremlin raise deep concerns about an increasing pro-Russian camp inside Europe.
Paradoxically, the new division lines generated by these forces follow a transnational logic, i.e.
by uniting behind parties such as “Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy” within the 8 th
European Parliament.
In this vein, the new Greek foreign minister of the radical-left Syriza party chose Moscow
as the symbolic destination for his first visit outside the EU. The Spanish left-wing party
Podemos similarly leans toward Russia. Both far left and far right French parties Front de
Gauche and Front National maintain very friendly relations with Putin, Front National recently
received a 9.4m € loan from a bank with links to the Kremlin.82 The Hungarian President Orban
also maintains amicable links with Putin; the increasingly popular far right party Jobbik must
even be considered “avowedly pro-Russian”83. Similarly, politicians from three German parties
including the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD), the Eurosceptic Alternative for
Germany (AfD) and even the Social Democrats (SPD) are suspected to have received Russian
money.84 Even though this is a non-exhaustive list of the links between European populists and
the Russian government, it clearly demonstrates the dimensions of these ties, which are – as part
of a broader Russian strategy, namely its “hybrid warfare” – strongly undermining united
European efforts within the crisis.

2.

How to counter Russia’s hybrid warfare?

The term “hybrid warfare”, which was until recently only familiar to security experts, has
become the main classification for the multi-layered actions undertaken by Russia since the
beginning of 2014. According to the IISS Military Balance 2015, the term hybrid warfare
designates “the use of military and non-military tools in an integrated campaign designed to
achieve surprise, seize the initiative and gain psychological as well as physical advantages
utilising diplomatic means; sophisticated and rapid information, electronic and cyber
operations; covert and occasionally overt military and intelligence action; and economic

81

Forbrig 2015, p. 4.
Paterson 2015.
83 The Economist, February 14, 2015.
84 Paterson 2015.
82

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Ukraine, test of the European effectiveness ?

pressure”85. In fact, as part of this, it has repeatedly been stated that Russia is winning the socalled information or propaganda war86. Especially with regard to the increasing activities of
Russian media outlets abroad (Russia Today; Sputnik, Russian language channels for Russian
minorities living abroad), the European Council summit of March 19/20, 2015 pointed to “the
need to challenge Russia's ongoing disinformation campaigns”87. Therefore, first steps are
already undertaken and to be finalised by June 2015. Thus, a dozen European public relations
and communications experts will be entrusted with refuting Russian voluntary misinformation
within the EU, i.e. for the Russian-speaking minorities in the Baltic countries.88 It is true that, in
conjunction with hard security assurances guaranteed by the NATO, this strategy could prove
effective against the Russian hybrid warfare. The NATO itself clearly recognizes that its current
deterrence strategy of a rapid military response is insufficient with regard to hybrid warfare. 89
Therefore, it advocates a more comprehensive approach, i.e. by involving the EU in an
“institutional tandem”. Karel Kovanda, former head of the Czech Delegation to NATO, also
states that the EU, rather than the military alliance might have appropriate tools for countering
hybrid warfare90.
Efforts to counter the Russian hybrid warfare clearly bear the risk of encouraging or even
contributing to the tightening up of the conflict that is sometimes already qualified a “new Cold
war”. Therefore, they shall be applied with prudent resolution, i.e. within the framework of
existing legislation and not by simply replicating Russian methods: with regard to the media
sector, the aim is clearly not to create a “European propaganda”, but to counter misinformation
by reporting truthfully. In this vein, an integrated EU-NATO effort seems a promising, or even
an opportunity “not to be missed”91.

3.

Controversies around European hard power

Within the Ukrainian crisis and particularly within the context of the Debaltseve debacle,
the issue of providing lethal weapons to Ukraine has reappeared, and with it the whole debate
about European security commitments. It has been truthfully argued that today, 25 years after
the end of the Cold War, the European Union is still unable to be the main security actor on the
European continent. Instead, the NATO, strongly shaped and still dominated by American
strategic concerns, remains the main guarantor of security. For instance, in response to the
Russian aggression in Ukraine, a 4,000 strong NATO rapid force has been set up in September
85

IISS 2015, p.5.
Euractiv 18/03/2015.
87 EUCO 11/15, p.5.
88 Euractiv 20/03/2015.
89 NATO Review Magazine 2014a.
90 NATO Review Magazine 2014b.
91 NATO Review Magazine 2014a.
86

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Ukraine, test of the European effectiveness ?

201492. Reacting to the on-going and intensified fighting in Eastern Ukraine, in February 2015
NATO has agreed on another 5,000-strong spearhead force and the establishment of six new
bases in the Baltic Countries, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria.93
Despite these efforts of deterrence, claims concerning a solely European contribution are
constantly raised. Most recently, the European Union Commission President Jean-Claude
Juncker told the German newspaper Die Welt that a common European army would convey a
clear message to Russia, namely that the EU was serious about defending its European
values”94. The underlying controversy revolves around the fundamental question whether the
European foreign policy will remain a normative power (an idea the ENP was obviously built
upon) or whether it should move towards being a hard power.

IV.

PERSPECTIVES

A.

The impact of the Ukrainian crisis on the EU’s motivation to build the
European Energy Union

Though having tremendously weakened the role of the EU’s external policy, the tragic
events in Ukraine may have created a significant positive effect on the sector of energy. Indeed,
the previous crisis in gas-supply (2006 and 2009), and the spectrum of a new one prompted the
EU to find solutions to insure energy security across its external borders. The Commission
made one of its top priorities to aim at more diversified sources in the next twenty-five years, a
goal recently revealed in the Commission Paper on the Energy Union Package (February 25,
2015). The paper addresses the overwhelmingly dependence the EU faces while importing 53%
of its energy every year95. It states that « particular attention will be paid to upgrading the
Strategic Partnership on energy with Ukraine. »96. Not only this attention will focus on Ukraine
as a transitory country but also to enhance its gas network along with an « appropriate
regulatory framework » and an « increasing energy efficiency ». In response to the strong
dependence on Russia in terms of gas delivery, 80% of which transit through Ukraine (2009)97,
the EU started, though lately, to consider Ukraine as a major strategic energy pivot in the Black
Sea area. Indeed, between the EU and Russia’s spheres of influence in the region, « the Black
Sea region has been considered by many as the arena on which Ukraine could make a visible

92

Morris 2014.
Marcus 2015.
94 Bazli et al, March 8, 2015.
95 European Commission, February 25, 2015, p.2.
96 European Commission, February 25, 2015, p.7.
97 Mankoff 2009.
93

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Ukraine, test of the European effectiveness ?

and counting impact »98. Several plans have already addressed the issue on reverse flows from
Slovakia so as to reduce Ukraine’s dependency on Russia. However, with no less than five
projects bypassing Turkey to create a southern corridor to the EU, the energy market reveal to
follow as many economic considerations as geopolitical ones. Indeed, both massive projects
such as Nabucco (pipeline bringing gas from the Caspian Sea), or South Stream (Bringing gas
from Russia under the Black Sea) were finally dismissed for geopolitical as well as economic
reasons, restricting the EU from more diversified sources. However, it is a well-known fact that
the EU has always progressed in times of crisis. While the political crisis led to more
« approfondissement » in the 80s, or when the recent economic crisis led to the Banking Union,
one may expect the geopolitical crisis to prompt effects on the Energy Union. Many positive
signs from the EU go in the right direction such as the consultation role of the Commission
before every contract binding an EU member to a foreign source of Energy. Yet, this attempt
from the EU to appear as a single purchaser99, may have a significant impact on the level of
prices and may not satisfy all EU members that, in some cases (Hungary, Greece, Austria),
benefit from a special tariff. However, the Ukrainian crisis stimulated the prospect to relaunch
the European integration process through the energy sector.

B.

European hard power

Following the entry into force of the Lisbon treaty, the European Council issued a
statement on common defence in 2013. According to the document, an “effective Common
Security and Defence Policy (CSDP)” was supposed to contribute to “peace and stability in our
neighbourhood and in the broader world”100. This promise has clearly failed to be met. Hence,
the “effectiveness” of the European CSDP must be challenged. Already before the Ukrainian
crisis, then NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen reminded “we Europeans must
understand that soft power alone is really no power at all. Without hard capabilities to back up
its diplomacy, Europe will lack credibility and influence”101 (Brussels, May 6, 2013). Indeed, in
2012, EU member states spent 1.5 percent of their budgets, whereas the US and Russia spend
4.2 and 4.0 percent of their GDP.102 Consequently, against the background of the Ukrainian
crisis, claims for more resolute European hard power commitments have gained new
momentum. Since then, controversies around the European army, the delivery of lethal weapons
to Ukraine and the general scope of European defence capabilities are back on the agenda. Even
though the idea of a common European defence dates back to the creation of the Western
98

Flikke et al. 2011, p.25.
Lossan, March 30, 2015.
100 European Council 2013.
101 Rettmann 2013.
102 Dempsey 2014.
99

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Ukraine, test of the European effectiveness ?

European Union (WEU) in 1948 with subsequent treaties providing for enhanced security and
defence capacities (inter alia the 1992 Petersberg Tasks, the 1999 Treaty of Amsterdam and the
2003 European Security Strategy), effective European civilian and military defence tools were
developed only in the 2000s. Following the “Berlin Plus Agreement” (2002), which gave the
EU access to NATO assets and capabilities, and the 2009 Lisbon treaty, which included a
mutual assistance and solidarity clause und established the EEAS with its High Representative,
the EU launched more than 30 civilian and military missions beyond its borders.103 Arguably,
the scope of the EU nonetheless remains mainly civilian; the 2014 EUAM Ukraine initiative
(European Union Advisory Mission for Civilian Security Sector Reform) is also solely civilian.
Even though the EU disposes of 18 EU battle groups, which could potentially be deployed and
has made major efforts in pooling and sharing initiatives, becoming an independent military
power seems unconceivable in the nearer future. Therefore, extending the European
contribution within the transatlantic partnership in order to become an equal partner within in
seems more feasible.

C.

The future of the Eastern Partnership?

“If the ENP cannot contribute to addressing conflicts in the region, it will have failed in one
of its key purposes”104. It is generally accepted that the ENP failed at implementing stability and
security in its neighbourhood, neither Southern nor Eastern. However, Ukraine, Georgia and
Moldova have expressed their wishes to participate more actively in the EU cooperation, and in
this perspective, the next EU summit for Eastern Partnership in Riga, in May 2015, will have to
give real solutions and probably bring new ideas. The last joint consultation paper clearly states
the main issues facing the EaP, which can be summarized in three main points, adding few
comments:

Relations of EU with the eastern neighbours and “the neighbours of the neighbours”105 and the
proper response from the ENP to “conflicts and crisis in the neighborhood”106. The EaP must
bear in mind the different actors in the zone, such as Russia or Turkey, who are also very
influential and must be integrated in the rounds of negotiations, in order for the EaP to be
functional. The “multipolarity”107 of the area that must be taken into account through the EaP,
and therefore a dialogue with those partners or “neighbours of the neighbours” must be

103

For an overview, see http://www.eeas.europa.eu/csdp/missions-and-operations/index_en.htm for the ongoing and
http://www.eeas.europa.eu/csdp/missions-and-operations/index_en.htm for the completed missions.
104 Commission of the European Communities, December 4, 2006.
105 Joint communication paper, March 2015.
106 Ibid.
107 Parmentier 2014.

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Ukraine, test of the European effectiveness ?

regularly and officially prevalent in the EaP negotiations. As a result, the position of the EU and
NATO towards these countries should be more comprehensive, ruining Vladimir Putin’s
propaganda, very effective including inside EU State members108.

EaP must address itself directly to civil society and also to governments, fighting against
corruption. The counter propaganda issue is growing with statements from the Hungarian and
Greek governments, and the need to give a response has grown in EU policy making. A TV
channel in Russian should be created109, but the “European narrative” should be convincing, and
therefore consistent, substantial. The EaP should not abandon its values in order to fully support
Ukraine. The process of reforming the country should be controlled, and optimized. The EaP
must be more accepted, through “substantial efforts … in the context of the ENP review to
improve both the ownership of this policy by partner countries and to improve communication
of its objectives and results both within the EU and in the partner countries”110.

Framing a Partnership with a Clearer Focus and More Tailored Cooperation: with the
keywords of differentiation/ focus / flexibility. The ENP “needs to clarify what are the interests
of the EU and each partner, and those areas of strongest common interest”111. Therefore, EU
should probably openly take position on its role in Eastern Europe, push Ukraine to continue
relations with Russia112, keep neutral status, against the recent law voted113.

***
As a conclusion, this paper stressed the complexity of the ongoing crisis in Ukraine,
stemming from the national, geopolitical, and historical roots up to the European perspective
that the conflict has always borne. The EU has developed a unique external policy to interact as
a political entity across its borders. This policy encompasses flaws and mistakes,
misconceptions and a lack of adaptability to the events, but also proved its ability to provide a
new comprehensive environment as well as qualitative financing, diplomatic and economic
answers to « high politics » issues. The EU constantly paid more attention to the situation of
Ukraine rather than to other neighbouring countries, considering it as a country bearing the
potential to behave as a leader for the post-Soviet space. However, the situation broke out
revealing that no further cooperation will be possible if the EU continues to ignore and fail at

108

Euractiv, March 20, 2015.
Morris, March 18, 2015.
110 Joint communication paper, March 2015, p. 9.
111 Ibid, p. 7.
112 Euractiv, April 15, 2014.
113 BBC News, December 23, 2014.
109

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Ukraine, test of the European effectiveness ?

understanding Russia’s foreign policy. Indeed, the EU foreign affairs has always been the poor
cousin of the sui generis model. Drifting on the pathway of a new frozen conflict in excess, the
EU decided to promptly reassess its external policy by June. The forthcoming Riga Summit will
be of an utter importance to develop a renewed form of cooperation and to answer the evolving
geopolitical dynamics at stake in a promising region, bridging the EU to central Asia.

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