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Schadenfreude – The crisis in Ukraine exposes the flaws of the European Neighbourhood Policy

When engaged in a charm offensive with Ukraine, the European Union forgot many of its principles. The question is – which country in the European neighbourhood will be the next Ukraine and how will the EU handle things differently? Our secret columnist Schadenfreude looks at the lessons from Kiev

The relationship between Ukraine and the European Union was established by the inclusion of the country in the European Neighbourhood Policy, which according to the prospectus “works to achieve the closest possible political association and the greatest possible degree of economic integration”.

The present crisis was provoked when the EU offered a new agreement to strengthen its links with Ukraine. Frankly, the EU did the wrong things and seems to have forgotten its own principles.

Neighbourhood partners are supposed to share a commitment to “democracy, human rights, the rule of law and good governance”. How could the European External Action Service plus the Kiev-based Ambassadors of Western European Union member states have imagined that the President of the Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych respects democracy and human rights when he keeps his political rival locked up without due process?

How could the European Commission offer a new development in its relationship with the Ukraine in these circumstances? Did it not know that the president is at least a closet Russophile, like the inhabitants of the eastern part of his country – who do most of their trade with Russia? Did it not foresee that when offering more trade possibilities and aid, it would start a bidding war? And that Moscow would have the upper hand with Ukrainian dependence on Russian gas?

There are lessons to be learned. First, the EU needs to insist more vigorously on its partners’ respect for the rule of law and human rights. Second, if it is dealing with partners who are also in the Russian sphere of influence it needs to anticipate Russian moves and prepare its countermoves.

Third, it needs to obtain through its EEAS the collective political intelligence of the in situ representatives of the member states. And it must know that a wrong move may ignite civil war. The question is – which country in the European neighbourhood will be the next Ukraine and how will the EU handle things differently?

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