Ukraine-EU Momentum Should Not Be Wasted

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- With emotions running exceedingly high over the recent verdict in the trial of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko in Ukraine, one ought to take a deep breath and count to ten.

The writer, Kostiantyn Yelisieiev, is the ambassador of Ukraine to the EU.

Emotions and hasty political judgments never helped to make sound political decisions, especially in a complicated legal case like this one, which as of now might be far from its ultimate conclusion.

The dilemma that we are facing here is bigger than any single verdict at any point in recent Ukraine-EU history.

As a matter of fact, its 46 million times bigger - it is about the destiny of a nation of 46 million people, a nation which is overwhelmingly, staunchly pro-European.

In the two decades of her independent history Ukraine has often been criticised for 'talking the talk' but failing 'to walk the walk'.

Within the last year and a half Ukraine's government did a lot to disavow this notion.

The right laws have been passed.

The right changes have been introduced to the business environment.

The right reforms have been initiated and implemented en masse - including profound tax and pension reforms, deregulating whole branches of the economy and cutting up to 30 percent of government staff.

An immense governmental effort has been applied to make sure that Ukraine and the EU are on the same page in terms of establishing a fair and mutually beneficial Free Trade Area and other provisions envisaged by the coming Association Agreement.

It would be a pity to see this tremendous bilateral effort go to waste.

But most importantly it would be a pity to lose this unique momentum, an opportunity which, I am afraid, will not be repeated too soon.

Just like the whole continent, Ukraine-EU relations are at a crossroads.

After many years of empty talk and political uncertainty, the stars are finally in alignment for a decisive rapprochement between Kiev and Brussels.

Surely, Ukraine is not about to enter the EU club.

She is not even to become a candidate. She is not crossing the doorstep.

But she is poised to start climbing the staircase that leads to the European Union.

Ukraine is doing this with the appropriate level of political sobriety and low expectations in view of the overall crisis faced by the EU.

But despite this, she is committed to doing her homework anyway - economically as much as politically.

Association would be the EU's perfect instrument to hold Ukraine to her pledge.

The EU's political decision to come closer, Ukraine's readiness to give what it takes to become more European and, last but not least, the chairmanship of the EU presidency by Ukraine's strategic ally Poland - all these pieces of political jigsaw puzzle are in place.

The time is right. The sign at the crossroads points West.

It would be simply wrong to stand still or head in any other direction.

On top of that, I strongly disagree with the premise, currently under debate, that a vote in favor of Ukraine-EU association would be a vote against EU values.

On the contrary, association with Ukraine would be a flag hoisted in the middle of the post-Soviet space.

It would be a sign of hope and strength to all those who believe in the European idea throughout the whole part of the continent that is not covered by EU membership.

It would be a recognition of all that has been achieved by Ukraine, but even more importantly, an encouragement to do more.

It would be a sign of presence.

After all, you have to be present to win. Once you withdraw, you lose.

Source: EU Observer