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September 07, 2011

Reforms in Ukraine: Regional Integration

Ordinary Ukrainians and most of the countrys political forces recognize that Ukraine belongs to Europe and deserves to become a full-fledged member of the European Union one day. Ukrainian voters and their Government also favor a mutually beneficial, friendly, stable and predictable strategic partnership with Russia. These two vectors are sometimes seen as contradictory, but the task of the countrys Government and civil society is to make them complementary in a way that will allow Ukraine and the regions to which it belongs to benefit from both.

Ukraines engagement in other regional integration projects could also potentially serve its national interests. Ukraine is slowly but surely becoming a proactive player in integrational processes, not only in political and commercial, but also in humanitarian, environmental, security and other aspects.

Still, the complexity of the challenges facing the country require effective reforms and better approaches to integration processes in which it is involved. Russia has its plans regarding Ukraine, but there is little sense that Ukraine has any plans regarding Russia. With the EU, Ukraine needs to come up with a formula for relations that will speed up the trend towards integration into its internal market. The development of a strategy for a more active role of Ukraine in other regional integration projects needs to start without delay as well.

Civil society in Ukraine is not homogenous. There are pro-European non-government organizations as well as pro-Russian ones. According to expert estimates, Ukraines interests are better served by a Free Economic Zone with the EU and not membership in the Customs Union.

Changes in the foreign environment mean we have to profoundly re-think Ukraines development prospects as a mid-sized regional power in terms of both size and potential. Ukraine belongs to a number of regions in which its active involvement could strengthen the country. Ukraines border regions are steadily gaining in influence over the countrys development. This means that the country should participate in regional integration projects both at the macro or state level and at the micro or local community level.

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