The demonstrations in Kiev are widely followed and get good support from European countries, both in and outside the European Union. It is good to see that support also for countries with considerable European heritage outside the EU membership as the Ukraine and Russia are. Such support is particularly welcome if two of them are in a quarrelsome mood.

But our support must be measured, in balance with our own future prospects. We should not pay with empty and wild words.

There is in particular no reason to offer Ukraine EU-membership.

Extending membership would need a solid, long and convincing list of major advantages which would make an offer of membership absolutely and existentially necessary. The existential side is worth mentioning when we deal with outside countries of such size like Turkey and Ukraine with populations which tomorrow we might find on our doorsteps. (The absence of stringent advantages is reason enough to deny membership to Turkey. On the list of “advantages” which supposedly would accrue to Europe from Turkish membership I come back shortly.) 

We have in the European Union already gone too fast and too far in extending membership. Particularly massive countries we have to be very prudent. Other means of supporting them should get preference.Let not the followers of “Europe Puissance” come up with other ideas. Real power does not come from extension in surface or in number of population but from internal social and cultural cohesion.

Let us therefore stay with classical and inventive neighborhood policies, apply them more consistently and timely. Where possible we may improve them into “partnership” policies such as are on offer… But not membership. When our help is needed let us abstain therefore from wild words suggesting membership.

 Unfortunately the people who are going to the Kiev’s “Europe Maidan” engage sometimes in imprudent half promises to the Ukrainians with vague but dangerous suggestions of future membership. These European politicians should be warned that  they are  “extra vires”, without a mandate, and politically unwise. Such people betray the confidence of their European electorates. 

Of “wild words” a few examples:

Germany’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Westerwelle said in a statement:  ” … You can see from these demonstrations in the streets that the hearts of the people of Ukraine beat for the European Union.”

Strictly speaking he addresses the protest demonstrations and not a Ukrainian demand for membership. Yet a link with the European Union as a desirable political home is suggested. The reporter in case (Rettman of EUObserver) a few lines later accordingly adds:  “Ukraine sees Germany, unlike France, as a real supporter of its EU integration.”

Europe’s politicians are far too loose in making half promises to the Ukraine. From our weakness in relationship with Turkey we should know better. 


From the EPP group we hear:

“We came to Ukraine to express the solidarity of the EPP with the people of Ukraine and in support of the Euro-maidan movement and our sister parties,” (thus Jacek Saryusz-Wolski.) “People have the right to choose the European course for their country   and the authorities have no right to stop them, much less to use force.”

“It is the people who should decide, not Sochi or Moscow” (thus Elmar Brok) : “The European door remains open to Ukraine and manifold support can be delivered, as soon as conditions are fulfilled.”

Such utterings are unnecessary and politically unwise. Their authors should be sanctioned by the citizens of the European Union or of Europe as a continent. The European Parliament elections next year may offer a good occasion.

We shall come back to the topic of an interesting parallel between the cases of Turkey and of the Ukraine. The parallel is in our “No” on membership. The difference is in their culture,  Turkey beconing by the day more islamic, and Ukraine being in large part Christian. Should that not have made a difference to us? No. the matter of membership is decided on a list of important criteria and advantages for the European Union and for Europe as a continent. Instead of membership for both these two important countries a policy of neighborhood and partnership can be crafted.

Meanwhile if we seem to apply some strictness on membership  to the Ukraine, the Turks should feel that they can lay aside their sneer that we always act like a “Christian” club. Membership is in fact  a multidimensional and difficult matter. No single criterium is sufficient.

Anton Smitsendonk


About dutasia

Former Ambassador of the Netherlands, presently National Commissioner for Thailand and for Indonesia in the ICC, the International Chamber of Commerce, the World Business Organization. Chairman of China Carbon Forum in Beijing, China.
This entry was posted in demography, diplomacy, EUROPE, EUROPEAN UNION, European Union enlargement, Islam in Europe, Migration issues, Turkey, Turkey's campaign for EU accession and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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