Ukraine Dropping E.U. Membership?

The new Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych used his first inauguration speech to announce that the country want a “non-aligned” relationship with the European Union. Observers belive Ukraine will drop its plans to apply for full E.U. membership.

“In the minds of Ukrainian politicians it’s clear that joining the EU is not an option in the foreseeable future.”

Iana Dreyer

President Viktor Yanukovych of Ukraina

Ukraine needs the EU in a global dimension, as a power to guarantee a peaceful coexistence of different civilizations and safety in the spheres of energy, environment and food,” Yanukovych said in Kiev Saturday.

“We are prepared to take part in such processes as a non-aligned state,” he said, according to Bloomberg News.

Several European observers and commentators see the president’s remarks as another signal that the Eastern European state will not join NATO and E.U. after all.

The former president Viktor Yushchenko, who defeated Yanukovych in 2004, targeted NATO membership and joining the EU to help free Ukraine from Russian influence.

The Kremlin curbed natural-gas deliveries to Ukraine in 2006 and 2009, withheld a new ambassador to Kiev and accused Yushchenko of supplying arms to Georgia during Russia’s war with its southern neighbor in August 2008.

But Yanukovych, on the other hand, signaled in his election campaign that he’s to seek closer ties with Russia.

Yanukovych will also visit Moscow on March 6, deputy head of his office Hanna Herman said today. She added that the president spoke to the U.S. delegation after his inauguration and discussed a visit to Kiev by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, which may take place in the next three months.

Ukraine’s economic collapse, which has left it relying on a $16.4 billion International Monetary Fund loan that has been frozen since the autumn has been exacerbated by political wrangling and the election campaign.

Yanukovych has pledged to set up a stable government to combat the deepest economic recession since 1994 and restore investor confidence. The hryvnia lost 41 percent against the dollar since September 2008 and was the world’s second worst performer after the Venezuelan Bolivar.

The new president of Ukraina seems already to have painted himself into a corner after he asked for Russian help to ease gas flows into Europe and signaled he may allow Russia’s Black Sea naval fleet to remain based in Ukrainian waters.

“It’s a rebalancing act,” says Iana Dreyer, an analyst at the European Centre for International Political Economy in Brussels.

“The country has been divided into two for a long time between a western-orientated government and a Russian speaking, Russia-oriented east. I’m not surprised Yanukovych is seeking to restore the balance a bit. He doesn’t want to alienate Russia more,” she says.

“In the minds of Ukrainian politicians it’s clear that joining the EU is not an option in the foreseeable future. The EU hasn’t been very keen to offer enlargement. But the Ukrainians do want a free trade agreement.”

Sources:

EUobserver

Bloomberg News

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