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EU Meets Unruly Neighbor at the Summit Table

DW Staff (nda)July 8, 2004

On Thursday, officials from the EU and Ukraine meet to discuss more important things than the incursion of overgrown plants through picket fences. The neighbors have issues of a failing democracy and economy to resolve.

Ukrainian President Kutschma is proving a problem for BrusselsImage: AP

Officials from the European Union and the Ukraine are meeting on Thursday in The Hague to discuss the relationship between the Ukraine and the recently expanded EU. The Europeans are expected to pose some serious questions about the failing standards of democracy under the government of Leonid Kutschma, with many EU politicians loath to see him remain in office.

The Ukraine is beginning to look like the EU's problem neighbor. The former Soviet republic has been described in Brussels as a nation with failing democratic standards, which are becoming very noticeable as the country prepares for a presidential election in October.

President criticized for democratic failures

Kutschma, the current Ukraine president, has been criticized for many shortcomings in the running of a free market economy and the media coverage of the suspicious murder of journalist Georgiy Gongadze. Senior political and security figures have been implicated in the killing and many see it as a government effort to muzzle the press.

The case of the murdered journalist has become a sticking point in bilateral talks -- with the Ukraine telling the EU to mind its own business while the EU cites it as a clear case of democratic deficiency in the Ukraine. Brussels is slowly losing its patience and is hoping the elections in October will bring about positive change.

“We expect that the new president will follow the principles of an open-market economy," EU Member of Parliament Elisabeth Schrödter told Deutsche Welle. "We expect that the decision made by the Ukrainian parliament, that Ukrainian legislation will be adapted to conform to EU laws, will be put into practice. We hope for concrete strategies in this respect and not just empty words.”

Ukraine wants economic acknowledgement

At Thursday's summit, the Ukrainian government expects Europe to tackle this thorny topic and acknowledge the country as a free market economy, which would also facilitate the Ukraine’s entry to the World Trade Organization. However, EU officials say they have had trouble finding reliable negotiators on the Ukrainian side and a resolution may again be impossible at this stage.

Brussels will be watching the presidential elections in the Ukraine closely. Most believe that a full change of government and policies in the Ukraine is necessary for it to soldify the footing of its relationship with the EU.