Opinion: Ukraine Needs the West′s Help | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 10.03.2005
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Opinion: Ukraine Needs the West's Help

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko should have gotten an even more enthusiastic reception when he spoke at the German parliament about his ambitions to bring his country into the EU, says DW's Cornelia Rabitz.


The man who sparked the Orange Revolution deserves better

It's strange -- just a few weeks ago, the waves of elation were at their peak. In Western Europe, Germany included, the Ukrainian revolution was receiving high praise. The color orange had attained cult status. But this week, the man at the center of this democratic transformation, Viktor Yushchenko, was received in Berlin with guarded enthusiasm.

Petty party bickering preceded Yushchenko's appearance before the Bundestag, and the domestic dispute over the visa affair cast a shadow over his visit. Friendly and well-meaning, the German government limited itself to signaling support for Yushchenko's expressed wish to form closer ties to Europe. It seemed that German politicians put more effort into dampening Ukraine's hopes of a speedy entry into the EU -- hopes that the West stirred into being a few weeks ago with alluring insinuations when the Ukrainian people took to the streets to demand democracy.

EU membership

Viktor Juschtschenko im Bundestag

The Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko addresses the members of the German parliament in Berlin

Viktor Yushchenko has been steadfastly pursuing his biggest foreign policy goal, which was clear from his speech in the Bundestag -- Ukrainian membership in the EU. And the president is linking this with a domestic policy strategy. The path of reforms leading to Europe is meant to increase the pressure within Ukraine to act, allowing the president to realize social, political and economic changes.

Ukrainian membership in the EU is, for the medium term, illusory. It would be too big a challenge for the EU, and Ukraine is not ready yet. Yushchenko is certainly aware of this. Immense effort will be needed to modernize his country. The success of democracy also depends on improving quality of life for its citizens. Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have already left their country to move westward.

Ukraine is a desperately poor country. President Yushchenko has to create jobs and dependable frameworks for investors; he has to stem the widespread corruption, and open the social perspective for the population -- including the skeptics in the Russian-influenced eastern part of the country. It won't be easy for him. His efforts need to be accompanied by a common European procedure and a series of sensible steps along the way.

After his visit to Germany, the question remains: Doesn't a country that so bravely rejected a corrupt government and so decisively fought for democracy deserve a more concrete offer?

Relations with Russia

Whoever is prepared to negotiate with Turkey over EU membership should not, given a background of diverse historical and cultural ties, rule out a country such as Ukraine. Kiev needs more than a few checks from Brussels. It needs a stable partnership and concrete help.

Yushchenko has already said that he will continue to regard Russia as an important partner. But he will no longer let Moscow be the dominant partner. Europe can help Ukraine and still maintain positive relations with the Russian federation.

The Ukrainian people fought for freedom. What happened there is a historic example, but also a thorn in the side for other nations living under Russia's sphere of influence. Ukraine needs the solidarity of the West; it can't be left alone now.

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