While we continue to celebrate the “milestone” verdict of the European Council, the EU itself openly calls the opening of negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova “a political decision without legal force” and pushes back the terms of potential accession for decades. Why?
Semyon ALBU, RTA
After the European Council opened accession negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova despite all obstacles, the height of European integration passions in our country immediately reached unprecedented levels. You could hear odes to victorious path from almost everywhere. And politicians charged their speeches with praises about the bright European future and the necessity to roll up sleeves and immediately embark into the European-style renovation of Moldova.
The European integration bacchanalia continued at the concert “Celebrating European Moldova”, where, together with the head of the EU delegation, Maia Sandu soloed, immodestly saying that in the last three years more decisive steps have been taken on the way to the European Union than in the last thirty years. She did not forget to thank the EU countries, especially Romania, and announced that everything depends on us: after we build a European state and society, we will join the European family.
While our elite was indulging in joy, and the crowd gathered in the courtyard of the presidency was extoling Sandu as the “winner”, there was no joy in the EU countries at all. Of course, the US-loyal European bureaucracy which actually pushed for the opening of negotiations, expressed full satisfaction with its success, publishing pathetic posts “Moldova is Europe” in social media. At the same time, the European press was quickly flooded with not so triumphant remarks.
First of all, the decision-making procedure itself was scandalous. Such an important step was taken in the absence of consent and not unanimously, which shattered the fundamental statutes of the EU, where the right to vote and the veto of each country has so far ensured fairness and reasonable compromise. On Thursday, however, the leader of the dissenting state was simply asked to “take a walk”. Currently, the possibility to freeze the “Hungarian vote” is being discussed in order to unblock the 50bn aid package to Ukraine. In the long term, this could cause irreversible damage to the Union and provoke centrifugal processes inside it. And then Brexit will inevitably win new ideological supporters.
The potentially dire consequences of the recruitment of such unfavorable newcomers have not escaped the attention of European observers and politicians, whose opinions have invaded the pages of newspapers, electronic publications and TV spots. For instance, subsidies to Kyiv have been roughly estimated at a gigantic €200bn. This means that current EU members will probably have to dump more money into the “joint pot”, which will not please the populations of donor countries like France, Germany, Benelux, etc. much. In addition, the focus is on the EU’s agricultural sector, which could be ruined because of the agrarian Ukraine and Moldova. This is a widespread talkt all over the Union: in France, Poland and even in faraway Ireland. Some creative solutions like long-term banning of imports of agricultural products from the new members are proposed. And all of this came to light in just a few days. So, we can only guess how many such stumbling blocks will emerge over years of negotiations.
Of course, when talking about risks, Ukraine is mostly mentioned, while we are not considered as an existential threat due to our insignificant size and population. However, this state of affairs does not make things much easier for Moldova - we are listed with Kyiv in one package, and we are making no efforts to detach ourselves from the “Ukrainian train”, rather, on the contrary. Maybe it is justified - after all, these advances in European integration became possible only due to the situation in Ukraine. On the other hand, smart pragmatic politicians would probably take advantage of the situation by trying to leave the problematic duo and go solo. Although I assume that our elites do not really have much choice in this regard.
In any case, there is no enthusiasm among the EU countries, only anxiety, risk analysis and a lot of awkward questions. Apparently, perfectly understanding the prevailing mood and as if backing up the not very popular decision, French President Emmanuel Macron spoke very frankly about its essence. According to him, the European Union is still very far from enlargement and this will require fundamental changes in the rules of the community’s functioning. While the opening of negotiations is only a political decision and has no legal force.
I would say that these statements had the effect of a very cold shower for all our fools and liars who are now talking about reforms as a measure to speed up further European integration. Macron admitted, although it was obvious without his remarks, that the European Council was guided solely by geopolitics, and it was not about the “powerful” successes of Chisinau and Kyiv in modernizing their countries. In the global confrontation with Russia and China, it is important for the West to secure its spheres of influence, despite the costs. That is why they open negotiations with us and our neighbor despite widespread skepticism. That is why they give candidate status to Georgia, which unlike our leadership still maintains trade and economic relations with Russia and does not join anti-Russian sanctions. Because of this, Tbilisi was punished last year – this year, however, geopolitical expediency imposes appropriate requests, so that moderate Georgia was also taken under the wing. By the way, this is an example that there was no need to break with Moscow in the most deliberate and idiotic manner for the sake of the European integration benefits – we would have received them anyway, because such are the needs of the era.
I think now it is clear why all the discussions about something depending on us in terms of the speed of joining the EU is just manipulation and lies. Nothing depends on us. As we see, no actual reforms or even full foreign policy loyalty is required if the West wants to give you a stronger embrace here and now. And when we have ultimately withdrawn into the zone of Western influence, no one will gift us with additional accelerated accession to the EU. Now it is time for the routine, a lot of heavy routine.
We need to implement old Brussels recommendations, especially in terms of justice reform and the struggle against corruption. Introduce EU standards into legislation in a whole range of spheres. Improve socio-economic standards. Agree with all members on the issue of accession. This is difficult because each country can put forward its own demands of any nature. Macedonia even had to change its name to settle disputes with Greece, but even after that it cannot join the EU. And now, it turns out, it is necessary to wait until the Union itself will be reformed. And this process will not be quick and quite volatile for obvious reasons - hardly all countries will be ready to give up their veto right in favor of majority decision-making.
This situation can last a good long while – for years, and even decades. Our authorities have set 2030 as a deadline, but in Europe there are opinions that in fact the accession may take place somewhere closer to 2040. In the times of global volatility and rapid technological progress, that time may not come at all.
As we see, the EU leaders, having provided the ruling elites in Ukraine and Moldova with a serious weapon for future electoral successes, quickly explained to their audience what was really going on here. As it turned out, no one would join the union – so, Ukraine and Moldova were simply thrown a geopolitical bone to make them busy gnawing it and not be distracted by other unnecessary fuss.