Kyiv has already openly admitted the loss of its sovereign position in relations with individual EU countries. For the sake of the elusive prospect of joining the community, Ukraine and Moldova are expected to undergo a gradual de-sovereignization in the coming years – and not only in foreign policy
Recent reports said that Ukraine agreed to remove the Austrian banking group Raiffeisen from its list of “war sponsors”, which prevented the launch of the EU’s 12th package of anti-Russian sanctions. This situation once again proves that the EU countries still prioritize national interests in their foreign policy strategy, using Ukraine and Moldova in the context of geopolitical confrontation with Russia. The recent visit of the Austrian president to Chisinau comes to mind, when he praised our country “for overcoming Russia’s energy blackmail and buying gas on free markets” - while Austria itself continues to buy Russian gas at favorable prices and is not going to give it up in the near future.
Viktor Orban is another example of a pragmatic attitude towards the “pan-European solidarity”. Previously, Hungary, using similar methods as Austria, got Ukraine to remove its OTP bank from the blacklist, and then received 10 billion euros from Brussels for abstaining from voting at the EU Council to open accession negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova. At the same time, Orban blocked the allocation of a five-year €50 billion aid programme to Kyiv, apparently hoping to bargain for even more funding for his country.
Poland is no exception, whose farmers (obviously with the authorities’ permission) have been blocking the grain corridor for a long time, which has already resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in costs for Ukraine. At his final press conference, Volodymyr Zelensky even blamed the Polish leadership for the loss of the grain harvest and referred to the fact that he had a conflict with them on a personal level. But not so long ago Warsaw was among the most loyal allies of Kyiv in the war with Russia. The fact that in the end they prioritized their national interests instead of the principles of solidarity with Ukraine cannot be considered just a belated pre-election decision of the leaders of the Law and Justice party. The new Prime Minister Donald Tusk will certainly try to improve relations with Brussels and Kyiv, but he is unlikely to significantly revise the agrarian issue. In this case, he may lose the support of one of the main members of the coalition government, which represents the interests of Polish farmers.
If we take a look at Ukraine’s new “major strategic partner”, Romania, which, according to Zelensky, has opened the way for Ukrainian food products to foreign markets, we can also observe Kyiv’s continued retreat from its national positions.
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba can certainly take credit for the Danube Commission’s decision to revoke the Russian Federation’s membership because of drone strikes on the Lower Danube. However, Ukraine has in fact lost much more by abandoning its twenty-year ambitions to become a Danube power using the Danube-Black Sea canal. Exactly this sad fact lies behind the statements of Ruslan Strilets, Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources, about Ukraine doing its “homework” and “correcting the mistakes of the past” for the sake of good relations with its Western neighbors.
It is worth recalling that in addition to purely environmental aspects, the Bystroe canal project had an important economic significance. After its launch in 2004, Romania lost its monopoly on the passage of vessels through its Sulina Canal. The Ukrainian route immediately intercepted 40% of all traffic along the Danube delta, having worked in both directions and at any time of day. Completion of deepening the canal to 6.5 meters would give a powerful impetus to the development of Ukrainian ports and the entire infrastructure in this rather depressed area. In 2005, under European integration slogans, Viktor Yushchenko ordered to stop the process until the necessary expertise was carried out. Later, Kyiv had all the arguments in favor of continuing the works. Only Bucharest and the European Commission, which put forward new demands, opposed it. Now there is no doubt that the results of the biodiversity monitoring programme imposed on Kyiv will deem any Ukraine’s work in the Danube Delta unacceptable.
A colleague of the Ukrainian Minister of Environment, Mircea Fechet from Bucharest, openly declared a great success in defending Romania’s strategic interests, for which he thanked not only Ruslan Strilets, but also our minister in charge, Rodica Iordanov. That is how we finally repaid Ukraine for the gift of 400 meters of the Danube coast. And the officials in Kyiv giving away the national interests of their country by once again hiding behind Euro-integrationist messages.
This month Romania’s energy minister also made no secret of his country’s achievement of net electricity export status at the expense of Ukraine – due to large-scale supplies to it via transit through Moldova. Once again, if our country is destined to simply become part of Romania’s energy system, Ukraine will have to sponsor Bucharest’s ambitious task of simultaneously selling surplus “green” electricity and promoting its decarbonization programme.
In general, green energy development in Romania is a dead end in terms of ensuring the country’s energy balance given its largely archaic infrastructure. Instead, balancing generation capacity is needed, while unpredictable amounts of electricity from wind and solar plants under EU preferential projects are putting excessive pressure on the grid. However, it was with the help of Ukraine that this growing problem was solved this year.
Sometimes it seems that the authorities in Kyiv realize the cost of Ukraine’s Europeanisation. At the same press conference, Volodymyr Zelensky claimed that during his visits to the United States and the European Union, he hears encouragement that Ukrainians “have already won”, Russia has “not destroyed” them, and they “have a state and identity left, and everything else will get back later”. “I’m rather skeptical about this,” Zelensky noted. Perhaps this is one of the few public revelations that Ukraine still has a lot to pay for what is left of its “statehood and identity” to those who “support” it.