EU enlargement since 2004 has proved not to be as successful as it seemed in those years. Quantity not always turns into quality. We cannot say that the idea of EU enlargement was a mistake but many good intentions still remain on the paper. As a result, we have the EU split into two camps – “the old” and the “newcomers”. And also we should remind about “eternally waiting” Turkey and Ukraine that also declares its intention to become an EU member in the future.
Clearly, the economies of Germany and also Romania and Lithuania have more differences then things in common. The Romanian and Lithuanian economic models are more easily to be compared with Ukraine then with the “old EU members”. Maybe that is the reason why their integration – and not only theirs, but of all “newcomers” is undergoing so many difficulties.
At first, there was indeed an opinion that the quick expansion of the EU with the new members of the union would be the accelerator which will speed the economic growth in the whole union. But it clearly did not happen. And this is mainly not the false of the new EU members but the underestimation or overestimation of their capabilities. Most likely, the current problems of the new EU members mostly occurred due to the extremely fast integration into the EU with no time for calm and scrupulous work. This is also a construction boom in Bulgaria caused mostly by emotional factors rather than economic ones. No one thought or even tried to think who would buy the real estate. It also concerns Greece, although there it was not the syndrome of the “newcomer” but rather the underestimation of the Greek economic model. It is not understandable why no one among EU politicians and economists ten or fifteen years from now guessed to tie the pension and salary growth in the EU countries with the work productivity growth. As a result, except rare cases of Germany and partially France where the salary growth corresponded with the work productivity growth, in other EU countries the salary growth drastically exceeded the work productivity. And as a result, “Greek economic woes” came into being which now need to be fixed by the whole EU.
In these conditions the idea of the further EU enlargement is not seen as a positive fact. The policy of European skepticism is being formed. But to what extent is it justified at the current stage of the EU development? First things first, it would be worth understanding the reasons which caused problems for the “newcomers” in the process of their integration into the EU to avoid repeating the same mistakes in the future while accepting new EU members. And also it would be appropriate to choose a new model of the Lisbon agreement considering the lessons of the 2007-2008 crisis. Any economic model is incomplete that is why its transformation and change are the normal trend of time.
In these conditions many people might think that the Ukrainian integration into the EU is an impossible phenomenon. Nowadays it is a fact. Ukrainian economy cannot and do not want to be integrated into the EU. It would be a mistake to believe the Ukrainian acceptance into the EU can be simple and easy. But it would be an even bigger mistake for the EU to reject Ukraine. It should be remembered that Ukraine is a big European country which in its size and economic potential exceeds many countries of Eastern Europe. And also Ukraine is not only a sales market but also a site for the creation of a powerful industrial basis which in time can greatly exceed the Spanish or Italian potential.
Currently the Association agreement is the most optimal form of the Ukrainian cooperation with the EU. During the association Ukraine will have time to conduct necessary reforms which will make its economic environment more understandable and adapted to the European standards. At the same time it will provide an opportunity for Ukraine to tightly cooperate with the “newcomers” of the EU. And that would be mutually beneficial. As Ukraine can be a sales market for the products of the EU “newcomers” and at the same time Ukraine together with say Poland or Lithuania could work more in the field of production cooperation. And this releases tension in the EU itself. As there is currently a stronger competition within the EU than between the EU and other countries in the world.
Ukraine cannot expect a quick entry into the EU but Ukraine can quite quickly find common points to do business with many EU countries within the framework of the association. Ukraine has everything for that: workforce, natural resources and location for the creation of new production capabilities, let alone the sales market. The main point it to allocate time in order for Ukraine to become a full-fledged European country. That is why it is high time to think about Ukraine’s future as an EU member but only after real changes in the Ukrainian economy become visible.