European Ukraine: Current Trends and Prospects
The paper presents the review of Ukraine's European integration progress, which has certain stages, the legal basis of Ukraine and EU relations, and includes various issues of bilateral cooperation since the declaration of Ukraine's independence up to date.
The initial stage of the establishment of bilateral relations between Ukraine and the EU dates back to the 1990's. At that time, the official missions in Kyiv and Brussels were opened, the first bilateral Partnership and Cooperation Agreement was signed, a political dialogue was established, economic and trade relations with the EU were developing, the contacts with Ukrainian society intensified.
The next stage was at the beginning of the 2000s, when the internal conflict in Ukraine was intensifying, and the European Union was preparing for the largest enlargement. The European partners, disappointed with the efforts of Ukraine in reforms implementing, took a wait-and-see attitude. The significant event of bilateral relations was the presidential campaign of 2004, which became a manifestation of the civil activity of Ukrainian society regarding the policy of European integration.
The political crisis in the EU, due to the failure of the EU Constitution and the ineffective policy of Ukrainian government again did not lead to tangible results in bilateral cooperation. The EU proposed Ukraine to adopt a new, more ambitious agreement for further cooperation. The preparation of the text of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU lasted from 2007 to 2011.
In 2009, in Prague, the Eastern Partnership Summit was held – a Polish-Swedish initiative for the EU's eastern neighbors, in particular for Ukraine. From that period, the EU – Ukraine bilateral relations have shifted to the multilateral format of the Eastern Partnership, in which, in addition to Ukraine, five more former Soviet republics are taking part. The Eastern Partnership supposed to sign the Association Agreements, to introduce a visa-free regime and activate the civil society of partner countries in the realization of European integration goals. The refusal of the Ukrainian government to sign the Association Agreement caused a broad social protest, which demanded the realization of Ukraine's European choice.
The Dignity Revolution became the Rubicon of the modern era of bilateral relations with the EU. The achievements of that period were the creation of the institutional and legal mechanism for the implementation of the Association Agreement, reforms to bring European standards closer, and the introduction of a visa-free regime for Ukrainian citizens.
Issues of security, pressure on Moscow's policy, the need for political and economic reforms in Ukraine are the urgent issues of the European Union in the bilateral relations at the present stage. In the conditions of the difficult situation in the East of Ukraine, the annexed Crimea and the difficult implementation of reforms, European integration remains the main priority of Ukraine's domestic and foreign policy.