The “Way to Europe”. What is It?

Lately, the phrase “Way to Europe” has been used more often with the reference to the programs of long-term development of post-Soviet countries. Thus, recently Kazakhstan Government has published a program with the kind of title. And however, there is no clear definition of this term. Frequently its interpretations are absolutely different. The term itself carries diverse semantics. It comprises a total spectrum of the views of further development of all post-Soviet states. The understanding of the meaning varies from strategic plans of the EU joining and leading of Euro-oriented foreign policy, up to plain improvement of quality and standards of living. The only thing that unites all interpretations: the “Way to Europe” – is not a program of mass migration.

The main problem of perception of the term “way to Europe” is hidden in diverse interpretations of the word “Europe” itself. In modern world and especially within Russian tradition it has accumulated and gained innumerable definitions. Later on, I’ll try to cover some of them.

The first and the most unquestionable is the perception of Europe as a geographic object. In this case, the term “way to Europe” has no sense at all, as, for example, Ukraine is situated in Europe geographically, and Kyrgyzstan will never get there no matter how hard it tries.

Another interpretation of Europe is its identification with the European Union in political context. It means, that relating to post-Soviet states the “way to Europe” means the accomplishment of Euro-oriented foreign policy with possible prospect of the EU joining. This interpretation without bias is relevant from geographic and geopolitical point of view only for Slavic Republics, Moldova and, maybe, Georgia. Relating to any of Central Asia countries, the “way to Europe” in this interpretation can mean only the intention to extend the cooperation with the EU.

Europe is also perceived as a standard of the quality of living and democracy. In this view, the “way to Europe” obtains absolutely another sense. This term means the strategic intention of the countries Governments to improve the quality of living of people, possibly even without promotion of interrelations with the EU. That’s why, in principle, it’s possible to distinguish between economic and political “way to Europe”.

Thus, the accomplishment of democratic reforms is viable without living quality improvement and vice versa. However, as practice shows, in most cases, the most steady is the Government that emphasizes economic issue.

Europe may also be conceived as a circle of cultures. But within this understanding, as well as within geographic term the “way to Europe” losses its sense: whether the culture of a country is involved into the circle of European cultures or not. It’s physically impossible to include it.

The list of diverse understandings of the word “Europe” is infinite. Russian culture has accumulated innumerous quantity of myths, stereotypes and ideas of what it covers. Above, I have presented only the outlines of main definitions that are divided into plenty of nuances, each of which in its turn influences the individual perception of the phrase the “way to Europe”.
Myths and Stereotypes

In respect of Ukraine the term the “way to Europe” obtains special meaning. In reality, among all post-Soviet states Ukraine due to its geographic location has all chances and opportunities to lead Euro-oriented policy as well as to join the EU in a long term prospect. In addition Ukraine possesses social and historic prerequisites of attraction to the western European community. Ukrainian culture even together with its orthodox compound is an integral part of the European group of cultures.

At the moment all discussions on whether Ukraine is a full-right state or not are senseless and invalid as only time will solve this matter. And no matter if some people want or not, today this kind of state exists by South-Western borders of the Russian Federation. It means that anyway it’s urgent to develop interrelations with it. This state has a centralized Government that sets foreign and internal policy, together with all formal institutions of a democratic state. And which is the most important, the main elites and the part of society have own ideas on their state viability out of the area of suppressing influence of Russia. Their peculiarity is a pronounced fear against the prospect to become a part of its Eastern neighbor. Ukrainian elites are aware that even in case of their inclusion into Russian elite circles, they will find themselves in the background.

Russia has practically nothing to offer even to an “ordinary” Ukrainian citizen. The standards and quality of living of the most part of our people remain on relatively low level. Within political sphere, Russia has failed to develop really attractive model – ideals of western democracy were too deeply assimilated among Soviet people in the end of 80-s and the beginning of 90-s and created a definite scale of values. That’s why for the most people “democracy” – is good and “autocracy” – is bad anyway. Pro-Russian myths are nonviable.  But Western myth with its long history is flourishing, also within the Ukrainian territory.
And Again about Multiple-Vector Course

In this respect, it’s obvious that there are practically no absolutely pro-Russian powers in Ukraine. There are only Russia-oriented powers, that will never push Ukraine into Russia. Instead there are more than plenty people dreaming to join the “prosperous Europe”. The myth of high living standards doesn’t leave “ordinary people” in peace.  In this case the notions the “EU” and “European living standards” are mixed most frequently.

And everybody perfectly understands that the EU doesn’t strive to invite Ukraine. After the last giant “step” on East the EU has obtained plenty of internal problems. The economics of the EU states resemble communicating vessels, thus the EU needs pretty much time to “digest” new members. Problems also affect political sphere of the EU. Under these conditions, the EU won’t be able to accept new huge member for a long time.

Russia should get rid of illusions, phobias, myths and should define viable objectives within Russian policy in its relation towards Ukraine. The possibility for Ukraine to join the EU is laid off for indefinite period.  The only “way to Europe”, and to be more precise “to the West” is possible by acceding NATO. But the probability of this scenario at the moment is very low despite the possible activity of the pleiad of “hawks” in the new US President Administration.

The alternative for Ukrainian way to the West is for the Government to lead multiple-vector policy that is only viable currently. Ukraine obviously will have to become European country without EU’s aid, by improving standards and quality of living and by the promotion of democratic institutions. But will Ukrainian political elites be capable to do this?

Translated from www.ia-centr.ru