Free Trade vs. Customs Union




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The Nature of the Ukrainian Choice: Acquis without Institutions

In the coming years and, perhaps in the long-term perspective, the international institutional questions of defining the development strategy of Ukraine will be minor. The membership of Ukraine in the European Union and NATO is not on the agenda because of internal reasons that determine the development of these organizations. Membership of Ukraine in the (funded by Russia) Customs Union (CU) and Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) is also seemingly impossible. The reasons here are quite different: these organizations would welcome Ukraine as their member, but Ukraine itself has powerful arguments to avoid membership1.

With regard to this situation Ukraine will be stuck for a long time between two geopolitical organizations – the EU and NATO in the West, and CU and CSTO in the East – without joining any of these organizations formally. At the same time this does not exclude the question of the strategic choice of Ukraine and the vector of its internal reforms becoming part of the agenda. The mechanism of this choice is becoming different, but not its nature. When the institutional component is missing the key question is the implementation of European principles, standards and norms, in other words European acquis in a broader sense of this term, including acquis communautaire of the EU, Schengen acquis, and NATO acquis.

There is some risk as the European acquis is no longer a single option for Ukraine. In the framework of the Customs Union and the CSTO specific acquis has been forming for the last 15 years. This fact is usually ignored in Europe. European politicians and experts tend to see in these organizations artificial pro-Russian formations, the so-called "ghosts" of the past that do not have any prospects for their own development. But from the Ukrainian perspective this situation has been seen in a totally different way. Everything that happens to the East of its borders has always been and remains a reality that at first is to be taken into account and only then can one conclude from what sources it is being generated.

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