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Brexit and new challenges for Ukraine

EU flags above Euromaidan protesters in Kyiv, Ukraine. 27 November 2013
Brexit and new challenges for Ukraine
Article by: Yevhen Hlibovytkyi
Translated by: Alya Shandra
Brexit presents several new challenges for Ukraine.

Within the EU, a new topic has emerged, and it will drive out Ukraine, Russia, and other eastern challenges to the periphery of the decision-making process.

Scotland’s potential movement (and, possibly, that of other parts of the UK) to independence with the preservation (or acquisition) of EU membership, will turn the British topic into a TV show occupying the front pages of European newspapers.

Ukraine will be the least of worries.

Within the EU, the nature and dynamics of relationships between parties may be changed.

The balance of power within the European Union will change.

The United Kingdom’s departure will reduce the counterweight to Germany’s leadership, with the exclusive character of which a significant part of societies in the EU is not ready to concur with. Because of this, Germany will face expectations, demands, and challenges yet unknown to German voters and institutions.

In Brussels, the UK’s exit will likely be interpreted as a signal of necessary reforms, but different political parties envision contradicting treatment to the current disease – from “more Europe” to “less Europe.” The course of this debate will directly affect Ukraine’s  eurointegration perspectives. The populists of the continent will receive a breeze of inspiration (and Russian money) into their sails, and it’s extremely likely that they will become active along the entire EU.

Russia will feel more confident about Ukraine, and will promote its agenda in the EU with greater zeal.

The USA’s isolationism may increase on the backdrop of conflicting news coming from Europe.

What should Ukraine do?

Ukraine needs to dramatically change its rhetoric and policies within the EU. Currently, Ukraine presents itself and is perceived by Europe as a victim of aggression, which has trouble handling difficulties on its own.

Whether Ukrainian reforms are successful is a contradictory subject for many in the EU.

Therefore, the new Ukrainian policy should focus on promoting Ukraine as part of the solution, not a problem. To demonstrate that Ukraine is an honest player that helps strengthening the security of the EU. To explain the unique advantages that we have in diplomacy on the post-Soviet space.

Ukraine could also add passionarity to the pro-European camp within the EU, if it will be able to become part of the internal European debates – particularly if the Baltic and Central European states will be able to engage Ukraine as an important participant in the discussion.

The problem is that Ukraine’s MFA is unlikely to become the source of the new rhetoric due to its internal and institutional constraints. And civil society and experts are only starting to cut their own independent “window into Europe.”

And the Foreign Ministry should focus on the direction where civil society is almost powerless, and the Europeans are weak – on Ukraine’s eastern policy.

Brussels and other EU capitals are either unable, unwilling, and/or incapable, of doing what Kyiv can accomplish in the Caucasus, Central Asia, Belarus, and Moldova. Against this background, we need to increase our “soft power” regarding Russia and Belarus.

And, unfortunately, Ukraine receives these challenges before it is prepared for them.

After all, Ukraine needed to come to grips with its eastern policy, change its rhetoric in the EU and transform the MFA into a more independent institution that is a creator of Ukraine’s international relations.

Yevhen Hlibovytkyi is a Ukrainian expert of long-term strategies. He studies value systems and is a participant of the Nestor expert group, an informal gathering of intellectuals, experts, and civic activists working on developing a strategic vision for Ukraine. 
Translated by: Alya Shandra
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