Is Ukrainian fatigue flying over Brussels?

Discussions about Ukrainian fatigue in the European Union are heard every time louder from various places. From one side, all EU’s efforts to stop the war in Eastern Ukraine did not bring the bloodshed to an end. So painful for its own economy sanctions, political conflict with Russia and diplomatic Minsk peace agreements did not bring huge changes. Now, European media do not transmit any information about further deaths in Donbass. From the other side, it is already visible for everybody, that Ukrainian government does not try much to eradicate corruption and to reform the country. 
If you visit Brussels, you will be impressed by the number of the EU’s official meetings and conferences concerning Ukraine, but also by the amount of Ukrainian organisations of different kind, operating in the European capital. Leading European politicians, working on Ukraine, will tell you that the EU will never forget Ukraine and the country receives huge support. You may feel, that the EU actually cares a lot and helps Ukraine. However, when you enter a private meeting with European politicians, you will hear: “We remember present Ukrainian politicians when they were on Maidan, they were all willing to reform the country. Now, they are all corrupted. They just got into the system and became as the system is. What can we do for you now? We supported the Orange revolution in the European parliament a lot. It was more difficult to gain support for Euromaidan, but we managed to do this. You will not have a third chance now.” And then you will start to think what Ukrainians actually want and if they know how the EU can better support the country.

There are European politicians, who support present government and prefer bad stability to a risky chance of a better possibility. There are the ones, who are completely disappointed in Ukraine and the ability of Ukrainians to become a free and successful nation. There are a few, who hope that the next elections can bring positive change.

The problem is that for Europeans it is difficult to distinguish between government and ordinary people of a certain country. Ukrainian government often loses its credibility already after one year of its rule, which is ridiculous in a developed democracy. Ukrainians are going for protests to show its unacceptance of corruption, by which they show instability of their democracy and lose trust of their European partners.

From the other way of thinking, Ukrainians should not be selfish and forget that the European Union has other problems. Brexit, the rise of far right parties, migration crisis, separatist movement in Catalonia, issues with the rule of law among Eastern members – are only a few headaches of the European Union in the last months. Discussions about the possible enlargement by Western Balkans are taking much energy of the Union as well. From the other side, the EU tries to push its soft power in the other parts of the world, promote democracy, human rights and economic development there. And many even far countries see the EU as a remedy for their home problems. Do Ukrainians know how many people are being killed in Kashmir every month? Or do they care about how much wildlife is being destroyed because of plastic rubbish? Most Ukrainians never think about these things, but Brussels needs to take care of these on a daily basis.

It cannot be forgotten, that Ukraine stays geopolitically, economically and culturally very important country for the EU. The EU is, of course, interested in a democratic and economically developed Ukraine. Sometimes, it does not know how better help the country, sometimes it is exhausted with its other tasks. Interest in certain issues is rising and falling. Ukraine should do its own job; Ukrainians should continue its hard work both in Ukraine and abroad. Do we need to think about Ukrainian fatigue? What is the point in this?

If we talk about general public opinion about Ukraine in different EU’s member-states, desire to help Ukraine is naturally much higher in Eastern Europe than in Western. However, people’s attitude can be changed very rapidly. If Ukraine shows good results and there is a political will from both sides in closer cooperation, it is a matter of a few years of proper informational policy to make Europeans willing to accept Ukraine into the European Union. If people are satisfied with their economic and social life, they will not protest.

As for now, Ukrainians should work for their big goal – to see Ukraine as an equal member of the European family. Who can predict that it will happen in 5 or 25 years? We should put all our effort in this fight. At least we will know, that we have done everything to have a better future for Ukraine and its people. And no fatigue will stop Ukrainians from becoming a successful European country.

Alina Nychyk 

Promote Ukraine Network