Disappearance in Ukraine: Looking for the EU under the rubble

The recent dramatic developments in Ukraine have led to the disappearance of its dismissed President Yanukovych, but also to another very apparent disappearance, that of the European Union. The US officials who earlier used a four-letter word to describe Europe’s absence from the scene and inability to put its act together in Ukraine was obviously right. One cannot wait for the dysfunctional Union to act.

Brussels is unable to prove its relevance when it comes to big political issues, the people holding the highest offices in European institutions are mediocre and getting ready to go after the May elections, and the wish of the EU’s most powerful member states is obviously to hold on to their prerogatives; thus the Union appears as disunited and ineffective as ever. There is not even a semblance of EUness in what is happening in terms of Western intervention in Ukraine today. The monitors who will pronounce on the violence and the deaths are British and clearly say so to the press, announcing already their foregone conclusions. Even for monetary assistance, something the EU used to be good at in the past, it is the UK talking to the US and the IMF. The interface with the Russians is fragmented, with Hollande, Merkel and others making calls and sending messages to Putin, while the sad presence of Catherine Ashton moves around Meidan, trying to utter a common EU foreign policy, or is she another member of the UK delegation?

This is as disappointing as it can be, and “one of the same” too. What has changed from 100 years ago, the games of the big powers and the Great War? Very important that the war is not with us this time, but for how long, if such games continue?

For a European federalist like me this is particularly disheartening for many reasons:

  • It is another proof, if one was needed, that the Union is there only for the soft issues, while it breaks up in front of big politics, big interests and big money;
  • It is particularly worrying that parochial national interests and uncooperative national elites continue to play their games around Europe and beyond, competing with each other and undermining the common European project, while being unable to utter a coherent stance towards third parties like Russia or the US;
  • Coming from Greece, the current holder of the EU Presidency as it happens, and the best known example of a punch bag for internal EU discipline, I am triply worried about the weak-to-non-existent role of middle and small powers within Europe, as they should be trying hard to keep the big powers within the fold and the EU institutions up to task…

Another dark day for Europe but will it prove a better day for Ukraine, no matter who has actually intervened and how? The specter of the country’s splitting in two, and of possible civil war, is hovering over it. Will the new leadership, not without a past itself, manage to keep the country together? Will it split peacefully if it does split? Will Europe offer guarantees to Western Ukraine if the split happens? What will Russia do, vis-à-vis Eastern Ukraine and the country as a whole? What a wonderful world, and the Sochi Olympics have just successfully concluded nearby…

Georgios Kostakos

Athens, 25 February 2014

About Georgios Kostakos

Georgios Kostakos is Executive Director of the Foundation for Global Governance and Sustainability (FOGGS) and an independent consultant on global challenges and sustainability, governance and UN affairs based in Brussels, Belgium. He holds an MA and a PhD in International Relations from the University of Kent at Canterbury (UK), and a Mechanical Engineering degree from the National Technical University of Athens, Greece. He served on the secretariat of the UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Global Sustainability (GSP) as Senior Adviser and Acting Deputy Executive Secretary, and on many other positions at UN Headquarters in New York, UN field missions, the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP) and the University of Athens. He is passionate about Europe and the World, and strives for human well-being in peace, prosperity and justice.
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