August 18, 2009

To Be in EU or Not to Be: That is the Question

Shakespeare's Hamlet asked the quintessential question: "to be or not to be". In the light of the upcoming presidential elections, the Ukrainian politicians should ask themselves a similar question with a tiny specification: "to be in EU or not to be". Should Ukraine invest in becoming a member of EU? Or should Ukraine prioritize its relations with Russia? These questions have been central political issues for each president of Ukraine, including the incumbent president Yushchenko.

The potential presidential candidates are the incumbent prime-minister Tymoshenko (BYUT party), the former speaker of the parliament Yatseniuk (OUNS party), and PORs' leader Yanukovich. Each of them will use the EU issue in the upcoming campaign. According the recent public opinion poll conducted by the Razumkov Center (July 20-28, 2009), three-quarters of Yanukovich's constituency prioritize relations with Russia and only seven percent of his voters prefer relations with EU. These numbers don't come as a shock because POR's constituency dominates regions across the Russian-Ukrainian border. According to the same poll, a quarter of Tymoshenko's constituency supports the North-Western vector (i.e. Russian) of her foreign policy while almost forty percent of her voters prioritize EU-Ukraine relations. Yatseniuk's voters seem to share their views with Tymoshenko's voters: 44.5% of them prefer relations with EU and 26% of them prefer relations with Russia. The supporters of the incumbent president Yushchenko also prefer the EU-oriented foreign policy (45%) rather than the Russia-oriented (14.5%). Indeed, the Ukrainians have different views on whether Ukraine should prioritize foreign relations with EU or Russia.

However, how is the question really relevant to the Ukrainian reality? Ukraine is not even among the candidate countries. Moreover, it's no-brainer that Ukraine's foreign relations must represent a healthy balance between EU-oriented and Russia-oriented policies because of the current economic and political positions that Ukraine holds in the Eastern European region.

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