It’s time for Ukraine to enter the EU common market | ukraine news
It has been 30 years since the European Union (EU) emerged from the chrysalis of its predecessor. It has become a great economic success, and perhaps for this reason, entry into the 27-member bloc is complicated and difficult, requiring enormous bureaucratic effort and years of fundamental changes in a wide range of national institutions. .
But the common market, the free trade area at the heart of the union, remains the economic core of the European project as it has been since the 1950s. It is a neoliberal construct based on market values and the transparency of state borders for economic purposes. And that could be a shortcut for Ukraine, which needs a strong signal of European solidarity.
Ukraine should be part of the common market as soon as possible, without waiting for other EU accession procedures. The EU-Ukraine summit of 2-3 February made considerable progress in this direction. The Priority Action Plan for 2023-24, the document adopted as a result of this summit addresses a number of technical and legal issues related to the so-called “industrial visa-free regime” – i.e. stable ground for the subsequent establishment of the free movement of goods. However, this still depends on Ukraine’s ability to further align with EU requirements, the so-called acquis.
Despite expressions of optimism on both sides, Ukraine’s path to the common market is neither quick nor full-fledged. The action plan does not contain any statement on the final destination. Moreover, it is limited in nature because it essentially concerns goods, whereas the question of the free movement of labor and the freedom to provide services is not on the negotiating table.
A simple, rapid and permanent opening of the common market would be a huge advantage for Ukraine, which – let us remember – suffered a severe blow from Russian aggression, its economy having fallen by 30.4% last year.
The benefits would be:
First, it would open up the largest and richest market in the world to Ukrainian businesses and labor. To counter the effects of the Russian war, Ukraine needs extraordinary measures to stimulate economic reconstruction. Access to the common market would be a lifeline for struggling Ukrainian businesses and cushion the shocks of war on the economy. Revitalized enterprises would be better able to regain and even expand their potential so as to be able to participate in post-war activities. And greater free trade would also help the EU. Ukraine is, after all, a large market with a pre-war population of 43 million. And this must be emphasized — joining the common market is not a request for privileges; it is about creating equal rights so that Ukraine can earn a living. In the longer term, this will mean lower European spending on the reconstruction effort.
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Secondly, joining the common market does not imply access to extremely sensitive areas of the common EU budget such as agricultural subsidies or cohesion policy with all its structural funds. As previous waves of EU enlargement have demonstrated, financial aid of this kind often comes at the expense of other EU sectors, with poorer members taking a bigger slice of the pie. This invariably sparks fierce debate. In the case of Ukraine, it could also silence those who worry about the possible misuse of EU funds; they simply wouldn’t be an issue under this proposal (while the Kyiv government has meanwhile pledged to revamp its efforts to deal with this issue.)
Third, Ukraine’s entry into the common market would mark an important political moment. At the national level, this would send a strong signal to civil society that we have moved from theory to practice, after decades of debate, discussion, promises and conditions. It has been almost 10 years since the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement was signed in the aftermath of the 2014 Dignity Revolution and Russia’s war of aggression began. Obtaining EU candidate status in 2022 unfortunately lacks practical content. It’s time to move on to something more concrete.
Fourth, there is nothing new to invent; participation in the common market without EU membership is a well-established formula with all the rules and procedures in place. The system has been used successfully by the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries of Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein for many years. Thus, from an institutional, organizational and a number of other points of view, Ukraine’s accession to the common market would be relatively easy.
The large-scale invasion of Russia generated enormous solidarity among European states and resulted in the solemn declaration that Ukraine is part of the Euro-Atlantic family of nations.
Joining the common market would of course echo this sentiment, but it would also have important practical effects. This is one of the few options available to stimulate the Ukrainian economy in the short term, which we desperately need right now. This would help restore the economy from the bottom up, helping to develop small and medium-sized businesses. The results would be quick and the benefits clear: Europe would help Ukraine help itself.
Oleksandr Moskalenko is an academic researcher specializing in European politics. He is a resident researcher at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA, Washington, DC). He holds a doctorate. in European law.
Europe’s Edge is CEPA’s online journal covering critical topics on the role of foreign policy in Europe and North America. All opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or views of the institutions they represent or of the Center for European Policy Analysis.
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CEPA’s online journal covering critical topics on the role of foreign policy in Europe and North America.