ZELENSKY AND EUROPE | Vitaliy Portnykov

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The first summit between Ukraine and the European Union since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic was to demonstrate the interest of Europeans in further cooperation with Kyiv. The question was not even in the concrete results of this meeting, but on the new Ukrainian president meeting with the new leadership of the European Union.


The coronavirus also interfered with these plans. The head of the European Commission Ursula von Leyen was forced to go into self-isolation thus that face to face meeting did not take place. However, all other leaders of European structures were in their places. So, we can say that the meeting took place and the Ukrainian president had the opportunity to hear all the signals of his European colleagues.


However, these signals began to sound even before the summit in Brussels began. In the west, the procedure of forming a tender commission, which is to elect the head of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office, caused serious concern. It was then that they began to say that the independence of anti-corruption structures was in question, the creation of which took place not only on European advice, but also with the use of European money. High Representative of the European Union Josep Borrell, who visited Kyiv on the eve of the summit, shared this concern with President Volodymyr Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials. Borrell's article after the visit included words that were later quoted by all Ukrainian media as saying that the EU is not an ATM or a charity. It meant that the assistance of the European Union is conditioned by the continuation of reforms in Ukraine and the independence of anti-corruption structures.


The most interesting thing in this story is that this eloquent quote later disappeared from the text of the article on the website of the European Commission – as they say, at the request of the President's Office.


However, in Brussels, Josep Borrell again had to answer journalists' questions: ATM or not? And he actually confirmed that the assistance of the European Union will depend on the continuation of reforms. To "translate" these words from bureaucratic language, it means: Ukraine will not receive assistance from the EU until Brussels is convinced of an independent procedure for electing the head of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office. President Volodymyr Zelensky explained that this procedure could take several months – so many candidates for the position. Well, that will mean that there will be no EU money, and probably no money from International Monetary Fund in the near future.


Here, of course, I could write about the obvious positive results of this meeting. The final statement of the summit is full of optimistic promises – in particular, to extend visa-free travel for Ukrainians after the end of the pandemic, the signing of an agreement on "open skies" in 2021, which will increase the number of flights between Ukrainian cities and EU countries, the "industrial visa-free", the possibility of revising the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the European Union to accelerate Ukraine's economic integration. Not surprisingly, the president's office is talking about success. However, I specifically started this text with the real, not the protocol, results of the meeting in Brussels. Because the real results should be a serious signal for the Ukrainian leadership. You can brag about the success of this summit, talk about the European perspective. And even, as Volodymyr Zelensky did, to remind Europeans that Ukraine wants to become a member of the European Union. Very important words. However, Ukraine's survival does not depend on words, but on deeds and money. The money will appear only when the Ukrainian government proves to its partners in the European Union and in the West as a whole that it really wants to continue reforms, that it is ready to ensure the independence of anti-corruption structures and the judiciary system. The story of the appointment of the head of the anti-corruption prosecutor's office is just one of the episodes that is of concern to Ukraine's European partners. And there is a continuation of the influence of Ukrainian oligarchs, first of all Igor Kolomoisky, to whom Volodymyr Zelensky owes his career and power. There is a question of selective justice – when one case after another is opened against Volodymyr Zelensky's predecessor Petro Poroshenko, and Ukraine's biggest oligarchs feel comfortable and observers consider which minister is connected with this or that money grabber and whose interests are protected by presidential office workers. By the way, all these remarks were made when during his visit to London, the President of Ukraine answered tough questions from the BBC. It was easy to see that Volodymyr Zelensky simply did not get these signals, did not understand the consequences of this outright disregard for Western concerns.


But another important result of the British visit, which we learned about after Volodymyr Zelensky returned from London, was his meeting with the head of British MI6 intelligence, Richard Moore. Observers say the meeting took place simply because British Prime Minister Boris Johnson did not want information that was of great concern to the West during talks with Zelensky. That is, concerns about the Ukrainian president's entourage and the constant leak of information related to the Ukrainian crisis in the direction of the very country that Kyiv must fight against. And such a meeting is a signal not just of concern, but of serious distrust. However, there is a chance that Zelensky also treat this signal as the interview with the BBC.

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