Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 01.10.2017
Ukraine takes another step towards the heart of Europe. Today, October 1, the European Union begins numerous autonomous trade preferences for Ukraine. This is an expansion of categories covered by the zero-tariffs Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) between the EU and Ukraine. Quotas are also increased for a number of Ukrainian goods, primarily agricultural produce. Now more Europeans can enjoy the delicacy that is Ukrainian honey. The DCFTA is the trade part of the politico-economic EU-Ukraine Association Agreement which was a key victory of the Revolutionary of Dignity – which Ukrainians fought and won in 2013-14 – and the cornerstone accomplishment of the EU’s “Eastern Partnership.”
With each sure step Ukraine takes with its peers in Europe, Russia is wrong-footed. Because Russia refuses to stop attacking Ukraine and to stop illegally occupying Crimea and Donbas, sanctions by the West on the Russian individuals and entities responsible for the war remain firmly in place. As well, the Putin regime imposed suicidal self-sanctions on the Russian people, particularly agricultural produce from the EU. Audiences of Russian propaganda TV are regularly treated to the bizarre spectacle of Putin regime authorities destroying perfectly good fruit and vegetables and cheese with bulldozers. Sanctions on Russia’s war profiteering elite by the West and sanctions on the Russian people by the Putin regime mean political isolation and economic misery for Russia. They also mean Russia recedes ever further from the European project.
The European project is now central to Ukraine. New life has been breathed into the EU by embracing the largest wholly European country, Ukraine. Ukraine is on the “fast track” towards integration with the EU. The aspirational goal of EU membership for Ukraine is now a goal with an achievable timeline. This was unimaginable four years ago, when the Putin regime and its Ukrainian auxiliary Yanukovych cut the Ukrainian people out of the deal and said “no” to the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. The Ukrainian people rose up and said “yes.” They said “yes” to the quintessentially European character of the Ukrainian nation. Spontaneous, genuine civil society asserted itself strongly in Ukraine, standing up to the tyrant Yanukovych and then standing up to the invader Putin.
Milestones in a trade deal, like today’s expansion of trade preferences and increase in quotas, should not be glossed over. They are laurels of victory for Ukraine: a consequence of fighting and winning the Revolution of Dignity and defending Europe from the invasion by Russia. It’s a straight line from the barricades of Maidan and from the trenches of Donbas to a western European buying zero-tariff Ukrainian honey at the supermarket.