Razumkov Centre: War, Integration and the Black Sea Factor: Undervalued Opportunities

2024-05-24 | EU integration, Expert publications

By Viktor ZAMIATIN (Director of Political and Leal Programmes of Razumkov Centre) and Vasyl YURCHYSHYN (Director of Economic Programmes of Razumkov Centre).

The full-scale war with Russia has had a significant impact on the development of Ukraine’s domestic and foreign policy. For example, after the invasion, Ukrainian society’s vision of European and Euro-Atlantic integration went beyond formal EU and NATO accession and is now viewed as the only alternative for further civilisational development. This is obviously linked to expectations of support in confronting the enemy, as well as hopes for post-war recovery, macroeconomic stability, competitiveness of domestic business, and improved well-being of households.

in, without reliable support. It is also clear that Ukraine will not automatically join the «European club», as the countries that are already members of the EU and protected by the NATO umbrella still have different viewpoints of the world with varying assessments of the situation and its further development. Furthermore, none of these countries are prepared for a direct military clash and will try to avoid such a threat in every possible way.

The task for Ukraine is further complicated by the fact that, while previous EU enlargements occurred in a peaceful Europe, the country’s current integration path is inextricably linked to its struggle for freedom and independence. It is clear that countries that were central to European unification and creation of a reliable system of protection of common values and a shared perspective, should emerge as Ukraine’s partners in its European integration. These are the founding members of the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). After all, European integration processes after the Cold War would have looked very different without the will of Western European societies, supported by their political leaders.

However, it is also crucial to establish a genuine partnership based on mutual interests with those countries that have joined the pan-European integration process more recently.

After the EU’s «great enlargement» of 2004, the accession process for new members slowed down significantly. Only three countries, Bulgaria and Romania in 2007 and Croatia in 2013, joined the EU since then, and certain reservations and restrictions continue to this day.

This article focuses on Bulgaria and Romania, exploring their political and economic processes, as both have already made a rather controversial path to the EU. These two countries share similarities with Ukraine, particularly in their European integration processes between 2000-2010. As Ukraine has been improving its relationship with Bulgaria and Romania, it can learn from their experiencesin implementing state policies. The experience of Croatia is still quite limited in time, so it is appropriate to address it later.

Another important detail is that Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine are connected by the Black Sea, which in this case can be far more than just a geographical factor. Therefore, it is safe to say that the potential for partnership with these countries is exceptional both in terms of directions of NATO’s further evolution and in terms of rethinking the traditional networks and links within the EU.

Ukraine, in particular, stands to gain from this partnership by studying integration experiences (taking into account the changes in the overall situation and the mistakes made by other nations), strengthening political support, elaborating new and promising joint projects that would increase the EU’s geopolitical weight, and finally, rethinking the key principles on which security policy has been built so far.

It is a sign of the times that russian aggression has prompted the Euro-Atlantic community to finally start implementing the talks from early 2000s about strengthening NATO’s southern flank. This is a chance for Ukraine to contribute to the establishment of a new reality.

Read the full publication here.