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Ukraine's EU membership comes with severe strings attached

LAST WEEK’S decision by EU heads of government to grant EU candidate membership to Ukraine and Moldova was reported with uncritical acclaim by Britain’s main political parties and the mainstream media.

It was taken as read that fast-tracking Ukraine in particular into the EU will be good for all concerned, especially for the people of that beleaguered country.

All that is necessary now is for Ukraine and its government to demonstrate that they comply adequately with the much-vaunted democratic, economic and social “values” and perspectives of the EU by the end of this year.

If the answer is Yes, negotiations for formal accession will begin. In the past these have normally taken years, if not a decade or two. In Ukraine’s case, barring a catastrophic outcome from the war with Russia, the timescale is likely to be a lot shorter.

Then, we are led to understand, the alleged benefits of EU membership will be showered upon the Ukrainians.

Yet the small print of the EU documentation that accompanied last Thursday’s announcement indicates that this will not be a path strewn with roses.

Ukraine’s economy was already a basket case even before Russia’s brutal military assault.

Indeed, it has been so ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the capitalist counter-revolutions that gripped its former constituent republics.

As the EU Commission’s Opinion to the European Parliament and European Council confirmed on June 17, Ukraine’s GDP per head was less than one-third of the EU average last year.

Millions of Ukrainians work abroad, their remittances keeping domestic demand afloat. Investment is low and corrupt native oligarchs wield substantial economic, political and media influence.

The gender pay gap is such that female workers receive little more than three-quarters of the average male wage.

But the EU Commission is impressed by the Kiev government’s efforts to contain inflation and maintain control over public-sector deficits and debt in line with EU monetarist limits.

What is needed now is “large-scale privatisation” of state-owned enterprises and reforms to “enhance labour market flexibility,” say neoliberal capitalism’s unelected champions in Brussels. Plus unfettered access for outside (ie western European) capital to the Ukrainian economy.

These, the commission reckons, will help Ukraine fulfil two vital conditions for EU membership now applicable to all would-be entrants: first, to have a “functioning market economy” and second, to “adhere to the aims of political, economic and monetary union.”

The same stipulations were contained in the commission’s recommendations in the case of Moldova.

Of course, the overriding motives for Ukraine’s swift accession to the EU are now geopolitical more than economic. President Vladimir Putin’s invasion has had that unintended effect.

When the country’s Rada, or parliament, amended the constitution in February 2019, after the Maidan coup and the suppression of the Communist Party and its MPs, it was to incorporate membership of both the EU and Nato as strategic national aims.

But it is also clear what else may await the workers and peoples of Ukraine and Moldova: more privatisation, unemployment, emigration, deregulation, austerity and foreign control of what is left of their economy.

And to think there are still socialists and trade unionists in Britain and elsewhere who imagine that the EU is some bountiful project to promote the common interests of the workers and peoples of Europe.

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