Intense competition in the EU: What is happening around Ukraine

24 January, 12:31 PM
European Union (Photo:REUTERS/Yves Herman)

European Union (Photo:REUTERS/Yves Herman)

Why European Council President Charles Michel suddenly visited Kyiv two weeks before а scheduled Ukraine-EU summit

The sudden visit of European Council President Charles Michel to Ukraine two weeks before a planned Ukraine-EU summit in early February in Kyiv could surprise or create inflated expectations from a possible next “European integration breakthrough."

At the same time, the results of the meetings and the signals in the President's speech to the deputies of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine did not go beyond the traditional political support and personal statements of Michel in favor of strengthening military assistance to the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

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Then what was the purpose of the visit?

Let me suggest that the key to understanding the situation is still the fierce competition for the European Union's foreign policy dossier between the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission, which went public with the famous chair scandal. Let me remind you that then on April 6, 2021, during a joint visit to Turkey during a photo op with Turkish President Erdogan, there was no third chair for European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who perceived this as an attempt to insult and humiliate Charles Michel. And although the leaders allegedly settled the conflict, its echoes can be traced to this day.

 Michel took a step ahead

Of course, the previous visit of the President of the European Commission to Kyiv and the July speech in the Verkhovna Rada could not escape the attention of the President of the European Council, who was supposed to give a proper public response. In addition to the expected EU-Ukraine summit chaired by the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission, on the initiative of Ursula von der Leyen, another important and striking political event was added – a joint meeting of the Board of the European Commission and the Government of Ukraine. Perhaps with this meeting, the president of the European Commission is trying to increase the added value of his stay in Ukraine compared to the president of the European Council, who will only be at the summit.

As a result, Michel took a step ahead and made a separate symbolic visit to Kyiv with a worthy program, including a speech to the Ukrainian MPs.

For Ukraine, such intense competition between the leaders of the EU institutions can be useful and, if used successfully, can contribute to a more dynamic promotion of our European integration dossier. Competitions in “who has done more for Ukraine?” will only play in favor of Ukraine. Although, of course, it would be much more important if President Charles Michel and President Ursula von der Leyen worked as a single team, as Presidents Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker were once well known to all Ukrainians.

What is clear now is that the unity of the team in Brussels on the “Ukrainian issue” will depend solely on how faithfully Ukraine fulfills the criteria for full EU membership. And this will depend on unity both between the branches of power and between political forces for the sake of a common goal. Such internal political unity is a guarantee that Kyiv will not have to take risks and play on competition between teams.

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