‘EU can’t really solve Ukraine's problems’
RT:What are the chances of Ukraine's president living up to that promise of bettering people's wages?
Martin McCauley: I think it is a long-term project because Ukraine is busy, it is bankrupt at present. It has got very low foreign currency reserves so as to import things, and it is hoping that the IMF and the EU will come up with bigger loans and so on. And of course the country has been terribly disrupted by the conflict in eastern Ukraine and also in the north of Crimea. So therefore Ukraine is now one of the weakest states in Europe and it is going to be a long, I would say five to 10 years, before Ukraine gets back to a normal level.
RT:President Petro Poroshenko wants visa-free travel with the EU in five months. How likely is that? Is that something that Europe wants?
MC: The problem is that if you have visa-free travel between Ukraine and the EU, then a very large number of Ukrainians would prefer to live within the EU, having moved to the EU. And places like Britain provide very handsome welfare benefits, and the welfare benefits in Britain are higher than the average wage in Ukraine. Therefore, it is asking basically for many Ukrainians to move to the rest of Europe. So therefore I can’t see that happening in the very near future. It is possible in the years down the line, and very skilled Ukrainians - those in IT and those who have skills like that, medical and others – they will be welcomed. But of course they are much more needed in Ukraine, so Ukraine needs to keep, in fact, its intellectual capital in Ukraine instead of encouraging it to move to Europe.
RT:Poroshenko also announced reforms to bring government institutions to European standards. How much work will that take, and will it succeed in getting him closer to Brussels?
MC: That is something that the EU will insist on, such as the rule of law, human rights observation and so on. All that will be very important for Ukraine to undertake because if they don't, then they will not come near to the EU, they will not get the loans and the help that they require. So if you like, Ukraine really has no choice. It really has to follow the dictate of Brussels. Brussels will decide and say to Ukraine 'You have to do the following. You have to implement the following laws and observe these laws, and then, we'll consider your future.'
RT:Ukraine's enduring economic strife and a violent civil conflict. How much does the EU want to get associated with it?
MC: Well, at present the EU is in a very sorry state and 2015 may actually be worse than 2014. The possibility of Greece electing a left-wing government – Syriza - and they say they want to stay within the eurozone, but they don't want austerity, so that is going to be a major problem. Greece may in fact need more money. And then next year there is going to be elections in Spain and the Podemos party, which is being translated as 'We can’, say they do not support austerity as well and they think that Spain is going in the wrong direction.
The EU is faced with very serious problems. Next year, at the time when growth is really stagnant, so therefore the EU unfortunately will use verbal promises and they will say nice things to Ukraine, be very diplomatic in the short term, but in the long term, it is going to be a long haul for Ukraine. The EU can’t really solve Ukraine's problems. Ukraine really has to get down and solve its own problems.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.