Interview with Dmitry Babich
Russia Today: How close do you think Ukraine is to EU accession?
Dmitry Babich: Right now Ukraine is only in the initial stages of European integration although there is a ministry for European integration in the Ukrainian government. So, it is an official goal of the Ukrainian government to bring the country into the EU one day. But the problem is that the social and economic situation in Ukraine is not very good right now and certainly the country is very far from European standards. Well, some countries have joined the EU in a sort of advanced payment for their future development, like Bulgaria and Romania, which are also poor countries. But we should remember that Ukraine has almost 50 MLN people so I do not think that the EU will be able to swallow it in the next few years.
RT: Does Ukraine's accession to the EU mean that its economic and political future lies away from Russia?
D.B.: Well, it is a tricky question, it is a matter of perception. The official Russian position is that Ukraine can be a part of the EU and of a member of the joint economic space at the same time, which Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan are trying to create. But when the agreements on the joint economic space were signed in 2003 the EU commissioner for enlargement Mr Gunter Ferhoigen came to Kiev and said he was very unhappy about what happened. He also said that Ukraine would not be able to join the EU if it is a full member of the joint economic space. Well, if the EU does not want Ukraine to be integrated with Russia, then certainly Ukraine’s integration to the EU can endanger Ukraine’s ties with Russia. But this doesn't necessarily have to happen. Russia is open to Ukraine joining the EU and retaining good economic relations with Russia.
RT: So, if Ukraine joins the EU – what about Russia? Will Russia ever follow?
D.B.: Well, I mean economically Russia is no further removed from the EU than Ukraine. Some economic experts even say that, for example, Belarus is more ready for European integration than Ukraine. Belarus has a lot fewer problems with social issues, with unemployment etc. So, Russia is certainly richer than Ukraine and from an economic point of view Russia is more eligible for EU membership than Ukraine, but the question is political – would the EU want it?
RT: Does Russia need it?
D.B.: This is a big question of Russian politics. Some of our political parties have Russia's integration with European as, you know, part of their programmes. The “Yabloko” party, for example, advocates Russia joining the EU. But the main question is will Brussels want to see Russia in the EU.