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perpetualdiversity.com In November, 2005 forty five students at the East Ukrainian National University in Lugansk, Ukraine submitted papers on whether or not Ukraine should enter the European Union. The winning paper in the 2005 Center for Perpetual Diversity Scholarship program is presented here. The paper has been edited for clarity.

Anna Pekina

On the eve of the December Summit regarding the EU integration policy the Ukrainian authorities have proclaimed that membership in the European Union is a national priority. The first steps on the path toward the European community were not strewn with petals from Brussels roses. The initial euphoria disappeared with increased understanding of all the uncomfortable realities of cooperation with the EU.

Acceptance of the plan entitled "On the way to EU" is the starting point. In its current form this document presumes cooperation in a number of areas, but doesn't reveal the prospects of Ukrainian membership. This Plan is absolutely a positive moment for Ukraine and it will show serious intentions and open the doors for strengthened ties to the EU. However the details of the process raise doubts.

First, there are no clear points. In spite of having a detailed character, the document is colored with a number of non-specific requirements.

Second is the temporary imbalance it will cause. The plan calls for the completion of more than 360 measures. In the first half of the year about one sixth of them were completed and other measures are planned for the second half of the year. The rate of completion does not give us confidence. At the end of the year parliamentary elections, which promise to be interesting, could be fatal to the entire process.

Thirdly, there is the deficiency of resources. The Plan could be considered as a global business-project requiring an investment of funds from external sources. Ukraine does not have enough money to even adapt the national legislation of Ukraine to the norms of the EU.

Fourthly is the fact that our government can not manage to get public support of EU integration. When Ukrainian citizens were asked "can integration into the EU unit all regions of Ukraine?" 36 % said yes and 39 % said no. A similar majority do not consider Ukraine to be a European state in the social and economic sense. European standards in political and cultural spheres are hardly observed in Ukraine. The principles of equality and rights for citizens are very important and necessary. A confirmation of this necessity can be seen by studying the situation in France. Since the beginning of November France suffers from nightly violence initiated by unemployed immigrants some of which are illegally in the country. Every morning the French count their losses: burnt automobiles and buses, ruined cars, shops and destroyed churches. Certainly this problem demands that the French government make urgent decisions in social politics. Today, they offer some initiatives to improve the living conditions, to provide jobs and education for impoverished citizens. However it is necessary to take into account that the majority of these people do not wish to work, or study and rearrange their lives in general. The nightly performances with fire have become for them a form of entertainment and a method to attract authorities' attention. During the last forty years millions of these people have taken advantage of the right to get French citizenship. They have a French passport but only a few of them have adopted the French culture and life style.

The fifth problem is the lack of the experts on European laws, economy, and finance. Ukrainian Universities don't train such experts. In spite of the fact that during the last several years some leading Ukrainian schools have offered classes in European law, it is not yet a program which a student can specialize in. A friend of mine has a diploma from a school in Kiev, where he studied the EU Law. He says that during his 5 years in the Kiev institute of international relations the whole program of "European Law" is taught for only two weeks! My friend and ten other Ukrainians who have such a diploma work in private industry rather than in the service of the Ukrainian government.

Ukrainians don't know much about the processes occurring in the European Union and about the lives of their neighbors. It is very useful to study the experience of Poland joining the EU in May of 2004. Discussion of Polish integration and its consequences for the political, public and economic aspects of life will deepen the knowledge of what to expect from membership in the European Union.

The first steps on the difficult and long way to European integration are not so successful. There is no alternative to obvious things; the achievement of European standards of democracy, law and a decent standard of living are important. It is not worth storming Brussels with demands to recognize Ukraine as a European state. The way to the European Union should be accompanied by concrete results in reforming the economy and social system of the country. When we achieve this it will be time to remind the EU that Ukraine is situated in Europe not only geographically.

We should listen to the advice of Czech president Vasclava Klausa: "Before knocking at the door of EU, it is necessary to know what to expect."