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Foreign Policy Research Institute

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The state of European integration of Ukraine on the anniversary of Zelensky’s presidency

A year ago, on May 20, 2019, Volodymyr Zelensky officially became President of Ukraine. President was able to adjust the state's foreign policy on the first day of his cadence, although he received full control over the executive power a little later - after the early elections to the Parliament.[1] Therefore, on May 20, 2020, Volodymyr Zelensky held a three-hour press conference in Kyiv's Mariyinsky Park — the President of Ukraine summed up the results of his first year as head of state. It was decided to limit the number of participants due to the quarantine — for the same reason, the press conference was held in the open air, in a Park near the Mariyinsky Palace. In total more than 60 media were accredited for the event.[2]

As for the the foreign policy block of discussing issues at a press conference, President Volodymyr Zelensky promised to "fight for" Minsk "till the end", emphasizing that international sanctions are tied to the Minsk Agreements. "You know very well that everyone wants to lift them (sanctions - Ed.). Not only Russia, but also many European states. I understand that they are also suffering economically because of these sanctions. But, as I told you, we will fight," Volodymyr Zelensky said. According to him, if the Minsk process fails, he has a "plan B" and "plan C", but he would not like to use them.[3] Zelensky also expects that the Normandy Format summit may take place after the recession of the coronavirus epidemic. According to him, both Germany and France support this. In addition, he hopes for a possible exchange of detainees after the recession of the epidemic. As for Zelensky's contacts with the President of the Russian Federation, both leaders have not had them in any format recently. "Now all political leaders are dealing with their states because of the coronavirus," the President explained. [4]

It is noteworthy that during the press conference, there was not a word about the European integration of Ukraine. What's the matter? Were journalists not interested in foreign policy at all, or perhaps there was nothing to talk about? Of course, the vast majority of journalists' questions were aimed at discrediting the President in the eyes of Ukrainian society in one way or another. After all, the lion's share of Ukrainian media belongs to oligarchs and pro-Russian forces, and V. Zelensky delicately hinted about that at this press conference. Because they launched a full scale information war against President V. Zelensky in order to discredit him and lower the rating of trust in him.

However, if we analyze the actions of current government regarding the implementation of the European integration course of Ukraine, they are tactical in nature and are not directly aimed at a strategic perspective. If we talk about the path to the EU and NATO, then against this background, the main strategic priorities of Ukraine are frankly losing this year of Zelensky's presidency. Of course, President Zelensky did not abandon the course on the EU and NATO, but there are not many successes on this path. The implementation of the Association Agreement has stalled even despite a short period of "turbo mode". There are appeared many questions to the government office, and albeit diplomatic, but very clear hints from the EU.

It is obvious that such tactical steps of the government can hardly be called European integration, since they are conditioned by the need to solve urgent current problems in the life of the state. This is confirmed by the questions that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky discussed in a telephone conversation with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen immediately after the press conference. In particular, they discussed deepening cooperation in the medical industry, providing "green corridors" for the free movement of goods in Europe, possible resuming of air traffic, and the involvement of Ukraine as an observer to the European Union Health Committee. The interlocutors also agreed that the crisis caused by the coronavirus should not interfere with the free movement of goods and restrict bilateral trade. The head of state thanked Ursula von der Leyen for the decision of the European Commission to launch another program of macro-financial assistance to Ukraine in the amount of 1.2 billion euros.

As for the prospects of Ukraine's membership in NATO, it is difficult to count on real progress while the Hungarian blockade lasts. But even what could be corrected is spoiled - it is enough to read feedback  from the Alliance regarding the presidential draft of the SBU reform. However, after the first year of Zelensky's presidency, Ukraine remains at a crossroads in these areas and the situation may well change for the better.[5]

Thus, a year has passed this week since Volodymyr Zelensky became President of Ukraine. As we can see, Zelensky consistently continues the European integration of our state, but it is still too early to talk about a breakthrough. In fact, the President and his team have made quite a few steps on this path that would really bring us closer to membership in the European Union and NATO. Therefore, the President's team should take into account previous mistakes and make a good effort so that we can already boast of our achievements on the next anniversary.


[1] Рік Зе-дипломатії: що отримала і що втратила зовнішня політика України за нового президента:

[2]Під дощем, з емоціями і думками про другий термін. Що сказав Зеленський на пресконференції за підсумками першого року президентства — головне:

[3]Зеленський пообіцяв боротися за "Мінськ" до кінця:

[4]Зеленський розповів, чого чекає від змін у Мінському форматі:

[5]Рік Зе-дипломатії: що отримала і що втратила зовнішня політика України за нового президента: