Four months after parliamentary elections Ukraine has seemingly slipped back into business as usual. The opposition is obstructing the work of the parliament, Russia has threatened Ukraine with rockets, and with cutting off its gas supply over alleged debts, and the extremely narrow Orange majority is under strain everyday thanks to battles between the Orange Government and the Orange Presidential Administration.
Nevertheless, the three constitutional leaders signed a letter in January asking NATO to provide a Membership Action Plan (MAP) for Ukraine at its Bucharest summit in April, initiating public debate on the issue of NATO membership for the first time.
Ukraine was admitted to the WTO on February 5, thereby creating the best framework so far for the process of European integration while also improving the prospects for more foreign investment.
Last, but not least, the Tymoshenko government has moved to tackle corruption by targeting VAT refunds and customs operations, which lack transparency, and trying to remove RosUkrEnergo from gas dealings between Russia and Ukraine – although there are few indications of long-promised judicial and constitutional reform.
Indeed, the current leadership seems to be pushing the international integration process forward more than any other previous government.
The hotly debated issue of NATO membership makes the glass seem half empty or half full, depending on who you ask, and the West must remember that policy making and the taking of any serious decisions takes time in Ukraine.
Without the most serious incentive, the promise of EU membership, the most strategically important country in Eastern Europe will continue to hover between East and West.
However, the increasing aggressiveness of Russia, along with slowly but surely implemented technical integration processes to the WTO (completed) and to the EU (underway), will further convince the majority of Ukrainians that dropping anchor in a Western harbour is still better than acting as a buffer state.
In this Democracy Backgrounder, Balázs Jarábik calls on the Ukrainian elite to back up pro-European rhetoric with concrete actions.