On Nov 9 Reuters published an article quoting senior EU officials involved in gas negotiations. The bottom line: It’s worse than expected.
“There may be, in certain sections of the Ukrainian government, an interest in colluding with the Russians and instrumentalizing to a certain extent the EU. […] Despite all the blood being shed in the east of Ukraine, both are quite willing to cooperate on blackmailing Europe […] No matter how much you give them, they will always ask for more.”
A second senior EU official, who was in the negotiating room, reflected that the two ex-Soviet neighbors had a common interest in the EU putting up money. The official noted that despite their current conflict both sides were well acquainted. “They don’t shake hands with each other when we start, but those guys know each other better than I do,” the official said.
The leaked statements might reflect the frustration of diplomats or a deadlock in negotiations, they do not represent the official position of EU. But it is surely a signal towards Kiev to soften its position in gas talks.
EU waits for reforms in return for giving access to its market. Also IMF asks for reforms as a precondition for money. Reforms in respect of transparency and economic competition. This would challenge the oligarchs’ economic privilege of doing business in their exclusive market and having profitable contracts with the government.
If the European media and voters perceive the standstill in negotiations as the result of this conflict of interests (while dealing with the consequences of sanctions) the tolerance towards Ukraine’s special situation will erode. – Especially if we include a ‘Russian-Ukrainian conspiracy’.
If the Ukrainians see the ongoing conflict as a result of politicians following their own interests, people might start thinking about going to Maidan – less civil this time. In this respect the Ukrainian elite could understand the statements that it’s time to deliver.