I would like to analyse the cultural-political dialogue between the political elites in the European Union and Ukraine and the dynamics thereof since Ukraine´s independence with help of discourse analysis. Analysis will be followed by concrete examples of EU´s and Ukraine´s politicians´ speeches in order to display discourse practices of adjustment and manoeuvring, conditioned by certain socio-political expectations towards each other, which are themselves a subject to pre-set and mobile preferences and identities.
The course and quality of the EU-Ukraine dialogue and interaction will be explained with help of rhetorical discourses, legitimacy claims and information dissemination/propaganda. Emphasis will also be laid on official statements of the EU´s and Ukraine´s politicians since 1991 till May 2014.
Discourses over historical identity and cultural roots play an increasingly vital role in global politics. In Eastern Europe the political rhetoric concerning the claims of truly European socio-cultural and regional identity became an important diplomatic tool that was used to pave the way to eventual integration with the desired “community of belonging”. Kyiv utilised its identity rhetoric as a political resource in an attempt to anchor the country in Western political structures, following the example of the whole CEE / SEE region.
The Ukrainian independence coincided with an important turning point – intensification of European political integration and creation of the European superstate. The need to legitimize these policies in member states called for creation of ideological narratives of common European destiny, identity, history, territory and values. These European categories of reference fell on fruitful soil within Ukrainian society, for which they were not meant to be.
Since 1991 the integration into EU became a useful escape, which gave Ukrainian elite very useful rhetorical concepts of “European values”, “democracy”, etc. Arguments in favour of the EU have been the «European» belonging of Ukraine and «European» standards of living. One can often hear that something is “undemocratic”,“unEuropean”, “below European standards”. In general the word «European» in Ukrainian private and public discourses became synonymous with «quality» and «modernity».
Since recently there has been intensification of the EU´s rhetorical discourses and official declarations towards Ukraine as a partner country. In Eastern Europe the political rhetoric concerning the claims of truly European socio-cultural and regional identity became an important diplomatic tool that was used to pave the way to eventual integration with the desired “community of belonging”.
The media thereby played a crucial role in dissemination and transfer of these cultural messages which were to become the norm and assume normativity of use and preference. The transfer of cultural notions, adaptation and popularization was performed by the news and broadcasting networks. The Ukrainian YES-forum and other initiatives served as a sustainable platform for these purposes.
The EU’s power of attraction proved to be one of the most powerful tools of indirect influence on democratisation in Ukraine. “Return to Europe” was among the most influential factors, gradually internalised in Ukraine. Indeed, the “EU factor” was conducive to the governmental efforts to implement reforms, the elite’s desire to “return to Europe”, and development of the pro-European civil society. The EU served as a major reference point and focus for Ukrainian government and civil society organizations, advocating reforms and promoting European integration.
Social identity implies a stable set of linkages between the self-perceived membership in a group of states, like the EU and the agent’s attitudes, perceptions and values resulting in social behavior. Social identity is “socially constructed by actors creating inter-subjective meanings (culture, norms, common understandings) through interaction in a community” (Green, 2002:11). It links an individual to his referent group and vice versa, thus providing a higher moral authority.
Initially the Ukrainian political elite, following the examples of other CEE states, pursued the task of EU-approximation by essentially narrative-rhetorical means with slow and incremental on-the-field progress. But since Maidan events, which underlined the determination of Ukrainian people to join the rest of Europe and legitimized Ukraine’s political course, the EU could find fewer obstacles to justify any further keeping Ukraine at the Eurasian gate. It is with help of rhetorical tools and promissory entrapments, that the realist school in the EU-Ukraine relations eventually gave way to a real break-through, leading to acceptance of Ukraine as a “European state”, Associate member (with visa-free travel) and even potential EU member state.