Is there a successful transition without European integration? Investigating the key determinants of Ukraine’s post-communist transformation
Thesis DisciplineEuropean Studies
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Nearly thirty years have passed since the collapse of communism and the developmental paths of former communist states remain diverse and changeable. While some countries have fulfilled their expectations by becoming well functioning democracies, others have evolved as hybrid regimes or have become immersed into new forms of authoritarianism. Against this background, Ukraine stands out as a unique case, since its economic potential and democratic aspirations were viewed as the ideal basis for a successful post-communist transition. Yet notwithstanding the declarations by its officials and attempts at democratisation by the broader public (Ukraine hosted two ‘democratic revolutions’), the country is still undergoing painful reforms that purportedly help its political, economic and socio-cultural transformation.
Importantly, in this process Ukraine orients itself towards other European states and specifically those post-communist states that have become members of the European Union (EU), thus, associating their accomplished transitions with membership of the EU. Furthermore, Ukraine’s key developmental problems are also seen to be rooted in the combination of domestic (identity issue and regionalism, corruption and state capture) and external (geopolitical) challenges that prevent it from accomplishing its transition. While domestic conditions are determinant for the success of post-communist transformation, external assistance and especially that of the EU has been vital for post-communist transition in a number of European states and could be similarly vital for Ukraine.
This study investigates Ukraine’s post-communist transition in the context of its domestic developments and external influences, particularly EU-led Europeanisation. This thesis goes beyond an EU-centred perspective by incorporating elements of neoclassic realism into its theoretical framework. This study relies on mixed method analysis that incorporates quantitative data but relies mainly on qualitative research design in developing conceptual and theoretical instruments as well as interpreting and clarifying the results of the study.
The thesis demonstrates that the initial years of transition were crucial to the outcomes of Ukraine’s transformation in general and to the scale and comprehensiveness of implemented reforms in particular. Moreover, despite a number of Ukraine’s domestic problems such as corruption or nation-building remaining unresolved to this day, Ukraine’s seemingly long transition has become the result of contemporary decision-making rather than of inherent historically-determined conditions. The same goes for EU assistance. As one of Ukraine’s biggest aid donors, the EU may become a solid supporter of Ukraine’s transformations and it may further advance the implementation of its normative agenda. However, this will require two key conditions: first, Ukraine and, most importantly, its political elites need to come out with a strong commitment to introduce necessary reforms, and, second, the EU should prioritise its normative agenda over security and economic interests in Ukraine, especially in the context of its competition with Russia.