Ukraine’s difficult history over the past two decades has ripped holes in the nation’s political unity. Different, competing attempts to combat issues of economic struggles and corruption have torn apart Ukraine’s political coherence. However, the chaotic stage of the country’s political history is perhaps finally coming to an end. Despite encountering economic problems of its own, the European Union potentially offers the strong binding force which Ukraine has direly needed for years.

As a Soviet republic, Ukraine rallied under Russian rule. Once it gained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, however, writing the country’s history into a success story has been no walk in the park. Struggling to shake off the communist shadow which continued to lurk in its policies, Ukraine equally had to deal with an economy in tatters. It has been in this context that the Ukrainian politicians have found themselves in a tug of war against one another in their individual bids to bring some essential order to the shaken country.

Just over the course of the last few presidential terms in office, Ukraine has seen disorder and dismay abound as political movements crash like waves against the solid, unyielding presence of its Soviet history. The Orange Revolution, which pledged a new push the country towards democratisation and economic reform, ended up crumbling under the weight of its own promises. The movement, which made Viktor Yuschenko and Yulia Tymoshenko president and prime minister respectively, came to a standstill as soon as it reached power; as relations between the two leaders disintegrated, so too did hopes of reforms during their term in office.

The EU’s Neighbourhood Policy, which has already welcomed in over a dozen new members since 2003, offers the fragmented nation its biggest hope for real change. Constituting a common goal to bring together the country, the EU also represents a spring of encouragement: with each step closer to the European Union, Ukraine is better supported to make democratic reforms, which will in turn boost its economy and create a political situation more like that of EU members.

Ukraine’s future currently lies in the hands of President Viktor Yanukovcyh, who has made European integration a priority for his presidency. The tangible goal of signing an Association Agreement with the EU at the Vilnius Summit in November has evidently provided the necessary drive for change, since key areas of illiberal conduct have been addressed and improved. Alleged political prisoners like  former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko and former Environmental Protection Minister Heorhiy Filipchuk have been pardoned, while a new Criminal Procedure Code has been set up to redefine judiciary procedures.

Perhaps just as important as the structural changes made though is the fact that EU involvement has clearly provided common ground for the different political parties, promising a new era in Ukrainian politics. President Yanukovych’s recent meeting with opposition leader Arseniy Yatseniuk is the first such occasion in years: an unprecedented step towards developing into a politically coherent nation. Yatseniuk, who leads the “Batkyvshchyna” party, stated at the meeting, “We are political opponents but this meeting is very positive for Ukraine. The government holds an open, sincere and transparent dialogue with the opposition in any democratic country.”

Now that EU integration is a top international agenda for the country, it is hard not to look on the subject with rising hope. In order to make genuine progress towards proper communication and agreement between ruling and opposition parties, Ukraine requires a new level of democracy – and the European Union’s help is by far the surest path to achieving this.

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