#22 - JRL 7187
Financial Times (UK)
May 19, 2003
EU harmonies fail to dispel Slavic dreams
Wooed by western bands, suspicious Ukrainians remain equally drawn to thoughts of alliance with Russia, reports Tom Warner
Before coming downtown to check out the bands at Saturday's Europe Dayfestival, 18-year-old Anya Chernikova read a bit of Dostoyevsky's The Insulted and Injured.
She likes Dostoyevsky's insights into psychology and agrees with his ideas about personal freedom. "Our people haven't changed much since his time," she says, meaning the eastern Slavs in general.
The EU-sponsored programme featured a mix of local, central European and west European acts, and a row of kiosks where the union's current and future members handed out fliers and sold national drinks.
Although the EU's planned expansion ends at Ukraine's border, Brussels is keen to persuade young Ukrainians they are not being left out.
"We think it's very timely to explain to the Ukrainian population that our policy is not to create a new dividing line in Europe," explained Norbert Jousten, the head of the EU's delegation in Kiev.
Judging from Ms Chernikova's views, the EU has plenty of work on its hands. She took a suspicious attitude toward Europe Day, which she figured was meant to "orient the (Ukrainian) people toward their (the EU's) God", although the EU did not really want Ukraine as a member.
Ukraine should instead be pursuing a reunion with Russia, she thinks. "If Ukraine and Russia got back together again, that would be such a country!" she says, tensing her fist and forearm in a gesture of strength.
Views like Ms Chernikova's are common in Ukraine, although not in parliament, where every faction except the Communists favours integration with the EU. Polls show the population evenly split, with one half inclined toward the EU and the other half wishing for a reunion of the eastern Slavs.
Ms Chernikova was only six when Kiev's European Square - the site of Saturday's festival, naturally - had its name changed from Lenin Square. But her image of western Europe, where she has never been, draws as much from history as from her experience.
She sees west Europeans as self-centred and interested in Ukraine only as a source of cheap labour. Looking back to the second world war, she says the western allies could not decide whether to help Russia and Ukraine until they saw the Red Army winning.
The real Europe Day, after all, was not Saturday but May 9, marking the day in 1950 when Robert Schuman, French foreign minister, called on France and Germany to pool their steel industries to face the Soviet bloc's growing might. The speech is counted as the start of the European integration process.
Not coincidentally, downtown Kiev was booked this May 9 for a parade full of Soviet armour and communist medals. May 9 in Ukraine is Victory Day, marking the last German surrender in Prague.
"There's fewer veterans left every year, but it's important that we show them that we remember," Ms Chernikova says.
She is unimpressed by the first EU band she sees, the UK's London Beat. "They always send us the bands that were popular four, five years ago," she gripes.
Besides, "our people prefer our groups", she says.