Ukraine and EU customs union Mykola Lazarenko/Getty Images

The Case for an EU-Ukraine Customs Union

The EU’s most powerful lever in promoting stable, viable, and successful democracies has always been its use of conditionality, linking reforms to clear and tangible benefits. Europe must continue to place new milestones along the road to show that it is committed to Ukraine’s success and serious about rewarding reforms.

COPENHAGEN – There will be an upbeat mood at this week’s European Union-Ukraine summit. Reforms and international support are beginning to bear fruit for Ukraine’s economy. An EU free-trade agreement is in place. And Ukrainians can now travel to the EU on just a biometric passport – a prospect most thought unrealistic just a few years ago, when more than 140 preconditions for visa-free travel still had to be met.

Ukraine’s recent successes mirror a more optimistic mood in the EU. Yet, despite its achievements, Ukraine is not out of the woods, and its reform process is far from over. The EU must not allow a sense of complacency to set in now that we are making progress. And the best way to guard against that is to establish an EU-Ukraine customs union.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is personally committed to the country’s modernization and fighting corruption. But European leaders need to recognize that he faces an uphill battle to implement major reforms, with populist forces in the Verkhovna Rada (parliament) turning up the heat on the government in anticipation of elections less than two years away.