Many generations of Poles dreamt of the day when Europe's postwar division would be undone. Many generations of Ukrainians were also deprived of a right to their own country, language, and culture. What united prisoners of conscience in the 1960's, 1970's, and 1980's was the faith that one day their countries would find their place in a united Europe.
For Poles, the dream was realized on May 1 with EU accession. For Ukraine, the situation is more uncertain, but momentous decisions about its future are also about to be made. In May, the European Union will specify the principles that will guide relations with its new neighbors. In June, a NATO summit will discuss prospects for Ukraine's entry into the alliance. And this autumn Ukraine's presidential election will determine the country's development for decades to come.
At this crucial moment, we call on Europe to open itself toward Ukraine, a great European country whose needs and aspirations cannot be forgotten in the process of constructing the new Europe. Europe should go beyond defining its relationship with Ukraine as a neighbor: it should clearly state that Ukraine has a realistic chance of entry into NATO and the EU.
Such a statement is essential to support democratic forces in Ukraine at a time when they stand a realistic chance of shaping Ukraine's future. Ukraine's ruling elite is brutally suppressing opposition, limiting freedom of speech, and curtailing economic liberty. The coming presidential election is thus a test that will answer several fundamental questions. Will Ukrainian society maintain its right to choose its representatives, or will a so-called "managed democracy" win out, with power transferred back and forth within small circles of oligarchic clans? Will a free market flourish, or will oligarchic capitalism serve the interests of the few? Will civil society thrive, or will Ukraine be a society of obedient subjects? Will the law serve all, or only the elites?