I was in Kiev a few weeks ago, talking to journalists. Kiev isn't Istanbul or Ankara. It is stately and tree-lined and well-ordered, with cafe society flourishing along the river bank. Go to the British ambassador's summer party, and the brass band and cucumber sandwiches seem utterly natural.But old Europe is blocking arguing there is no point to further expansion absent a constitution to guide the EU, a position he calls cynical but which has some logic to it. (I don't know that it does have any except maybe politically.)
Of course, out there in peasant country, poverty still hangs heavy - just as it did in Poland 10 years ago. Of course, there are many years of development and sacrifice to go before the EU is accomplished reality.
But reality began, only eight months ago, in the orange revolution, when hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians camped out for days in the central square until a corrupt presidency was bundled into history and a tainted election was overturned. Ukraine defined itself on the streets of its major cities as 2005 began. It chose Europe, not more truckling to Mother Russia. It chose its own passionate version of freedom. It looked to Brussels, not Moscow.
And what has Brussels offered in return? Fair words and fair action, a new "neighbourhood policy" with 150 or so tests and reforms that clear the way for
full entry application. These tests go hell for leather after democracy and market economics. They mean reform, expense, pain and some electoral unpopularity - but Kiev is gritting its teeth and ploughing on. It finds faith at the end of this rainbow. With Warsaw's profound encouragement, it has taken Turkey's route to defining national identity...
We helped Turkey's new government put its life in our hands. We said we were there with the orange revolutionaries of Kiev. We owe them both debts of honour. We can't just pack when it begins to rain this autumn. We're leaders, aren't we?
He's right you know.
Some find it hard to see national interests at work asserting themselves in the EU. They seem to see it as an "all for one and one for all" arrangement. But if you look closely enough it is not very hard to see that the EU is appropriate for France, for example, because France has a great deal of power in it. That having to give some of it up might be a reason for some of its intransigence is not something that should be dismissed out of hand.