A blueprint for enhancing understanding of and support for the EU – Ukraine Association Agreement including DCFTA in Ukraine

November 20, 2013

This publication was funded by the FCO through the British Embassy inUkraine as part of the project “Scoping Study on raising awareness on the Association Agreement including the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement implementation and its impact in Ukraine”. The views expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and may not coincide with the official position of the UK Government.

1.

Executive Summary

The EU – Ukraine Association Agreement (AA) will be signed in November 2013 if Ukraine takes concrete steps to address EU concerns as set out in the FAC conclusions of December 2012. Despite the many benefits that the AA will bring to Ukraine and the generally positive connotations “Europe” enjoys, support for the AA is not overwhelming amongst the population at large . There is no strong pro – AA lobby in Ukraine. Meanwhile, proponents of the Customs Union are running a proactive communications campaign and have managed to stimulate public discussion of which foreign policy vector Ukraine should choose, despite Ukraine’s officially declared foreign policy in support of European integration.

Widely – believed “myths” portray the EU – Ukraine Association Agreement negatively and contrast the “threats” of rapprochement with the EU to the “bright future” with Russia.

The Delegation and many MS Embassies actively seek to discuss and promote the AA publicly. But the research carried out in the framework of this project shows that these efforts have not been successful:

-          the level of awareness of different target audiences regarding European integration in general and the AA in particular is very low;

-          Ukrainians tend to perceive Ukraine’s closer European integration and the AA in particular as issues of “big politics ” with little relevance to the life of every citizen at least in the foreseeable future; – as a result, for the ordinary citizen it is difficult to have an opinion on closer integration with Europe; this creates room for manipulation by politicians and for other strategic choices to be promoted.

To rectify this situation and to create a genuine upswing in support for the AA (necessary if reforms are to be introduced and implemented), a national public awareness “Campaign of Arguments”, using integrated communications methods, is needed in Ukraine. “Business as usual” will not win the debate!

Such a campaign should : raise awareness about the EU and AA by presenting the public with objective information about European integration and its specific benefits, thus allowing the public to make an informed choice about EU or CU integration; debunk widely believed “myths” on the basis of facts and clearly defined arguments. The campaign should be aimed at the general public as its primary target audience (TA). Secondary TAs, such as journalists and civil society, can act as “change agents”.

Studies have shown that the ratio of Euro – optimists and Euro – sceptics is approximately equal and stable (with minor variations). The main target audience of the campaign should be the 30% of the population who are undecided. They are spread across different age, social, professional, and regional groups.

The campaign should appeal to both the rational (the advantages and benefits of AA) and emotional. It should also include highly visual elements. Each target audience should have specific targeted messages delivered via the best channel of communication. Proposed campaign activities include: training for journalists, press tours, features and talk shows on TV, road shows, proactive engagement with Ukrainian businesses, advertising, online engagement through social media and print materials. Over a two year period, suggested activities would cost in the region of Euro 2.3 million (see Annex A ‘ Action plan and budget’ for more detail).

2.

Background

The EU-Ukraine Association Agreement including DCFTA is a large – scale economic  and political project, which was started by the EU and Ukraine in 2007. The logical conclusion of its first phase could be the signing of the document in November 2013 at the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius, providing that Ukraine will demonstrate progress on a number of criteria announced by the EU. This will have political importance, because it will demonstrate a real and informed choice of the Ukrainian authorities in favour of reforming the country in the framework of the European civilization model.

The AA including DCFTA will be the most ambitious agreement that the EU has ever concluded with countries outside the community. As Commissioner Štefan Füle said, the AA provides a historic opportunity to transform the former Soviet Union in Eastern Europe.

The AA should become the “engine for reforms”, encouraging the modernisation of Ukraine in more than 30 areas: economic, political, social, legal, scientific, cultural, good governance, role of civil society on the basis of gradual approximation to EU standards. The AA will entrench common values, democratic standards, real guarantees of rights and opportunities that have become the norm in the European Union, and from which Ukrainians will benefit if the AA is successfully implemented.

As for encouraging economic reform and growth, the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area will go further than classic free trade areas. The introduction of the DCFTA will lead to a restructuring of the Ukrainian market, growth of investments as a result of the introduction of EU standards, as well as legal and administrative support for this process. The European Union will fund technical assistance programms. But only efforts by the Ukrainian side will guarantee the actual implementation of European standards in practice, as well as the increased competitiveness of domestic business in local and EU markets.

We must be honest. Such changes will be a challenge for Ukrainian business, a test of its viability, and whilst some losses in the short term are inevitable, the DCFTA will ensure in the medium and long term the increased welfare of Ukrainians of between 4.3% and at 11.6% (according to independent studies).

3.

Research

3.1.

Methodology

Goals and objectives:

study the opinions of the most active stakeholders including EU embassies, experts, public officials responsible for European integration and journalists about the level of awareness among the target audiences on the AA and the DCFTA and assess the relevance of a communication campaign on the AA and the DCFTA during 2013 – 2015;

Assess media coverage in terms of promoting AA and the DCFTA; prepare a communication plan for promoting the AA.

Full report here.

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