Nowhere in Europe is the flag of the European Union flown more passionately than beyond its borders in Ukraine. This fervour comes not because of a love of directives and the single market, but from a hope for a better future and disgust for endemic corruption. Europe offers an alternative model for this country that has been torn between its western and eastern neighbours for so long.
The name Ukraine is often believed to come from an old Slavic term meaning "border region" or "frontier", an apt moniker considering its situation today. Not only is the country on the edge of both the European Union and Russia, it is also divided internally between those who seek closer ties with the east and those wanting a rapprochement with the west.
The situation continues to be fragile and develops by the hour. Much will need to be done to bring Ukraine's population closer together and ensure peace and stability.
With the US reluctant to act and Russia only too keen to support Yanukovych, it falls to the EU to mediate and do all it can to promote a smooth transition and fair elections later in the year. Founded on the idea that fostering common interests helps to defuse conflicts, the EU has always favoured dialogue over the use of force.
The European Parliament has long supported offering Ukraine an association agreement with the EU to encourage it to embark on the necessary reforms to become a stable modern democracy with a competitive economy, offering encouragement when needed and criticism when required. MEPs have always stressed the EU should reward progress with reform on a case-by-case basis. The rewards should be in line with the progress made otherwise the policy would no longer be credible and lack the leverage needed to inspire reform.
After authorities started to use violence against peaceful protesters, on 6 February MEPs called for increased diplomatic pressure and travel restrictions and an asset freeze on any Ukrainians behind the crackdowns on and deaths of protesters. During a Council meeting on 20 February, national governments backed this call for sanctions.
The EP has been keenly following the events of the last few days. An official delegation of 12 MEPs travelled to Kiev on Saturday in a bid to promote dialogue between the different political forces. MEPs will again debate the situation in the country and vote on a resolution on 24 February.
Photo copyright Norma Desmond (released under Creative Commons License)