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Trailblazers. Ukraine’s Road to the EU and What the Polish Experience Can Teach Us

Trailblazers. Ukraine's Road to the EU and What the Polish Experience Can Teach Us

Ukraine is officially an EU candidate and reforming at a rapid pace. In this volume, we take a look at Poland’s own road to the EU in a humble attempt to draw out lessons that may be of value to Ukraine. Of course, Poland’s situation in the 1990s and 2000s was vastly different than Ukraine’s situation is today. For one, we are comparing a country that had the benefit of long standing peace to a country that is waging a defensive war against a terrorist state and one the world’s largest militaries. Indeed, we are crisscrossing between two eras of global order: the historical thaw of the late 20th century and the return of conflagrations today. These facts only underscore how daring and unprecedented Ukraine’s effort is.

But the EU itself has also changed, as especially the chapters Aligning Climate and Energy Policies and Environmental Protection demonstrate. The EU that Poland was joining was primarily a community of rules; the EU that Ukraine is joining is also increasingly a community of policies. We cover both these dimensions in our report, and we highlight some contrasts between them in the first chapter, Changing the Rules of the Game: Institutional Reform and EU Accession. Throughout the report, we emphasize the importance of healthy institutions to the well being of citizens and the success of any policy.

Despite the pronounced differences in the EU’s environment externally and its operation internally, we believe there are still valuable lessons that the Poles can share with their Ukrainian partners and friends. For one, the Polish experience shows that EU accession is only one part of EU integration. Many gains from the integration occur before the actual accession takes place, and many challenges continue, or emerge, thereafter. For this reason, our analysis does not only cover the timeframe immediately before and immediately after the Polish accession to the EU but accounts for all relevant developments from the early 1990s until today.

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