European Union Membership

Amidst the region of the world once behind an Iron Curtain, a race to join Europe’s elite union is heating up, and while Poland may have been one of the first countries to be embraced by the European Union, quickly followed by Bulgaria and Romania, but one country, Ukraine, is turning the heads of European Union leaders since the heady days of the Orange Revolution in 2004.

While not yet designated as a candidate for membership, Ukraine’s political leadership is emboldened by the European Commission’s mandate that membership talks and negotiations continue. “Gradual economic integration” and “deeper economic cooperation” may guide the cautiousness of the European Union with its infant relationship with Ukraine, but most believe that Ukraine will become a member of Europe’s most powerful club one day.

Public support for Ukraine’s entry into the European Union has grown by 4% since November 2005, with 55% of all respondents in Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Poland and the United Kingdom favoring the country’s entry as long as it meets all necessary economic and political conditions. Ukraine may take heart in the knowledge that the younger generations are particularly enthusiastic with 63% of those aged between 18 and 30 in favor. In Ukraine, public support has increased steadily as well favoring Ukraine’s entry into the European Union over alignment with Russia.

More than 4,000 new jobs have been created with the financial boost of 200 million Euros ($258.6 million) in Transcarpathia, the western tip of Ukraine. Wages in the region are low, and offer incentive for businesses like the Eurocar factory, a maker of Volkswagons, to set up shop. Transcarpathia, as a region, shares a border with Poland, Romania and Slovakia, and is only a few meters away from Hungary, and is a geographical advantage to international business.

With over 700 international businesses coming to the Transcarpathia region, the temptation for younger students to work abroad diminishes, especially with the rise of technology-related companies. Jabil, the US-based manufacturer of mobile phones and computer components, already employs more than 1,000 people and has plans to
hire 5,000 more, in the hopes of producing one million handsets each week.

While international businesses advocate for a more stable political climate in Ukraine and less red tape, the World Bank has indicated its plans to invest between $0.5 billion and $1 billion in Ukraine in 2007 to fund development and modernization of municipal infrastructure. An additional $450 million will be invested into reformation of energy sector.

Progress may be slow but already there are signs of economic investment in towns along the Transcarpathia border including the construction of new houses alongside antiquated Soviet-era tower blocks, and with economic investment, comes opportunities for travelers to visit a country bursting with possibility.