The Kyiv Post ran a syndicated story today explaining that yet another friendly group had been created today called the “Club of Friends of Ukraine”. According to the article, the president of the “European Association of Ukrainians” Oleksiy Tolkachov has said the newly created club will lobby for the interests of Ukraine in the European Parliament.

Assuming its true (I can’t find any reference to this club outside of Ukraine which always makes me suspicious), the new ‘club of friends’ includes 20 members of the European Parliament and 32 MPs from Ukraine representing all four Ukrainian parliamentary factions, apart from the Communists (probably because they are mentally paranoid about foreign groups and ‘Western conspiracies’.)

Now, I’m all in favour of building closer relationships between all European countries. I know as well as anyone that the more time Europeans spend together, the better they will understand each other but do we really need another high-level gossip shop?  
It was only in February this year that  the EU-Ukraine forum was launched at the European Parliament (along with the usual posh opening and photo-shoot) and seems to have exactly the same aims under a slightly different name. Much fuss was made in the media, some lucky guests were invited to exchange warm words at the launch event in Brussels and then, according to the website, its done nothing since!  Even if it had done something, why are these additional groups needed? We already have the official EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Cooperation Committee (PCC) which functions on the basis of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) and yearly EU-Ukraine summit meetings. These meeting provide ample opportunity for politicians to talk to each other (and they all have telephones) and in addition to these, there are the EU-Ukraine Business Council (EUUBC) and European Business Association which lobby for closer/better business links.
Isnt this enough?
Don’t get me wrong, I wish these groups the best of luck, but it would be much easier to support them if they had achieved anything. It’s just not clear if they have or will. Maybe they will prove me wrong, but I’m not holding my breath. The fact that they don’t seem to have an agenda or and specific goals makes them look like hollow PR stunts. 

If politicians on both sides really want to enhance relations between the EU and Ukraine then lets see them create some new groups that bring real people together (I know politicians are people too, but you get the point).  Why not set up new exchange programs? or, why not pay for journalists from each country to spend time working with political representatives of the other. If they did this, they could report back to the rest of us on what they are (or aren’t) doing for us.  Rather than drinking champagne in Brussels, why not organise a field trip to a mine-shaft in Krivoy Rog or spend a night with the street kids in Odessa?  This would build real understanding of the problems this country faces and would inspire a lot more confidence that they actually know how their ‘friends’ live.

Parliamentarians can meet whenever they like. Lets see some new groups and new projects for the rest of us. 

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