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Wed, 25 Oct



Fighting for Europe: Ukrainians' & Belarusians' Changing Vision of the EU & Their Place in it.

Join the Centre of European Law on the 25th of October as Prof Olga Onuch delivers a lecture entitled JCMS Journal of Common Market Studies Annual Lecture 2023: Prof Olga Onuch (University of Manchester).

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Fighting for Europe: Ukrainians' & Belarusians' Changing Vision of the EU & Their Place in it.
Fighting for Europe: Ukrainians' & Belarusians' Changing Vision of the EU & Their Place in it.

Time & Location

25 Oct 2023, 17:30 – 19:00

London, Strand, London WC2R 2LS, UK

About the Event

Location: The Great Hall, Ground Floor, King's Building

The Centre of European Law is delighted to host the JCMS Annual Lecture 2023, which will be delivered this year by Professor Olga Onuch (University of Manchester). 

Fighting for Europe: Ukrainians' & Belarusians' Changing Vision of the EU & Their Place in it.

After the lecture a drinks reception will follow. 

As ordinary Ukrainians and their politicians declare: “we are fighting for Europe!” we again ask: Why do ordinary citizens want to join the EU? And why are Ukrainians and Belarusians ready to die to be let in? Whilst past scholarship highlighted value-based dispositions as key drivers of EU accession support, socio-economic push (deprivation at home) and pull factors (material improvement in the Union) came to dominate. Material benefits were found to best explain why some Ukrainians/Belarusians wanted “in” while others remained unsold on membership. Concurrently we acknowledged that, within the EU, economic crises bred populists who weakened democracy. Economic stability was not just a pull factor for outsiders but a necessary factor to hold the union together. Moreover, member states often turned a blind eye to institutional illiberalism or minority rights. EU democratic values turned into “conditionality lite” for outsiders and, at worst, window dressing for those already ‘in’, making it quaint to talk about liberal democratic values as pull factors – part of the discourse but not driving decisions. What we missed is that it is precisely the growing import of liberal democratic values that drove Ukrainians and Belarusians to support EU accession. Desire to be part of the EU was not only materialist or geopolitical but existential. Between 2012-2022 the median Ukrainians’ shift to supporting EU accession was accompanied by moving towards or doubling down on democracy. And in Belarus in 2020, geopolitical democratic dispositions were what best distinguished protesters from non-protesters. Ukrainians and Belarusians protested, fought, and died for their place in Europe, rejecting Russia’s ‘economically stable autocracy’ model. Russia’s all-out invasion of Ukraine crystalized that Putin, EU elites, and many scholars alike failed to see that Ukrainians already saw themselves as European because they saw themselves as democrats. Employing original data, this lecture will argue that as a discipline we overestimated materialist factors and underestimated the strength of normative political values as pull factors. In accepting this, we will fully understand why Ukrainians believe they are fighting not only for their future in Europe but for the future of Europe.

Speaker biography:

Professor Olga Onuch (DPhil, Oxford), is a Professor in Comparative and Ukrainian Politics at the University of Manchester and was until recently an Associate Fellow in Politics at Nuffield College, at the University of Oxford (2014-2020). Onuch’s comparative study of protest, elections, migration, and identity in Eastern Europe and Latin America has made her a leading expert in Ukrainian and Argentine politics specifically, but also in East European Comparative Politics and inter-regional comparative analysis. A major theme of Professor Onuch’s most recently published book, The Zelensky Effect (OUP/Hurst, 2022, with H. Hale), is how ordinary citizens come to develop a sense of civic duty, fostering a civic-centered state attachment as opposed to an ethnonational one. She is part of the multi-country #DataForUkraine team, which provides data on civilian resistance and human rights abuses. 

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