Anne Wetzel
From Halt to Hurry: External and Domestic Influences on Ukrainian Asylum Policy

Eurasian Geography and Economics, 2016: 57, Heft 1, S. 66-88
ISSN: 1538-7216 (print); 1938-2863 (online)

The European Union (EU) and Ukraine have cooperated on asylum policy for many years with the aim of introducing EU and international standards in Ukraine. Reforms, however, were developing slowly and have accelerated only after 2010. This timing represents a puzzle because the reforms advanced most significantly in a situation when Ukraine’s orientation toward the EU became more reluctant again while it increased toward the Russian Federation. The latter in turn became increasingly hostile toward EU activities in Ukraine and eager to pull Ukraine toward the Eurasian Customs Union as an alternative integration project. The timing of reforms can be explained by paying more attention to domestic forces. On the one hand, these forces operate with some degree of independence from the country’s geo-strategic orientation, responding to sector-specific costs and benefits, and in particular, sector-specific conditionality. On the other hand, the more autocratic rule under former President Yanukovych ended a period of unproductive political muddle and facilitated the adoption of EU rules. Russian influence did not play a role in this particular policy sector, which was thus de-coupled from the broader macro-level developments.