Association Agreement negotiations between the European Union and Ukraine are coming to an end. The condition for signing the agreement by the Union is the release of Yulia Tymoshenko sentenced by Ukrainian court to 7 years of imprisonment. Meanwhile, the authorities in Kyiv declare that signing the agreement without any membership perspectives is not of significance to Ukraine – at the end of the negotiations neither side cares for ending the political deadlock.
Association is not enough
Ukraine and the European Union are almost at the end of Association Agreement negotiations. The talks lasting for over four years will finally be concluded during Ukraine-EU summit planned for December 19, 2011 in Kyiv. Both sides made this decision on Friday (11.11.2011) during the 21st round of negotiations in Brussels. The door to signing the agreement was opened by concluding the talks about conditions of creating DCFTA by Ukraine and the EU two weeks ago. It is still not certain though if the document will be signed.
The perspective of signing the agreement is not for Ukraine as important as it might seem. “We need a clear declaration that we have finished the negotiations. The matter of initialling the agreement is not that significant,” said Pavlo Klimkin, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, responsible for the negotiations with the European Union. The Deputy Minister also joked about how difficult it would be for both sides to sign the 1800-page document.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov did not express the expected satisfaction with the conclusion of the negotiation process either. The reason for that is the lack of the European Commission’s consent to one of the main demands of Ukraine. “Our delegation pressed for the agreement to include membership perspective for Ukraine. The Union, however, proposes a different formula,” said the Prime Minister. At the same time, Azarov was quite realistic about the chances of potential Ukraine’s joining the EU: “We assume that the Association Agreement is a historic document, which, once it is signed, will be binding for a longer period, maybe for 10-15 years.”
See the coverage by Ukrainian news bulletin [ua]:
The change of attitude of Ukrainian authorities towards signing the Association Agreement can be observed since delivering an ultimatum to President Viktor Yanukovych at the Eastern Partnership Summit. The representatives of the Union clearly implied that the agreement will not be signed, unless Yulia Tymoshenko is released from jail. Two months before, former Prime Minister was sentenced to seven years of imprisonment, which the European public opinion considered an explicit politically-motivated execution of the opposition leader. Polish mediators numerously tried to convince the Ukrainian authorities that the consequences of this trial are harmful to Ukraine, like during the meeting of President Bronisław Komorowski and Yanukovych at Hel Peninsula and at the Yalta European Strategy Conference (YES) in which former President Aleksander Kwaśniewski took part.
It seems, however, that it is more important for Ukraine to have Tymoshenko in jail than to sign the Association Agreement with the Union soon. Eliminating the leader of the opposition from political life turns out to be worth for Kyiv to postpone signing the agreement with the EU. In the interview given to Ukrainian TV station after cancellation of Viktor Yanukovych’s visit to Brussels, the President implied that the membership perspective included in the Association Agreement is very important to Ukraine. “I fell that we are like poor relations, we are inviting ourselves while no one wants us there. … I told (the European Commission – editorial note) that if they are not ready to sign the agreement, we can wait,” said President Yanukovych.
Watch the interview with Viktor Yanukovych [ua]:
European dispute about Ukraine
Polish diplomacy continues to strive after concluding the Polish Presidency with signing the agreement with Ukraine. A couple of days ago (10.11.2011) during the YES board meeting in Warsaw (with guest appearance of Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk) former President Aleksander Kwaśniewski reminded the Ukrainians of the conditions they agreed on. “We are at this moment, when on the one hand the documents are prepared to be signed, while on the other without any move when it comes to Yulia Tymoshenko or fulfilling some of the promises given by the highest representatives of Ukraine, signing of the agreement will be impossible,” said the Polish politician. Viktor Yanukovych seems to be playing for time, counting that Kyiv will turn out to be more important to Brussels, than Brussels to Kyiv. … If Ukrainian authorities think that one can play till the end of this Russian roulette, it might end in failure,” stated Kwaśniewski. He added that the Union is too busy taking care of its own affairs to allow itself to play diplomatic games with Ukraine.
One of the Union’s diplomats justifies the delay of Ukraine in fulfilling the demands of the Union with negotiation attitude adopted by Kyiv in the talks with Brussels – Ukrainians think that “it’s better to wait and gain some more. If not everything has been decided yet, nothing is a foregone conclusion.” They know that there is no consensus on the enlargement in the EU. That’s why they bring matter to a head. And this may block all the talks.” As EUobserver informs, “Tough stand of Viktor Yanukovych (concerning adding the annotation about membership perspective to the Association Agreement) may become an excuse for breaking off the talks. This will give him free rein to strengthen the power in the country and concentrate on the relations with Russia.”
Present authorities of Ukraine are completely aware of the consequences of playing for time in the talks with the Union. Thus, the matter of adding membership perspective to the Association Agreement may be just a diplomatic trick accounting for the failure in negotiations. Underestimating the issue of initialling the agreement with the EU is a way of saving the authorities in Kyiv from their own society in case of Brussels refusing to sign the agreement because of Tymoshenko case. New charges against Tymoshenko announced last week (10.11.2011), regarding hiding the income of over USD 165 million and evading taxes of UAH 47 million, confirm the main objective of Yanukovych: a complete destruction of the main political opponent.
Signing the agreement does not guarantee its quick taking effect. In order for this to happen, ratification of the agreement by all 27 Union states is needed. It is already known that some of the countries openly declare using this fact for hindering the agreement. Obviously, this contributed to giving up the European direction of foreign policy of Kyiv and weakened enthusiasm about ending the agreement negotiations. Disapproving attitude of some of the Union’s members towards Ukraine’s integration into Europe was of, by no means, little significance. As the Eastern Partnership summit has proved, the leader of this group is France. Recently, French Ambassador to Kyiv Jacques Faure considered the possibility of imposing sanctions against Ukraine by, if not the Union itself, then France. Cornelia Pieper, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany, spoke in a similar tone. She expects Ukraine to “accept European values and movement towards democracy.” For these countries, which make priority of relations with Russia, Tymoshenko case is a perfect excuse. There should be no doubt that in criticising Yanukovych, it is frequently not the defence of her and democracy that counts the most. In this atmosphere, the voice of those countries in favour of Ukraine’s integration into the Union are almost inaudible, like the recent statement of Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Latvia, Andris Teikmanis: “We are really interested in bringing Ukraine closer to Europe. This process considerably increases security of the European Union.”
Today, November 15 in Wroclaw, during celebration of 200th anniversary of founding the University of Wroclaw, Presidents of Poland, Ukraine and Germany are meeting. It is one of the last occasions for the talks between Bronislaw Komorowski, Christian Wulf and Viktor Yanukovych about arresting Yulia Tymoshenko and convincing the Ukrainian President to make the “European choice.” The success in realisation of this objective will be one of the main criteria of assessment of Polish Presidency in the Council of the European Union. The signed Association Agreement between the Union and Ukraine will prove the significance of Polish voice in the arena of the European Union and effectiveness of Polish diplomacy when it comes to eastern matters.
Translated by Marta Lityńska