19 December, Kiev. The European Union and Ukraine closed negotiations on the Association Agreement, though the document was not initialled. The reason was the politically motivated trial of Ukrainian former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, sentenced to 7 years’ imprisonment. Therefore, the Polish Presidency of the EU Council did not manage to bring Ukraine closer to Europe. What conclusions shall Poland’s diplomatic service draw from this EU-Ukraine summit?
“Today, we can publically announce that negotiations on the Association Agreement have been finalized… This is a giant step for our relations. .. It is also of decisive importance for Ukraine’s progress towards modernisation, prosperity…,” announced President of the EU Council Herman Van Rompuy during the EU-Ukraine summit held on 19 December in Kiev. He was echoed by the host of the summit – President Viktor Yanukovych said: “The Ukrainian side is satisfied with the results of today’s Summit. I think that it has the full right to be considered a milestone event in the bilateral relations.” If we take the participants’ word for it, the only things lacking at the conference, the crowning moment of the event, were thunderous applause and thrown confetti.
Those interested in creating an optimistic impression of the Summit were trying to show positive points of the Summit to the very end. Commentators complaining that the long-awaited Association Agreement was not signed, or even initialled, received a quick response: it is no problem. After all, on Friday before the Summit, Mikolaj Dowgielewicz, Polish MFA Secretary of State, was already reassuring that in case the initialling not taking place at the Summit, it could still be possible to happen right after the meeting in December this year. A similar positive attitude is shared by Ukrainian politicians – Deputy PM Andriy Kluiev expects the signing is to take place in one, or one and a half, month. Deputy Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin is even slightly more enthusiastic, forseeing initialling of the agreement being held in several weeks.
The summit of Polish presidency
If the initialling of the agreement does not seem to be an urgent matter, and we are witnesses to “milestones” and “giant steps,” then why the Kiev summit is supposed to be a disappointment? The answer is simple. Ukraine was to have been the high point of the Polish Presidency of the EU Council and signing the Association Agreement between this country and the Union – its culmination that did not happen.
Unfortunately, the whole process was effectively blocked by countries – first of all Germany and France – reluctant towards shifting the focus of EU eastern foreign policy at the cost of changing relations with Russia. Arresting Yulia Tymoshenko became a perfect pretext for hindering negotiations. Hopes of Ukrainian authorities counting on Tymoshenko’s trial being dismissed in the same way as that of Khodorkovsky in Russia proved futile. It occurred that the former PM appeared in the West as an icon and a guarantor of democracy – raison d`être of freedom in the Dnieper country. With heavy hearts, supporters of the EU integration were forced to state that Ukraine is no Russia (Paweł Kowal wrote about it in Polish magazine Teologia Polityczna). They could not, however, count on anything else – the country interested in EU membership is indeed Ukraine, not its bigger neighbour.
The failed exam
Too late the Polish diplomacy noticed the threat. Procrastinating while pursuing accomplishment of such a complex integration process as finalizing an association agreement cannot be allowed. And this is exactly what happened with the last minute diplomatic offensive of Polish politicians – President Komorowski (meetings with the Ukrainian head of state in Hel, Warsaw and Wrocław), former President Aleksander Kwaśniewski (the mediator in the case of Tymoshenko’s release during and after the Yalta European Strategy summit) and Minister Radek Sikorski (a meeting, together with his Swedish counterpart, with the wealthiest man in Ukraine Rinat Akhmetov in Donetsk, later strongly criticized by local media) . It is worth reminding that several months earlier, from October 2010 to the end May 2011, the office of Polish ambassador in Kiev was vacant. Only Henryk Litwin’s nomination scotched the rumours, not denied by the Polish MFA, concerning Poland’s uneasy relationship with Ukraine, of which the delay in appointing the ambassador was a telltale sign.
Bearing in mind those facts, it is difficult to avoid the impression that Poland remembered Ukraine and its role within the Presidency plans at the eleventh hour. Instead of convincing Yanukovych not to release Tymoshenko, Poland should persuade him not to sentence her at all. Regrettably, doing homework just before the lesson almost never results in a good mark and this is what happened to the Ukrainian element of the presidential programme. Ukraine, together with Polish diplomatic service, failed the test the association agreement was. Now all that remains is to wait for the actual outcome.
Translated by KD