A visit of the Polish Foreign Minister in Kyiv confirmed status quo of the negotiations on signing the Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine. President Viktor Yanukovych does not intend to satisfy in any way the Union’s demands of releasing from prison members of the former government, especially the former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Is it possible that the agreement will be initialled this month anyway?
The release of Yulia Tymoshenko and to enable her to run in parliamentary elections was clearly defined by Brussels as a requirement for signing the Association Agreement with Ukraine. At the EU-Ukraine summit on 19 December 2011, the Union politicians gave Kyiv authorities to understand that it is sine qua non of continuing the talks. It did not cause the expected reaction. Even the threat of sanctions included in the last resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the United States’ increasingly harsh critique of Viktor Yanukovych’s regime did not sober Ukrainian authorities up. On Wednesday (08.02.2012) the Supreme Council of Ukraine once again ignored the motion of decriminalisation of charges against the former prime minister, while after the visit in Kyiv Radoslaw Sikorski admitted that President Yanukovych does not give any promises of solving the problem.
The atmosphere of the Union-Ukraine relations is well expressed by the ostracism Viktor Yanukovych faces in the political environment. For example, during the January Davos forum, the only politicians who did not refuse to meet with the Ukrainian president were the presidents of Poland and Azerbaijan: Bronislaw Komorowski and Ilham Aliyev. The reasons for which European politicians are no longer interested in conversations with the Ukrainian head of state were revealed by the head of the European Commission Representation in Ukraine Jose Manuel Pintu Teisheira. The Union diplomat frankly stated that last year Viktor Yanukovych gave enough reasons to convince European politicians that any meetings with him would be pointless.
Despite the increasing disappointment with the attitude of Ukrainian authorities, the agreement may be initialled sooner than one could expect. According to unofficial information, it is to take place on 27 February in Brussels. There are at least two arguments for such an immediate date of initialling the agreement. First of all, it is only a procedural formality of technical, not political, character. The negotiations on the contents of the agreement were concluded during the EU-Ukraine summit in Kyiv and initialling the agreement is a natural consequence of this fact. The procedure itself means the conclusion of works on the text and its acceptance by both sides. It does not settle taking new actions for the agreement to take effect. Another step would be signing the agreement by the European Commission and then ratifying it by 29 parliaments – all the parliaments of the member states (including a new member – Croatia) and the European Parliament. It is more than likely that European Commission, or at least the parliaments of the member states, will make it impossible for the agreement to take effect until Yulia Tymoshenko and her political co-workers are in prison.
Another argument are the approaching parliamentary elections in Ukraine planned for the end of October 2012. The faster the document is initialled, the less it can be used in the election campaign by the Ukrainian authorities. Undoubtedly, the initialled agreement will be announced a success of the government’s foreign policy. In order to prevent using this event by Yanukovych’s camp as an asset in the fight for votes, the Union wants to initial the agreement as soon as possible. The Union decision-makers should care for it to happen before the election fever completely dominates the media in Ukraine.
The information about 27 February as a date of initialling the agreement with Ukraine seemed to us so interesting, that we decided to ask for a commentary of politicians and experts.
Paweł Zalewski – Member of the European Parliament
Association Agreement negotiations have been concluded and technical actions, like precise translation of the document, took also some time. I hope that soon after they end, the agreement will be initialled.
Unfortunately, it will take place on the lower level than it was planned during the Polish Presidency in the EU, but it does not devoid the matter of any weight whatsoever. After signing the agreement, the time will come to ratify it. Ukraine should start to introduce changes in the legislation before the ratification process. Changes in the system are especially important. Signing the agreement gives Ukraine such possibilities. The most important problem to face is the transparency of elections. It will be a key task this year.
Paweł Kowal – Member of the European Parliament
We observe stagnation in the relations between the EU and Ukraine, which is caused by Yulia Tymoshenko’s imprisonment. Kiev ruling politicians are incapable of understanding that in democratic countries, the opposition is not locked away. It is obvious that signing the Association Agreement depends on the release of “the most famous prisoner of Ukraine”.
When it comes to signing the Association Agreement and DCFTA, we have seen a lot of contradictory information – it was to take a couple of months, then half a year. The news about signing the agreement on 27 February is the first so specific an information. It seems that the European External Action Service wants to move the stagnant EU-Ukraine relations forward, maybe willing to strengthen the weakening pro-European camp in Kyiv. It’s doubtful, however, if the procedure of initialling only a part of the document is appropriate, since a peculiar precedent would take place. It may turn out that the Commission, within the framework of its competence, governed by the best interests of the EU member states, will decide on ratification of the economic part of the agreement only. Then, the member states will have nothing to say.
Jan Piekło – Director of Polish-Ukrainian Cooperation Foundation – PAUCI
Implementation of the Association Agreement offered to Kyiv in the package with DCFTA would anchor Ukraine in the EU, preparing the ground for obtaining a status of an EU candidate in the distant future. For Ukraine, it is a road to the European markets and a chance to open to the West, while for the EU it is a guarantee of bordering with a predictable and friendly country with a competitive economy based on the market rules.
The Association Agreement with the EU will also require observance of the rules of democracy. Unfortunately, here Viktor Yanukovych’s administration chose a variant of confrontation with the opposition and selective law application. This is another reason for which the agreement has not been yet initialled. The emerging speculations about another date of ending the process indicate a deepening crisis in the EU-Ukraine relations. Moscow does not lose any time and puts more and more pressure on Ukraine, so that it would give up integrating to the EU and join the union of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus.
The events on the Dnieper River are coming to their final stage, which will probably be provided by October parliamentary elections. Much indicates that the authorities do not intend to make concessions to the opposition and the elections may be considered at variance with democratic standards. Then, this agreement negotiated in pains may not be needed by anyone. Even when initialled.
Translated by Marta Lityńska