The EU’s 28 foreign ministers met in Luxembourg for the Foreign Affairs Council meeting. In addition to discussions about Syria, Egypt and Libya, another primary point on the agenda was the Eastern Partnership, particularly Ukraine and preparations for the 3rd Eastern Partnership Summit on 28 and 29 November in Vilnius. Ukraine is earmarked to sign the Association Agreement with the EU at the EaP summit, and the text of the joint declaration is another crucial topic being discussed by the FMs, but it’s not the only one…
The imprisonment of ex-Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko has been a hotly debated barrier in the EU-Ukraine negotiations, with speculations mounting about her release in the coming weeks. Last week, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle in spoke in Kyiv about the Tymoshenko issue, and the announcement that the signing of the DCFTA may hinge on Tymoshenko’s release:
“We acknowledge the significant progress that Ukraine has achieved. We also acknowledge the many difficult decisions which have already been taken. But some clear expectations remain. They include free and fair elections and sound electoral laws, reforms, particularly in the judicial sphere, and an end to selective justice. Some individual cases have gained significant attention across Europe and we need further progress. The Vilnius Summit can mark the true beginning of a renewed European partnership.”
Meanwhile, Deputy of the European Parliament, Vice President of the European People’s Party Jacek Saryusz-Wolski explained why it may be essential for Ukraine to release Tymoshenko ahead of the next Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels on 18 November:
“EU foreign ministers will hold the meeting on November 18, a few days before the Vilnius summit… This is Ukraine’s strategy to decide at the last moment: some say you are used to it, but the EU isn’t. This will be a fatal error if it happens at the last minute … We would like the requirements to be fulfilled before October 21… Everything that will come later will pose a serious risk.If Ukraine fails to meet the requirements, there will be no maneuvers and possibilities to sign the Association Agreement.”
— EU External Action (@eu_eeas) October 21, 2013
However, other experts have warned that failing to sign the Association Agreement could have drastic ramifications on the EU’s Eastern Partnership project as a whole, as Tom Casier from the Brussels School of International Studies explains:
“In case of non-signing, the Vilnius summit, instead of becoming the celebratory highlight of almost half a decade of Eastern Partnership, will be its funeral. The Association Agreement with Ukraine would be a major success, but it may also be the only significant one for some time to come,” Casier went on. “Armenia has withdrawn from the Eastern Partnership and doubts increasingly surround Georgia. Political instability has even made Moldova’s position in the Eastern Partnership more uncertain. Without Ukraine it becomes very hard to see any future for the Eastern Partnership at all.”
As for consultations at the Foreign Affairs Council this week, an EU official has said that no conclusions will be decided upon at this stage, but will be examining the latest information from the European Parliament’s monitoring mission to Ukraine, headed by former Polish President Alexander Kwaśniewski and former European Parliament President Pat Cox. The Mission to Ukraine held a conference regarding the EP and its mission to Ukraine, marking a year and a half of trying to find a “humanitarian” resolution in the case of Tymoshenko. It was decided that the mission will continue until mid-November, some days before the Vilnius summit, when a decision about Tymoshenko’s release and move to Germany for medical treatment will be decided upon.
It was also decided by Kwaśniewsk and Cox and the EP that it was possible to draft a letter with Tymoshenko which could be given to President Yanukovych as a step in brokering a deal to obtain her release. The EP ruled that such a measure was not without precedent–citing the previous case of Yuriy Lutsenko, who was imprioned for 4 years after a trial which was not considered to meet international norms.
— EU Council TV News (@EUCouncilTVNews) October 21, 2013
Not to be eclipsed…
Although Ukraine dominated the Foreign Affairs proceedings on Monday, officials stressed that Georgia and Moldova the EU “does not mix Moldova and Georgia with Ukraine”, meaning that each country would be subject to a separate discussion.
Georgia, who also hopes to initial the Association Agreement with the EU, will hold its Presidential Election on 27th October, which will be monitored by several EU organisations. Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht spoke to press in Luxembourgh on Friday about the Georgian election, saying;
“The electoral process is satisfactory so far, let’s wait for the results of the elections and the new president, in the meantime we’ll continue to get ready for the Vilnius Summit and the initialing of the agreement.”
— Poland in the EU (@PLPermRepEU) October 21, 2013
More to come:
This week FM Radek Sikorski and Swedish FM Carl Bildt visit Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia