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27 January, 2012  ▪  The Ukrainian Week

Justice in Kyiv

The government has failed to convince either Ukrainians or the international community that the Tymoshenko case has nothing to do with politics. The Ukrainian Week asks Europeans their opinion on the trial against former Premier Yulia Tymoshenko and the situation in Ukraine

Luca Volonte, Chairman of the European People’s Party Group in the Council of Europe.

Does the verdict against Yulia Tymoshenko meet European standards? No, the decision is markedly political. The whole proceedings entail disputes and the politicization of the final sentence. The principle of collective responsibility for the decisions taken by the government is openly violated in the Tymoshenko case and in many other cases involving the conviction and imprisonment of members of the previous government.

The existing penal code is clearly in contrast with the most basic norms and standard criteria of the Council of Europe and the European Union. It makes no sense for the current Government to hide its responsibility for the failure to reform that penal code. The current Ukrainian penal code is identical to the Soviet one and clearly based on the discretion of political power. Therefore, the proceedings and the sentence against Yulia and many other former  ministers do not meet any basic standards of the Council of Europe and the European Union. It is unacceptable political persecution. Obviously, this sentence is a sign of a lack of the fundamental principle of separation of powers (executive and judiciary) and will have serious consequences at the international level.

I strongly support the political position of President Martens. His request to suspend all negotiations between the European Union and Ukraine on free trade is legitimate and fully justified. How is it possible for the EU to sign an agreement with the current Ukrainian government which violates, directly and indirectly, all European human rights standards, the rule of law and democracy?

It is not possible to continue negotiations between the EU and Ukraine unless the intolerable situation in Ukraine changes. The Ukrainian government is acting against the interests of the Ukrainian people and companies. In order to maintain its “power”, it will isolate Ukraine from Europe. The decision taken in recent days, on the initiative of the Ukrainian Secret Service, is another demonstration of the Government’s fierce battle against opposition

parties, particularly against Yulia Tymoshenko, with a view to the forthcoming presidential and parliamentary elections. They eliminate political opponents in order to facilitate their electoral victory. This goes against every basic rule of democracy. The EPP-CD Group in the Council of Europe will continue to work hard, unless the basic rules of democracy are re-established in Ukraine.

Hanne Severinsen, President of the European Media Platform NGO and former PACE Monitoring Committee Rapporteur on Ukraine.

 Yulia Tymoshenko was tried according to the old Soviet § “Abuse of Power” stemming from the Soviet-era, when it was necessary to have a tool to punish people that had fallen afoul of senior officials. It is scandalous that Ukraine has failed to fulfill its obligation to reform the judiciary. Today’s “verdict” is the criminalization of political decisions. It is simple copy-paste: the decision of the prosecutor general - ordered by the president - was executed by a “judge” who is on a probation period - totally dependent and controlled by the prosecution. The EU must demand that Parliament immediately begins the reform of the Criminal Code, which it is obligated to do. This will also mean the decriminalization of the case.

Egidiju s Vareikis, Chairman of Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs in PACE (Lithuania)

I’m not surprised by the 7-year sentence for Ms. Tymoshenko. If the term were shorter, the government would have demonstrated concessions. If it were longer, it would have been considered to be outright repression. This is a politically motivated verdict. Obviously, it will be an impediment to negotiations on free trade and the association agreement. I assume that the Ukrainian government will use Tymoshenko as a bargaining tool with Europeans; to either receive something or improve trade terms with them, for example, in exchange for her release.

Andr es Herkel, Member of European People’s Party faction in PACE (Estonia)

This verdict has a negative impact on association agreement negotiations between the EU and Ukraine. Even if the association agreement is signed, some questions will remain open: What kind of a country is this with such an inefficient judiciary and why have we signed an Association Agreement with it? Doubts arise as to whether Ukraine really wants to be part of political Europe. EU leaders have already expressed their disappointment. At a meeting of the leaders of EU-members’ diplomatic bodies in Luxembourg, Urmas Paet, the Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs, publicly stated his concern about the situation.

Pedr o Ar gamu nt Member of European People’s Party faction in PACE (Spain)

I read the verdict of the Pechersk Court this morning and I couldn’t believe my eyes. I didn’t think that this would happen. Seven years in jail followed by a three-year ban on political activities is a 100% politically motivated sentence. In all likelihood, its purpose is to prevent Ms. Tymoshenko from running in the upcoming parliamentary election and subsequently in the presidential election. I guess these are the means by which Mr. Yanukovych decided to simplify his rise to power, by removing a dangerous rival. Such actions damage Ukraine’s political image. I’m sure it won’t take long for the Council of Europe and the European Union to give their opinion. This is a huge political scandal. The case is not about corruption or personal enrichment. It’s pure politics. Even if the EU does sign an Association Agreement with Ukraine, the European Parliament will not ratify it as long as Tymoshenko is behind bars.

Amanda Paul, Analyst, European Policy Centre: “The EU cannot allow its relations with Ukraine to be shaped through the prism of Tymoshenko case”.

The ongoing trial against Yulia Tymoshenko is unfortunately being used by a number of players in the EU as a tool to hobble Ukraine’s integration into the EU. For those countries that do not support the very idea of Ukraine being granted some sort of membership perspective, it is the perfect excuse. Moreover, the European Peoples Party (EPP) in the European Parliament and its leader, Wilfred Martens, have turned the parliament into a sort of Tribunal for the Yulia Tymoshenko case, with numerous statements coming from Mr. Martens and others who give a far from accurate picture of the political picture in Ukraine.

The EU cannot allow its relationship with Ukraine to be shaped through the prism of the court case against Mrs Tymoshenko, this would be extremely shortsighted and detrimental for the EU’s goals for this region. By strongly engaging Ukraine, including finalizing and implementing the DCFTA and Association Agreement as well as having an honest approach towards the lifting of visa restrictions, the country will become progressively more modern and democratic. This is even more important at this time, since Russia is increasing pressure on Ukraine to either choose to hand over its gas transit system or face bankruptcy, since as of October, Moscow will be hiking up gas prices to amounts that Kyiv simply cannot afford to pay.

Lonidas Donskis, Member of the European Parliament from Lithuania: “Ms. Tymoshenko and members of the previous government deserve a fair trial”

We signed a resolution regarding this issue during the previousplenary session. Due to the active involvement of theUkrainian Embassy in Brussels, some MEPs in my group ALDEAllianceof Liberals and Democrats for Europe were reluctantto comment on this, as they thought that we were interferingwith the court decision of a sovereign country. Yet the vast majority stressed thefact that although Ukraine is a democracy and a friend of the EU, the trial waspolitically motivated; therefore, myself and many colleagues argued that nomatter whether we like Tymoshenko or not, she and other former members ofgovernment deserved a fair trial, rather than a sheer settling of old political accountsand the fuelling of old animosities between Yanukovych and Tymoshenko.

As you know, this majority prevailed, and we have passed a resolution expressing our concern over the shadow cast on this politically motivated case. All in all, it was an encouragement for Ukraine to act as a true democracy and as a genuine member of the symbolic club of democratic states.

Alexandra Goujon, PhD in Policy Studies, Professor at the University of Burgundy based in Dijon, France; author of the book titled Political Revolutions and the Struggle for Identity in Ukraine and Belarus: “If anyone should be put on trial, it should be all Ukrainian Prime Ministers”

I can't say that French politicians are not interested in the problems faced by the Ukrainian opposition. Quite the contrary, the EU is now discussing the Association Agreement with Ukraine. Political circles are trying to understand what is going on. On the one hand, the 2010 presidential election was recognized as being democratic and power peacefully shifted from one political camp to another. On the other hand, we see opposition protests in full swing and the government's opponents complain about ongoing pressure. The French press gives well-balanced comments on Ukrainian developments. Newspapers have published critical articles on the Tymoshenko trial while Le Monde published an interview with President Yanukovych where he defends his team. Academics note that Ms. Tymoshenko would hardly make a perfect Premier, yet doubt that her predecessors and successors would act any differently. We lack information about the essence of the charges. Still, it appears obvious that the first non-transparent thus unfavourable gas supply contract was not signed by Yulia Tymoshenko. Therefore, she alone cannot be held to account for all the troubles of the Ukrainian gas market. If the trial was fair, Ms. Tymoshenko would have all Ukrainian premiers sitting next to her on the defendants' bench, including Mr. Yanukovych. The impression is that the current Ukrainian government is taking revenge for its defeat during the Orange Revolution. Apparently, it is also intent on weakening the opposition before the upcoming parliamentary election.


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