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28 January, 2012  ▪  Alla Lazareva

The Council of Europe Is Not Ready to Make Ultimatums

Although the conclusion of the PACE resolution on Ukraine contains a paragraph, which in principle allows the imposition of sanctions, none of the heads of this international organization are actually ready to define such possibility.
Gallery: The Day of Ukraine at PACE (photos: 17)

“Sanctions would be an admission of defeat,” stated new PACE President, Jean-Claude Mignon, in an interview with The Ukrainian Week. “We are here with you in the house of democracy. A different language is used here — it is not brutal or authoritarian. People seek dialogue and conviction here.”

During the winter PACE session, the Ukrainian opposition — in the words of their MPs and  sympathizers — made a vain attempt to convince its leaders that the current Ukrainian government gives preference to a different style of communication. For a long time now, official Kyiv’s means of persuasion have been prohibition and imprisonment. Not everyone has been put “under pressure” yet, just the ones who are the government’s most active political competitors. But this could all change. The opposition is trying to respond duly. But since it does not have at its disposal such mechanisms of influence as the government, it is looking for external support. Internal resources are not enough.

“Most of all, we would prefer that Ukraine, Armenia or any other country does not involve us in its internal conflicts,” explained one of the permanent employees of the CoE staff to The Ukrainian Week in a private conversation. “There are general standards and there are also the principles of political pluralism– very simple things. We are ready to support everything that strengthens democratic institutions. But to side with one national political team against another —this is not for us.”

The word sanctions, which inspired many opponents of the Yanukovych regime, actually has a completely different meaning for western politicians. The following is said in the CoE: “We have understood that the President of Ukraine is ambitious. If strongly pressured, he will not budge. Therefore, it’s necessary to find other means for dialogue. When we mention the likelihood of sanctions, which are as yet unclear, don’t have a clear timeframe or format, we only want to say that our patience is gradually wearing thin. That certain dissatisfaction is coming to the boil. No more, no less. The people in Yanukovych’s inner circle today, have to understand that the quality of our communication has deteriorated significantly.”

“Ukraine has accumulated many problems”, states Andreas Gross, Head of the Socialist Group in PACE, who is quite loyal to Kyiv. “If this continues, the government can expect a new Maidan.” Even so, just like PACE President Jean-Claude Mignon, Andreas Gross, in principle opposes actual sanctions against any member country. He is convinced that “The precedent of applying mechanisms of punishment would be very negative. In Strasbourg, in the Palace of Europe, we are obligated to find a new form of European communication, without the application of brute force, which I consider to be archaic methods.” So the CoE is biding its time. Either Ukraine will revolt, or will agree to live through this bad historical period, however long it takes. Egidijus Vareikis, Chairman of the PACE Regulatory Committee is convinced that “The main thing is not to scare the Ukrainian government, but promote positive change in Ukraine. – When negative alarms are received, when negative trends are confirmed, the grounds emerge to talk about sanctions as well, but of course, they are not an end in themselves.” What next? Little hope remains in Strasbourg that the last resolution, with its demand to free Tymoshenko and Lutsenko, and allowing them to participate in the upcoming parliamentary elections, will be complied with by the Ukrainian government. Europe is raising the bar and is elegantly proposing that Kyiv stands by its side. See the extent to which formats and style coincide. Think about it. Work on itself...

It is not known yet whether the situation in Ukraine will be the subject of discussion at the next, spring session. “The Rapporteurs will be visiting Ukraine again in the spring,” the Monitoring Committee informed The Ukrainian Week. “We will see what their conclusions will be. If necessary, the likelihood of urgent debates is not ruled out. But if everything remains as it is today, without any significant changes, it is more than likely that the next debate on the Ukrainian issue will not take place before autumn.”

“I have been invited to Ukraine,” said new PACE President, Jean-Claude Mignon. “I will try to take advantage of this opportunity to visit Yulia Tymoshenko in prison. I plan to make a request for such a visit.” Thus, the sanctions, almost automatically mentioned in Strasbourg, are currently nothing more than symbolic. The embodiment of a major misunderstanding and, unfortunately, long-term disenchantment. It is also a signal for the political institutions of the EU. After all, most of the member-states of the Council of Europe also take part in the sittings of the European Parliament.

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