Luca Volontè: “The issue of the CoE’s sanctions against Ukraine arises automatically”
Luca Volontè chairs the European People’s Party, the biggest political group in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). In his interview with The Ukrainian Week, Mr. Volontè evaluates the verdict in former minister Lutsenko’s case and suggests possible sanctions against Ukraine if the latter continues to ignore the CoE’s recommendations
U.W.: Mr. Volontè, the resolution approved at the CoE’s most recent session demanded the immediate release of Yulia Tymoshenko and Yuriy Lutsenko. Still, two days ago, the former Minister of the Interior of Ukraine was sentenced to 4 years in jail and the confiscation of property. What can you say about this verdict? How compliant is it with the CoE’s standards?
Unfortunately, today we have both the verdict against Mr. Lutsenko, and Ms. Tymoshenko remains behind bars. In recent weeks, the parliamentary majority has passed a decision not to reform the Criminal Code in order to continue the political and judicial fight. This is unacceptable for every democratic standard, incomprehensible for the international community and impossible to support in the Council of Europe.
U.W.: PACE’s January Resolution stresses the fact that the principle of equality between prosecution and defense is often violated in Ukraine. In Mr. Lutsenko’s case, for instance, prosecutors were able to include evidence from 148 witnesses. Mr. Lutsenko’s lawyers asked to have 16 witnesses, but were not authorized to interrogate any of them. Do you think this approach could be a matter for discussion at the next PACE session in April?
In the coming days, on behalf of the EPP, I will propose a current affairs debate to the Standing Committee in Paris and a debate under urgent procedure during the Session in April. The Council of Europe cannot be silent and accept these clear violations of the commitments undertaken by Ukraine. We hope that the other parties will follow suit…
U.W.: The most recent resolution on Ukraine provides for possible sanctions, unless Ukraine fulfills the CoE’s recommendations. Do you think there are reasonable grounds to expect sanctions against the Ukrainian delegation?
After these clear political acts of Ukraine against the requests of the Council of Europe, sanctions will be automatic, the severity of which will increase to the suspension of credentials.
U.W.: One of the PACE deputies told me in an interview that thinking of sanctions against Ukraine was unrealistic because nobody was talking about possible punishment for Russia in the Khodorkovsky process, which is very similar to the persecution of Tymoshenko, Lutsenko and other former government members. Do you agree to this opinion?
Political and judicial persecutions against all the political leaders in Ukraine and the serious case of Khodorvsky are very different .
U.W.: Which position will your political group, the European People’s Party, take if the situation in Ukraine continues to deteriorate?
The EPP Group will ask for the suspension of credentials and at the same time, the strong action of the Committee of Ministers and the Secretary General. If the Ukrainian Government wants to abandon the Council of Europe, it should make this clear, if not, it should observe European standards. Political revenge is unacceptable.
In a recent poll, Razumkov Center, a sociology group, has found that 73% of Ukrainians fully or partly agree with the statement that political parties which spend a long time in power always have tainted reputation. So they only believe new political forces and their leaders