Jerzy Buzek: “The most convenient and successful way for Ukraine to resist Russian influence would be to sign the Association Agreement”
Jerzy Buzek was one of the first European politicians who said that the Yulia Tymoshenko case was politically motivated. Even after his term as a European MP expired at the beginning of this year, Jerzy Buzek continues to monitor the situation in Ukraine.
In 2009, Jerzy Buzek was the first East European politician to become President of the European Parliament. His election victory with 555 out of 738 votes, an unprecedented majority in such elections in the history of European legislature, contributed to Poland’s success, reinforcing its role in European policy. Jerzy Buzek was one of the first European politicians who said that the Yulia Tymoshenko case was politically motivated. Even after his term as a European MP expired at the beginning of this year, Jerzy Buzek continues to monitor the situation in Ukraine.
UW: Is the European community still hoping that the upcoming election in Ukraine will be free and transparent, and lead to a change in Ukrainian policy, after the repressions initiated by the current government against its political opponents and the pressure that has been put on the independent media?
We always try to be optimistic and believe the governing bodies of any country when they say that they are preparing an entirely free, transparent and fair election. However, we will, of course, be observing it. We know that not everything is as it should be now, at the beginning of the campaign, in terms of freedom of media and speech, and the imprisonment of some important political figures. This is all against the rules for a democratic and fair election. But let’s wait and see. We still have another six weeks before the election and we continue to hope that many of the weaknesses that exist today can be eliminated.
UW: What are your views on possible sanctions against Ukraine on the part of the EU, USA or international institutions, should the will of the people be misrepresented during the election? How can Ukraine avoid the Belarusian scenario?
It’s extremely difficult for me to answer such a question. I don’t even want to think about the necessity of the imposition of sanctions against Ukraine or the development of a Belarus scenario – I believe that the latter is impossible. Of course, generally speaking, sanctions are always possible. They should always be directed against individual persons, not a society or citizens. Today, however, we are thinking of good cooperation and signing the Association Agreement. We are ready to help you with the transparency of your election and campaign if you need advice or help. We are hoping for a positive scenario rather than a negative one.
UW: In his recent interview for Gazeta Wyborcza, Ukraine’s Vice Premier Valeriy Khoroshkovsky admitted that the Ukrainian government was preparing for a bad scenario in relations with the EU, that could end up with the freezing of economic and financial contacts if the EU believes in the speculations and decides to unilaterally support the opposition. Are you considering this scenario?
I believe that freezing contacts will not be a necessary solution, because it is the worst possible scenario. I believe that you (Ukraine – Ed.) can improve a lot in the electoral system, even in the last few weeks of the campaign and the election will be fair and transparent enough for us (the EU – Ed.) to decide that the outcome is correct and in line with the desire and expectations of Ukrainian citizens. In any case, we wouldn’t want to influence the outcome itself. It is not the outcome itself that is the most important issue for us. What is most important for us is transparency, fairness and the way that the votes are counted – whether the results can be verified by your civil society and independent people in the polls.
UW: Do European leaders realize that Mr. Yanukovych is playing games with them by promising to fulfill obligations regarding democratic values and judicial reform, but not actually doing anything to implement them?
Step by step, we are discovering that this could simply be a game. Two years ago, we believed the authorities that were elected by the citizens of an independent Ukraine. This is what we always assume in cases where we recognize an election to be transparent and free. Now, we have considerably more doubt concerning the various reforms that your (Ukrainian – Ed.) authorities have committed to under the framework of our relations; the reforms that were necessary to achieve the compatibility and cooperation of our systems. It is difficult to cooperate with one another if there is no compatibility. From my perspective, three issues, namely a transparent and independent judiciary, far-reaching municipal reform and the fight against corruption, are probably the most important ones. A strong and independent judiciary is necessary to rebuild trust and confidence between the government and the citizens, and between individual citizens. Rapid growth, welfare and prosperity are extremely difficult to attain when there is a high level of corruption. Corruption exists in every country, but the key difference is its level. It is very high (in Ukraine – Ed.). It prevents prosperity, rapid growth and the creation of new jobs. In terms of municipal reform, you need new power to develop your country on the level of municipal authorities. You need to create jobs and decrease unemployment with the help of healthy municipalities and self-governing regions.
UW: For many years, Poland has been a promoter of Ukrainian interests in the EU and Europe/Poland has long been a promoter of Ukrainian interests in the EU and Europe. How has the situation changed over the past 2.5 years?
Actually, nothing has changed. We are still strong supporters of Ukraine and its cooperation with the EU. The general attitude of the Polish people has not changed over the past 2.5 years. We are deeply involved – in our hearts, but not by participation in decision-making, which can only be done by Ukrainians – in all processes in Ukraine. We are, however, worried about the level of democracy, transparency and freedom of the media.
UW: Polish politician Jan Tombinski is now the new EU Ambassador to Ukraine. How do you expect him to influence relations between Ukraine and the EU?
Each EU ambassador has to stick to the EU’s general policy. From this viewpoint, the ambassador’s nationality does not matter. On the other hand, the Ambassador from Poland has a much better understanding of the situation in Ukraine, of what Ukraine needs, of Ukraine’s feelings regarding the EU and relations with it. I know Mr. Tombinski personally. He is a top level diplomat both in Poland and the EU. He was responsible for Poland’s presidency in the EU for six months: that was a huge responsibility for my country before the EU. Everything worked out very well and Poland’s presidency was a great success. A big part of that success was his achievement and his efforts. From this point of view, he will be a good ambassador who understands Ukraine.
UW: The European Commission recently launched an investigation against Gazprom’s monopolist schemes on the European market.
There is nothing unusual about this investigation – it can happen with any company. Some time ago we had a similar investigation against Microsoft, one of the richest companies in the world that resulted in a fine of almost USD 1.5bn. Our investigation against Gazprom pertains to its use of improper rules that do not comply with our clear and transparent rules. This is very important for us. Russia is trying to do the same in post-Communist Central European countries that are now EU members. Of course, we resist this practice at the EU because it is the strongest type of reaction. We’ve also had troubles in Poland with selling some of our products to the Russian market and the EU supported us in this battle. The most convenient and successful way for Ukraine to resist Russian influence would be to sign the Association Agreement and develop our Eastern Partnership. We are ready to invest into Ukrainian gas pipelines and your economy, providing our economic, judicial and democratic systems are compatible.