Jacek Saryusz-Wolski: “The President of Ukraine has lost his legitimacy”
A delegation from the European Parliament will visit Ukraine on January 28–30 to examine the situation surrounding the EuroMaidan first-hand. Meetings are planned with the Ukrainian leadership, opposition representatives and,k first and foremost, with the Presidium of the EuroMaidan
In an exclusive interview for The Ukrainian Week, Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, Vice President of the European People's Party and a Member of the European Parliament from Poland, expressed his confidence that the EuroMaidan will continue at least until the next presidential election and that it must ensure its fairness and transparency. He stressed that Ukrainians must resolve the issue of democracy building on their own. The EU can only provide assistance in this, partly through the imposition of sanctions.
UW: Why has the necessity emerged to create a special mission, when there is already a permanent European Parliament delegation for relations with Ukraine? What will be the additional value of this visit?
Let’s distinguish them. There is a delegation as the institute of the European Parliament, which works with Ukraine on a permanent basis. This mission, however, is a group of 12 MEPs, who will go to Ukraine to clarify the circumstances. First of all, they have to meet with government representatives, although at present, not all meetings have been confirmed, talk to the people on EuroMaidan and the opposition. We shall start our visit with meetings with the presidium of the EuroMaidan. We also intend to see President Viktor Yanukovych, Parliamentary Speaker Volodymyr Rybak, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, First Vice-Premier Serhiy Arbuzov, other ministers and Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka. We would also like to talk to former presidents Leonid Kravchuk, Leonid Kuchma and Viktor Yushchenko. In other words, we are talking about a comprehensive programme, which will allow us to evaluate the complexity of the current situation.
UW: Are you expecting the drafting of a special resolution or reports on the results of the visit?
As is usually the case, the delegation will report on the results of the visit to the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs. This will be the key result. There will also be certain recommendations, which could lead to the organisation of debates or a resolution. However, it’s too early to talk about this now.
UW: What are you personally expecting from the meetings with representatives of the Ukrainian government?
More specifically, passing on the message that the Association Agreement is still on the negotiation table, that the requirements must be executed, that the Ukrainian government must refrain from violence, not violate human rights, freedom of press, the rights of students to strike and freedom of assembly for the EuroMaidan. Also, that people participating in peaceful protests are not to be persecuted. We must also tell them about the key expectation of the fair and free upcoming presidential election.
UW: Do you consider it to be sufficient to merely tell the Ukrainian government what cannot be done or is not worth doing? Maybe, from the point of view of the escalation of the conflict, the EU should consider specific actions, for example, sanctions?
Of course, this is not enough. At least, not if you look at the results we have at present. At the same time, there is no reason not to pass on such messages again and again. Clearly, we shall not send our “berkut” to protect the EuroMaidan from (the Ukrainian – Ed.) Berkut. That’s absurd. As far as sanctions are concerned, they are currently being discussed, as is a new resolution of the European Parliament. There has been no decision yet. However, there could be sanctions. The call to the government remains the same: refrain from the violation of laws, violence and the beating of peaceful demonstrators.
UW: Who could be the first victims of such sanctions?
We can’t say at this stage.
UW: Many express the concern that the 2015 election in Ukraine will be falsified...
The last parliamentary election was not fair or free, so it’s possible that the same instruments, particularly administrative leverage, could be used for the falsification of voting results. Of course, the European Parliament will send an observation mission, as we have done in recent years, for example, in 2004, which I headed. Then, as you will recall, we proposed a repeat of the second round of the election.
UW: But the observation mission – this is more of a “passive method” of assistance for Ukraine. Are there any more effective instruments at the EU’s disposal?
I’m always surprised by such requests from Ukrainians as: “Do something”. We can assist, however we cannot do your work for you. Neither the European Union, nor the US can send troops or our police to ensure democratic life in Ukraine. Ukraine is a sovereign state, and we can only use means that comply with international law. These are observation missions, diplomatic pressure and possibly sanctions... You have to rely more on your own devices.
UW: You are saying that the EuroMaidan will become the source of democratic change. But staying on the streets for months on end is not easy...
The EuroMaidan – this is no longer just a public meeting, it’s an institution. There is an organisation, the Ukrainian movement Maidan, which took the experience of the Polish Solidarity as an example. This is now a structure and it cannot be as easily dispersed by Berkut as a public meeting. I think that this is a permanent part of the political and social landscape of Ukraine. And the government will not be able to get rid of it, unless it applies such means as those used in their time by Wojciech Jaruzelski in Poland, when he implemented so-called military law (this law, passed in 1981, gave the army and special police forces the right to ensure control of the country, arrest the leaders of Solidarity and prevent any activities by the organisation).
UW: In your view, will the protests last until 2015?
Yes. You have to remember about the existence of Sich in your country’s history. This was an independent city, which lived in the steppes. And this organisation gave birth to a unique Cossack democracy, which had an elected council and otaman, through blood, opposition and different other means. This is the history of Ukrainian democracy. It’s very original and offers great hope.
UW: Yes, but Sich was not in the centre of Kyiv...
At that time, such large cities did not exist.
UW: Did I understand correctly, that in your view, Yanukovych’s tactics of ignoring the Maidan will not work?
Is he ignoring it? Far from it. He’s sending the police there. Or let’s take, for example, the verdict of the Supreme Court, banning any manifestations until March 8. He is not ignoring the Maidan – he’s trying to counteract it.
UW: Quite a few experts in Ukraine say that attempts to disperse the Maidan by force could be inspired by Moscow. Do you agree with them?
I don’t know. The only thing I can say for certain is that the main pre-condition of association with the EU was, and continues to be, democracy. Economics, trade and standards come later. The European Union does not establish associations with undemocratic countries. This is why all these statements by the current Ukrainian leadership on its desire for association do not inspire confidence. Arbuzov declares that Ukraine wants to sign the Association Agreement in 2014, then Berkut is used against demonstrators once more, this is completely grotesque.
UW: Today, many European politicians don’t believe in the possibility of Ukraine signing the Association Agreement before the presidential election. Will it still be on the table after the election?
– Yes. The European Union does not want to revise the Agreement. It was initialled and came close to being signed, so it can be signed with a new president and parliament. The election has to respond to the following question: does the country want association or not? This must be the fundamental issue. The problem of the illegitimacy of the current president lies in the fact that he conducted his election campaign with the message that he wanted association with the EU, and later, right before the Vilnius Summit, he took a U-turn. This is why people took to the streets and organised the EuroMaidan. The Head of State lost his legitimacy, because he changed his policy. And this is why the Ukrainian people have to make a decision about him once more. Of course, Ukrainians could elect a candidate who supports membership in the Customs Union, why not? However, the election must be free and fair.
UW: It’s impossible to talk about EU-Ukrainian relations without mentioning Russia …
UW: At the very least, because the latter consistently interferes and influences events...
The EU stated clearly, that any three-sided negotiations are unacceptable.
UW: Yes, but there are many declarations from Russia regarding the “inadmissibility of pressure on Ukraine on the part of the EU”. Do you have any response to such declarations?
This is sheer demagogy. Moscow can offer Kyiv a proposal. The EU has also made a proposal – the Association Agreement, which is the most advanced one in history. That is when Russia started to put pressure on Ukraine: trade embargoes, economic pressure, threats and blackmail. This is all documented. The European Union did not use such instruments.