“Belarus and Ukraine want to receive the economic goodies of the European Union without having to share its values. We need to let them make up their minds on their own,” wrote Berlin-based Der Tagesspiegel in the article “EU and Ukraine. A bit of dictatorship.” With typical German bluntness, this comment expresses the thought that has dominated the offices of some top EU officials and country leaders since the 11 October verdict against Yulia Tymoshenko.
Ukrainemust make up its own mind about which way to go. If it chooses the European path, it must accept and implement (through laws and enforcement of the same, among other things) such European values as democracy, human rights and a rule-of-law state in which everyone is equal before the law. After hearing these words from high rostrums for so many times, they simply do not resonate as much. But the key is that they are indeed important to Europeans. And Europe can see whether a country is truly abiding by them or simply simulating them.
“We are not naïve,” French Ambassador Jacque Faure said at a public lecture in the Ye bookstore, adding that European officials understand who they are dealing with in this country. But their lingering doubts were conclusively dispelled when the guilty verdict in the Tymoshenko case was delivered against all warnings from a Europe which thought its voice had been heard.
One of the first steps the EU took in response was to postpone Viktor Yanukovych’s meeting with EU leaders and to pass a European Parliament resolution which makes Ukraine’s further European integration directly dependent on a number of requirements. The main one is to have a “fair and unbiased” trial in the cases of opposition members (Tymoshenko, Yuriy Lutsenko and others) and officials of the current government arrested in the past 12 months. Further requirements include deep reforms, particularly the judicial and legal reform, and real fight against corruption instead of using power for political purposes.
The resolution says: “The strengthening of the rule of law and internal reform, including a credible fight against corruption, are essential not only for the conclusion and ratification of the Association Agreement and the deepening of EU-Ukraine relations, but also for the consolidation of democracy in Ukraine.” The resolution calls on the EU leadership to meet with Yanukovych to tackle “serious concerns which have been addressed to the Ukraine Government and re-establish a constructive dialogue that could lead to the initialling of the Association Agreement, provided that significant progress is made on the remaining technical and key political obstacles.”
The meeting would have to take place before the Ukraine-EU summit in December, but it appears that the call fell on deaf ears. Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry does not even recognize it as proof of Europe’s readiness for further dialog, while Education Minister Dmytro Tabachnyk hastened to “rebuke” European politicians for what he perceived was an “order” to meet with Yanukovych. There was nary a word about values (to say nothing of any action).
Furthermore, officials have said things which clearly show that Ukraine is rejecting its European prospects. For example, Vice Prime Minister Serhiy Tihipko emphasized that signing a free trade agreement within the CIS brought Ukraine much closer to joining the Customs Union (and the document suggests that this interpretation is warranted). Europe has yet to work out a unified position on what to do with Ukraine and its leaders. Consultations continue, while earlier initiatives are folding. For example, according to sources in the EU mission to Ukraine, the European Union may limit direct aid to Ukraine’s government, focusing instead on specific issues, such as judicial reform and support for NGOs. In any case, the reaction of the EU’s bureaucratic machine to “signals” from Kyiv will be a slowdown in all areas of cooperation and a wait-and-see stance. Only Ukrainian society can now stop Ukraine’s alienation from Europe.