U.W.: At a press conference with Vladimir Putin in Paris, Francois Hollande said that Yulia Tymoshenko was not supposed to be in jail, therefore neither he, nor any of his ministers were coming to the Euro 2012 in Ukraine. As a French politician, do you share this position?
I definitely and decisively condemned the way Ukraine’s government treats Ms. Tymoshenko, which is simply unacceptable, and I will keep doing that as long as she remains behind bars. I respect the position of those who boycott the tournament for the bad political situation and the decline in human rights in Ukraine. Still, I think Ukrainian people deserve to have a celebration, a chance to enjoy Euro 2012. I hope the tournament will be another chance for the international community and the EU to condemn the way the Ukrainian government behaves.
U.W.: You have mentioned recently that you did not call for the boycott of the tournament. Quite on the contrary, you called on European politicians to go to Ukraine and try to visit Ukrainian politicians in prison. Did EPP MPs follow the advice ? How many will come to Ukraine ?
I did not plan to go to Euro 2012. Still, I call on EPP Group members to take this opportunity to meet with Ms. Tymoshenko, Mr. Lytsenko and other imprisoned politicians, as well as discuss the problems in relations of the Ukrainian government and the EU. The EPP Group will always be on guard for the interests of Ukrainian people. My fellow MPs are ready to help Ukrainians as soon as they request their help. We claim solidarity with all those who struggle to revive democracy in Ukraine.
U.W.: What do you think of possible sanctions against Ukraine if the political situation keeps aggravating ? How efficient were the sanctions the EU imposed on Belarus ?
Our vision of the situation in Eastern Europe is as simple as that: the better we collaborate with each other, the deeper the countries integrate into European processes. The more stability inside the country and the more successful the economy, the better the EU’s security is protected. Thus, the interests of the Belarus and Ukrainian nations are top priorities for us. We take much caution to make sure that the punishment for top officials who are responsible for violating the key rules and freedoms do not result in the isolation of both nations. The European Parliament has always pursued this sort of policy, while being cautious about average people in its neighbour states.
I believe that European aid should be aimed more at supporting civil society, independent media and cooperation with NGOs. When sanctions were imposed on the Belarus government, the European Parliament increased financial aid to civil society, independent media and NGOs in Belarus to support democracy and all those who campaign to protect the rule of law and human rights. This policy for Belarus has proven effective.
U.W.: Some Ukrainian officials hope that the Free Trade Agreement between Ukraine and the EU can be signed without its political component and that that sort of cooperation is sufficient at this point. How would you comment on that?
The EU was the first institution to sign a resolution on Ukraine’s European prospects on 13 January 2005. Moreover, the European Parliament still supports the European aspirations of Ukrainian people. Still, political instability and slow reforms in Ukraine spoil its relations with the EU.
Given the real political situation today I don’t expect any progress in the discussion of Ukraine’s association with the EU.
U.W.: How can you explain the fact that there is not one French person on the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Cooperation Committee? Does this signal that Ukraine-France relations are not going all that well?
The number of seats on European Parliament delegations is very limited. That was why MEPs join the delegations based on their experience with certain countries. Naturally, the group for cooperation with Ukraine ended up with MEPs from Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and Baltic States.
This is not a reflection of Ukraine-France relations, which are important. Many EPP MPs in the European Parliament who are not members of the EU-Ukraine delegation are very active in terms of Ukraine. They work on Ukrainian issues in political groups or the EP Foreign Affairs Committee, for instance.
U.W.: There is talk of Greece’s exit from the Eurozone. What do you think of the consequences of such move for the future of the EU?
We should support the Greeks and remind them that the reforms they have to implement are aimed at improving the way their whole government apparatus operates and making the Greek economy more competitive. They should realize that they implement reforms for their own future, not the European Union. We should encourage our Greek friends and keep telling them the truth at the same time : the EU will keep showing solidarity with Greece only if Greece fulfills its commitments.
For this, Greece has to appoint a government that will be able to fulfill its commitments. Greece is a sovereign country and it has to choose its own future. No one can do it for them.
The EU can help it, just like it has been helping it for decades. Yet, the EU is not in place to determine the future of its member-states.
U.W.: You have been an MEP for 13 years in which 12 new member-states have joined it. What do you think of the EU’s further possible enlargement in the long-term?
The enlargement has been one of the most successful lines in EU policy. The EPP Group in the European Parliament is an active supporter of enlargement. The opportunity to join the EU should be considered through the prism of its key objectives, including the strengthening of freedom, security, stability, economic development, social equality and solidarity on the continent. Croatia will join the EU soon. This proves that the ideas and concepts on which the EU has been built are still attractive. We should all learn this lesson: European solidarity is a good answer in times of crisis.
U.W.: Have you ever been to Ukraine? Are you considering going to Ukraine as an observer for the upcoming parliamentary election in October?
I visited Ukraine in 2007, right after I chaired the EPP Group, and met with the Ukrainian Premier of the time. If the political situation is favourable enough, our group will definitely take part in the election observer mission. As always, the EPP Group is an active supporter of the EU’s close relations with Ukraine. But we will criticize the Ukrainian government if it continues to ignore fundamental European values.