The Change of Settings

28 October 2011, 15:30

Nadia Diuk, Vice President at the National Endowment for Democracy

We are already seeing the repercussions of “crossing the red line.” Last week,the President of Estonia refused to meet with Ukraine’sForeign Minister.President Yanukovych’s trip to Brussels is postponed, and I’m sure many Europeans are looking at their schedules to cancel meetings as a sign of protest and exasperation with Ukraine. This is on one level. However, on a deeper level, even once those meetings are rescheduled and “working relations” resumed, President Yanukovych and his government have crossed a line in the perception and imagination of the international community. The “image” of Ukraine they have created shows the Ukrainian political elite isfar from being European. Europeans don’t put opposition leaders in jail motivated by greed, corruption and the desire for revenge. That’s something that happens only in Africa, Pakistan, Burma and elsewhere. It will take a long time and perhaps an event on the scale of another Orange Revolution to reverse this portrait of Ukraine,now held in popular opinion around the world. 

Steven Pifer, US Ambassador to Ukraine in 1998-2000 and expert at the Brookings Institution

As the swift and highly critical reactions from the European Commission and from the governments of the United States, Britain, Germany, Poland, France, Russia and other European governments make clear, the trial of Yulia Tymoshenko has zero credibility outside Ukraine. Virtually all international observers regard the case as politically motivated.  It reflects badly on Ukraine and further damages the already tarnished reputation of Ukraine's judicial system.

The Tymoshenko case has crystallized concerns that have been growing in the West over the past year about democratic backsliding in Ukraine.  Can Ukraine join Europe while moving away from Europe's democratic values? These concerns have reached the point where a reactionbeyond just criticismis likely. The European Union may continuethenegotiation of an association agreement and comprehensive free trade agreement, but it is hard to see the agreements being signed if Tymoshenko remains in jail and is not permitted to return to normal political life. Even in the very unlikely event that the agreements are signed, political leaders in a number of EU countries and the European Parliament have vowed to block ratification. The December EU-Ukraine summit could be at risk. In Washington, talk has begun about putting certain Ukrainians on a visa ban list, as has previously been done with Belarus and Russia.

Since the association and comprehensive free trade agreements now constitute the main avenue for  developing EU-Ukraine relations, Kyiv's handling of the Tymoshenko case threatens to put a huge roadblock on its plan to draw closer to Europe and gain access to the world's richest single market.  Some in Kyiv may welcome this, but President Yanukovych has said repeatedly that European integration is a priority for him. If so, he needs to do something. On the current course, his relations with Europe and the West are headed for a low point.

Luca Volonte, Chairman of the European People’s Party Group in the Council of Europe

Does the verdict against Yulia Tymoshenko meet European standards? No, the decision is markedly political. The whole proceedings entail disputes andthepoliticization of the final sentence. The principle of collective responsibility for the decisions taken by the government is openly violated in the Tymoshenko case and in many other cases involving the conviction and imprisonment of members of the previous government.
The existing penal code is clearly in contrast with the most basic norms and standard criteria of the Council of Europe and the European Union. It makes no sense for the current Government to hide its responsibility for thefailure to reform that penal code. The current Ukrainian penal code is identical to the Soviet one and clearly based on the discretion of political power. Therefore, the proceedings and the sentence against Yulia and many other former ministers doesnot meet any basic standards of the Council of Europe and the European Union. It is unacceptable political persecution.
Obviously, this sentence is a sign of a lack of the fundamental principle of separation of powers (executive and judiciary) and will have serious consequences at the international level.
I strongly support the political position of President Martens. His request to suspend all negotiations between the European Union and Ukraine on free trade is legitimate and fully justified.

How is it possible for the EU to sign an agreement with the current Ukrainian government which violates, directly and indirectly, all European human rights standards, the rule of law and democracy?

It is notpossibleto continue negotiations between the EU and Ukraine unless the intolerable situationin Ukrainechanges. The Ukrainian government is acting against the interests of the Ukrainian people and companies. In order to maintain its “power”,it will isolate Ukraine from Europe.
The decision taken in recentdays, on the initiative of the Ukrainian Secret Service, is another demonstration of the Government’s fierce battle against opposition parties, particularlyagainst Yulia Tymoshenko, with a view to the forthcoming presidential and parliamentary elections. They eliminate political opponents in order to facilitate theirelectoral victory. This goes against every basic rule of democracy. The EPP-CD Group in the Council of Europe will continue to work hard, unless the basic rules of democracy arere-established in Ukraine, despite the 'veto' of European socialists and liberals. The Parliamentary Assembly is on our side.

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