EU OFFICIAL SEES RELEASE OF TYMOSHENKO

16.09.11


KYIV POST.  Today at 19:55 | Reuters

YALTA, Ukraine, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Ukraine has assured the European Union that former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who is on trial on a charge of abuse-of-office, will not be convicted as a felon, a top European Union official said on Friday. 

EU enlargement commissioner Stefan Fule, after meeting President Viktor Yanukovich, said he expected the former Soviet republic to amend its criminal laws to allow Tymoshenko to go free and continue to be active politically.

Tymoshenko has been on trial in Kiev since the end of June accused of exceeding her authority by brokering a gas supply deal with Russia that left the country saddled with paying high prices. She denies the charge and says the trial is a vendetta by a crooked court acting on orders from her rival Yanukovich.

The president, in power since February 2010 when he beat Tymoshenko narrowly in a bitter election, says the courts are simply acting to crack down on corruption and has up to now refused to intervene.

But court proceedings were abruptly adjourned last Monday until Sept. 27 after the United States and the EU, which also see the trial as politically motivated, expressed fresh concern at the trial.

On the sidelines of an international conference in the Crimean resort of Yalta where Yanukovich spoke on Friday, Fule said: "We have been fully assured about his commitment to finding a solution."

Ukraine is pursuing talks with the EU bloc aimed at signing an association agreement which would include creation of a free trade association.

"If the solution is not found, although we are determined to finalise the negotiations, it might be difficult," Fule added. "If the former prime minister is put into prison, the relationship will hardly be the same between the EU and Ukraine."

Tymoshenko would be unable to run for election again if she were convicted of a criminal charge and her supporters say the trial is aimed at neutralising the charismatic politician as an opposition force.

A parliamentary election is scheduled to be held in Ukraine in October 2012.

But Fule said the EU wanted to see Tymoshenko, who is being held in detention during the trial, not only set free but also allowed to run for office.

"The most important point we have talked about is the decriminalisation of that article," he said, referring to a procedure under Ukrainian law under which a person can still run for public office despite having a conviction.

"We would like to see her being fully a part of political life."

Fule said he had not discussed any deadlines with Yanukovich but expected Ukraine to take into account the "political calendar".

Officials from both sides hope to initial the association and free trade agreements in December.

Yalta participants blast Yanukovych for Tymoshenko imprisonment

KYIV POST.  Today at 17:53 | Katya Gorchinskaya

 

YALTA, Ukraine - Despite being in prison, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko made life exceedingly difficult for President Viktor Yanukovych this week. 

Dozens of European and American leaders called, wrote and talked to him about the nation's dismal international prospects if she does not return to active politics very soon.

This point has been hammered into Yanukovych’s head by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and through a joint letter by US State Secretary Hillary Clinton and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. Most recently, the same message was delivered at the Yalta European Strategy forum by a trio of European politicians representing the European Parliament, the European Commission and the European Council.

They said that unless Ukraine can show that it can deliver on daily basis the fundamental rights and freedoms to all its citizens, it can forget both the Deep and Comprehensive Trade Agreement with the European Union and talks about the visa-free agreement.

“There is a feeling in Brussels that if Ukraine does not deliver on those values, if the former prime minister is put in prison based on article in the criminal code which originated deep under communism, the relationship will hardly be the same,” said Stefan Fule, commissioner for EU Enlargement and Neighborhood Policy, after a tough two-hour negotiation session with President Viktor Yanukovych.

Together with Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt and European Parliament Member Elmar Brok, he tried to explain to the president of Ukraine that effective negotiations and figures – although important – are far from enough if the country is serious about its European ambitions. Earlier in the day Yanukovych once again talked about this ambition.

The arrest of Tymoshenko came on Aug. 5 and caused an explosive reaction in the West. The president's administration, however, until recently dismissed Western criticism as an over-reaction of “Tymoshenko's fan club.”

But there are indicators that things might be turning around, and the president's friends have realized the need to find a solution. Yanukovych himself said that the crimes allegedly committed by Tymoshenko fall under the criminal code that was initiated in 1962, and is, of course, outdated.

“Unfortunately, in the last 20 years we have not managed to change it,” he lamented at the YES forum.

The trio of negotiators from Brussels said they had a strong impression that Yanukovych will proceed with decriminalizing article 365 of the criminal code to let Tymoshenko off the legal hook. “We have been given assurances that not only is he aware of the problem, but is actively trying to find solution,” Fule said. He said that the technicalities are up to the Ukrainian side, though.

He said Ukraine is facing a tough “political calendar” to find and implement the solution to the Tymoshenko puzzle. Later this month, the president will once again be grilled by his peers and other politicians at the Eastern Partnership summit in Poland, then at the Ukraine-EU summit in Brussels, where the Deep and Comprehensive Trade Agreement is scheduled to be finalized. 

But keeping the former prime minister in prison is “incompatible with the values that are represented by the agreement,” Fule said.

Bildt, the Swedish foreign minister, is not sure whether Yanukovych has learned from the diplomatic cold shoulders he's been getting. "If you've dug yourselves into a hole, you have to stop digging and start climbing out. I think we're at the stage of stop digging now," Bildt said.

 

 



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