EU AGREES UKRAINE TRADE DEAL, BUT BLOCKED POLITICALLY

20.10.11


KYIV POST.  BRUSSELS - The European Union's trade chief said on Thursday he had concluded negotiations on a trade pact with Ukraine but it was now up to Kyiv to create the political conditions to allow it to be put into practice. 

The EU has condemned the jailing last week of Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko as politically motivated and said that while it would continue working on the landmark trade pact and a broader deal on closer ties, it will not sign until Kiev shows a commitment to shared values.

EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht told the European Parliament he agreed "on all elements of a final trade deal" with Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister Andriy Klyuev on Wednesday, although some technical aspects still needed fine-tuning.

"Now it's up to the Ukrainian leadership to create the political conditions so this deal can materialise, and I hope this can happen very soon," he said, in a reference to the treatment of Tymoshenko.

"These agreements are not negotiated in a vacuum, they are negotiated in a political context," De Gucht said.

"At this moment in time there is a stumbling block, and it's up to the parties concerned to evacuate that stumbling block."

Klyuev told the parliament Ukraine was working to solve the "political problems".

"These political problems have to be solved in the nearest future. The president of Ukraine together with the parliament are now working on solving the problem in the nearest future," he said.

"We have several ... ways how the problem can be solved and I hope that this problem will be solved in the nearest future and we do not have any obstacle to signing."

Klyuev did not elaborate on how the issue would be resolved and, despite his remarks, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich has indicated he is not ready to bend to pressure over Tymoshenko. On Monday, he denied charges of political meddling in her trial, say he was not going to go "begging" to anyone.

On Wednesday, speaking on national television channel 1, Yanukovich gave little away on how the Tymoshenko case might develop saying: "time will tell". The courts would finally decide on her guilt or innocence, he said.

Tymoshenko's lawyers said she would formally launch an appeal against the verdict and sentence in the coming days.

On the association agreement itself, Yanukovich said Ukraine had received no answer in response to its insistence that the document reflect Ukraine's aspiration to membership.

"There is an impression that we are like poor relations, that we are asking but not being let in," he said. "I don't want this and I do not want the rights of partnership to be violated," he added.

"I said that if we are not ready to sign this agreement today, let's wait until tomorrow or the day after. Let's be patient," he said.

The EU has pressed Kiev to amend the original charge against Tymoshenko to make it an administrative offence rather than a criminal one -- a move that would allow her to go free. But Yanukovich said court decisions had to be respected. 

The EU earlier said it hoped to finalise the deals with Ukraine by the end of the year, but this week called off a meeting scheduled for Thursday with Yanukovich.

Ukraine jailed Tymoshenko last week for seven years after she was found her guilty of abuse of office for negotiating a gas deal with Russia while prime minister. Kiev says the deal forces it to pay more than it can afford for gas.

Ukraine's state security service opened a new criminal case against Tymoshenko last week accusing her of involvement in a "criminal conspiracy" 15 years ago to embezzle state funds through gas purchases from Russia.

 



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