Interestingly, whilst the EU Foreign Ministers met in Poland to discuss various issues, and obviously most heavily reported way comments on Libya and Syria, Ukraine was also mentioned.
It was of course mentioned in the context of the trial of Ms Tymoshenko and others for alleged misdeeds whilst in power and subsequent claims of political persecution.
The Rt Hon William Hague (yes that would be my Foreign Minister) stated “I think there is increasing anxiety around Europe about what is happening in Ukraine.” He went on to say “It is very important that the authorities in the Ukraine understand that there is concern among European countries about that will be increasingly strongly voiced.”
To be quite honest, I am fairly sure the authorities are more than aware of the concerns of Europe over this issue. I am quite sure EU (and other) Ambassadors have been banging that same drum for many months very consistently. The problem is nobody on either side wants to pull away from the DCFTA or AA so close to negotiations ending and documents initialing pending ratification by individual EU Member States. Both side are more than aware that to do so will be a resounding failure for both of them equally. Ukraine is the “flagship” DCFTA for the Eastern Partnership and will set the tone and benchmark for others to follow along similar paths (Moldova, Georgia and Belarus).
Nobody, including Ms Tymoshenko wants this to be derailed and thus there is no realistic threat of talks being abruptly halted or failing to conclude.
As I wrote a while ago, only when the negotiations are concluded and the agreements initialed is does this become a stick in the arsenal of the EU when it comes to speedy or incredibly slow ratification by Member States. Only at this point, when the Ukrainian leadership having employed such political capital into the DCFTA, will the EU be able to use it as a lever over cases like that of Tymoshenko.
The problem, as far as Tymoshenko is concerned, is that whilst the current court case over the gas deal with Russia does seem politically motivated, bad judgment is not really a criminal matter and thus far I am unconvinced she did misuse her office when signing the current agreement with Russia. Admittedly it is not a very good agreement.
Other investigations against her however may well have far more legitimacy than the current case, in particular the case of the AAUs.
As the EU is continually riding EU members Bulgaria and Romania to deal with past leaders and criminal acts and nefarious incidents, a carte blanch unofficial EU diktat to Ukraine stating past leaders should not be investigated or tried would be more than a little duplicitous not only from the point of view of Ukraine but also EU members Bulgaria and Romania.
This point does not seem lost on the French. ”The majority view (in the EU) is that the agreement can be finalised only if the Tymoshenko case is solved,” French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said. “It means having a free and fair trial and abandoning the unjustified charges against her.”
In other words, try her only for the matters which can be justified and not for apparent exceptionally poor judgment. He is quite right. A crime is a crime, misuse of office is misuse of office, corruption is corruption but poor judgment is just that – poor judgment – and therefore bound to be perceived as political persecution rather than justified investigation.
In a clear desire to complete the DCFTA and AA negotiations, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said “And if they continue with show trials of that sort, and it’s not only Yulia Tymoshenko’s case, I think the chances for an agreement being ratified are fairly slim.”
Thus there is next to nothing that will derail the completion and initialing of the agreements, only delay the ratification.
The issue is however, there is a particularly keen suitor in Russia who will happily welcome Ukraine into its orbit and trading clubs regardless of the fate of Tymoshenko and Co. Another major Ukrainian economic partner in Turkey also seems to have moved away from the EU recently. Whilst it would take a fast and radical changing of the chess pieces, Ukraine could quite swiftly enter free trade agreements with Russia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Iran, China and several other Asian and North African nations with high demand for Ukrainian exports rather swiftly with whom it has and has always had good relations.
Nations bordering Ukraine such as Poland would not particularly welcome such a prospect and thus the Polish, currently holding the EU Presidency stated at the EU Foreign Ministers meeting “We are determined to finalise the talks by the end of December.”
The EU problem is that it as yet does not have the DCFTA and AA stick to beat Ukraine with and dare not lose the geopolitical battle to Russia over Ukraine. Ukraine has many suitors not only the obvious one in Russia. If the EU Member States dally too long with the ratification process, regardless of whether the issues with Ms Tymoshenko are resolved to EU liking or not, it may find itself left at the alter whilst the Ukrainian bride gets carried of into the sunset by another suitor holding a handful of carrots, that is far quicker and less sensitive to the internal matters of Ukraine.
As everything is connected even when it seems it isn’t, that would have major implications for migration, as Ukraine is a buffer State for the EU Members and may then take far less interest in protecting the EU borders on their behalf, organised crime, arms sales, terrorism, asylum, R&D, space exploration, raw materials (which Ukraine has in abundance) and agricultural produce.
With the EU star fading fast in the night sky due to a myriad of internal structural issues, no grand plan that is easily identifiable on the world stage, and more than a little dissatisfaction with its unaccountable unelected structures by the citizens within the block, a major geopolitical defeat or worse still, being shunned by Ukraine due to dallying over ratification would not look good.
In short, is it particularly wise to start waving sticks at Ukraine the EU does not yet hold?