MEPs Blast Kiev Over Tymoshenko Verdict

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- In a rare show of unity in the European Parliament, political groups across party lines deplored the conviction of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko as a violation of human rights and an abuse of the judiciary designed to silence Ukraine's leading opposition figure.

Yulia Tymoshenko has considerable support in the EU parliament.

MEPs warned In a resolution adopted yesterday (27 October) that a failure to review Tymoshenko's conviction will jeopardise the prospects of concluding and ratifying an EU-Ukraine association agreement.

A court in Kiev sentenced Tymoshenko on 11 October to seven years in prison for abuse of office in the negotiation of a gas deal with Russia in 2009, when she was prime minister.

According to the verdict, Tymoshenko will not be able to run in a parliamentary election due next year.

Minutes after the verdict, the EU issued strong statements, calling the ruling 'politically motivated' and warning of negative consequences for Kiev's push to sign an association agreement with the EU.

After several days of discrete communication between Brussels and Kiev, EU leaders decided that a milestone visit of President Viktor Yanukovich on 20 October should be 'postponed' until conditions would be more "conducive to making progress" in bilateral relations.

Yanukovich's visit was expected to help wrap up the conclusion of an EU-Ukraine association agreement and a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) with the EU by the end of the year.

The European Parliament resolution urges Ukrainian authorities to ensure that legal proceedings in any appeal of Tymoshenko's conviction or in trials of other members of the former government are fair, transparent and impartial.

MEPs insist that Tymoshenko should be allowed to participate fully in the political process both now and in the forthcoming elections in Ukraine.

MEPs fear that the Tymoshenko trial is at odds with Ukraine’s proclaimed commitment to democracy and European values, and voice concern at signs of decline in democratic freedoms, and the possible use of state institutions for partisan purposes and political revenge.

MEPs also expressed alarm over reports of deteriorating media freedom and pluralism in Ukraine.

Door still open?

However, MEPs leave the door open for the conclusion of a trade agreement and signing the association agreement before the end of the year.

The resolution says that if the Ukrainian authorities provide a concrete plan to resolve the "unacceptable situation" around Tymoshenko, further steps in EU-Ukraine relations would be possible, depending on the implementation of such a plan.

MEPs stated that Yanukovich’s postponed visit to Brussels might have helped achieve progress over technical and political obstacles to initialling an association agreement.

They are urging the Council and Commission to reschedule the meeting so that it takes place before the planned EU-Ukraine Summit in December.

Commission to help legal reform

MEPs also called on the European Commission to support judicial reform in Ukraine by making better use of the EU's capacity-building programme and to consider setting up an advisory group to help the country fall in line with EU legislation, including in the judiciary.

Brussels is concerned over plans by Kiev to introduce new legislation on elections, ahead of the 2012 legislative ballot.

Ukrainian calls to wait for the final conclusions of the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe specialised body in assessing such legislation, were ignored, EurActiv sources said.

The President of the European People's Party (EPP) Wilfried Martens warmly welcomed the resolution.

"The EPP supports the deepening of EU-Ukraine relations as long as the country is stable and democratic and respects the principles of the social market economy, the rule of law, human rights and the protection of minorities and guarantees fundamental rights.

"The EPP recognizes that the Ukrainian authorities have chosen another way, i.e. violating human rights, breaching the European values, abusing of the judiciary for the purpose of the political suppression of opposition politicians, including former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

"The EPP regrets that President Viktor Yanukovych has broken the promise - given to many senior EU leaders and officials, myself included – of proposing a legal solution to decriminalize the articles selectively applied against Tymoshenko that date back to the Soviet times and do not conform to European and UN standards.

"The EPP considers that, under such negative circumstances, no agreement between the EU and Ukraine can be signed and that President Yanukovich bears full responsibility for this blockade and urges President Yanukovich and his party, the Party of the Regions, to immediately end this prejudicial situation," Martens said.

Source: EurActiv