Minister: No EU Deal Before Rada Election

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine must hold free and fair parliamentary elections in October as a condition for signing a comprehensive political and trade deal with the European Union, Economy Minister Petro Poroshenko said Wednesday.

Petro Poroshenko

The deal - the most comprehensive agreement Brussels has ever prepared with a third country - was initialed on March 30.

Its signing, however, was postponed indefinitely amid complaints that Ukraine’s record with democracy has worsened dramatically under President Viktor Yanukovych over the past year.

“I’m 100% convinced there will be no deal before the elections,” Poroshenko said at a press conference.

“The EU’s consensus position is holding the fair elections, free vote by the people. This is a necessary condition for signing the deal.”

Relations between Ukraine and the EU deteriorated after the jailing of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, 51, to seven years in October 2011 on abuse of power charges.

She claimed the jailing was a vendetta by Yanukovych.

EU leaders have rallied to Tymoshenko's cause, and some have already vowed to skip all Euro-2012 soccer tournament events hosted by Ukraine.

The spat has halted Ukraine's progress toward possible EU membership and nudged it further into Russia's orbit amid attempts by Moscow to build closer economic and military alliances with former Soviet republics.

Yanukovych said repeatedly he took EU concerns over Tymoshenko seriously and rejected the idea that Kiev's relations with the 27-nation bloc could be irreparably harmed.

Foreign ministers of Britain, Sweden, Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic, in a joint letter published by The New York Times in March, said the relations may further deteriorate if the government blocks opposition leaders from running for seats in Parliament.

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy last week that the EU-Ukraine deal may be signed only after Brussels convinced that Kiev respects the rule of law.

"The EU and I personally have given a clear message that we will not be ready to sign that agreement until we are confident that Ukraine is living within the spirit of the political association we have conceived, and that of course means active and visible respect for core EU values such as the rule of law," Van Rompuy told Interfax.

Not only international leaders, but also the people have noticed the Yanukovych government has been facing problems with democracy in Ukraine.

At least 64.4% of Ukrainians are not happy with the level of democracy in the country, compared with 23.1% of those that were happy, according to an opinion poll released Wednesday by Democratic Initiatives and by the Razumkov Center, an independent think tank.

At least 50.9% of respondents said democracy is the best political system for Ukraine, compared with 19.6% of those that believe authoritarian regime would probably be better and 18.3% said it did not matter.

The companies polled 2,009 respondents with the margin of error at 2.3%.

Source: Ukrainian Journal