News / Europe

EU Urges Yanukovych to Save Ukraine Trade Pact

An Interior Ministry officer walks past a board displaying a portrait of jailed former Ukrainian Prime Minister and opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko at a protest tent camp set up by her supporters in central Kyiv, Nov. 18, 2013.
An Interior Ministry officer walks past a board displaying a portrait of jailed former Ukrainian Prime Minister and opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko at a protest tent camp set up by her supporters in central Kyiv, Nov. 18, 2013.
Reuters
The European Union urged Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych on Monday to intervene personally to end a stand-off over jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko that is threatening to derail a EU-Ukraine trade deal.

With less than two weeks to go before the trade agreement is due to be signed at a summit in Lithuanian capital Vilnius, EU foreign ministers made clear Ukraine had not yet done enough to meet conditions the bloc has laid down.

The fundamental sticking point is over former prime minister Tymoshenko, a fierce opponent of Yanukovych who was jailed in 2011 for seven years for abuse of office. Western governments have described the trial as politically motivated.

EU governments see Tymoshenko's case as symbolic of “selective justice” in Ukraine and want her to be allowed to travel to Germany to be treated for a chronic back ailment. There had also been a push by some EU governments for her to receive a pardon, but Yanukovych is not comfortable with that.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said he wanted Ukraine to look towards Europe and benefit from closer trade ties with the EU, but it also had to meet basic requirements.

“I urgently recommend Ukraine to act ... and not play for time. Time is running out,” he told reporters as he arrived for an EU meeting that was due to discuss Ukraine.

Berlin's offer to allow Tymoshenko to come to Germany for medical treatment remained on the table, he said.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking in the Bundestag lower house of parliament, held out the prospects of financial incentives if Ukraine meets EU demands.

“I will push in Vilnius for the EU to counteract this pressure with concrete opportunities and real solidarity,” Merkel said .

“This could be done by offering additional sales possibilities for products of our partner that cannot be exported to Russia, or through help in broadening its supplies of energy,” she said.

Historic shift

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, whose country holds the EU presidency, said that for the agreement to be signed Ukraine must enact reforms on elections and the public prosecutor's office and resolve the Tymoshenko question.

“If this is not done, it will not be possible to sign the agreement,” she told reporters in Vilnius.

Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger said Yanukovich had the power to make or break the agreement.

“We all know that President Yanukovych has it in his power to find a solution,” Spindelegger said, adding that he would try to persuade Yanukovych to reach a compromise when he meets him in Vienna on Thursday.

Signing a trade and cooperation deal with the 28-nation EU would mark an historic westwards shift for Ukraine, moving the  former Soviet republic away from Russian influence.

Failure to sign would be a setback for the EU's policy of engagement with ex-Soviet states and for Yanukovych, who has made integration with Europe his main foreign policy goal.

A lack of agreement would please Moscow, which has used trade sanctions and the threat of disruption to energy supplies to dissuade Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and other former Soviet republics from moving closer to the EU. Russia has urged them to join a rival Russian-led customs union instead.

Yanukovych has signaled he would let Tymoshenko go to Germany, but only if she went there as a convicted person, falling short of the pardon some EU governments would like to see. His biggest fear is that she is pardoned and returns to Ukraine to challenge him in elections in 2015.

The Ukrainian parliament failed last Wednesday to agree on a draft law allowing Tymoshenko to go to Germany for treatment but may try again this week, when two EU envoys will return to Ukraine to try to broker a solution.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt accused Yanukovich of indecisiveness. “Everything is in the hands of President Yanukovich. We have a policy. I am not quite certain that he has a policy,” Bildt said.

You May Like

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countriesi
X
December 16, 2014 2:14 PM
Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.
Video

Video Indonesian Province to Expand Sharia Law

Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population and a legal system based on Dutch civil law and Indonesian government regulations. But in a 2001 compromise with separatists, Aceh province in Sumatra island’s north was allowed to implement Sharia law. Since then, religious justice has become increasingly strict. VOA correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh.
Video

Video Some Russian Businesses Thrive in Poor Economy

Capital flight, the fall in oil prices and Western sanctions are pushing Russia's staggering economy into recession. But not companies are suffering. The ruble’s drop in value has benefited exporters as well as businesses targeting increasingly frugal customers. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.

All About America

AppleAndroid