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

India PM Modi's party distances itself from religious conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote a Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
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.

All About America

AppleAndroid