• Fuele - Dutch foreign minister Timmermans criticised the tweets on Monday (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

EU commissionner's nerves 'snap' on Ukraine

16.12.13 @ 09:25

  1. By Andrew Rettman
  2. Andrew email

BRUSSELS - The European Commission has abruptly terminated new trade talks with Ukraine 48 hours after they began.

The news came in two tweets from neighbourhood commissioner Stefan Fuele on Sunday (15 December).

He first said: "#Ukraine:Words & deeds of President &government regarding #AssocAgreement further&further apart.Their arguments have no grounds in reality."

He then added: "#Ukraine:told deputy PM #Arbuzov in BXL &after that further discussion is conditioned on clear commitment 2sign.Work on hold,had no answer."

Fuele met with Serhiy Arbuzov in Brussels on Thursday.

At the time, he promised Ukraine more money if it signs an EU trade pact and announced talks on a new "roadmap" for implementing the treaty.

He noted that Ukraine's demands for extra EU funds - which have varied from €10 billion to €160 billion - are "grossly exaggerated," however.

He also urged Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to hold a roundtable with opposition leaders.

The roundtable, on Friday, turned into a farce when the President threatened to prosecute Ukrainian officials who negotiated the original terms of the EU pact.

"His [Fuele's] nerves snapped," an EU diplomat told this website on Monday.

"I think he's realised the Ukrainians are not serious about the treaty and are just buying time," the source noted.

"With Yanukovych threatening a court process against the people who negotiated the text … and with Ukraine's Prime Minister going around talking nonsense, like 'the EU treaty will force Ukraine to legalise gay marriage,' the balance tilted to the other side," the source added.

The Fuele tweets came as a surprise to some EU countries.

EU foreign ministers are to discuss Ukraine at a meeting in Brussels on Monday.

Going into the event, Dutch foreign minister Frans Timmermans said: "There was no reason from the Dutch point of view to suspend talks, so I want to hear from colleagues what is the actual state of play."

He added: "Making policy on the basis of a twitter note by Mr Fuele is perhaps not the best way of approaching this issue."

Meanwhile, Fuele's news came on the morning of another huge rally in Kiev.

Press reports indicate more than 200,000 people attended the protest - the third Sunday in a row of mass-scale pro-EU demonstrations.

They were joined by US senator John McCain, who criticised Russia for its threats to bankrupt Ukraine.

"We ... want to make it clear to Russia and [Russian President] Vladimir Putin that interference in the affairs of Ukraine is not acceptable to the United States," he told the crowd.

For his part, Yanukovych has hinted he might reshuffle his cabinet to calm the situation.

But he is due to meet Putin in Moscow on Tuesday for the latest in a series of talks on Ukraine's future.

The protesters fear he is getting ready to join Russia's Customs Union instead of the EU option.

They have threatened several times that the situation on the streets will get worse if he does.

"He might as well stay in Moscow and not come back to Kiev if a Customs Union agreement is signed … We'll give him a really warm welcome if he sells out Ukraine," opposition leader Arseny Yatsenyuk told media on Sunday.