23rd Oct 2016

EU snubs Ukraine, again

  • Persona non grata: Azarov at a previous meeting in Brussels in 2010 (Photo:

EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy - the Union's highest official in protocol terms - has told Ukraine's prime minister, Mykola Azaraov, he is not welcome in the EU capital.

"Ukraine's prime minister announced that he would come to Brussels, and we said: 'Stay home.' It's a clear signal from our side that Ukraine needs change. Ukraine was a model for democracay in 2004 and should return to that," he told the Euronews TV broadcaster on Wednesday (9 May).

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He added that Kiev's treatment of opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko is "unacceptable" and that Brussels will only sign a political association and trade pact with Ukraine if "they adapt to our values."

Azarov was due in the EU capital on 15 May for an EU-Ukraine co-operation council to discuss the "state of play" on the treaty.

Tymoshenko was one of the leaders of the 2004 Orange Revolution, which unseated Viktor Yanukovych from power over electoral fraud.

He became president again in a free and fair vote in 2010. But he jailed Tymoshenko last year over abuse of office in what the EU called "selective justice." Three more of her former ministers are also behind bars. A fourth one, as well as her husband, have been granted political asylum in the Czech Republic.

Van Rompuy's decision comes despite positive developments in the Tymoshenko case. The 51-year-old politician ended a two-week-long hunger strike this week and has agreed to treatment for back pain in a Ukrainian hospital under the supervision of a German doctor.

The EU began its snub-politics last October when it uninvited Yanukovych from a meeting in Brussels.

Van Rompuy later attended a frosty summit in Kiev in December. But the EU Council president, the European Commission's 27 top officials and several EU countries have in recent days said they will boycott Euro2012 football games in Ukraine. Yanukovych was also forced to cancel a regional summit in Yalta this month after eight EU leaders said they will not go.

For his part, Ukraine's ambassador to the EU, Konstiantin Yelisieiev, is trying to salvage the political and trade deal by crafting a "provisional application" sub-deal so that it can enter into life if EU member states do not ratify it. But if - as Van Rompuy warned - the text goes unsigned, the provisional application idea will die.

Yelisieiev last week in a letter to EU justice commissioner Vivianne Reding, who spearheaded the Euro2012 boycott, said her move was "emotional" and "inappropriate."

Reding in her reply - seen by EUobserver - said: "I cannot, and neither can my colleagues at the European Commission, turn my back on human rights even during a sporting event."

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