Tuesday

21st Feb 2017

EU parliament chief puts trust in Ukrainian PM

  • Azarov (l) and Schulz - the two men invented the Tymoshenko deal without consulting EU diplomats (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

EU-Ukraine diplomacy reached new heights of confusion during a visit by Prime Minister Mykola Azarov to Brussels on Tuesday (15 May) and Wednesday.

A few days before he came, EU Council chief Herman Van Rompuy had told him on the Euronews TV channel to "stay home." German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a speech to the Bundestag accused his boss, President Viktor Yanukovych, of running a Belarus-type "dictatorship."

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Azarov came anyway.

He held at least six meetings in which he repeated the line that Ukraine's jailing of opposition leaders is in the interest of establishing law and order.

Time and again, he had the line thrown back in his face.

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton told press: "If you have all these international organisations saying that your judicial system is not of the quality it should be then you need to address that."

Socialist MEPs, whose group is supposed to be friends with Azarov's Party of Regions, told him they are "unconvinced" and that Ukraine should free "political prisoners."

Contacts indicate that his meeting with neighbourhood commissioner Stefan Fuele and Danish foreign minister Villy Sovndal at one point saw "serious shouting" and at another point "an awkward five-minute-long silence in which neither side knew what to say each other."

But the 62-year-old Azarov, who sarted his career in the Soviet coal industry in the times of Nikita Khrushchev, went on unfazed.

His tour of the EU capital ended in an impromptu deal with European Parliament chief Martin Schulz.

The two men - after talks described by Schulz as full of "a mutual trust I didn't expect" - decided that parliament will nominate a group of doctors to monitor the health of jailed former leader Yulia Tymoshenko, as well as a "highly-respected personality" to make sure her legal appeal is handled fairly.

The deal took everyone by surprise - it was made up on the spot and neither side knows how it will be implemented in practice. One MEP noted that a team of German doctors is already doing the same thing.

Ukrainian diplomats saw Azarov's visit as a personal mission to end a political stalemate which threatens to freeze EU integration for years, or for good if Russia takes advantage of the opportunity.

Meanwhile, EU institutions are at odds with each other on how to handle Kiev.

Even Ukraine-critical EU diplomats think Van Rompuy went too far with his Euronews insult. Some think that Merkel's jibe was made to win votes after she saw how much positive media coverage German President Joachim Gauck got for boycotting a summit in Yalta.

Ashton on Monday endorsed the European Commission's boycott of the Euro2012 games in Ukraine.

But some of her staff think it will make the EU look silly when it - inevitably - declines to boycott the 2014 winter Olympics in the equally repressive but more powerful Russia.

For her part, Olga Shumylo-Tapiola - an analyst at the Carnegie Europe institute whose work is closely followed by Ashton's advisors - believes the Yanukovych clan is a lost cause.

"The most effective step [to put pressure on Yanukovych] would be to scrutinise the financial and other assets of The Family and oligarchs that are held in EU countries. Cyprus would be the perfect place to start," she wrote in a commentary on Monday.

"Or perhaps the best option will be to let Ukraine drift where it drifts. The EU can only help those states that want to be helped - is Ukraine one of them?" she added.

EU ministers disagree on Ukraine boycott

Poland and Sweden have questioned the value of a sports boycott on Ukraine, but Austria and Belgium back the idea, while others are waiting for new developments.

Rape case shames EU-aspirant Ukraine

A horrific assault on a young woman in Ukraine has highlighted the culture of legal nihilism in a country which says it wants to join the European Union.

Opinion

Ukraine's New Year gas nightmare

Throughout 2011 Ukraine was locked in a dispute with Russia over gas prices. The quarrel is set to escalate in 2012 as Russia squeezes Kyiv to choose deeper integration with Moscow in exchange for cheaper gas.

Interview

The Armenia-Azerbaijan war: A refugee's story

The lynching of a woman in the Soviet Union in 1988 gives insight into why reconciliation remains so hard in the 30-year long war on Europe's eastern fringe.

News in Brief

  1. Dozens drown off Libyan coast
  2. EU ministers approve anti-tax avoidance directive
  3. Poland rejects EU criticism of court changes
  4. German nationalist leader met with Putin allies in Moscow
  5. German housing market overheated, says Bundesbank
  6. France invites three EU leaders for Versailles summit in March
  7. Greece agrees on new bailout reforms
  8. EU commission denies Juncker resignation rumour

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Swedish EnterprisesTechnology and Data Flows - Shaping the Society of Tomorrow
  2. UNICEFNearly 1.4 Million Children at Risk of Death as Famine Looms Across Africa and Yemen
  3. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Fees: Council Reaches Agreement on Wholesale Caps
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Help Startups Access US Market
  5. Centre Maurits CoppietersMinorities and Migrations
  6. Salzburg Global SeminarThe Child in the City: Health, Parks and Play
  7. UNICEFNumber of Ukrainian Children Needing Aid Nearly Doubles to 1 Million Over the Past Year
  8. Centre Maurits CoppietersThe Situation of Refugee Women in Europe
  9. Salzburg Global SeminarToward a Shared Culture of Health: Charting the Patient-Clinician Relationship
  10. European Free AllianceAustria Should Preserve & Promote Bilingual and Multinational Carinthia
  11. Martens CentreShow Your Love for Democracy! Take Part in Our Contest: "If It's Broken, Let's Fix It"
  12. CISPECloud Computing Leaders Establish Data Protection Standards to Protect Customer Data

Latest News

  1. Should Europeans spend more on defence?
  2. Dieselgate: EU disappointed with VW's treatment of customers
  3. French police raid Le Pen's party office
  4. The Armenia-Azerbaijan war: A refugee's story
  5. Greece and creditors break bailout deadlock
  6. Internal EU report exposes Libya turmoil
  7. EU commissioner condemns 'delay' in post-Dieselgate reform
  8. Sweden fights back as foreign leaders make up bad news