Thursday

26th May 2022

EU to Yanukovych: You are taking Ukraine 'nowhere'

Lithuanian and German leaders have rebuked Ukraine's Viktor Yanukovych over his u-turn on EU integration.

Speaking to press on Friday (28 November) after a dinner with Yanukovych at a summit in Vilnius on Thursday, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said the "status quo was not changed … [he] is not ready to go further on integration with the European Union at this stage."

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  • Van Rompuy (l) and Yanukovych: EU officials rejected his idea on a three-way trade group with Russia (Photo: eu2013.lt)

Asked if she is disappointed, she added: "Me? No. I think it's the Ukrainian people who should be disappointed … I think today's Ukrainian leadership has chosen a way which is going nowhere."

Germany's Angela Merkel told Yanukovych on Thursday: "We expected more."

Her brief encounter with the stony-faced Ukrainian chief was captured in a video published by Lithuania on YouTube.

In the same footage, he said: "The economic situation in Ukraine is very hard … and we have big difficulties with Moscow."

He added: "I would like you to hear me. I have been alone for three and a half years in very unequal conditions with Russia ... one to one."

Meanwhile, top EU officials Jose Manuel Barroso and Herman Van Rompuy rejected his proposal to create a trilateral trade committee with the EU and Russia.

Barroso, also in the YouTube clip, is heard telling Yanukovych there is no substitute for the EU association and free trade pact which he refused to sign.

"It will not be credible, an agreement of a working group," the European Commission President said.

The EU has said the association pact can still be signed at an EU-Ukraine summit early next year.

It has also hinted it might give Yanukovych more financial assistance if he changes his mind.

But few believe he will do it before elections in February 2015, because pro-EU concessions and a likely Russian backlash would make it harder for him to retain power.

Speaking to the Financial Times on Thursday, Grybauskaite, who currently chairs the EU presidency, had little sympathy for Yanukovych's talk of Russian pressure.

Recalling Lithuania's path to EU membership, she said: "It is not about pressures, and tools of pressure, it is about [whether] a country … is willing to accept and react to the pressure."

She added: "Lithuania for 20 years was receiving such kind of pressures [from Russia] … Even an economic blockade at the beginning of the 1990s for eight months, [when] we had no heat, no hot water, during the winter."

The first day of the Vilnius summit saw one positive development.

Ukraine agreed to a "common aviation area" with the Union, which will lead to cheap flights between European and Ukrainian cities from mid-2015.

Georgia and Moldova, which are also facing Russian threats, are to initial association pacts with the Union.

Azerbaijan is to sign an agreement on EU visa facilitation.

But plans for a "Strategic Modernisation Partnership" are on hold because Baku is unwilling to make promises on human rights.

Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius said on Thursday "Moldova has made the largest progress among the Eastern Partnership countries."

In contrast to Ukraine's path to "nowhere," he added: "We fully support Moldova's aspirations to integrate in the European Union. This is Moldova’s path to progress and success."

Meanwhile, the British ambassador to Ukraine, Simon Smith, wrote in his blog on Wednesday that Yanukovych's decision was "an egregious piece of cynicism."

The UK is one of the only large EU countries which supports Ukraine's future EU accession.

But British Prime Minister David Cameron, who is battling for right wing votes at home, said his main message to former Soviet leaders is that their people are not welcome in the UK.

"I've arrived in Vilnius, Lithuania, where I will be speaking to European leaders about clamping down on abuse of EU immigration rules," he tweeted.

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