Before I get going, let me say that whether Ms Tymoshenko is released or not, this post is not intended to belittle or enhance the case for or against her recent brush with the judicial system.
As much as the current government of Ukraine is being criticised for selective application of the law, and a Soviet relic of a law at that, the law is the law and no government in 20 years of independence has bothered to repeal it or decriminalise it, including the government of Ms Tymoshenko herself.
There are also things to be said about the selective non-application of the law. Should GW Bush visit Canada shortly as is rumoured, will he be arrested for torture (water-boarding and enhanced interrogation techniques) under both international and Canadian law which would allow for his arrest and prosecution in Canada. Will that law be applied or selectively not applied?
Rather than looking globally and returning to Europe, the continent where Ukraine and the EU sit, and the two main protagonists over the Tymoshenko case, be they siding with either rule of law in action (which technically it is) or politically expedient application of the law (which it quite possibly is), there has been little mention of other selected application or non-application of the law for political ends on the continent.
I am not just referring to the basket case that is Belarus when it comes to political persecution (or not).
Within the EU, Bulgaria and Romania are both under pressure from the EU to apply the rule of law to previous leaders as the links show. In fact the EU is quite frustrated by both Bulgaria and Romania not going after the previous leaderships and deliberately (and politically) dragging out investigations in the hope of statue barring judicial hearing via the passage of time.
So frustrated is the EU it has set up a monitoring committee over two of its own members relating to the selective lack of applying the law.
But it does not end there. EU Member State Hungary, in very similar circumstances to the current Ukrainian leadership, is looking at prosecuting not one but three previous Prime Ministers relating to their mismanagement of the economy. Surely an absolute mirror of the Tymoshenko case, finite detail not withstanding. It is still past political decisions being held to account by the judicial system for political ends of the current Hungarian leadership just as Ukraine is being accused of.
I know, surprise surprise, so far they are all ex-Communist States but Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary are all full EU Member States and thus are deemed to have met the Copenhagen Criteria.
But it is not just the ex-Communist States, EU prospect Iceland, despite a very active and effective democracy and engaged civil society, are about to use the courts to prosecute its previous Prime Minister, not for anything he did during the financial crisis that subsequently crippled Iceland, but they are prosecuting him for not doing anything at all about the financial crisis.
Iceland are prosecuting an Ex-Prime Minister for his political inaction rather than political actions.
Fortunately or unfortunately, depending upon your point of view, the current Ukrainian authorities seem to have very little clue about similar actions to their own happening all around them in Europe. They came up with the worst possible justification, using the French prosecution of an Ex-President for corruption when he was Mayor of Paris decades ago, as some form of justification for the case for which she has just been found guilty.
They would be far better citing the French case to attempt to justify the most recent charges against Tymoshenko when in charge of United Energy.
Even more fortunate is that the Ukrainian public seem unaware of the issues in Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Iceland and are under the impression from a constant foreign media barrage that Ukraine is the only pariah on the continent of Europe (less the basket case of Belarus) who employ such methods to deal with past politicians and their decision when in office.
How long it will be before somebody in power wakes up to what is happening around them and uses it publicly to justify what has happened to Tymoshenko we will see. How long the EU can keep the lid on those Member States and potential members doing similar things getting into the Ukrainian media is also debatable.
So is Tymoshenko and her case unique in Europe? – Hardly.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
As an update to yesterday’s post (which I actually wrote on the 17th as what you see today was actually written yesterday as is my method for blogging here), I was right and Mr Yatseniuk was wrong. Ms Tymoshenko was not released and my doubts about Mr Yanukovych’s visit to Brussels also proved to be well founded, The visit was canceled.
Suffice to say, the crystal ball was working rather well.
The crystal ball also tells me that Ukraine will sign a FTA with the CIS nations in St Petersburg very soon before the EU has chance to consider any options to go forward with Ukraine and get past the current impasse. If Ukraine has any sense it will do the same with Turkey fairly swiftly as well.
The current impasse being Ukraine wanting a specific guarantee of EU Membership sometime in the distant future should it meet the Copenhagen Criteria included in the AA literature over and above Article 49. In return nobody would be that surprised to see Ms Tymoshenko win her appeal or the law decriminalised under which she was convicted. The EU is very unwilling to include such a paragraph.
It would appear the EU is about to make the same mistake with Ukraine as it did with Russia in the 1990′s in that it will not ”go for it” comprehensively enough and subsequently then deal with issues like democracy and rule of law. It wants changes before making commitments rather than afterwards. European sensibilities and all that.
Failure to go the whole 9 yards in Russia eventually led to Putinism, having failed to engage enough money, determination and political will, together with a naivety that a genuine pluralistic democracy would emerge after the collapse of communism as a natural consequence.
European sensibilities are about to make the same mistake with Ukraine. By trying to change things to their liking before using guaranteed carrots and painful sticks to encourage change under new agreements, rather than allowing it closer to the fold and then manipulating Ukraine when it actually has something tangible to lose, such as the guarantee of membership in the far distant future should it meet the democratic and rule of law grades.
Taking away the prospect of sweets Ukraine has never had, rather than taking away actual sweets given does not really have the same ramifications in Ukrainian psyche.