Archive for May 10th, 2012

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Ukraine told to stay away from EC meeting 14/15 May

May 10, 2012

Well, I had a little mental note to look out for some aggressive, robust and chastening press releases following the EU meeting of the European Council (the council of EU Foreign Ministers) that meets on 14/15th May in Brussels as I had heard a whisper from within the bowels of Brussels that Ukraine would be on the agenda.

In the current political situation, the prevailing winds from the EU blowing in the direction of Ukraine are bitterly cold.  Thus thought I, some interesting press releases to follow said meeting.

Now, it has become public knowledge that Ukrainian Prime Minster Azarov had intended to attend but has been told in no uncertain terms, he will not be welcome.

Herman Van Rumpoy, the European Council President is quoted as saying “When the Prime Minister of Ukraine announced he would come to Brussels, we said “Stay home!”  It is a clear message from our side that they have to change inside Ukraine.  Ukraine was a model democracy in 2004 and it has to become that once again.

The way Ukraine is dealing with the former Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, is just unacceptable.  We have said this very, very clearly to President Yanukovych.

When once the Ukrainian Prime Minister announced intention to visit Brussels, we told him “Don’t come, stay at home.” 

About time too, if that is the strategy the EU now intends to take with regards to Ukrainian political figures in the political arena.  That said, I still have my doubts about the effectiveness of a political leadership boycott of Euro 2012 when considering the EU’s EaP strategy of direct contact with society rather than via political channels.

I am still of the opinion that being present on Ukrainian soil and speaking live on Ukrainian television, Ukrainian radio, to the media and directly with the Ukrainian people, a robust and prickly continuing set of statements will have a far bigger influence on the Ukrainian public than simply staying away and shouting a message over an EU border than many struggle to get Visas to cross.

The entire concept of not tyeing the Visa-free road map to national politics was and is to facilitate people to people contact, and thus through the masses, encourage change to match the standards within the EU they would experience.

The entire strategy of the EU EaP putting the Ukrainian politicians (governing and opposition) to one side and engaging directly with Ukrainian civil society was to encourage exactly the same without political interference from the political elite of any persuasion.

Does shrinking from directly engaging with the Ukrainian public on Ukrainian soil do anything to reinforce that message to Ukrainian society?

I am far more convinced by the strategy of shunning top level political meetings with the current administration.  Of course back-door diplomacy will continue at a high level but those things are done behind closed doors by those tasked to do so within the diplomatic (and not political) circles.

The problem here is that Yanukovych doesn’t have that many legal options to release Tymoshenko and maintain his line that he has had no personal involvement in her case in the present circumstances.  An overtly illegal action to release her would be a disaster for him and any which way things play out in the future almost all bode badly for him as well.

The most politically mitigating solution for him is a favourable result for Ms Tymoshenko via the ECfHR, which has seemingly been fast-tracked on a very slow train by the Council of Europe.  Enforcing their ruling as and when it eventually comes, is almost a get out of jail free card for him, although it still does not avert his nearly certain political demise (or revenge from Ms Tymoshenko that will very probably come if she returns to power).

Nevertheless, an interesting statement to the press from Mr Von Rumpoy on the day that Ms Tymshenko ended her hunger strike and agreed to be treated in a Kharkiv clinic by the German doctors.

Will all this political pressure building on the current Ukrainian government and president work?  I doubt it (but hope to be surprised).

The truly sad fact for Ukraine is that whenever Ms Tymosehnko is released, should she even return to power, when you strip away the veneer, Ukrainians are very unlikely to be any better off once the dust of EU victorious euphoria settles down.

As one diplomat from an EU nation told me, after she had been jailed and the EU publicly rallied to her cause, (and I now invoke the Chatham House Rule) “Ms Tymoshenko is not the champion of democracy she claims to be.”    To be honest, hardly breaking news to many in Ukraine, however, it is not her specifically that matters but the perception of the due process her jailing has left.

Also, to be fair to Ms Tymoshenko, it may also be that having gone to trial, then to jail and currently remaining in jail, Ms Tymoshenko may have changed.  She has certainly been reading a lot of the writings of the late (and great)Vaclav Havel.  (To the point of almost plagerising him on occasion.)  Maybe democracy will have taken root with her?

That said, I have read Marx, Mein Kampf, Lenin, Nietzsche, (as well as many others) and the idea of Communism and fascism or any radical “ism” never really took hold with me.  As a very famous Greek chap called Aristotle stated  “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it”.  We can but hope that should Ms Tymoshenko ever return to power, she will do more than entertain the true concepts of democracy and the pillars upon which it is built.

Anyway, let’s see what particularly prickly statements come from the European Council meetings on 14/15th May towards Ukraine.  I anticipate some rather barbed language.  In the meantime, senior Ukrainian politicians would seem to be person non grata in Brussels – particularly when Ukraine is on the agenda.

(One wonders if the same unofficial  person non grata status applies to ex-President Yushenko who actually started the criminal proceedings into Ms Tymoshenko over the gas contracts and misuse of office investigation prior to his leaving office?)

Let’s see how well this strategy works on Kyiv, and what, when, how and if, any Ukrainian retaliation is forthcoming.

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