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European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood
Statement on the Situation in Ukraine, Case of Yulia Tymoshenko
European Parliament Plenary Session
Strasbourg, 22 May 2012
Mr. President, honourable members of the European Parliament
The European Union has expressed its indignation at the use of selective justice in Ukraine on a number of occasions over the last year. The statements from Brussels and from Member States, and the messages passed directly to the authorities in Kyiv, refer not only to the case of Yulia Tymoshenko, but to cases against members of the former government such as Mr Lutsenko and others. Politically-motivated justice is a systemic problem in Ukraine, and it needs a systemic solution in the form of a comprehensive judicial reform.
We have indicated to the Ukrainian authorities that a first step to regaining the confidence would be to ensure an environment conducive to Mrs Tymoshenko’s recovery, whether inside or outside Ukraine. I am glad that President Schulz and Prime Minister Azarov agreed last week that the European Parliament would play an important role in this respect.
Access to independent visitors is especially important if we are to build a clear picture of former Prime Minister´s situation, and in this respect I welcome recent visits, also by Members of the European Parliament.
Most important in terms of the legal rights of Mrs Tymoshenko is that Ukraine’s Court of Cassation should announce its decision on her case at the end of June, and that the European Court of Human Rights can announce its own decision shortly afterwards. This also applies in the case of Mr Lutsenko whose own sentence was recently upheld on appeal. Any future trials should strictly respect the provisions of the new Ukrainian Criminal Procedure Code, and thus provide for equality of arms and rights between defence and prosecution, and operate without pre-trial detention.
Mr President, our concern with selective justice remains strong. Last Tuesday, at the Cooperation Council with Ukraine we clearly set out to Prime Minister Azarov how we believe Ukraine can get back on the road to political association. The political relationship between the European Union and Ukraine will not improve without firm commitments and the effective demonstration that the rule of law and the respect for fundamental values are applied systematically in Ukraine.
We have repeatedly urged our Ukrainian partners that we will not be able to move towards signing our Association Agreement if they cannot show that they live in the spirit of political association. To this end, we expect Ukraine to make visible progress. The recent adoption of a new Criminal Procedure Code in Ukraine was certainly a step forward and it should improve the quality of future prosecutions and trials.
However, Mrs Tymoshenko and other victims of politically-motivated justice have already been sentenced. Action to reform the Criminal Code is needed to get to the heart of this problem.
I welcome the initiative taken by President Schulz to ask Prime Minister Azarov to accept that a personality of high international repute be sent on behalf of the European Parliament to observe the second trial, with full access to judges, lawyers and documents.
The parliamentary elections in October will also be an important test. We will follow both the conditions of the electoral campaign and the voting process very closely. It is important that the elections are free and fair beyond doubt if Ukraine wants to fulfil its European aspirations.
I also wish to refer to the European Parliament resolutions which called on the European Commission to support judicial reform in Ukraine. In December last year the Commission signed a financing agreement of €10 million with Ukraine’s Ministry of Justice. It aims to accelerate sustainable justice sector reforms in Ukraine, with a particular focus on criminal justice reforms. We have also recently agreed to engage with Ukraine in an informal dialogue on judiciary reform, with the involvement of the expertise of the Council of Europe.
To summarize, what we expect from Ukraine before we can once again move forward is firstly a concrete strategy to redress the effects of selective justice and prevent it from happening again, second free and fair elections and third the resumption of delayed reforms already agreed in the joint EU-Ukraine “Association Agenda” which has now been in force for two years.
I look forward to hearing your views.
Mr President, honourable Members.
You are all right. The situation that we are facing is very complex.
Let me remind you of the bigger picture. We are talking about the transformation and transition of a country of 50 million people, we are talking about the transformation of Eastern Europe and we are talking about a country, a region, where, not a long time ago – and we all here remember this – a totalitarian regime reigned, the Soviet totalitarian regime to be more precise.
This is not the first region where the European Union has tried to transform and expand the values of democracy and legality. There are others – central Europe, the western Balkans – where, through the policy of enlargement and by using those countries’ vision of sooner or later joining the European Union, this organisation has been successful.
I have no illusions about Ukraine and that part of Europe. I have a vision that sooner or later we will be able to be bold with regard to this region and this country and that we will help in the transformation there. Now, in that transformation, there has been a discussion about geopolitics being on one side and values on the other side. I do not see a contradiction. I think we need to be aware of geopolitics, but we should not play geopolitics. I think we should do everything possible to help Ukraine to transform and that this is in line with the legitimate aspirations of the people. We should be flexible, innovative and creative. We should not see the situation as being black and white.
At the same time there is one thing on which we should never compromise. We should never compromise on our values and our principles because, if we do and if we make these compromises, sooner or later we will face more than challenges – problems – in our own neighbourhood, if not within the European Union. That was my first point.
My second point concerns boycotting the football championship. In the Commission and the Council we have never used the word ‘boycott’. Let me therefore reiterate the position on Euro 2012. As matters now stand, President Barroso has no intention of travelling to the Ukraine or of attending Euro 2012 events in Ukraine. This position is shared by the College, bearing in mind that Commissioners would have been attending in a personal rather than a professional capacity. It is not a boycott and we hope that Euro 2012 will be a great success. This does not affect the matches in Poland, of course. And yes, the Commission is in favour of the fair play which is so closely associated with sport also being associated with politics.
Turning now to the important question about the elections – free and fair elections. The Member States are agreed on the importance of sending as many European Union election observers as possible as part of the OSCE/ODIHR election observation mission. The European Union delegation in Kiev has already started coordinating actions with the European Union Heads of Missions with a view to supporting training of observers or financing exit polls, which played an essential role in the evaluation of previous elections, particularly those in 2004. A European Union delegation has also observed all the relevant meetings of the Central Election Commission. Also in the pipeline are projects in support of media monitoring, analysis of marketing of parties and so on with the Council of Europe – all the projects to reach out to vulnerable voters. That was my third point.
My fourth point is that, for my part, I care about former Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko as a person and I care about her as a politician.
As a person, together with you, I will do my best firstly to ensure that she has access to medical care she feels comfortable with and that treatment begins to address the cause of her illness. Next, I will do everything possible, together with you, to ensure that we have access to her and that she has access to her family and to her lawyers. I will also make sure, together with you, that the Court of Cassation will offer a different picture of justice and the rule of law in Ukraine.
But I also care about her as a politician and my motto here is that, whatever the political responsibility – and there were many she had to deal with when she was Prime Minister – whenever we are talking about political responsibility, the right arena is not a court or prison but an open arena and elections. Whenever there is the possibility of criminal responsibility, or talk of criminal responsibility, beyond any doubt all preconditions need to be in place for the rule of law to deliver and for there to be a fair trial.
I have a fifth and last remark. Yulia Timoshenko herself has asked that her case should not be used as an excuse to slow the association process. We respect that. At the same time, we demand that Ukraine show that it respects the spirit of our new agreement before we can confidently open the way to allow its entry into force.
Thank you very much for your attention.