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European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy
EP debate on the situation in Ukraine
European Parliament Plenary session, Strasbourg
13 March 2013
President, Honourable Members,
Recent developments in Ukraine continue to present us with a paradox: On the one hand, the European Union-Ukraine Summit in Brussels just over two weeks ago took place in a constructive atmosphere with unequivocal commitments from President Yanukovych that Ukraine is determined to comply with all three areas specified in the Foreign Affairs Council Conclusions of 10 December 2012 – that is:
• Follow-up actions to remedy shortcomings identified in the conduct of the 28 October parliamentary elections;
• Addressing the issue of selective justice and also preventing its recurrence through comprehensive judiciary reform; and
• Implementation of the reforms defined in our jointly agreed Association Agenda.
If these commitments are fulfilled this would consolidate Ukraine democratically and would enable us to sign the Association Agreement, including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, possibly by the time of the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius in November 2013.
Ukraine is well-aware that we need to see determined action and tangible progress over the time until the Vilnius Summit. This steady process is important as there are a number of milestones between now and the Summit.
Over the recent weeks we have worked intensively with Kyiv at all levels to ensure that there is no gap between our expectations and to help it deliver on the steps required to get us to signature in Vilnius. We have noted some encouraging signals from Kyiv about a more efficient, political steering of the process.
On the other hand, we note that the situation remains difficult. The blockage of the Rada is a rather visual illustration of the stay of play. This is particularly disappointing after the encouraging cross-party Resolution regarding the European agenda. Ukraine needs the authorities to create an environment that is conducive for dialogue as strongly as it needs a constructive opposition that can fully assume its responsibility towards the Ukrainian people.
Meanwhile, there are a number of developments which go contrary to the spirit of the commitments taken at the Summit. I already expressed my deep concerns about the recent legal proceedings on the annulment of parliamentary mandates based on contested or selectively applied legal grounds. I wish to note in particular the situation surrounding Mr Vlasenko. Let me say it openly: as it is important that the work of the Verkhovna Rada is not being blocked, it is also important that this democratic institution works transparently and predictably following the letter and spirit of its own rules.
Recent developments underline once more the urgent need for judicial and electoral reforms in Ukraine. A recent preliminary judgement of the European Court of Human Rights also identified serious systemic problems in the functioning of the Ukrainian judiciary, in particular as regards the separation of powers.
I wish here to particularly commend the efforts of the European Parliament’s mission headed by former Presidents Cox and Kwasniewski. Its determination with respect to addressing the matter of selective justice, notably the cases of Yulia Tymoshenko and Yuriy Lutsenko, is worth high recognition. This mission needs and has all our support as its importance cannot be overstated. It is key that the mission will be in a position next month to report that there has been clear progress. We have underlined this in every single interaction with the Ukrainian authorities in recent weeks and months.
President, Honourable Members,
Let me be very clear: if we want to sign the Association Agreement and I am convinced we do, as it is in our shared interest, the way forward for the authorities is not through bringing more and more disturbing news. The time has come for sending some good news in dealing with selective justice. Unless the cases of Yulia Tymoshenko and Yuriy Lutsenko are properly addressed and there is sufficient confidence that there will be no more use of selective justice, we could hardly talk about conditions that are conducive for signing of the Association Agreement.
The European Union must remain committed to the defined policy of sequenced engagement with Ukraine. We have established an unprecedented objective and we hope to be able to achieve it. On its side, Ukraine needs to take action on matters that will bring it closer to the European Union and reverse the recent backsliding.
Yesterday's Presidential decree including the establishment of a high level national coordination to oversee the implementation of the necessary steps as set out in the December Foreign Affairs Council Conclusions, the recent Statement of the Ukrainian Parliament and Regulation of the Cabinet of Ministers on European agenda’s priorities show that there is determination in Kyiv to achieve the objectives. But let me recall what I said before: it is important to ensure throughout the process that there is no gap between our expectations.
I look forward very much to hearing the views of the Honourable Members.