EU-Ukraine relations

At the end of past week former Ukrainian premier Yulia Tymoshenko went on the trial. She is accused of abusing power while signing the 2009 gas agreements with Russia and can be sentenced for 7-10 years of imprisonment.

This is one of the two intriguing processes, each of that to have substantial consequences for the future EU-Ukraine relations. The second one is the negotiations on the Association Agreement (AA) and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA), scheduled to finish this year.

EU demonstrates a large desire to complete these negotiations. So large, that forgives so far many assaults of the Ukrainian authority, namely permanent suppression of democracy and disrespect of human rights. EU is still tolerating it despite of own declarations about incompatibility of undemocratic development and conclusion of the Association Agreement.

But Mrs Tymoshenko trial is a special case. Different EU institutions and speakers repeatedly implied or directly stressed on politically motivated character of the criminal prosecution against her (and it’s, certainly, true). Thus for the EU Mrs Tymoshenko’s imprisonment will mean appearance of political prisoners in Ukraine. For comparison – the same situation in Belarus consequenced hard EU sunctions.

Unofficially EU diplomats tell that Mrs Tymoshenko’s imprisonment would definitely freeze the negotiations on AA and DCFTA. It’s understandable: otherwise how EU will explaine that it signs AA with the state, whose authority jailes its political opponents? And what about new principle of the recently revised European Neighbourhood Policy – “more for more” (not more for less, indeed!)?

So looks that Mrs Tymoshenko’s imprisonment will leave no chance for the EU. Its exciting game with President Yanukovich and his regime will be over.

But what about him? At least, unlike the EU Ukrainian President has two possible ways – true, both are not so good for him. While the imprisonment of Mrs Tymoshenko will mean very unpleasant and undesirable problems with Europe (as well as with US), her justification would underline political nature of the prosecution and would give substantial political dividends for this most powerful political opponent of the regime.

But there is one more side of the situation. Actually possible freezing of the EU-Ukraine relations would be very desirable for a wide part of the Ukrainian establishment. For those who have huge advantage from the corruption, politically dependent judiciary, controlled media etc, who want to see Ukraine in Russia’s sphere of influence and build it according to Russian model. Indeed those people do not need pro-European reforms and transformations, free trade and true democracy. Therefore for them Tymoshenko’s imprisonment would be double winning – it would mean disappearance of main political enemy and would quarantee the conservation of the present status quo in the internal Ukraine’s development.

In any case the final decision will be for President Yanukovich. The situation is a crucial test for the frankness of his pro-European declarations.

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