EU-Ukraine relations

Just a few weeks ago, the main intrigue of Mrs. Tymoshenko trial was whether Ukrainian president Yanukovych will decide on her arrest or she would remain on freedom to the end of trial. Frankly, arrest looked improbable, as well as further jailing, including through unanimous position of the European Union, USA and other western democracies. They clear warned Ukrainian authority against such steps and stressed on political nature of the case.

However, it did not stop Mr. Yanukovych. Leader of the biggest opposition party is under arrest and her further jailing seems very likely at present. Consequently, main intrigue is what Europe can do to prevent this?

It did already: there were many statements, declarations and comments. Europe has condemned Mrs. Tymoshenko’s arrest strongly and unanimously. However, it definitely must do much more and much harder – EU has to be interested in “peaceful” end of this trial.

First of all Mrs. Tymoshenko’s jailing will certainly put under question ongoing negotiations on Association Agreement – AA should be an award for the reforms and democracy, not for the imprisonment of political opponents and disposition to the dictatorship. Consequently, crash of the negotiations could lead to freezing EU-Ukraine relations at all with further very possible leeway of Ukraine to Russia’s shores. Doubtless, even so called “friends of Russia” like France or Germany would not like such scenario.

Secondly, Ukraine looks like pilot project of the Eastern Partnership. It is most advanced on the way to Association Agreement, Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Frea, visa liberalization etc. That is why for the EU is very important to run this project successfully, in order it to be an example for the others Eastern partners. Also real influence on democratic development in Ukraine would be one more important evidence of the EU’s “soft power” – a matter of Europe’s particular pride.

Therefore, EU has to find right arguments to convince Mr. Yanukovich do not make fatal mistake. Of course, everyone understands that European integration of Ukraine, democratizations and reforms are not real values for current Ukrainian president and other people ruling in this country. Naturally, for them failure of the association negotiations would not be a catastrophe. However, all these people have huge assets in Europe; they like to spent here vacations, make shopping etc. Therefore, besides its soft power EU definitely could use some “hard” instruments. At least it is right time to explain Ukrainian leaders that further movement to the dictatorship could cost them personal “European integration”.

Of course, choice between prospects of the Association agreement and sanctions looks very unusual. But it is Ukraine.

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