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TALLINN, October 12 (Itar-Tass) —— Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves cancelled a meeting with visiting Ukrainian Foreign Minister Konstantin Grishchenko scheduled for Wednesday, October 12.
“The meeting did not take place because of changes ain the president’s work schedule,” Ilves’ public relations adviser Toomas Sildam said.
He said the president was worried by the absence of “confidence [in the European Union] that Ukraine has a independent judicial system”.
“The president believes that if Ukraine veers off the path of democracy and rule-of-law state, this would become a big loss for Europe,” the adviser said.
Experts say that the actual reason for the cancellation of the meeting could be Grishchenko’s assessment of the verdict in the case of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko.
Grishchenko believes that Timoshenko was brought to account not for political reasons, but for activities against the interests of the state. “A prime minister cannot and has no right to make such solutions alone. The gas contracts made under her leadership were, to put it mildly, not in favour of Ukraine,” he said.
Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet agreed that talks on Ukraine’s association agreement with the European Union should not be suspended, but did not rule out that “the verdict [to Timoshenko] can affect the ratification of the agreement by the EU members”.
“The verdict in the Timoshenko case is very regrettable. It shows that reforms in Ukraine are not proceeding at the desired pace,” the minister said.
The entry into force of the agreement between the European Union and Ukraine on association and a free trade zone may be delayed by the Timoshenko case, Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, warned earlier.
She said that the coordination and signing of the agreement would proceed in accordance with the schedule, but the technical stage would be followed by a political one, which includes the approval by the European Union, and this is where complications can arise.
EU ministers confirmed on the sidelines of the meeting that the document would be signed before the end of the year, but its ratification by the national parliaments of the EU member states and by the European Parliament was unlikely to be completed until Ukraine resolves EU human rights concerns, one of which is the Timoshenko case.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Konstantin Grishchenko denied politics behind the Timoshenko criminal case.
“It's very bad when opposition leaders are prosecuted, but this is different - this is a matter of government responsibility,” Grishchenko said at the PACE replying to questions from parliamentarians last week.
“The only instance that can solve all questions is the court,” the minister said.
He assured the PACE that Kiev is more interested in an independent investigation of the Timoshenko case.
“I would not like to make any statements that could be taken as pressure on the court,” he said.
Nevertheless, he admitted, when speaking of the Timoshenko case, that Ukraine needs to carry out a judicial and legal reform, and expressed readiness to cooperate on this issue with the Council of Europe.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich earlier called for integration and further admission of his country to the European Union.
“Our main priority is integration into the European Union,” Yanukovich said.
“We are ready to sign an agreement on association this year. And we want this agreement to mention prospects for Ukraine's admission to the European Union so that it is not a hollow document,” he said.
Ukraine and the EU began negotiations on a new basic agreement in March 2007 and on the creation of a free trade zone in February 2008. In September 2008, Ukraine and the EU agreed to sign a new reinforced agreement on the principles of Ukraine's association, which would include the creation of a free trade zone.
Yanukovich said EU membership “is not a goal in itself” but a means of modernising Ukraine. “We want to integrate Ukraine into Europe,” he said, adding that this process should be bilateral.
The president called for signing an agreement with the EU on associated membership, noting the work on the document had been in progress for a long time.
He stressed that it was important to confirm prospects for Ukraine's EU membership, not to determine a specific date for admission.
Yanukovich also said that his country would implement the action plan for visa-free travel with the European Union by the end of 2011.
He admitted, though, that it would be hard to do that. “The action plan will require Ukraine to carry out reforms. This is going to be a thorny path, but we are determined to finish it in 2011,” he said.
“The document will set forth clear terms for Ukraine that have to be met for compliance, and we hope that we will be able to do so and the ball will be in the European court,” the president said.