LONDON, October 19 (Itar-Tass) — Kiev has warned the European Union that if the EU refuses to sign the Association Agreement with Ukraine it will turn to Russia, The Wall Street Journal Europe reported on Wednesday.
The current crisis in relations between Ukraine and the European Union emerged in connection with the trial of former Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko and her conviction as a result of which she was sentenced to 7 years in prison. The publication notes that Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, “rejected rising Western pressure to review the conviction of opposition leader Yulia Timoshenko, raising the stakes as he navigates between Ukraine's powerful neighbours, Europe and Russia.”
As a result, the EU leadership cancelled the Thursday’s meetings with Yanukovich, who will make a brief stopover in Brussels on his way to Latin America.
EU President Herman Van Rompuy said that the meeting with Yanukovich would now take place “at a later date when the conditions will be more conducive to making progress on the bilateral relations.”
Simultaneously, the newspaper quoted a European diplomat in Kiev who said the EU had decided to get tough with Mr. Yanukovich and “show it could not accept the way things are developing.”
The EU-Ukraine Association Agreement was planned to be signed this December. According to Kiev, it was to open the prospect for Ukraine’s joining the EU. However, the crisis in relations between Kiev and Brussels in connection with the trial and conviction of Timoshenko called into questioned the schedule for the adoption of this document. Moreover, several EU countries have already made it clear that their national parliaments would not ratify the agreement, until Timoshenko is released.
Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal Europe reported on Wednesday that “officials in Kiev have warned that Ukraine could turn to Russia for support if the EU deal falls through.”
Earlier, Yanukovich called the country’s former Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko “a criminal” whose case should not become an obstacle on the path of his country’s European integration. At the same time he made it clear that, despite the rejection by Russia, the United States and the EU of the fact that Timoshenko was sentenced to 7 years in prison, there will be no rapid settlement of the crisis. He noted that the ex-prime minister’s lawyers still have the opportunity to file an appeal against the court’s ruling.
“You know, there’s an old song called “Do not hurry.” “So do not rush. This process is still ongoing. I agree with those European politicians who believe that Timoshenko’s criminal acts must be separated from the process of European integration of Ukraine,” Yanukovich said. “I am not a prophet,” he continued. “I cannot make forecasts as to what is right and what is not. I can only say that we are currently involved in the process. Any opinion can be expressed, and it deserves respect. But we would like to be treated in the same way, because very often we have the impression that other people do not want to hear what we have to say.”
The Ukrainian president recalled that the case against Timoshenko had been opened in 2009, that is, before he became the head of state.
“Had Timoshenko been seeking for a compromise, then she would explain to the Ukrainian people why she broke the law. She could say whatever she wanted. She could say “I made a mistake” and that did not want to bring any harm to the country, but she never said this. She accused all, she said that all around are to blame for the fact that Ukraine pays for natural gas transportation more than any European country. She accused President (Viktor) Yushchenko, and now she blames Yanukovich,” he said.
The president also said that currently there is no question whether somebody likes or dislikes the Ukrainian court’s decision. “Such is the force of law. If the court has made a decision, whatever it may be, we must respect it,” he said.
“There are politicians who are well aware that the agreement on cooperation (with the EU) should not be mixed with the Timoshenko case. All that Ukraine is currently doing for reforms is a means of moving towards European standards,” Yanukovich stressed.
In May 2010, President Viktor Yanukovich promised to adopt in June 2010 the legislation necessary for creating a free trade zone between Ukraine and the European Union. Yanukovich expected visas between Ukraine and EU member states to be abolished and that a free trade zone will be created by March 2011.
The current Azarov government continues to pursue EU-integration. During May and June 2010 both Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Konstantin Grishchenko stated that integration into Europe has been and remains the priority of domestic and foreign policy of Ukraine. The policies of the Azarov Government do not exclude EU integration, the EU Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Fule stated on May 12, 2010.
“An action plan for Ukraine toward the establishment of a visa-free regime for short-stay travel” between the European Council and Ukraine was agreed on November 22, 2010. This roadmap requests major improvements in Ukrainian border control, migration and asylum policies.