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Crucial for Vilnius summit vote in Ukraine's parliament about to fail

November 21, 2013, 11:00 UTC+3 KIEV
Parliamentarians have only two bills to pass under the second reading
1 pages in this article
© EPA/SERGEY DOLZHENKO

KIEV, November 21. /ITAR-TASS/. The Ukrainian parliament is to draw a line on Thursday under outstanding problems, which once settled will pave the way for signing of the Association Agreement with the European Union at the summit in Vilnius on November 28-29. Meanwhile, according to representatives of different political forces, the voting for bills needed for the signing is on the verge of failure.

Parliamentarians have only two bills to pass under the second reading — on the prosecutor’s office and on the election legislation, which the opposition may support if the ruling Party of Regions votes for the bill on medical treatment of convicts abroad. This law would enable former prime minister and opposition leader Yulia Timoshenko to go to Germany for medical treatment, as the EU seeks.

Timoshenko issue

However, the Party of Regions says it is not ready to vote for any of the offered bills on medical treatment of convicts abroad. “At present, there is no law we could vote for,” the leader of the party’s faction, Alexander Yefremov, said. European leaders and the Ukrainian opposition say in response that the Association Agreement will not be signed without the settlement of the “Timoshenko issue”. Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite believes that the refusal to sign the agreement at the Eastern Partnership summit may lead “to a long pause in relations between Ukraine and the EU.” According to her, there are no guarantees that this document could become a reality “in a year or two”.

Actually, Ukrainian parliamentarians stalled the settlement of the “Timoshenko issue” much earlier. At first they were not coming up with any legislative initiatives at all, and then several bills appeared at the same time, dividing the parliament into two warring camps. Then a decision came to set up a task group that would draw up a common document that would suit all.

Either way yes

Meanwhile, many experts tend to believe that Europe will sign the agreement with Ukraine in any case. According to the head of the Grigory Skovoroda Analytical Group, Valery Kucheruk, European leaders for whom association with Ukraine is no less important than for Kiev itself, now regret that the signing was so tightly linked with the “Timoshenko factor”. Kucheruk notes that “there were so many words said in Europe about a need to set free Timoshenko for the success of the Vilnius summit, that nobody will understand if they go back on them”. “I suspect that at the moment leaders of many European countries for which this association is no less important than for Ukraine, are kicking themselves” for linking one with another so strongly.

However, “prior to the summit in Vilnius the pragmatic part of European leaders will convince their colleagues of a need to sign the agreement,” he believes.

Head of the Centre for Foreign Policy Studies, Sergei Parkhomenko, echoes him. “Only the ‘Timoshenko issue’ is the key one indeed. But even if the voting on the bill on medical treatment of inmates abroad fails, the chance that the Association Agreement will be signed is high,” he believes.

Most likely, the ruling party has the same hopes. According to its member Vladislav Lukyanov, “the settlement of the ‘Timoshenko issue’ with her going abroad for medical treatment is fraught with the violation of status-quo, that the current opposition has, and it is not interested in letting out the former prime minister, while the EU will sign the agreement with Ukraine at the end of November even if she will stay in prison in the future”. “The agreement is a much more important matter, and there can be no comparison with the ‘Timoshenko issue’,” Lukyanov said.

Yanukovich game

Political expert Alexei Krasnoperov, for his part, believes President Viktor Yanukovich is playing a game, the task of which is “to maximally stall the process so that to have Yulia Timoshenko behind the bars at the moment of the Vilnius summit”. “After the summit, if the Association Agreement is signed, its ratification by the parliaments of 27 EU countries - compulsory for the document to go into legal force - may continue for as long as a year-and-a-half, until the next presidential election in Ukraine. Meanwhile, Timoshenko will stay in prison. Thus, Yanukovich will kill two birds with one stone - acting as supporter of EU integration and at the same time leaving his contender in prison without a possibility to carry out political activity and all the more participate in the presidential election,” he said.

Thus, by all appearances the Vilnius summit still has chances to become an historic one for Ukraine.

EU anxious to see Ukraine stepping towards integration

Stefan Fule, the European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy, said EU was anxious to see Ukraine make a resolute step towards integration in Europe.

Fule said he praised the considerable progress that Ukraine had made in the field of integration over the previous few months and he was inspired by President Viktor Yanukovich’s and parliament Speaker Vladimir Rybak to pass a package of key facilitating laws in cooperation with all the parliamentary factions at a session of the Verkhovna Rada November 21. The package includes a law on parliamentary elections, a new law on the Prosecutor General’s Office, and a new law on medical treatment of convicts abroad. Fule gave the assurances that the EU’s commitment to the idea of taking relations with Ukraine to a new dimension is irrevocable.

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