E.U. and Germany Denounce Ukrainian "Selective Justice;" Insist EU Trade Deal Be Linked to Timoshenko Release

July 4, 2013
Anthony T. Salvia
Director, American Institute in Ukraine

The communiqué released by the European Union on the E.U.-Ukraine Cooperation Council confab that took place on June 24th in Luxembourg employed diplomatic circumlocution to tell Kiev, that signature of the Association Agreement and related free trade pact is no foregone conclusion. It also employed understatement.

It said the “signature and implementation of the [Association] Agreement would represent a leap in E.U.-Ukraine relations.” With Ukraine agreeing to expose its industry to European competition (albeit with a phase-in period of ten years), and with no evident European need for, or interest in anything Ukraine produces, (except agriculture, but European producers are heavily protected by the Common Agricultural Policy), that statement could have been amended to say a “leap in the dark.”

On July 1st, Croatia joined the E.U. (though not the currency union) as a full member, and already Croatians are grousing about pressure from Brussels to end subsidies to certain key industries, such as shipbuilding. Brussels expects Zagreb to sacrifice domestic enterprises to the requirements of maintaining a semblance of parity with the euro. Some are questioning the impact on Croatia’s vital but still nascent democracy of transferring sovereignty over large swathes of economic policy-making from Zagreb to Brussels.

Stratfor.com notes that ten years ago, when Zagreb first embarked on its path to E.U. membership, Croatians expected euro-integration to be transformative for the national economy, but many have since grown wary of their country’s prospects under the infinitely remote and unaccountable Brussels technocracy. They also note stubborn recession and undiminished corruption in such recent E.U. members as Bulgaria and Romania.

In any case, the Luxembourg declaration sounds a cautionary note on Kiev’s oft-expressed expectation of signing the Association Agreement in November in Vilnius:

“Re-enforced efforts by Ukraine to demonstrate determined action and achieve tangible progress on all benchmarks will be critical for preparing for the assessment and comprehensive debate by the Foreign Affairs Council in early autumn on the possible signing of the Agreement.”

In other words, as far as Brussels in concerned, a signing ceremony in November in Vilnius is no means a foregone conclusion. European standards must be met, and met by “early autumn” – which could mean September.

Will Kiev undertake these “re-enforced efforts”? Will Brussels deem them sufficient? It remains to be seen.

Recent statements by German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle in talks with President Yanukovich in Kiev give a possible clue as to the likely denouement of the protracted Timoshenko/Association Agreement drama:

Westerwelle denounced Ukraine’s practice of what he called “selective justice,” and called on Kiev to resolve the Timoshenko affair if it is to retain any hope of attaining associate status. To this end, he urged Yanukovich to let Mrs. Timoshenko travel to Germany for medical treatment.

Thus, Germany appears to be saying to the president: “We are offering you a face-saving option to let her go. But if you don’t take it, don’t count on Europe signing the agreement.”

Support for Berlin’s position is coming from an unexpected quarter – Warsaw.

Many Poles and other citizens of Eastern Partnership countries fear Mrs. Timoshenko’s continued incarceration could scuttle prospects for Ukraine moving closer to the E.U. Why do they care? Because they see the Association Agreement as vital to locking Ukraine into an anti-Russian orientation, and make no bones about their disinclination to let Mrs. Timoshenkko – and, with her, European values – stand in the way.

It is significant, therefore, that Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski recently aligned himself with Berlin’s position in no uncertain terms. He lambasted Ukraine’s "Stalin-era" criminal justice system, and, alluding to judicial and electoral reforms, and, implicitly, to the freeing of Mrs. Timoshenko, threatened:

“If Ukraine does not do what it is supposed to do, there will be no signing [of the Association Agreement]."

Sikorski gave Ukraine "until the end of the summer if it wants to sign the Agreement in Vilnius.”

“If it will not meet the conditions, then we will go to plan B,” although he does not specify what that is.

Sikorski: “Everything is up to Ukraine."

If left to its own devices, the current Polish government would probably sign the Agreement, no matter Mrs. Timoshenko and her fate, but probably feels it cannot deliver Berlin.

But what if Sikorski is wrong that everything is up to Ukraine?

What if Kiev believes everything is up to Europe?

In a sense, Kiev would be right: Europe gets far more out of the Association Agreement than Ukraine does. It will gain economic mastery over Ukraine (not the same thing as Ukrainian prosperity), force Ukraine to accept its values (such as they are), surrender large swathes of sovereignty to Brussels, and rope Kiev into a permanent Euro-Atlantic geo-strategic orientation (including support for the West’s latest dubious project – backing Sunni terrorists in the Middle East who recently beheaded a Catholic priest in Syria as delighted on-lookers took snaps with their iPhones.)

What if Kiev calculates Europe will not back away from an agreement so one-sidedly in its favor, and makes no further concessions?

What will Brussels do then? Go to plan B, it would seem. Whatever that is.