Yanukovych on track to isolation
President Yanukovych is leading Ukraine to international isolation. This was how observers commented on the refusal by the Presidents of Germany and Austria to visit the Summit of Central European Countries in Yalta from 11-12 May. These summits are held in May each year and although they do not have a formal nature they are still an important international event. Last year’s summit in Warsaw brought together 20 Presidents, including the US President as honorary guest. There was, admittedly, a scandal of sorts then when the leaders of Serbia and Romania refused to attend because of the attendance of the President of Kosovo whose country they have not recognized.
The 18th Summit in Yalta is also likely to take place without a number of leaders, with the problem this time being the political situation in Ukraine. It was announced on Thursday that German President Joachim Gauck had canceled a planned visit to Ukraine next month amid concerns over the treatment of ailing jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko and other political prisoners.
Nico Lange from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation told Deutsche Welle that President Gauck was himself an active member of the human rights movement in East Germany and wants to give President Yanukovych a clear message that Germany will not tolerate the current state of affairs. President Gauck’s spokesperson said that the decision not to attend the summit had been agreed with German Chancellor Merkel. The step was also publicly supported by German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who recalled the German government’s demand that Yulia Tymoshenko receive proper medical treatment and suggestion that she and other imprisoned former members of her government be treated in Germany. He stressed that those who wish to move in the direction of the EU must understand that the EU is based on joint values, first and foremost the principles of a law-based democracy.
President Yanukovych’s Administration could not provide information about those who have already accepted invitations to the summit. At the same time it became known that Austria’s President apparently turned down the invitation three weeks ago, giving a heavy schedule as the reason, and the Czech President will probably also not be coming.
Valery Chaly from the Razumkov Centre points out that Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic and Hungary were the countries which in 1993 initiated the summits, and have up till now attended each of them. He also sees the non-attendance of the German and Austrian Presidents as giving a clear message to the Yanukovych regime.
Former German Ambassador to Ukraine, Dietmar Studemann calls the present relations between Berlin and Kyiv an unprecedented crisis. He says that the entire civilized world has for many months been indicating to Ukraine’s leaders that political persecution of Yulia Tymoshenko and other former government members is unacceptable, yet nothing is happening. Yanukovych, he warns, is, in relations with the EU closing a door without knowing whether he will find the key to open it again.
“This is profoundly unprofessional. Either Yanukovych is removed from the outside world and does not realize what is happening around him or he and those around him are so short-sighted that they cannot foresee the consequences of their actions”. He says that this kind of coverage just weeks before Euro 2012 is “an image catastrophe”.
Nico Lange quite agrees, and warns that Yanukovych is not just losing any chance of closer links with the EU, but also of respectably hosting Euro 2012. He stresses that there is very little time for Ukraine’s President to rectify the situation. He believes a first step giving the chance of normalizing relations with the West would be sending Yulia Tymoshenko to Germany for treatment.