Muffled even in Brussels
As EU leaders gave a clear time limit to Kyiv for resolving specific problems, including “cases of selective justice”, the President’s Administration resorted to deception to avoid other issues being raised. Ukrainian journalists were allowed to put only one question at the press conference with EU President Herman Van Rompuy, European Commission President Jose Barroso and President Yanukovych. It is not clear whether this was a restriction imposed by the organizers who might not have realized that Ukrainian journalists simply don’t get a chance to ask Yanukovych questions, or whether it was imposed by the President’s Press Secretary Daria Chepak
Ukrainska Pravda reports that the journalists agreed with Ms Chepak that their sole question was to be put by a journalist from Korespondent, Iryna Solomko, who had not come as part of the President’s select journalist pool. During the press conference, however, this agreement was broken and the microphone was given to one of the pool journalists from the ICTV channel. Chepak positively instructed the person delivering the microphone who to place it in front of.
Ukrainska Pravda notes that for this reason no question was voiced at the press conference about the retreat from democracy in Ukraine. The ICTV journalist’s question was about visa liberalization and addressed to the EU leaders.
While the talks were held behind closed doors, the statements made at the press conference made the EU’s position very clear. It has imposed a three-month deadline for making changes to the justice and electoral systems, and resolving the situation with selective justice (i.e. the imprisonment of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and ex-Interior Minister Yury Lutsenko
The following is from the Bloomberg report based on the full statement issued after the Summit
The 27-nation EU renewed its commitment to provide Ukraine with 610 million euros ($805 million) of aid, contingent on the former Soviet republic reaching an assistance agreement with the International Monetary Fund, according to a statement issued in Brussels today after an EU-Ukraine summit.
Ukraine, which resumes talks with the IMF next month on a third bailout since 2008, faces a shrinking economy and $10 billion of debt payments scheduled this year. The economy is in a recession after contracting 0.9 percent in the fourth quarter.
The EU “is very much committed to Ukraine’s economic growth and modernization, and we are aware of the economic challenges facing the country, ” European Commission President Jose Barroso said after talks with President Viktor Yanukovych. The promised EU aid is the largest such package ever “and represents a clear demonstration of our support to Ukraine’s prosperity, ” Barroso said.
The EU postponed a so-called association agreement, including a free-trade area, with Ukraine after former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was jailed in a case many in the bloc see as politically motivated. Yanukovych has pledged to resolve the issue, though prosecutors threatened last month to imprison her for life for alleged murder.
“We raised our continued concern over the cases of selective justice, ” EU President Herman Van Rompuy said after talks with Yanukovych. “Systemic reform of the judicial system is also crucial to ensure that there will be no recurrence of selective justice.”
The EU seeks “concrete progress” from Ukraine by early May on selective justice as well as electoral and political changes, according to a joint statement issued after the summit.
“Some steps have been taken, but we still need to see more and concrete progress, ” Van Rompuy said. “I have underlined the European Union’s call for determined action and tangible progress in these areas at the latest by May. Progress in these areas is realistic and feasible but the time is very short.”