The extraordinary session of the Verkhovna Rada ended swiftly and in failure, with Speaker Rybak announcing that the different factions had not managed to agree a draft bill enabling imprisoned opposition leader and former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko to leave for treatment abroad. This is the main obstacle to the signing of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement.
The European Parliaments representatives – Pat Cox and Alexander Kwaśniewski were present at the abortive session. At a joint briefing with his colleague later, Kwaśniewski said that they are still counting on the good will of Ukrainian politicians.
Such good will has yet to be seen, and at present most politicians, analysts and the world media are reporting that the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement is under grave threat. It is generally assumed that the lack of progress is down to one man – President Yanukovych. As reported, a few weeks ago Yanukovych stated that he would sign any bill adopted by parliament. This was widely reported as being an attempt to place responsibility for the failure to release Tymoshenko, and therefore the non-signing of the Association Agreement on parliament. .
Wednesday was the final chance for adopting three vital “European integration” bills (on Tymoshenko; the public prosecutor; and amendments to electoral legislation) before the report which Cox and Kwaśniewski were to make to the EP on Wednesday evening.
The EP mission has now been extended up till the Vilnius Summit at the end of the month.
The following is from their report to the EP which has proven, they say, to still be an interim statement of their mission, not their final report.
We have just returned from the 26th mission visit to Ukraine. We note that considerable progress has been made in seeking to fulfill the aforementioned conditions. However, we regret to observe that at this time we are not yet in the position to report full compliance.
... After several months of reflection and discussion of different options, the mission suggested the partial pardoning of (imprisoned ex-Prime Minister) Yulia Tymoshenko as the most viable way to resolve the remaining problem of selective justice. This option would represent the minimum requirement capable of yielding the maximum effect, would depend solely on the authority and goodwill of the president of Ukraine and would not involve delegating responsibility to other institutions and would not necessitate changing any existing legislation. However, President Viktor Yanukovych has indicated a preference for the alternative path of a special law that would permit treatment abroad of convicted persons on health and humanitarian grounds, including Tymoshenko.
In recent weeks, a number of draft laws on medical treatment abroad has been registered in the Verkhovna Rada but none on these has won the joint support of the government and opposition. An ad hoc working group chaired by MP (Hennadiy) Vasilyev (Party of Regions) has been charged with the responsibility to come up with the draft law on a consensual basis.
To date, no draft law has been proposed by the Party of Regions, which itself remains opposed to all other existing drafts. However, the proposal to have such a law emanates from the president of Ukraine, who has indicated personally to the media, as well as to a number of the heads of state and ministers of foreign affairs of the European Union and to representatives of the European Parliament and the European Commission his intention to sign such a law if it is adopted by the Verkhovna Rada.
Time is running out to achieve compliance with the conditions required for the signature of the association agreement on Nov. 29. The last pre-Vilnius parliamentary session in Ukraine will be held next week. It can be decisive in yielding a settlement but risks also to result in stalemate and a non-productive blame game. The mission urges all parties involved to constructively use the short time available to reach an historic consensus that could result in a successful summit in Vilnius.
We note a chronic lack of mutual trust and confidence between the parties of government and opposition in the Verkhovna Rada which risks to result, in the event of failure to comply, in each side insisting that the other was to blame for taking political hostage of what is proving to be a highly sensitive and emotional end-game process.
In viewof the upcoming (EU) foreign affairs council on Nov. 18, we are of the opinion at this time that it would be premature to conclude that compliance with the conditions set has been met or alternatively that such compliance still cannot be achieved. In our considered opinion the issues outstanding can be resolved by one means or another. What is critical is not the capacity to deliver a solution but rather the political will to do so. What is indispensable in the coming week is to find that political will, to act and to deliver.
In the light of the above and following the recommendation of President Schulz, supported unanimously by the Conference of Presidents of the European Parliament, it was decided to extend the mandate of the mission until the Vilnius Summit and to ask the mission to return to Ukraine next week.
Mr Pat Cox, former President of the European Parliament
Mr Aleksander Kwaśniewski, former President of Poland