2013-11-15 19:11:21

Ukraine Delays Tymoshenko Law, Treatening EU Trade Deal

(Vatican Radio) EU officials have raised doubts whether the European Union will sign a crucial trade deal with Ukraine because its parliament has delayed a vote to allow jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko to be released.

Despite EU concerns, Ukraine’s parliament deferred until November 19 a vote on legislation that would permit Tymoshenko to travel to Germany for a back operation.

The law would also boost independence of the judiciary and fairness of elections, which the EU had insisted Ukraine must adopt.

Signing the Association Agreement, a key step towards eventual EU membership, has been held up by the jailing of Tymoshenko in 2011 for seven years on abuse of power charges. She has denied wrongdoing and the EU agrees the sentence was politically motivated.

Legislators of the pro-EU opposition have accused the government of deliberately trying to sabotage the EU trade deal by delaying the vote.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich has made clear he would sign the law to release his jailed opponent only if it meant she went there as a "convicted person".

EU diplomats say the 63-year-old former truck driver knows that allowing her to rejoin the political scene would endanger his run at a second term in 2015, given her formidable populist appeal and her organizational skills.

An EU monitoring mission led by Aleksander Kwasniewski, a former Polish president, and Pat Cox, a former European Parliament president, expressed disappointment about the political tensions.

Yet, in statements they said they are prepared to give Ukraine more time to pass the law that would free opposition leader Tymoshenko.

It remains unclear, however, whether EU ministers are ready to give Kyiv more time.

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski expressed his frustration. “The time for bluffing is over on both sides, it is time for action now.”

Foreign Minister of Sweden Carl Bildt agrees. "I am not going into details, we are waiting for a final assessment, so far they do not meet requirements , we will see if they change,” he told reporters last month.

Foreign foreign ministers are to meet next Monday to review progress. That is their last meeting before a special summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on November 28, at which the trade and political association agreements were set to be signed.

Listen to Stefan Bos’ report: RealAudioMP3

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