WESTERN WARNINGS FOR UKRAINE

Kyiv Post on February 8, 2013, reported that Ukraine’s European partners issued multiple, unambiguous warnings this week: If Ukraine wants to sign an Association Agreement in November for closer political and trade ties with the European Union, it needs to shape up fast. Excerpts below:

On the eve of the Feb. 25 summit with Europe in Brussels, Ukraine’s closest friends seemed to be pushing the hardest.

“We cannot wait. The window of opportunity is open right now,” said EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele in Kyiv on Feb. 7.

Former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski echoed his comment, as did former European Parliament President Pat Cox, who also came this week as a part of their ongoing mission to find a solution to the gridlock involving Ukraine’s political prisoners.

In Vilnius, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite told Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych on Feb. 6 that signing of the agreement dangles on the release of the same two notable political prisoners.

Ukraine initialed the 1,000-page agreement with the 27-nation bloc in 2011. Called unprecedented for its scale and degree of integration for a non-EU nation, it includes a deep and comprehensive free trade agreement, which would give Ukraine access to a market of 500 million people and bring the nation’s business and trade legislation in-line with the EU’s.

Valeriy Chaliy, an analyst at Razumkov Center, a Kyiv-based think tank, said that the decision on whether to sign an agreement with Ukraine this year will effectively be taken at the end of May or in early summer.

The decision also comes at a time when Ukraine is being pressured to join a Russia-led Customs Union with Kazakhstan and Belarus. Participation in the union requires that nations delegate part of their sovereign powers, a clause that currently conflicts with Ukraine’s Constitution.

Yanukovych, during his visit to Lithuania, once again said that closer ties with Europe remain a goal for Ukraine. But Fuele said Ukraine has to make “tangible progress” in three areas to achieve this.

Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, who met with Fuele on the same day, said changes in electoral legislation and the nation’s reform agenda are being discussed.

Meanwhile, January was a painful month for both Tymoshenko and Lutsenko.

Yet Tymoshenko’s health continues to deteriorate. She suffers from spinal hernia, which is aggravated by her living in the shower room of her hospital cell in Kharkiv

Cox and Kwasniewski visited Tymoshenko in her shower room on Feb. 6, stated her daughter Eugenia Tymoshenko.

The State Penitentiary Service released a different account of the same events. In its statement, it said Cox and Kwasniewski had an opportunity to visit all the rooms where Tymoshenko is kept and spoke to her and the guards for two hours.

Lutsenko had surgery in a Kyiv hospital on Jan. 23 and was transferred back to prison in northern Ukraine a week later.

Lutsenko’s wife Iryna had said she was approached by a person close the president who offered a pardon if the nation’s ex-top cop asks for it.

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