The trial and sentencing of the former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko in 2011 is a double challenge to the European Union – testing both its credibility and the transformative capacity of its soft power. Kiev ignored clear warnings from Brussels and key member states, and then failed to deliver on promises of compromise.
The EU-Ukraine summit on Monday 19th December offers the chance to stop the rot in relations with Kyiv.
In a new policy memo published by ECFR, ‘Ukraine after the Tymoshenko verdict’, Andrew Wilson argues that instead of lecturing Ukraine on human rights the EU needs to show that it means business.
- At the summit the EU must use the Association Agreement and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement as the incentives to encourage Ukraine to follow its promises on reform.
- The EU must also introduce visa bans and sanctions that target travel and financial privileges for individuals within the government who are responsible for backsliding.
- Ukraine has seen Russia playing tough with the EU and getting away with it. With Putin in line to return to the Russian presidency in 2012 and a string of potential new democracies in the Middle East and North Africa, Europe needs to send a signal about its commitment to democracy and the rule of law.
- Ukraine is unable to emulate the ‘Turkish model’ – a powerful state on the edge of Europe able to act on its own terms, due to a weak economy and bad relations with neighbours. As a result it can’t ignore democracy and human rights altogether.
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- Relatively strong recent growth figures (4.3% in 2010; 5% expected in 2011) follow a precipitous decline of 15.1% in 2009.
- Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of the Regions faces tricky parliamentary elections in autumn 2012, with a current popularity rating of just over 20%. They are likely to use tools such as tax demands on rivals, patronage, ‘political technology’ and the use of ‘legal terror’ against opposition figures.
- Yuliya Tymoshenko was the most prominent victim of this ‘legal terror’ when sentenced to seven years imprisonment on 11th October.
The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. ECFR publications only represent the views of their individual authors.