Tánaiste to attend Brussels meeting ahead of summit on Ukraine agreement with EU

Status of Yulia Tymoshenko has moved centre stage in debate over deepening ties between the EU and former Soviet state

Supporters of jailed former Ukrainian prime minister and opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko during a rally in front of the parliament building in Kiev. Photograph: Sergii Polezhaka/Reuters

Supporters of jailed former Ukrainian prime minister and opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko during a rally in front of the parliament building in Kiev. Photograph: Sergii Polezhaka/Reuters

Mon, Nov 18, 2013, 01:00


Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore travels to Brussels today for the final meeting of EU foreign affairs ministers before next week’s Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius, amid continuing signs of political deadlock over Ukraine’s proposed signing of an association agreement with the EU.

With the deal on Ukraine constituting the cornerstone of next Thursday and Friday’s summit in the Lithuanian capital, an emergency meeting of foreign ministers could be held on its fringes to decide the issue.

Speaking ahead of today’s meeting, Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore said: “With political will, we should be in a position to sign the association agreement with Ukraine, as long as the conditions are fulfilled by Ukraine, particularly in the area of selective justice”

The status of Yulia Tymoshenko, the former Ukrainian prime minister who is serving a seven-year prison sentence in Kiev, has moved centre stage in the debate over deepening ties between the EU and the former Soviet state.


Tymoshenko issue
However, EU officials stressed this weekend that the release of Ms Tymoshenko was not simply a “causal issue”.

“A move on selective justice, and particularly on Tymoshenko, would be transformative, yes, but it has to be more sophisticated than that. They have to show there has been a fundamental change or not”, one official said.

A number of proposals are under discussion between the EU and Kiev under the terms of a possible release of Ms Tymoshenko to Germany for medical treatment, and under condition that she returns to Ukraine to complete her sentence.

Threats from Moscow of sanctions should the Ukraine decide to deepen ties with the EU have also threatened to derail the process, despite Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovich putting greater integration with Europe at the centre of his foreign policy agenda.

Ms Tymoshenko, a political rival of Mr Yanukovich, was imprisoned in 2011 over her role in negotiations in 2009 with Russia over the price of natural gas.

Last week, former president of the European Parliament Pat Cox and former Polish president Alexsander Kwasniewski, who have been leading EU monitoring missions to Ukraine, said time was running out on a deal, adding there was a “chronic lack of mutual trust and confidence” between Ukraine’s government and the opposition.

Moldovia, Georgia deal
The EU is also hoping to “initial” an agreement with Moldova and Georgia at next week’s summit – an early stage in the association agreement process.

Foreign affairs ministers will also discuss the situation in Iran ahead of resumption of talks in Geneva on Wednesday between Iran and the P5+1 group, made up of the five members of the UN Security Council – the US, UK, France Russian and China – plus Germany.