Europe warns against Russian interference in Ukrainian affairs

Suzanne Lynch, European Correspondent reports from Vilnius

Students stand on a street and hold hands to form a human chain from the Ukrainian capital to the western border during a demonstration in support of EU integration at Independence Square in Kiev today. Photograph: Gleb Garanich/Reuters

Students stand on a street and hold hands to form a human chain from the Ukrainian capital to the western border during a demonstration in support of EU integration at Independence Square in Kiev today. Photograph: Gleb Garanich/Reuters

 

The European Union has strongly criticised Russia’s interference in Ukrainian affairs rejecting calls for trilateral discussions between Russian, the European Union and Ukraine, and warning that “the times of limited sovereignty are over in Europe”.

Speaking at the end of a two-day summit in Lithuania, European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso said that the European Union would not consider trilateral discussions with Russia, following Ukraine’s suspension of talks with the European Union on a political and trade agreement last week.

“What we cannot accept is a condition on a bilateral agreement to have a kind of a possible veto of a third country. This is contrary to all principles of international law,” the European Commission president said, noting that Russia had declined to participate in multilateral negotiations with the European Union on other issues such as energy.

“The times of limited sovereignty are over in Europe, ” he said.

European Council president Herman Van Rompuy warned that Russia was in danger of breaching international accords on foreign relations.

At the end of a two-day summit which saw Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich become increasingly isolated from his European counterparts , European leaders insisted that the door was still open to Ukraine to sign the agreement, but reiterated that the terms of the agreement - which Brussels insists is the most far-reaching deal ever offered to an external country - could not be revised.

Ukraine last week abruptly withdrew from negotiations with the European Union following six years of talks, amidst intense pressure from Russia which has imposed economic sanctions on the country over the past few months.

Speaking to the Irish Times, the EU’s envoy to Ukraine Pat Cox, said Mr Yanukovich had given no indication that Ukraine had given no indication that it would suspend the signature of the agreement until their final meetings last week.

Mr Yanukovich is understood to have stressed his country’s straightened economic circumstances at a dinner with EU leaders last night, hinting that the country needed more financial incentives in order to sign the agreement.

Speaking this afternoon, Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite said the Ukrainian leadership had come to the summit “with the very clear decision not to sign”.

The decision by the Ukrainian government to withdraw from the agreement has prompted the biggest demonstrations in Kiev since the Orange revolution in 2004.

Moldova and Georgia, two of the smaller countries in the six -member ‘Eastern partnership’ group of former Soviet countries initialled agreements with the European Union this morning. They are expected to sign the agreements by next September.

Speaking following the summit , Minister for European Affairs Paschal Donohoe said this timetable was “likely to be challenging” in light of the events of recent months, emphasising the need for the European Union to support and engage with the two countries in the coming months.

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Frances Fitzgerald, who addressed the summit, said it was crucial for Europe to communicate effectively its values to both countries in the coming months.

“Good engagement from EU partners with both Moldova and Georgia is going to be very important in giving them the confidence to stay the course. There’s obviously different views in their country -the Moldovan president has said that - It’s important for the European Union to give both countries the support they need.”

In a video clip posted online this morning showing German chancellor Angela Merkel’s meeting with Mr Yanukovich last night, Dr Merkel is shown as telling the Ukrainian president “We expected more.”

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