Europe’s Ukrainian Test

The recent start of the trial in Kiev of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko raises grave concerns about President Viktor Yankovych’s commitment to democracy and the rule of law. In reality, it is his regime, not Tymoshenko, that is on trial, along with the EU’s willingness to defend democracy in its own neighborhood.

WASHINGTON, DC – The recent start of the trial in Kyiv of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, one of the leaders of Ukraine’s Orange Revolution, on charges of abuse of power raises grave concerns about President Viktor Yankovych’s commitment to democracy and the rule of law. In reality, it is his regime, not Tymoshenko, that is on trial, along with the European Union’s willingness to stand up for democracy in a large and important neighbor.

As the EU and Ukraine launch another round of negotiations for a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA), the EU should not repeat its mistakes in accession negotiations with Bulgaria and Romania, which most EU members believe were admitted prematurely, or with Belarus, where it failed to define impermissible behavior in 2008-2010. Instead, the EU should conclude the DCFTA and Association agreement with Ukraine only if the Yanukovych administration demonstrates clear commitment to European values.

Anchoring Ukraine inside a DCFTA and political association agreement would undoubtedly bring significant benefits to the country and strengthen its European ties. But these benefits should not come at the expense of turning a blind eye to the democratic norms that the EU claims to espouse.

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