Ukraine’s Association Agreement More Likely as Tymoshenko May Soon Be Partially Pardoned

The Association Agreement expected to be signed between Ukraine and the European Union in November has become far more likely.

Yulia Tymoshenko, who was convicted of abuse of office in no small part by the testimony of her former Orange Revolution partner Viktor Yushchenko, may soon receive a partial pardon for her crimes, allowing her to receive medical treatment in Germany, according to news reports in Ukraine and abroad.

According to Reuters, this is close to a done deal. “I think we are not far away from that,” European Commissioner Stefan Fuele told reporters when asked if Tymoshenko was close to being allowed to go to Germany.

“I definitely expect that to have happened before the Vilnius summit.”

Agence France Press is also reporting that the European Parliament has extended until mid-November its mission dedicated to finding a resolution to the impasse.

“We hope that we are closer to finding a scenario that is realistic to the three sides — the Ukraine government, Mrs Tymoshenko and the European Union,” said Aleksander Kwasniewski, who was named special envoy of the European Parliament monitoring mission to Ukraine along with Pat Cox, the former president of the European parliament.

Tymoshenko is not exactly a much-beloved figure at home; her approval rating after her loss in the 2010 presidential election was roughly 10 percent, and recent events have done little to improve this. She is associated with the errors and omissions of the Yushchenko administration, her fights with the president for whom she was nominally first minister, and of course, the catastrophic natural gas deal she signed with Russia that escalated the price of natural gas and caused her current prison sentence.

As she has relatively little domestic support at home (even her own party has a somewhat ambivalent relationship with her), this potential solution to the impasse is aimed at solving three problems: The legal requirement in Ukraine that a convict actually serve her prison sentence; Brussels’s repeated but increasingly hesitant demands for her release as a condition of signing the Association Agreement; and Germany’s insistent demand that Tymoshenko be pardoned for medical treatment and otherwise as its own condition for allowing the Association Agreement and other pacts to go forward.

From the start, Europe’s demands have placed Kyiv in an absurd position: after years of being told to enforce the law against the high and the low, Brussels and Berlin have been demanding that the law be waived because a leading political figure was prosecuted. President Viktor Yanukovych, who came to office in large part as a reaction against the perceived chaos and lawlessness of the Orange years, was essentially being told to repudiate the promises that won him election in order to have a chance at Europe.

Yanukovych has recently suggested that there may be a pardon or some other solution coming from his office soon, and in all likelihood, Brussels will take what it can get — of late, Brussels has begun to realize that asking for a pardon for Tymoshenko is asking for lawbreaking, which in some ways would undermine the point of European integration altogether.

This development is part of a larger series of events that point more and more inexorably toward the signing of the Association Agreement and closer ties at last between Europe and Ukraine. At long last, Brussels appears to have realized that its window of opportunity with Kyiv is not infinite, and that the massive reforms Ukraine has undertaken over the last three years show a profound and lasting commitment to Europe and European values.

“Seeing the progress on all other benchmarks, I think it would make only sense if the Ukrainians deliver on this remaining benchmark,” Fuele said.

Ukraine is ready for Europe, and it appears at long last, Europe is ready for Ukraine.

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