PARIS, November 13, 2012 /PRNewswire/ --
The recent parliamentary elections in Ukraine were "not perfect but represented huge progress for a country that has only enjoyed independence for the past 20 years," and should not be judged in terms of black and white. This was the conclusion of leading European statesmen, including the former President of Poland Aleksander Kwasniewski, speaking at a post-election conference in Paris on Monday.
Going forward, the signing of an Association Agreement between Ukraine and the European Union would represent a positive step, but could only come after compromises are reached and steps taken to improve relations and resolve issues concerning legal cases such as the appeal by Yulia Tymoshenko to the European Court of Human Rights.
This was the consensus emerging from a roundtable entitled "Ukraine: A Strategic Crossroads in Europe" which took place Monday at the Ecole Militaire in Paris in front of an audience of foreign policy experts, academics, diplomats, economists and businessmen.
The European Union cannot be passive in the wake of the Ukrainian parliamentary elections said former President Kwasniewski. "If Europe wants to share its values and standards, it should engage more actively with Ukraine," he said, adding that Ukraine is still waiting for a clear sign from Europe.
Ukraine's Foreign Minister, Kostyantyn Gryshchenko, reminded the audience that an ambitious EU-style reform agenda is underway in Ukraine, ranging from pension and labor reforms to new fiscal and criminal procedure codes. He also highlighted the modernisation of the country's infrastructure for the Euro 2012 football tournament.
"Ukraine is now firmly set on a strategic pathway to become a prosperous European country and deserves the Association Agreement," he said. "All our political parties support the perspective of deeper integration with Europe. We want to achieve this for the benefit of the people."
Although the new electoral system - which was drafted following recommendations of the Council of Europe and approved by government and opposition parties - showed some shortfalls, Gryshchenko noted that the vote reflected the "will of the people" and was widely deemed free, calm and legitimate by international observers.
Former Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer noted that thanks to its geographical location, shale gas deposits, energy transit infrastructure and vast agricultural resources, Ukraine represents a broader economic and strategic opportunity for Europe. "It would be wrong if we view the situation in the Ukraine only through the prism of the Tymoshenko case," he said.
Kwasniewski, who is currently serving as co-head of the European Parliament's Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, explained that, in his opinion, there is a legal, political and psychological aspect to the case of Yulia Tymoshenko, who was convicted last year for abuse of office for illegally signing a controversial $10 billion gas deal with Russia in 2009 without Cabinet approval.
He pointed out that the case is now with the European Court of Human Rights and credited Kiev for declaring that Ukraine would accept its decision. Gryshchenko reiterated this: "We have clearly stated that whatever will be the decision by the ECHR, we will comply by it."
In conclusion, Hervé Maurey, French senator and a member of the Inter-Parliamentary Association with Ukraine said that in France many politicians want the Association Agreement to be signed. "We look forward to when Ukraine will be deeply rooted in the EU, rather than moving into the other direction," he said.