16 December 2011 - UKRAINE-NATO INTERPARLIAMENTARY COUNCIL HEARS OF ACHIEVEMENTS IN UKRAINE’S PRAGMATIC COOPERATION WITH NATO, CONCERN OVER TYMOSHENKO CASE
Ukraine’s adoption of a “non-block status” in July 2010 has led to what MP Boris Tarasyuk, former Foreign Minister of Ukraine and Co-Chairman of UNIC, speaking at the opening of the meeting of the Ukraine-NATO Interparliamentary Council (UNIC) at NATO Headquarters on 15 December 2011, referred to as “healthy pragmatism” in the country’s relations with NATO.
While Mr Tarasyuk and other members of opposition parties, did not welcome the change of course in Ukraine’s policy regarding NATO membership, all recognized that this has not affected the level of practical cooperation, which has remained stable, and even increased in certain areas. “Relations with Ukraine remain a priority for the Alliance, and NATO’s interest in, and desire for, closer relations remains as strong”, James Appathurai, NATO’s Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Security Policy, told delegates.
Achievements in Ukraine-NATO cooperation range from deep and broad political dialogue, to extensive cooperation in the field of defence and security sector reform, Ukraine’s participation in almost all NATO operations, and numerous forms of military-to-military cooperation. Ukraine has just completed the third cycle of implementation of its Annual National Programme (ANP), and Ukrainian authorities are expected to present the country’s ANP for 2012 at NATO Headquarters on 19 December, UNIC members were informed. Both Ukrainian and NATO parliamentarians insisted that greater efforts should be made to publicize these positive achievements among the Ukrainian population.
As NATO and Ukraine prepare to celebrate the 15th anniversary of NATO’s Distinctive Partnership with Ukraine in 2012, both NATO and Ukrainian officials saw positive prospects for developing cooperation even further. Thus, Ukraine has confirmed its interest in contributing a frigate to NATO’s counter-piracy Operation Ocean Shield off the coast of Somalia from 2013. The North Atlantic Council is also scheduled to travel to Ukraine in the course of 2012.
Notwithstanding this generally positive assessment, UNIC members, as well as NATO and Allied officials, expressed concern over recent political developments in Ukraine. They stressed that relations with partners are not only about security and military cooperation, but that they are also based on values, to which partners themselves have subscribed. “It is in everyone’s interest that these values are shared with partners” and “we have an obligation to support these values when partners say they share them”, Mr Appathurai told members of UNIC. In this regard, NATO’s assessment of Ukraine’s implementation of its ANP for 2011 raised concern about the risk that progress in several areas could be reversible. The case brought against former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, in particular, was mentioned as a specific area of concern. “The Tymoshenko case raises serious concern among Ukraine’s partners, and is already having an effect in the country’s relations with the EU and with NATO”, Assen Agov of Bulgaria, Co-Chair of UNIC, warned. “This is not helping Ukraine’s interests”, he added.
UNIC members, as well as NATO and Ukrainian officials, stressed the important role of parliamentarians in overseeing defence and security matters, and called for a greater role of the Ukrainian Parliament in overseeing the preparation and implementation of Ukraine’s ANP. Both Ukrainian and NATO parliamentarians also emphasized the role that UNIC can play in this regard, as an effective tool for parliamentary dialogue on the nature and substance of Ukraine’s cooperation with NATO.