15 March 2012 - NATO PARLIAMENTARIANS WELCOME STEADY PROGRESS IN NATO-UKRAINE RELATIONS, WARN OF NEGATIVE REPERCUSSIONS OF TRIALS AGAINST POLITICAL FIGURES
The NATO-Ukraine partnership continues to develop steadily, providing a framework for comprehensive reform in Ukraine. However, further steps would be needed for Ukraine to exploit the full potential of its cooperation with NATO in terms of reform. Ongoing trials against political figures, including former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, also risk undermining Ukraine’s relations with Western partners. These were the main conclusions of the meeting of the Ukraine-NATO Interparliamentary Council (UNIC) in Kyiv on 14 March.
“The constructive partnership with NATO has been and remains a key element of Ukraine’s security policy”, Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, Volodymyr Lytvyn told members of UNIC. Ukraine’s adoption of a non-block status “has allowed us to move away from politicization, and focus on substance”, he stressed. This is reflected in public discussions on NATO in Ukraine, which show a change in attitudes. According to a recent poll, opposition to NATO membership dropped below 50% for the first time since 2006, delegates heard.
NATO officials welcomed Ukraine’s commitment to the transformation of its defence and security system based on NATO standards, and confirmed that the Ukraine-NATO partnership develops steadily, with a range of concrete achievements. They also saluted Ukraine’s contribution to almost all NATO operations, including its planned participation in the counterpiracy Operation Ocean Shield off the coast of Somalia.
The Annual National Programme (ANP), the framework document defining Ukraine’s priorities in relations with NATO, provides “the only programmatic document which can guide the reform process in Ukraine”, Deputy Speaker of the Rada and Co-Chair of UNIC, Mykola Tomenko, told delegates.
However, NATO officials and parliamentarians stressed that further steps would be required to allow Ukraine to make full use of the ANP’s potential as a roadmap for reform. Parliamentarians called in particular for greater coordination and streamlining of the process of ANP preparation, adoption and implementation. They also urged Ukrainian authorities to adopt a new state programme for public information on NATO and NATO-Ukraine cooperation, and assign relevant funding for public information efforts.
Enhancing the role of the Rada in monitoring ANP implementation was seen as another important priority. In this regard, the meeting of UNIC provided a useful opportunity for Ukrainian and NATO parliamentarians to review progress achieved in the implementation of the ANP. Concrete recommendations for fulfilling the ANP’s full transformational potential were detailed in a statement adopted at the end of the meeting.
NATO and Ukrainian parliamentarians also discussed ongoing trials against former government officials. In his opening address, Assen Agov (Bulgaria), former NATO PA Vice-President and Co-Chair of UNIC, expressed the NATO PA members’ concern: “I know that I speak on behalf of many colleagues within the NATO Parliamentary Assembly when I say that we are concerned about certain political and democratic trends in Ukraine, such as the prosecution of political figures, and certain worrying developments regarding the freedom of the media. We are concerned in particular that Yulia Tymoshenko and Yuriy Lutsenko’s health has been deteriorating in prison and that there seems to be no adequate response from the Ukrainian side.”
Responding to statements by Ukrainian officials and parliamentarians from the ruling party that the non-block status policy was a way to balance relations with the West and with Russia in the face of strong divisions among Ukrainian society, members of the NATO PA warned that trials against political figures and other recent developments called into question Ukraine’s commitment to democracy and the rule of law, and cast a shadow over Ukraine’s achievements. These developments risked antagonizing Western partners, thereby undermining Ukraine’s balanced foreign policy and leaving the country with only one possible course of action. NATO PA members therefore urged Ukrainian authorities, including members of the Rada, to take appropriate measures to address the numerous concerns expressed regarding trials against Yulia Tymoshenko and other former government officials, the Soviet-era legislation upon which these trials are conducted, and more broadly the apparent deterioration of the human rights situation in Ukraine. Several delegates explicitly called for the release of Ms Tymoshenko and other former government officials currently in custody.
All participants also agreed that the upcoming parliamentary elections scheduled for October would be an important test for Ukraine. Andryi Shkil, leader of the Ukrainian delegation to the NATO PA, urged members of the Assembly to send a large delegation of observers to monitor this election.