NATO Parliamentarians urge Ukraine’s leaders to seize window of opportunity as tensions rise
14 February 2014 - Following meetings in Kyiv, NATO PA members expressed grave concerns about the tense stand-off between the government, opposition, and the Maidan protest.
Assembly President Hugh Bayley urged leaders on all sides to exercise restraint and reach rapid agreements on constitutional reform and an interim power-sharing arrangement.
“All those involved agree that the way forward must include constitutional reform,” said Mr Bayley, “but disagreement remains about some key provisions of that reform and how to proceed. There is no time for delay. Tensions are rising, and people expect to see progress, even if that means agreeing on an interim solution.”
Members recognized that the resignation of the government and the progressive release of protestors under the new amnesty law had done much to create space for further discussions and the achievement of compromise. These should be followed up with the identification and prosecution of those responsible for unprovoked acts of violence against demonstrators and journalists. This would be a key confidence-building measure which would help to reduce tension and calm the evident sense of public outrage.
Briefings from political leaders and economic experts underlined the urgency of solving the current crisis. Steps must be taken to deal with rising economic problems which, if unchecked, could create further social problems.
All Ukrainian interlocutors stressed that European integration remains the key foreign policy objective of the country, but the disagreement about how to achieve that, and specifically the government’s reversal of its position on signing an association agreement with the European Union, have evolved into a dispute about more general political reform. Indeed, Ukraine faces fundamental choices about governance.
“It is not a choice between the East and the West but the choice between the past and the future”, said Mr Bayley.
Mr Bayley also stressed that Ukraine’s partnership with NATO is highly valued. Uniquely among partners, Ukrainian forces had participated in every single NATO-led operation since the end of the Cold War. The Assembly too had a long-standing record of close cooperation with the Verkhovna Rada and wished to see Ukraine move beyond the current crisis as rapidly as possible.
“I am gravely concerned by the situation in Kyiv but I was impressed by leaders from all parts of the political spectrum, including those in the Maidan. I believe there is a window of opportunity for a negotiated way forward and I urge all parties to seize this opportunity without delay”, Mr Bayley concluded.
A group of 21 legislators from 13 countries of the Alliance met with their Ukrainian counterparts, representing both the Party of Regions and the opposition, on 10 and 11 February in the format of the Ukraine-NATO Interparliamentary Council (UNIC). Participants discussed current developments in Ukraine as well as NATO-Ukraine co operation with government officials, independent experts, representatives of civil society, media, business and diplomatic communities. The UNIC meeting was followed by a Presidential visit during which Mr Bayley and the Assembly's rapporteur on Ukraine Witold Waszczykowski met with the speaker of the parliament Volodimir Rybak, Minister of Foreign Affairs Leonid Kozhara, other state officials as well as leaders of the opposition parties.