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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Ukrainian President refused to sign Association Agreement with EU. Nationwide rallies and protests are ongoing

Victor Yanukovich (President of Ukraine), Dalia Gribauskaite
(President of Lithuania), Herman Van Rompuy (President of
European Council) and Jose Manuel Barroso (President of
European Commission) at the Summit in Vilnius
(Image: Українська Правда)
Summit of Eastern European Partnership held on 28-29 November in Vilnius had a significant historical meaning for Ukraine as the biggest European country with 46 million people was expected to sign Association Agreement with the countries members of EU. This Agreement was the most ambitious document ever proposed by EU to another country, according to European politicians.

Ukrainian authorities and President as well have been assuring citizens of Ukraine and European countries as well that the course for European integration is the only one option for Ukraine and the country has made its decision. Several reforms necessary for the process of European integration and cooperation with EU countries have been implemented in Ukraine. But at the last moment, one week ahead of the planned Vilnius Summit, Ukrainian government has announced the decision to suspend all the activities and processes of the preparation to the signing of the Association Agreement with EU due to the difficult economic situation in Ukraine, lack of financial supports from EU and political and economical pressure of the neighboring Russia.

The decision of the government and Ukrainian President to suspend the process of European integration announced on 21 November caused spontaneous protests and rallies organized by Ukrainians with the help of social networks. Since Thursday 21 November tens of thousands of Ukrainian citizens have joined the protests against the decision of the current government and demonstrations in support of European integration of Ukraine. Oppositional leaders of Ukraine have been also calling for the nationwide protests, and numerous cities all over Ukraine have joined the rallies with the unprecedented rallies attended by nearly 100 thousand people held in Kyiv on Sunday, 24 November. Tens of thousands people have gathered on the main squares and streets of other Ukrainian cities as well. In addition to that European rallies have been supported in many countries worldwide welcoming the aspirations of Ukrainians and their unity to express their political will.

Stefan Füle, EU Commissioner for Enlargement and
Neighborhood Policy, and Victor Yanukovich,
Ukrainian current President
(Image: Kyiv Post)
People together with the oppositional forces have been demanding that President should sign Association Agreement during the Summit in Vilnius, and judicially it is possible. The hopes that the Agreement will be finally signed and Ukraine will make a new and important step on the path towards deeper cooperation with EU was alive till the end, as European politicians have stated that Ukrainian issue is on the agenda and the Association Agreement could be signed. “The doors of EU are open for Ukrainian people”, declared European politicians welcoming also the rallies in Ukraine.

Though despite the hopes Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovich, who arrived in Vilnius on Saturday 28 November, declared he will not sign an Association Agreement as Ukrainian economical situation is extremely hard and the current conditions of the Agreement aren’t comfortable enough for Ukraine, according to the statement of Ukrainian President and to his previous interviews as well.

The attempt of Mr. Yanukovich’s visit to the Summit was to discuss the situation in Ukraine and the necessity of financial aid with European leaders and to also discuss the possibility of holding of the trilateral negotiations between Ukraine, EU countries and Russia regarding the economical situation, cooperation etc. This proposal was already made by Ukrainian government but was denied by EU politicians as it is considered being unacceptable, that an independent and sovereign country cannot take its own decision regarding its international policies and responds to political pressure from Russia.

Tens of thousands of Ukrainian demonstrators supporting
European integration in Kyiv on 24 November
(Image: Express UA)
Jose Manuel Barroso, current President of European Commission, and Herman Van Rompuy, President of European Council, have also strongly condemned the actions of Russia and its interference in the policies of the independent country. Several other European politicians and prominent leaders as well including Angela Merkel, Aleksander Kwasniewski and others have also criticized Russian methods of pressure and its interference in Ukrainian political life.

The text of the Association Agreement was ready for the signing, and European parliamentarians, politicians and leaders have been trying to convince Victor Yanukovich to sign this historical document and to meet the demands of Ukrainian citizens, but Ukrainian President refused to do it. The Agreement isn’t signed, and it is unknown when it could be signed in the future. Victor Yanukovich stated he is willing to sign an Agreement with EU when Ukraine will be ready for it and for the implementing of the necessary reforms, but this step currently could become very hard for Ukraine, and transitional period could become a hard burden for many Ukrainians who could possibly lose their jobs, said Ukrainian President.

In his official speech during the Vilnius Summit Victor Yanukovich declared that European vector of development remains the only one option for Ukraine and that European integration is the main direction of the further civilization development of the country. Ukraine has achieved a lot during the period of preparing to the signing of the Agreement, and there is still a lot to do. The pause in the process of the signing of the Association Agreement with the countries of EU is caused by the serious financial and economical problems in the country, but it doesn’t mean halting of the integration processes and the processes of modernization of economical, social life and implementing of the integration’s reforms.

Ukrainian President has stated thus that Ukraine is expecting more resolute and decisive steps f
Euro-Maidan in Lviv
(Image: Uk Wikipedia)
rom EU towards Ukraine in order to support it and held in the implementation of the needed reforms. Mr. Yanukovich has asked EU for economical support and financial aid to Ukraine and called for the talks aimed to discuss situation in the country and the possible support package of EU for Ukraine. In addition to that he reassured European politicians that Ukraine is willing to cooperate with EU and that he believes that the Association Agreement will be signed soon. It is also expected that Ukrainian leaders and EU representatives could come back to the negotiations regarding association with Ukraine in spring 2014 during the Conference of the Eastern European Partnership.

This final decision of Ukrainian President was a big disappointment not only for hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians but for European politicians as well. A lot of them confessed in the interviews that they were disappointed that Victor Yanukovich decided to lead the country into nowhere instead of the modernizing and implementing the better standards of life.

It was also reported that Victor Yanukovich has cancelled his official press conference planned for 29 November and attended by Ukrainian journalists. According to his official spokesperson Victor Yanukovich is expected to visit China and Russia in the nearest future.

However several European leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel has expressed their will to meet Victor Yanukovich and discuss the current situation and the possible ways of the further cooperation.

Two other countries holding negotiations and cooperation with EU, Georgia and Moldova, have signed their Association Agreements and declared their willingness to continue the path of European integration.

Meanwhile massive rallies are ongoing in Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities, and after the Summit and signing of the Agreement was failed by Ukrainian President and his government, the demands of Euromaidan became sharper and more radical. Protesters are calling for the ouster of Victor Yanukovich as he failed to represent the will of his people and has committed a state’s treason, according to the Constitution of Ukraine, and resignation of the Cabinet of Ministers as well. Tens of thousands still protest in Kyiv with the bigger numbers expected to join the rallies on Sunday, when the national council is planned in attempt to decide on what to do next and how to act.

Rallies in support of European integration in Kyiv
(Image: The Guardian)
Authorities in their turn seem to work out some additional plans and attempt to show that there are serious divisions in the country with a lot of people supporting the decision of President and government. Alternative meeting against European integration was held on Friday on the European Square in Kyiv and similar rallies have been held in other cities as well. According to the reports and testimonies of the people most of these rallies are organized by the authorities, with some people getting paid for participation in the meetings, and some people being brought there forcibly with the threats of being fired. Many people have been deployed from other cities by the special buses. Though this information isn’t confirmed and is known through the reports of the people.

The supporters of European integration gathered on Independence Square in Kyiv remain there, and there are currently nearly 2-3 thousand people at the sit-in now. The atmosphere is friendly, there was less police and security forces, riot police (“Berkut”) wasn’t presented on the scene, but within less then one hours riot police was deployed in the scene and several clashes have reportedly erupted between the protesters and security forces.