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Europe

EU-Ukraine association agreement looks unlikely

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko's fate remains uncertain as the parliament cannot agree on how to handle her case. The issue will also be discussed at an EU foreign minister summit in Brussels on Monday.

History seems to repeat itself. Two years ago, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych promised to find a solution to the Yulia Tymoshenko case. That was at the EU's Eastern Partnership summit in September 2011 in Warsaw.

Following a controversial case that grabbed international attention, Yanukovych suggested that the imprisoned former prime minister and opposition leader should be released. In discussions with European politicians, Yanukovych said the issue would be solved in the Ukrainian parliament but also did not rule out a pardon. But Tymoshenko has remained in jail for abuse of power ever since.

On Monday, EU foreign ministers are discussing the Ukraine situation at their meeting in Brussels. And the EU's next Eastern Partnership summit is scheduled for November 28 in Vilnius, Lithuania. Here, the fate of Tymoshenko will also be the main topic of discussion between EU and Ukranian leaders. The European Union made Tymoshenko's release a condition for the signing of a Association Agreement with Kyiv. Such an agreement would create a free trade zone with Ukraine as is the preliminary step toward EU membership.

Playing for time

But the chance of finding a solution and reaching an agreement are dwindling. The majority of parliament members seem to be playing for time when it comes to Tymoshenko's case. A new law could allow Tymoshenko to go abroad for medical treatment. Germany has offered to treat her back pain at Berlin's Charité Hospital.

A picture of Ukraine's jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko is seen on a table during an interview with her husband Oleksander for Reuters TV in Prague April 27, 2012. (Photo: REUTERS/Petr Josek)

The fate of Yulia Tymoshenko is the biggest obstacle for an EU-Ukraine agreement

Adopting the law that would allow for her to travel abroad has been repeatedly postponed since the end of October. Either a working group has to be created or members of parliament have no time to deal with the issue. Although the government and the opposition have each created drafts of a new law, parliament has not voted on either of them. The next parliamentary session is planned for Tuesday (19.11.2013).

Yanukovych meets with Putin

Yanukovych has promised to sign the new law if it is passed by parliament. He said he could not explain why lawmakers had not yet passed a bill.

Russia is said to have threatened Ukraine with trade restrictions if Ukraine signs the Association Agreement with the EU. Moscow has pushed for Ukraine to join the Customs Union promoted by Russia. According to speculations in Kyiv, Putin is said to have offered Ukraine loan guarantees if it joins the union.

Ukraine's last chance

"Ukraine has a see-saw policy and would like to maneuver between Russia and the EU in the future," Gernor Erler, the German Social Democratic Party's foreign affairs spokesman, told DW.

However, the Association Agreement would not stand in the way of close economic ties between Ukraine and Russia. It would, however, strengthen the position of Ukraine, Erler added.

There are an increasing number of signals in the European Union that an agreement with Ukraine could be postponed with some politicians citing 2015 as a potential date for a deal - after presidential elections in Ukraine.

"Signing an agreement in Vilnius is becoming less and less likely," Andrew Wilson of the European Council on Foreign Relations told DW, adding that Ukrainian lawmakers were "playing with fire."

The European Union will likely reconsider its ties with Ukraine when EU foreign ministers meet for talks on November 18. Brussels may give Ukraine a final chance. The work of the European Parliament's special envoys for the Tymoshenko case has been extended until the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius.

Mobilizing the people

epa03939472 Supporters of Yuliya Tymoshenko carry a banner saying: 'Freedom to Yulia! Ukraine - to the EU!' during a march in Kiev, Ukraine, 07 November 2013, to support the consideration of various bills by the Ukrainian parliament , which would allow Yulia Tymoshenko to go from prison to Germany for medical treatment. EPA/ALEXEY FURMAN

Ukrainian opposition parties announced new protests.

The Ukrainian opposition is mobilizing the population. Pro-Western opposition parties have called for a rally on November 24.

Ukrainians may look enviously to their neighbors in Moldova. About 100,000 people had gathered there for a rally pushing for closer ties to Europe. Such mass demonstrations have not taken place in Ukraine since the "Orange Revolution" in the fall of 2004.

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