A hunger strike by imprisoned opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko will help neither her nor her country, says Elmar Brok, Chairman of the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs.
DW: Mr. Brok, former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko is on hunger strike. Her lawyer says she's protesting against the way she has been handled by prison guards. How do you view the situation?
Elmar Brok: She is being tortured by the painkillers she is either receiving or not receiving. She is a very seriously ill woman. She is not being treated by doctors she trusts. And she is being forced to enter a hospital she doesn't trust. The terrible physical and psychological pressure on Ms. Tymoshenko is being applied by a government that is doing everything legally wrong it can possibly do. That's why I can't accept the action. However, I would like Ms. Tymoshenko not to go on this hunger strike. We will support her in all possible ways but she should not endanger her life.
How can the European Union and especially Germany support Ms. Tymoshenko in this situation?
We are already in contact with doctors in Berlin and we will react to the political situation in the Ukraine. But Ms. Tymoshenko will help neither herself nor her cause with a hunger strike. It would only help Mr. Yanukovych [Ukraine's President] who is clearly violating human rights.
It is also about the future of the association program between the Ukraine and the EU. What sort of development do you anticipate here?
We need to ensure that, under current circumstances, Ukraine's signature is not part of a negotiated agreement. This becomes less and less likely the longer the current situation continues. We know how difficult the situation is. But Mr. Yanukovych must not push it to the extreme. The opposition must have the right to be free. The opposition can't go to jail over lapsed or phony criminal charges. The association agreement will have no signature, and without a signature, it can't be ratified. And if it isn't ratified, it can't go into effect. That's perfectly clear.
At the moment, not only former Prime Minster Tymoshenko but also other members of her government are in prison. How do you view these cases?
Here the law is being used to eliminate political opponents and keep them away from elections because the government is afraid of its own unpopularity. And, of course, there is also an element of personal revenge. Neither are acceptable reasons within a constitutional state and democracy.
Some European leaders are calling on using the European soccer tournament in Poland and Ukraine in June to put the Ukraine under more pressure. In fact, there are calls to boycott the tournament.
I don't agree with this idea because it would only punish the Ukrainian people and the athletes. But it must be clear to Ukrainian leaders that they can't use this event for propaganda purposes. That's why politicians who go there should use the opportunity to express their views of the government. They should apply for permission to visit opposition leaders in prison and show their solidarity. I also expect UEFA and the participating teams to act accordingly.
Do you expect any EU sanctions against the Ukraine?
I don't rule out the possibility that if the situation worsens, sanctions could be considered against those people in government and the judiciary responsible for such decisions and penal conditions. They should not, for instance, be able to receive visas and transfer money. However, I can't rule out this possibility, should the current policies continue.
Author: Natalia Netlike / jrb
Editor: Joanna Impey