Westerwelle: Tymoshenko must get medical aid | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 03.05.2012
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Westerwelle: Tymoshenko must get medical aid

Criticism of Ukraine over its treatment of imprisoned opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko shows no signs of abating. But German Foreign Minister Westerwelle urges not to abandon dialogue.

Politicians in Germany continue to push for a better treatment of imprisoned Ukrainian opposition politician Yulia Tymoshenko. Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle repeated Germany's readiness to help the former prime minister with medical aid.

He said Tymoshenko could be treated in Berlin's Charite hospital, the very hospital that had sent the doctors who examined her in her Ukrainian jail and attested to her suffering from a herniated disc. In protest for being withheld proper medical treatment, Tymoshenko has embarked on a hunger strike, adding to her already poor health.

Time is pressing, Westerwelle said on Wednesday after meeting his Swedish counterpart Carl Bildt. He said the offer to help treating Tymoshenko had been communicated to the Ukrainian government and would continue to stand. What mattered, he added, was to actually help the opposition politician.

Edging closer towards Europe

A picture of Ukraine's jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko

Tymoshenko is seen as a figurehead of Ukraine's pro-EU opposition

Westerwelle and Bildt called upon the government in Kyiv to no longer stand in the way of improving ties between Ukraine and the EU. "It is President Yanukovych who is blocking the path to Europe," Bildt said.

"Whoever wants to move towards Europe has to know that the only path is via democracy and the rule of law," Westerwelle added. "The bridge toward Europe is based on two pillars: democracy and the rule of law."

An improvement of ties between Kyiv and Brussels would depend on the protection of human rights and on not having the legal system being abused for the sake of political goals, Westerwelle said.

Despite his criticism, Westerwelle was more cautious about a possible boycott of the European Football Championship to be hosted by Poland and Ukraine this summer.

"We don't want to announce any decisions today when these would be relevant only in a few weeks from now," he said. The point was to not abandon dialogue with Kyiv, he added, as Germany has a strategic interest in better relations between Ukraine and the European Union.

Human rights violation

German politician Wolfgang Bosbach of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union rejected calls from within his own party to move the soccer event from Ukraine to Germany. "This wouldn't help a single political prisoner," he said, pointing out though that from today's perspective it had been a mistake to move the championship to Ukraine.

Victor Yanukovych

Yanukovych insists Tymoshenko can be treated in Ukraine

Yet at the time the decision was made, there had been a sense of rewarding the achievements of the so called Orange Revolution - which had been led, among others, by the now-imprisoned Tymoshenko.

In winter 2004, protesters forced the government in Kyiv to grant a re-run of the presidential run-off between the pro-western Viktor Yushchenko and incumbent Viktor Yanukoviych. Yushchenko won and Tymoshenko became prime minister. After five years, however, Yanukovych was voted back into power.

In October 2011, Tymoshenko was sentenced to a seven-year prison sentence for abuse of power. She has appealed the verdict at the European Court of Human Rights.

German conservative politician Philipp Missfelder wants that very court to also be involved in the current crisis over Tymoshenko's access to medical treatment. He called on Berlin and the other EU governments to consider taking Kyiv to court as the case against Tymoshenko and her treatment in prison were in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Author: Bettina Marx / ai
Editor: Andrew Bowen

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