Pawel Kowal, Chairman of the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Cooperation Committee in the European Parliament, told The Day in a previous interview that there are four to five legal ways of solving the Tymoshenko case, but that each requires political will. US Senator Richard Durbin stated in a subsequent interview that official Kyiv was expected to arrange for Yulia Tymoshenko’s release from prison before June 26. Pawel Kowal arrived in Kyiv on June 5 to attend a conference on the forthcoming parliamentary elections in Ukraine. Below is his exclusive interview focusing on Europe’s policy – if and when the appeal trial procedures in the Tymoshenko case show the expected outcome; otherwise Brussels and Warsaw could impose sanctions affecting Kyiv’s big-time politicians.
“I believe that the appeal trial, scheduled for June 26, will be another opportunity for Ukraine to resolve its complex political situation. I can’t say what we expect – this would be contrary to political protocol. I can say that the best this trial could do would be by repeating all legal procedures in accordance with the laws currently in effect in Ukraine, so no one could blame anyone ‘upstairs’ for pressuring any Ukrainian institutions. As regards the Tymoshenko case, I believe the best way would be by solving this case legally, so no one could later blame anyone for pressuring justice in Ukraine.”
Do you believe that Yulia Tymoshenko will be released from jail, what with so many charges being pressed against her?
“I believe that we should know the difference between propaganda and political pressure. We have all of this, of course. Yulia Tymoshenko and members of her cabinet can’t be regarded as ordinary convicts. They are major pieces on a world political game board. Needless to say, their enemies may well apply various kinds of pressure against them, but we proceed from the current situation. Yulia Tymoshenko is in jail, serving her term, convicted as per such-and-such articles of the Criminal Code of Ukraine. Appeal procedures are the most convenient way of resolving this situation, against the political propaganda backdrop.”
We know from confidential sources in the European diplomatic corps that the EU will apply sanctions against Ukraine’s ranking political figures if Yulia Tymoshenko remains in prison. Would you care to comment on this?
“I believe that diplomats and politicians should keep applying political means, for as long as absolutely possible. Offering various opportunities to partners is probably the best political option. We must talk the current Ukrainian government into signing the Association Agreement and proceed on the European road. The only other option will be political isolation, getting down to the level of Belarus, except that Ukraine would find itself in a worse position. Therefore, we must use all political and diplomatic means, leaving the door open. If worse comes to worst, we will pressure official Kyiv by imposing sanctions, barring entry to the EU countries, suspending top-level meetings, blocking ranking politicians’ private bank accounts.”
When do you think worse will come to worst?
“I must stress that many European capitals regard the situation in Ukraine as the time for applying such sanctions. This is a serious option that will be used during your election campaign. They’re all waiting for the election outcome, to see what Ukraine’s democracy is all about. If nothing bad happens before the election date, I think that serious political decisions will be made afterward.”
Brussels and Washington insist on Tymoshenko and other opposition leaders taking part in the election campaign. If they aren’t allowed to do so, how do you think the European Union will respond? Will it wait for the election outcome and impose sanctions afterward?
“Formally, there will be no impact. The OSCE observers will be there to record the election proceedings; they won’t keep track of those who refuse to cast their ballots. On the other hand, we must politically assess this election. The absence of the opposition leaders, their inability to cast their ballots, will figure in the observers’ reports. This data will not pass unnoticed.”
President Francois Hollande of France has told his Cabinet members to ignore the Euro-2012 soccer events in Ukraine. What do you think? How will official Warsaw act, if and when?
“One can hear different statements about Ukraine in Prague and Paris. We in Poland must protect our interests that boil down to preventing an iron wall from being built on the border between Poland and Ukraine. Therefore, I believe that Poland will be the last [EU] member country to say that there is no way to influence the [domestic political] situation in Ukraine [except by sanctions]. Poland will defend its national interests in precisely this context. We will support Ukraine regardless of ideology, by assessing the actual situation, by offering [domestic political] options. Boycott would mean a new kind of relationships, a dead end, a situation that would be very hard to resolve.”
Will Komorowski visit Ukraine?
“I think so. Poland doesn’t want Yanukovych left between Putin and Lukashenka.”
Did you want to be appointed as an EU envoy to Ukraine?
“I didn’t (laughing). I think the new envoy to Ukraine will be a good one. Jan Tombinski is the best diplomat Poland and Europe can offer Ukraine.”