Interview with Charles Tannock MEP
Our Ukraine - 12 March 2004
Charles Tannock, member of the Conservative Party of Great Britain, member of the EPP/ED Group – the largest faction in the European Parliament – is one of the leading lobbyists of Ukrainian interests at the European Parliament. He commented on the resolution on Ukraine, which was discussed and adopted in Brussels yesterday. The resolution received 59 votes in favor, no votes against with only two abstentions. In his commentary Mr. Tannock addressed the political situation in Ukraine as well as the situation with the freedom of speech and the upcoming presidential elections. He stressed that the European community hopes for democratic presidential elections in Ukraine and will aid the people of Ukraine in their quest for democracy.
“The European Parliament is making a statement,” said Charles Tannock in a commentary on the resolution on Ukraine that was adopted yesterday by the European Parliament in Brussels. “So, yes, Ukraine is under pressure. But I think the government of Ukraine has responded, at least in part that there will still be a direct election to the presidency in October and that the judges are being confirmed in office with life-time security, and the socialists insist that they will only vote for the final bill if there are reforms of the electoral system for parliament,” stated Mr. Tannock. He also added that the pressure that had come from outside had indeed helped the opposition secure some improvements in the “Medvedchuk-Symonenko” bill because, “as it was originally drafted, and, indeed the vote of December 24 were highly criticized in the European Union and by the member states. So we are seeing some partial results. But there is still a lot of concern over the death of the journalist on his way to Kyiv a couple of weeks ago and the harassment of the media.”
“Also I made a point in my speech that I am concerned in the case of the [author of a scandalous article in “Silski Visti”], which indeed published very anti-Semitic articles according to the Jewish community that I have contacts with,” said Charles Tannock, adding that that was a real pity in his opinion. “I understand that prosecutions could be brought about for such things. But obviously the closure of the newspaper went a step far too far and indeed I understand it is being appealed and that it is unlikely that the courts will uphold that decision. Obviously, on the one hand I am very sympathetic to the many complaints of the opposition, but I don’t think it does your party any good to be associated with extreme anti-Semitic articles,” remarked member of the European Parliament.
“But, by and large, the motion is to keep Ukraine in a kind of forefront of interest of the EU,” said Tannock. Answering a question whether the adoption of the resolution may cause problems on Ukraine’s way to European integration, member of the EPP/ED Group stated: “Either way at this stage Ukraine’s integration into the EU is a long way off. At the moment we are so busy with trying to digest the ten new countries about to join on May 1. Although, I did manage to get incorporated in the resolution a formal reference to the parliament’s position under the “Wider Europe” debate, which formally recognizes Ukraine’s right to join the EU.” Charles Tannock stresses that a number of European parliamentarians, “particularly myself and the socialists’ main speaker Glyn Ford, member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Common Security and Defense Policy, both recognize the EU aspirations and the legitimacy of [Ukraine’s] EU aspirations. But I’m afraid that, at the moment, it is off the agenda in the short term.” He stressed: “Our main concern in Ukraine is that you have free and clear election for the presidency in October, that you uphold the law of your country as it is, and that you uphold human rights, democracy, and transparency in the system.”
Charles Tannock noted that similar resolutions are being adopted on “all sorts of countries every day” and that there was one on Venezuela just that day, which condemned the behavior of Chavez, and one on Burma, calling on the Council and the Commission to renew sanctions against Burma’s repressive regime. He reported that European Parliament has urgency debates on different countries in terms of human rights every month.
Despite some concern, member of the EPP/ED Group stressed that nobody was talking about sanctions against Ukraine at the moment and the Commission was negotiating an action plan with Ukraine under the “Wider Europe – New Neighbors” strategy. “The idea is that we’ll have action plans which will build on a much closer cooperation in a number of areas, particularly cooperation across border, investment, trade, political cooperation, security cooperation, and so on. I don’t think anybody is remotely talking about any kind of sanctions against Ukraine. Obviously, if the election in October goes ahead and there is massive election fraud as evidenced by the observers…”
“It’s interesting,” noted the parliamentarian, “that I had an amendment, which went through, reminding President Kuchma that he invited European Parliament observers to the October elections. It is a part of the resolution now. I’ve spoken to the ambassador of Ukraine who indicted that [the government] was not in any way denying that that invitation had been issued. So, we will have to watch it very carefully between now and October.”
But Charles Tannock said that the final decision on the time when the observers would be sent to Ukraine has not been made yet. “Mr. Wiersma, member of the Delegation to the EU-Ukraine and the EU-Moldova Parliamentary Cooperation, who has also been following this issue, has been talking to the OSCE parliamentary assembly and the Council of Europe and we will probably have a troika-type observer situation: three parliaments getting together with a common platform,” reported member of the EPP/ED Group. “There is obviously a need to have the observers [in Ukraine] at the time of the elections but we would like to have some resources, to have people in place a little bit before as well so that we can monitor the way the whole system is being set up, especially in smaller towns so that we can report; but we do not have any of the details yet – that remains to be decided,” reported Charles Tannock.
This article in Ukrainian