Ukraine should stand by the principles of the rule of law and democracy if it wants to join the EU at some point, MEPs said in a debate on the treatment of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko. However, views differed on whether it was a good idea for leading EU politicians to boycott the Euro 2012 football games in Ukraine over this. The parliamentary debate was also attended by Ms Tymoshenko's daughter, Yevgenia.
In October 2011, Ms Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in jail on charges of abuse of power in connection with the conclusion of gas contracts with the Russian Federation. During the debate on Tuesday 22 May, MEPs highlighted the concerns they had over the case:
Tymoshenko's case does not stand alone and a comprehensive judicial reform is needed in Ukraine
selective and politically motivated justice is unacceptable
the respect of democracy and rule of law is indispensible if the country wants to become a member of the EU eventually
parliamentary elections this year will be a test of progress
opposition candidates should be given an even playing field
There are concerns about the deteriorating health condition of Ms Tymoshenko in prison. On May 16, EP president Martin Schulz and Ukrainian prime minister Mykola Azarov agreed that the EP could send medical experts to Ukraine to assess her health and help with her treatment. Mr Schulz also asked prime minister Azarov to accept that someone of high international repute be sent to Ukraine on behalf of the EP to observe the second trial of Ms Tymoshenko. The ruling on Ms Tymoshenko's appeal to the Supreme Court will take place at the end of June.
Štefan Füle, the commissioner responsible for enlargement, said during the debate on 22 May that José Manuel Barroso has no intention of attending Euro 2012 football games played in Ukraine and that this view is shared by the college of Commissioners.
In the debate several MEPs expressed their doubts if a boycott is the right move, since it could harm EU-Ukraine relationships and hamper the dialogue.
Polish Conservative MEP Paweł Kowal, chairman of the delegation to the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Cooperation Committee, stated on a previous occasion: "I am against the boycott but I think that every politician should decide for himself whether he wants to go to matches in Ukraine or not. If one feels a strong moral dilemma about going to Ukraine, then I understand and respect it, because the situation is very tense."
The Euro 2012 football championship takes place in June and is co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine.
Ukraine is currently negotiating an association agreement with the EU to deepen bilateral relations. Štefan Füle, the commissioner responsible for enlargement, told MEPs during the debate: "We will not be able to move towards signing our association agreement if they [Ukraine] cannot show that they live in the spirit of political association.”
In a resolution adopted in December 2011, MEPs argued that the agreement could serve as a lever to bring about the changes needed in the country. However, they also said that it should be possible to suspend the agreement temporarily should basic fundamental principles be breached.
The EP is going to vote on resolution about the latest developments in Ukraine on Thursday 24 May.