Thursday, April 18, 2013

Ukraine: Opposition Parties Urged to Support Bill Vital for EU Integration

SOURCE Ukraine Monitor

Ukraine's opposition parties are being urged to "do the right thing by the nation" and support legislation critical to the country's drive towards European integration.

The ruling Party of Regions has introduced into the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) a bill that will allow for visa-free travel between Ukraine and European Union member states. This measure must be passed as a prerequisite to the signing of the Association Agreement with the EU, expected to take place at the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius in November.

Given that Ukraine's Communist MPs don't vote, the government is appealing for support from Batkivshchyna, the party of jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko , as well as Svoboda and former boxer Vitaly Klitschko's UDAR.

"We would ask our colleagues from the opposition to join the vote, because we have stated mutually that it is important to pass these laws in order to follow the path of European integration, and in this case to solve the problems associated with the simplification of visa-free regime," said the Chairman of the Party of Region in parliament, Oleksandr Yefremov .

Following the recent pardoning of former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko , former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski said he believes Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych "indeed seeks to sign an Association Agreement with the EU in November." However, he does not expect the Lutsenko pardon to be followed up by one for Tymoshenko, who is serving seven years for abuse of power, as it's much more complicated.

He said Lutsenko was serving a lesser sentence, had already completed half of his prison time, and there are no further investigations involving him presently under way.

Kwasniewski also noted that he expects the EU to ask Ukraine to join the bloc in a decade's time.

"Europe needs Ukraine, given the demographic potential of its market and millions of Ukrainians, who now work in the EU and in Poland," he said. He also pointed out that, unlike Russia and Belarus, Ukraine is prepared to introduce European standards.

Along with former European Parliament President Pat Cox , Kwasniewski will Thursday present his report on his monitoring mission to Ukraine to the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The two men were active in the discussions that preceded the pardoning of Lutsenko and five other people.