Former German Ambassador: Ukrainians must not be held hostage by one leader

Dietmar Studemann, Germany’s Ambassador in Ukraine from 2000 to 2006 has told Deutsche Welle that he sees a Ukraine-EU summit as unlikely without a fundamental resolution of the “Tymoshenko question”. According to a survey commissioned by Deutsche Welle, the majority of Ukrainians feel a worsening in relations with the EU under Viktor Yanukovych.

There were twice as many people (44%) who said that relations had worsened than the 22% who said that they had improved in the last year and a half. Deutsche Welle spoke about the reasons for a worsening in relations with Dietmar Studemann.

Mr Studeman said that the results of the survey are depressing and are linked with how Ukraine is presenting itself to the international community.


Asked if this was linked with the sentencing of Yulia Tymoshenko, he called this  “a flagrant aspect but only one of many that cast a shadow on Ukraine in the eyes of the West. We are seeing a process where the civic mechanisms that made it possible to control the authorities are being removed. This is not a new problem for Ukraine.” He says that there are two concepts at play in Ukraine which are unknown in Western Europe – that of issues related to the justice system being decided via phone calls and crime bosses (literally :“criminals within the law”). He sees the existence of the two as a result of the incapacity of Ukraine’s political elite.  He stresses the situation is not new, but says that the present regime is not doing enough to change it.

So why, he was asked is there now such strain the relations with the EU?


“President Yanukovych has resorted to major-scale persecution of members of the former government. In democratic countries there is such a concept as government officials’ immunity with respect o the consequences of political decisions they have made.”  He points out how absurd it would be to imagine Greek former government officials being flung in prison in the present day, etc.


“We would have to try the entire EU’s political elite! Something like that happened to Yulia Tymoshenko. I wouldn’t make Ms Tymoshenko out to be a martyr. Yet it’s clear that she was convicted on the basis of a law which President Yanukovych admitted,  including in a conversation with European politicians at a conference in Yalta, is an anachronism from Soviet times. It is an abnormal law. Yanukovych’s refusal claiming that he can’t interfere in the justice system (the Editor notes that Mr Studemann laughed at this point) is not serious. Firstly, there is no independent justice system in Ukraine. Secondly, in view of the fact that the majority in the Verkhovna Rada is made up of Yanukovych’s allies, there would have been no problem with bringing legislation into line with international democratic standards. “


Asked whether Yanukovych irritated European leaders by deceiving them, Mr Studemann stated that at the Eastern Europe – EU summit in Warsaw, President Yanukovych told Chancellor Merkel that Tymoshenko would be released if she compensated the state for the damages she called. Such treatment, he says, would upset anybody.


He says that Ukraine needs to stop sending contradictory signals to Europe. Signals are needed which comply with European understanding of fundamental values.


Asked if Yanukovych could end up in international isolation, Mr Studemann said that this would inevitably result in Ukraine’s. and expressed the hope that things would not come to this.


“I would call on the Ukrainian leadership to find a way of reaching understanding with western partners. Ukrainians want closer ties with Europe and deserve them. Ukraine is historically a European country. Yet it can only be called such if democratic principles are at all.”


Later in the interview, he said that for Europeans it was impossible to imagine that EU high-ranking representatives would come to Kyiv while Tymoshenko was behind bars.  That would run counter to democratic tradition and fundamental democratic principles.

“My powers of fantasy couldn’t muster up imagining that the signing [of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement] could take place without a fundamental resolution in the Tymoshenko case, as well as with ensuring the rule of law in general.

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