Reading observations and reports from Ukrainian 'experts' its seems more likely than not that despite great unease in the West, the EU-Ukraine summit set for December 19th in Kyiv will take place as planned and Association and Free Trade Agreements will be initialed, "unless anything extraordinary doesn't happen again"..
[This rather cryptic comment is typical: "I think Barosso and Rompey overdid it slightly, and they understand this, when they altered Yanukovych's visit to Brussels. Unless anything bad doesn't happen, the summit will take place. But if anything good does not happen, the atmosphere will be very cold."]
I think it is worth listening to what former President of Poland Aleksander Kwasniewski, a great friend of Ukraine, said at a press conference in Warsaw on Thursday following a high-power conference where prospects of Ukraine’s integration with the European Union were the focus of discussions.
He mentioned two critical events that will ultimately decide what happens on the 19th.
Here's a summary of "L.B.ua"s report:
Ukrainian authorities, by delaying a decision on the issue of the convicted former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, risk of losing the chance to integrate with the European Union for many years.
Kwasniewski called this a key issue in the signing the Association Agreement and said he discussed this matter with the Acting Prime Minister of Poland, Donald Tusk.
Tusk "very clearly stated that if there is no breakthrough in the case of Tymoshenko and promises are not fulfilled, it is difficult to imagine how the EU-Ukraine summit on December 19th will be successfully concluded."
According to the former Polish president, representatives of the Ukrainian authorities promised in early September to decriminalize the articles according to which Tymoshenko was sentenced.
"Time flies. Suddenly, it might turn out that we have reached the finishing line and nothing has happened, nothing will have been signed, and we will have lost the opportunity (for European integration) for many, many years," said Kwasniewski.
He said that the European People's Party congress is to be held between December 6th and 8th. Their members could make a dramatic statement which will prevent initialling of the Association Agreement.
[Note: Over 1000 delegates from 39 countries have been invited to participate at the Marseille Congress, including EPP's 17 EU heads of state and government: Nicolas SARKOZY (France), Angela MERKEL (Germany), Donald TUSK (Poland - EU Council Presidency), Jean-Claude JUNCKER (Luxembourg - President of the Eurogroup), Traian BASESCU (Romania), Viktor ORBÁN (Hungary), Fredrik REINFELDT (Sweden), Yves LETERME (Belgium), Enda KENNY (Ireland), Silvio BERLUSCONI (Italy), Valdis DOMBROVSKIS (Latvia), Boyko BORISOV (Bulgaria), Lawrence GONZI (Malta), Andrius KUBILIUS (Lithuania), Iveta RADICOVÁ (Slovakia), Jyrki KATAINEN (Finland), and Pedro PASSOS COELHO (Portugal).
Tymoshenko has been officially invited too.]
Kwasniewski added that the Polish authorities are nevertheless planning to make every effort to ensure that the agreement was initialed at the December summit, and noted that the Tymoshenko case will be the subject of discussions between President Yanukovych and his Polish counterpart Bronislaw Komorowski [as well as other dignitaries] when they meet in Wroclaw on 15th November.
p.s. I can recommend 'Mafia State' by Luke Harding, a former British newspaper correspondent to Moscow. Perhaps the best chapters are on Russia's new bourgeoisie, and on Wikileaks.
A senior Spanish prosecutor, Jose "Pepe" Grinda Gonzales, told the US Embassy in Madrid in January last year that Russia, Belarus and Chechnya had become virtual "mafia states" - hence the title of the book.
According to a classified cable, Grinda Gonzales predicted Ukraine will become a mafia state too....
Nothing Yanukovych has done since becoming president has made this assertion less credible [see previous blog on how the grip of 'the family' is now almost complete].
The "system" - National Bank of Ukraine - State Tax Service - Ministry of Internal Affairs [i.e. law enforcement] -Prosecutor's Office - the Justice system, is working very efficiently. Tax revenues are up 50% on last year but are, to a large degree being spent on major capital projects gained via fixed tenders by opaque off-shore companies that are almost certainly linked to the highest officials in the land. In order to have a 'hassle-free' existence, enterprises are ever-more frequently 'urged' to use external auditors that have also become, de-facto, part of "the system".
I hope European leaders bear this in mind in the next few weeks.