News24

Germany says EU-Ukraine deal at risk

2012-05-02 12:28

Berlin - Germany's foreign minister underscored on Wednesday that concerns over Ukraine's jailed ex-premier Yulia Tymoshenko could block ratification of a political and trade deal between the EU and Ukraine.

Referring to the association agreement, Guido Westerwelle said on ZDF public television: "We Germans say it cannot be ratified if conditions for the rule of law are not also clearly kept to."

In a separate interview with mass-circulation newspaper Bild, Westerwelle also said that Ukraine, as a member of the Council of Europe, was obliged to meet minimum standards on human rights.

"The Ukrainian government must know: The path to Europe crosses a bridge which stands on two pillars: democracy and rule of law," he said.

Asked on ZDF about a possible boycott by the German government of the Euro 2012 football tournament which Ukraine begins co-hosting with Poland from 08 June, Westerwelle said that was not currently the issue.

"Saying what we're going to do in six weeks doesn't help," he said, insisting that the most important thing currently was to help Tymoshenko.

Ukraine has come under intense pressure amid mounting concern for the 2004 Orange Revolution leader, who was jailed for seven years in October in a highly controversial case that immediately damaged Ukraine's relations with the European Union.

The 51-year-old launched a hunger strike on 20 April to protest an alleged beating she received in prison.

German media have reported that Chancellor Angela Merkel is preparing to instruct her ministers to stay away from the soccer tournament, while the Austrian chancellor has confirmed his boycott of matches.

European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso has "no intention" of travelling to Ukraine, his office has said, following a similar decision by EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding.

Westerwelle already indicated last week that the EU-Ukraine association deal - initialled at the end of March - could remain on ice if Tymoshenko did not receive "appropriate medical treatment".