EU leaders head to Poland today faced with the tricky task of re-energising relations with the bloc’s eastern neighbours. Democracy and human rights abuses look set to dominate the two day Eastern Partnership summit, with events in Ukraine causing particular concern.
The EU has described the on-going trial of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko as politically motivated, warning it could seriously harm Ukraine’s chances of joining the European mainstream.
Olga Shumylo-Tapiola, a Visiting Scholar from Carnegie Endowment for International Peace told euronews: ‘‘Politicians in Europe repeatedly say there is a problem with the rule of law in Ukraine, and obviously point to the case against former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. However, the EU has also highligted about another 20 people under investigation, who worked in the former government led by Tymoshenko.’‘
But it’s not just Ukraine. What to do about Belarus and its President Alexander Lukashenko remains deeply problematic. Brussels has strongly criticised the crackdown of Belarus’ opposition following last December’s presidential elections. The chances of improving the current political situation look bleak. In an apparent snub, Minsk has only sent its Warsaw ambassador to the summit in the Polish Capital following repeated calls on it from the West to release political prisoners.
Olga Stuzhinskaya, from the Office for a Democratic Belarus said: “There is evidence of torture from people recently released from prison. Freeing those political prisoners still in jail and clearing their names continues to be a priority for better relations between the EU and Belarus.’‘
Along with Ukraine and Belarus, relations with Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan are also expected to focus minds. Launched in 2009, the Eastern Partnership was set up to combat corruption and political instability on the EU’s doorstep.