November 16, 2012
Ukraine wants to convey to the message that it has “passed the test” with the parliamentary elections held on 28 October, and expects to be able to go further with its EU relations, by holding a EU-Ukraine summit and signing its Association Agreement to the Union, the country’s Ambassador Kostiantyn Yelisieiev said on 16 November.
Yelisieiev said that not everything related to the election has been perfect, but insisted that they should be considered by the EU as fair, as in his words their result largely coincided with opinion polls, and a proof of the free choice of people was that two new political forces were able to enter parliament.
The Ukrainian Ambassador met with the Brussels press just ahead of a EU foreign affairs ministers meeting to be held on 19 November, where EU-Ukraine relations feature on the agenda.
Since the 28 October elections, EU representatives have made a few statements, mostly critical, but it looks as Brussels appears to withhold its overall assessment for the ministerial meeting.
Yelisieiev compared his country’s poll with the 6 November US elections, where according to reports there had also been various irregularities. He also mentioned the recent election in EU member Lithuania, where the second round of parliamentary elections was also held on 28 October. New elections will be held in four constituencies in Lithuania following controversy over irregularities, while in Ukraine the same will happen in five constituencies, he said.
“We passed the test, not with an excellent note, but we passed. So let’s continue with our EU agenda,” the diplomat pleaded.
Asked by EurActiv to comment on concerns of the Commission over the elections, the ambassador admitted that problems exist.
One of the problems is “tabulation” – the introduction of data from individual polling stations into the central register. According to many reports, irregularities took place at this level. Another concern of the Commission appears to be “MP buying”. Vote buying being a more widespread phenomenon, in Ukraine the parties with financial resource often “buy” independent MPs from majority constituencies.
According to an interesting analysis by Ukrainian journalist Sonia Koshkina which she contributed to EurActiv, the new Ukrainian parliament will include 185 representatives of the Party of Regions of President Viktor Yanukovich, 101 United Opposition representatives, 40 representatives of UDAR, the party of former boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko, 37 of the far-right Svoboda representatives, 32 Communists and 43 independent candidates who ran in single-seat constituencies. UDAR and Svoboda are new to parliament.
The current authorities consider the independent candidates a “pool” for their “own” majority. The majority must have at least 226 deputies, whereas a bigger majority of 240-245 MPs can basically unimpeded lawmaking activities. As a conclusion, Koshkina says that the victory of the Party of Regions may prove to be “Pyrrhic”, as it may be unable to form a strong majority.
On tabulation, Yelisieiev said the that the irregularities did not “influence much” the election result. On MP-buying, he said there was “nothing” the government or anyone else could do against the phenomenon.
EU-Ukraine relations are near to the freezing point. There has been no EU-Ukraine summit since the one in December 2011, which was marred by tensions over the imprisonment of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. The entre year 2012 will elapse without a single EU-Ukraine summit, while the EU held a EU-Russia summit in spite of the Russia’s election calendar.
The diplomat appeared to show some jealousy vis-à-vis Moscow. He said that it was very difficult for him to explain to the Ukrainian people that the EU was able to holds summits with Russia, but not with Ukraine. Yelisieiev also insisted that the Association Agreement would benefit the EU more than his own country.
Russia bribes Germany with cheap gas?
Asked if he thought the EU was too hard on Ukraine, the ambassador said that distinctions should be made between the Union and its member states. He didn’t specifically name Germany, but made it plain that the largest EU country was the biggest obstacle for his country’s rapprochement with the Union.
“Why is gas for certain EU countries much cheaper,” he asked a rhetorical question, obviously implying that Germany was awarded by Russia for its “tough” line on Ukraine. He also stated that his country wanted the EU to have a common strategy with regard to Russia, instead the current divisions for which Ukraine paid a dear price.
But Yelisieiev praised the German energy firm RWE for selling Russian gas to Ukraine. In spite of the fact that RWE gets a commission and in spite of the additional transit taxes for re-routing the Russian gas from Germany through Poland to Ukraine, this gas was 20% cheaper than Gazprom’s supplies to Kyiv, he said.
Ukraine pays the highest price for Russian gas compared to the other countries. Ukraine imports about two-thirds of the gas it consumes from Russia, at a price of $425 (€340) per 1,000 cubic metres in the second quarter, up from $416 (€333) in the previous quarter.
Asked about the case of imprisoned former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, he appeared to indicate that the problem could find a solution, if there was a dialogue at the highest level.