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Leigh Turner

Ambassador to Austria and UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations and other International Organisations in Vienna

Part of UK in Ukraine

20th September 2011

Tymoshenko in Yalta

The tiger is gigantic, looming against a glowing golden background.  Behind it, cubs frolic.  Near the work, Tiger Club by Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, Ukrainian and foreign politicians including President Victor Yanukovych, Israeli President Shimon Peres and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair engage at the 8th annual Yalta European Strategy Forum (YES) “Ukraine and the World: Common Challenges, Common Future“.  In discussion, speakers draw on the Murakami picture to illustrate both the irresistible rise of China (big tiger, with the US as cub) and as showing a still dominant US (big tiger, China as cub). 

                                     Tiger club. Takashi Murakami

As at previous YES meetings (eg 2009) the attendance is stellar.  Others attending include Ukrainian politicians from Prime Minister Azarov, First Deputy PM Klyuev,  Deputy PM Kolesnikov and Foreign Minister Hryshchenko, to opposition politicians Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Vitaliy Klitschko, Anatoliy Hrytsenko, Hryhoriy Nemyria and Natalia Korolevska as well as a host of foreign speakers.

One person not at this year’s seminar is former Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko, one of whose campaign symbols in the 2010 presidential elections was also a tiger.  Tymoshenko has been in Lukyanivska Prison in Kyiv since her detention after her court appearance on 5 August.  The court cases against her and other members of her government, and the implications of those cases for the development of Ukraine’s democracy and future relationship with the EU, are a dominant theme of the conference, both in the plenary chamber and in the corridors and coffee breaks.  This is not surprising, since the outcome of the court cases will have big implications for Ukraine’s future development and relations with the EU.

The UK has been a strong partner of Ukraine since 1991.  That includes being an advocate of Ukraine’s EU membership when the time is right.  But to be eligible, Ukraine must meet the Copenhagen Criteria and subscribe to the values set out in Article 2 of the EU Treaty.  If Ukraine does not apply the rule of law objectively and impartially, it will not qualify for EU membership.  Member states and other organs of the European Union such as the European Parliament make important judgements based on these values regularly: for example, the Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement now under negotiation between the EU and Ukraine must be ratified by EU member states and by the European Parliament before they come into effect.

At the time of writing, the outcome of the court cases remains unclear.  There are many questions about what will happen next, and it is impossible to provide answers to every hypothetical scenario.  But the principles set out by the EU for relations with aspirant member states provide a clear framework to guide Ukraine and the EU on the way ahead.

The handling of the cases against Ukrainian opposition figures to date has been judged by experts, including the Danish Helsinki Committee, as violating fundamental principles, in contradiction of common European values.  The democratic standards to which Ukraine must adhere include respect for human rights, the rule of law and an independent, transparent and fair legal process.  It follows that any outcome of the current court cases against Mrs Tymoshenko and other opposition leaders must be based on sound legal grounds.  If this is not the case, and if the result is either prison sentences or exclusion of these politicians from political activity, including the 2012 parliamentary elections, this will present obstacles to Ukraine’s further European integration – including potential ratification of the Association Agreement and DCFTA.

About Leigh Turner

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of…

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of the UN and other organisations; stories here will reflect that.

About me: I arrived in Vienna in August 2016 for my second posting in this wonderful city, having first served here in the mid-1980s. My previous job was as HM Consul-General and Director-General for Trade and Investment for Turkey, Central Asia and South Caucasus based in Istanbul.

Further back: I grew up in Nigeria, Exeter, Lesotho, Swaziland and Manchester before attending Cambridge University 1976-79. I worked in several government departments before joining the Foreign Office in 1983.

Keen to go to Africa and South America, I’ve had postings in Vienna (twice), Moscow, Bonn, Berlin, Kyiv and Istanbul, plus jobs in London ranging from the EU Budget to the British Overseas Territories.

2002-6 I was lucky enough to spend four years in Berlin running the house, looking after the children (born 1992 and 1994) and doing some writing and journalism.

To return to Vienna as ambassador is a privilege and a pleasure. I hope this blog reflects that.