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Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite (pic by president of the European council/ source: flickr)
Ukraine risks seeing a historic free trade deal with the EU slip away for “a very long time” if it fails to make the moves needed for agreement at a summit next week, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said.
The blunt warning came as Ukraine’s parliament delayed for another two days a debate on a bill that would let jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko seek medical treatment abroad - a key condition to securing the Association Agreement, a first step to EU membership, reports EUbusiness.
President Grybauskaite told AFP in an interview that Kiev must act now to secure the deal.
She said: “There are no guarantees that it could be signed after a year or two. The pause in relations may take a very long period of time,” she said.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and the opposition “share the responsibility” to find a compromise on a deal allowing Tymoshenko go abroad for treatment, or else the EU agreement will be scuppered, Grybauskaite added.
“If the law that solves the Tymoshenko issue is not adopted, EU member states will definitely not sign an agreement with Ukraine.”
Tymoshenko, a fiery opposition leader who rose to fame during Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution and is an arch-rival of Yanukovych, was sentenced in 2011 to seven years in prison on abuse of power charges, prompting international criticism of the case as politically motivated.
She is being treated for longstanding back problems in a hospital outside her jail, and Germany has offered her medical care.
Freeing Tymoshenko in some form is a crucial condition set by EU leaders for Ukraine to sign the Association Agreement. But, in a session attended by EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele, Ukraine’s parliament failed to even debate a bill which would allow Tymoshenko to seek medical treatment in Germany. The issue could be debated on Thursday, when lawmakers are to examine four bills on treating convicts abroad.
Yanukovych, crucially, has so far not publicly backed the moves to free Tymoshenko. Vilnius hosts the Eastern Partnership summit on Nov. 28-29.