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Volume 534: debated on Tuesday 25 October 2011

2. Whether he has made recent representations to the Government of Ukraine on the treatment of former President Tymoshenko. (76294)

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister denounced the selective use of justice in Ukraine in the House on 12 October, and in late September my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister told President Yanukovych directly that cases such as Mrs Tymoshenko’s were a threat to parliamentary ratification of Ukraine’s association agreement with the European Union.

I thank the Minister for that reply. Does not the behaviour of the Ukraine Government towards ex-President Tymoshenko show that Soviet-style show trials are unfortunately not a thing of the past? Does he agree that if Ukraine wishes to be taken seriously as a true democracy, it should start acting that way?

Since President Yanukovych took office, he has declared that his prime foreign policy objective is to secure Ukraine’s closer integration with the EU through an association agreement. We need to keep reminding the Ukrainian Government that that integration involves not only economic reforms but reforms of the political and judicial systems to bring Ukraine into line with what we expect of a modern European democracy.

I share the sentiment of both the right hon. Gentleman’s question and the Minister’s answer: the treatment of Mrs Tymoshenko is totally unacceptable. Does the Minister agree that Mr Yanukovych is trying to play the EU against Russia, but that he is succeeding with neither? Is not the message for him that he should comply with the rule of law or face international isolation?

As I said, if Ukraine wants to make progress with its declared objective of closer integration with the EU, it must realise that that involves a clear and permanent commitment to political reform to establish modern democratic institutions.

The Government are right to make clear their deep concern about the legitimacy of the trial and conviction of Mrs Tymoshenko, but does my right hon. Friend agree that it is in the interests of both our countries that we continue to press Ukraine, and that we negotiate for it to join the association agreement and to sign the deep and comprehensive free trade agreement? Does he also agree that although we should register a protest, it would be a grave mistake to break off those talks?

I do not believe that isolating Ukraine will help us in persuading the Government there to continue to move towards full membership of the European family of nations. I certainly welcome the fact that friends of Ukraine, including my hon. Friend, deliver that message clearly to the Ukrainian authorities.