Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Ukraine Jose Manuel Pinto Teixeira has somehow lost the “idealism to reform” Ukraine he first had when he took office in Kyiv. I sat down with him aside of the “Black Sea Economic Forum”, currently being held in Yalta (7-8 October), he reflected on his three years as ambassador of the EU-27.
In post since October 2008, the diplomat has been regularly under fire for allegedly not enjoying living and working in Ukraine. Harsh critics blame him for a negative attitude towards Ukraine and Ukrainians in general and for not to “bother” learning the Ukrainian language. For him, such statements are just sterile attacks from “people in the foreign ministry [of Ukraine]”. He had chosen willingly to come to Ukraine after having been previously accredited to Belarus. As he commented, “I travel more than anybody else to meet the people of Ukraine. I know a lot of what is going on in the country, even if I don’t bother to learn Ukrainian as they may say”. In his view, speaking Russian, which is the lingua franca in the region, is enough to understand Ukraine and represent the European Union in the country.
He compared the current situation to his expectations back in 2008, talking about his past “idealism to reform” and to enhance post-Soviet transition in Ukraine. He denied having lost this idealism but called for a drastic “need to change”. He identified a trend for over a year leading to the “deterioration of pluralism and democracy and against moving towards the consolidation of a democratic state”. The EU ambassador has denounced this trend repeatedly over the past few months, among many concerns over controversial reforms, such as the electoral law and the decriminalization of economic crimes.
The latter has been adopted by the Verkhovna Rada on Thursday 6 October and aims at legalizing certain economic violations by individuals and businesses. An ill-timed move for the EU ambassador, as a reverse trend pushes in Western countries for the criminalization of some of the recent developments in the banking sector.
According to Mr. Teixeira, this trend is a fundamental concern for the EU and the international attention should not focus exclusively on the “very serious and media development of Mrs. Tymoshenko trial”. Asked on his prognosis regarding the expected verdict of the trial on 11 October, the diplomat reasserted the risk of detrimental consequences of a politically-motivated decision on the signing and ratification of the Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine.
Yet he seemed confident in the understanding of the problem by Ukrainian authorities. “There are legal means to find a solution. We hope this is understood” he said. The Ukrainian government is reportedly looking into the possibility to extend the decriminalization of economic crimes to infractions committed by public servants, which would then include Tymoshenko’s case. She is charged with abuse of power and misuse of funds in the negotiation of a gas contract with Russia in 2009.