Yalta summit divides Europe, again
A summit of the presidents of Central European countries due in Yalta, Ukraine, on 11-12 May, will be attended by some EU leaders and boycotted by others, EurActiv has learned. Ironically, Yalta is a symbol of the division of Europe during the Cold War, following the February 1945 meeting there between Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin.
At least four EU countries will boycott the Black Sea resort meeting. German media reported on 26 April that the country's new President Joachim Gauck cancelled a trip to Ukraine this month amid worries about the health of imprisoned opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko.
Then Czech media reported on 30 April that the country's President Vaclav Klaus has cancelled its attendance over the same reasons. Reportedly, the presidents of Slovenia and Austria, Danilo Turk and Heinz Fischer respectively, followed this example.
Last February, Ukrainian authorities reportedly issued invitations to 20 heads of state: Albania, Austria, Belarus, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Estonia, Italy, Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro and Hungary.
Oleg Voloshyn, director of the information department of Ukraine's ministry of foreign affairs, told EurActiv that six heads of state had indeed cancelled their participation, but insisted that this was done at different periods of time, and that they had cited other commitments which prevented them from going to Yalta.
Voloshin said that while the presidents of Italy, of Germany, of the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovenia and Estonia would not come, the 14 others were still expected.
"We don't see any politics behind those who come and those who don't come," he insisted. He also made it plain that Kyiv had no plans whatsoever to cancel the meeting.
By attending the Yalta summit, those leaders who have concerns over the situation of Yulia Tymoshhenko will have the possibility of meeting Yanukovich to hear his explanations, the Ukrainian official said.
The European Commission confirmed that neither President José Manuel Barroso nor Štefan Füle, Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy commissioner, would attend.
The Yalta meeting appears to be a prelude to a possible EU boycott at political level of the 8 June 8-1 July Euro 2012 football tournament that Ukraine is hosting, together with neighbouring Poland.
Poland is the friendliest country to Ukraine and according to Polish media, President Bronisław Komorowski had no plans to cancel his Yalta trip.
The European Union said it was "disappointed" with the sentencing of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko to seven years in prison over allegations that she abused her office in relation to a gas deal signed with Russia in 2009.
The trial was "politically motivated" and did not respect international standards, the EU has said, adding that it "would reflect" on its policies towards Ukraine.
The December 2011 EU-Ukraine Summit failed to initial the country's Association Agreement with the Union, largely due to the imprisonment of Tymoshenko.
On 30 March, the document was initialled, but full signature depends on changing the system of "selective justice" and the parliamentary elections in Ukraine due on 28 October 2012.