More than 6 weeks after President Yanukovych’s decision to withdraw from signing the Association and Free Trade Agreements with the EU at the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius, thousands of people are still protesting at ‘Euromaidans’ for their right to choose a European course for their country, demanding at the same time the resignation of the President and the whole government.
A strong commitment to European values and the rule of law
As Bogdana Depo, young Ukrainian activist currently working in Brussels, puts it “Euromaidan is proof of our strong devotion and commitment to a European future manifested by millions of Ukrainians.”
The opposition leaders have just announced that the protests will continue until the presidential elections scheduled for 2015, while in a video message addressed recently to President Yanukovych civil society activists insisted that Ukraine will be in the EU “with or without” him.
“We do not protest just in order to protest. We protest to achieve a result”, another Ukrainian activist, Anastasiya Chepka, has stressed. She first joined ‘Euromaidan’, the peaceful pro-European protests at Independence square in Kiev on November 21. “We think that now people are mainly protesting against the government and the opposition is somehow caught in the middle. People expect them to make political changes, to do something which is constitutional, but on the 3rd of December the Parliament, dominated by the presidential Party of Regions, failed to dismiss the cabinet of Ministers.”
The so-called round table discussions proposed by President Yanukovych to the opposition in an attempt to ease international criticism did not bring satisfactory results; nor the amnesty declared for the students and protestors arrested during the Euromaidan failed crackdown, as many of them were not cleared of the charges.
In this context, protestors advance different possible solutions. “I would prefer to have a referendum, a direct democracy exercise, in order to give the whole population the possibility to express their point of view on whether they trust the President, the Parliament and the government”, Anastasiya says.
The EU should not deceive Ukrainian’s hope of support in their pro-European aspirations
Some also underline that Euromaidan will fail to make changes if they do not have the support of the EU and see the protests also as a call for the EU to act.
“Protests in Kiev, in numerous cities in Ukraine, as well as supporting events in EU Member States demonstrate that Ukrainians made their choice in favour of European values, standards and the rule of law. These massive protests have escalated as a result of the shameless abuse of power by the authorities, weak protection of the citizens and daily injustice”, claims Bogdana Depo.
“While Ukrainians are oppressed daily by the authorities, EU Member States could make a small, but significant gesture of support by introducing a visa-free regime. Some EU politicians have manifested their support at Euromaidan, but it is not enough. The EU can support our democratic aspirations voiced at Euromaidan by launching investigations into the assets owned by the Ukrainian authorities in the EU Member States. Stronger only together!”, she says.
Others, like Anastasiya, seem however to be losing faith in the EU’s support. “Due to the fact that the Ukraine is not an EU Member, the EU instruments are limited to some economic sanctions towards certain figures, people, countries. The EU cannot force us to start the elections next month. That’s mainly what most of the people at Maidan require: they want the elections but unfortunately the opposition cannot push this. We don’t really know who could”, she notices.