Exclusive Interview with Jan Zahradil

Written by | Sunday, December 1st, 2013

‘Lost’ EU-Ukraine Deal: Only Yanukovitch and Putin Know Their Real Agenda

EUBULLETIN has recently talked to MEP Jan Zahradil who is, among others, also Member of Committee on Development, Subcommittee on Human Rights, and Delegation to the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly, about some of the latest issues and challenges facing EU foreign and security policy.

EUBULLETIN: The EU has recently signed an FTA deal with Singapore and some of the European negotiators have privately admitted that, because of the ongoing EU crisis, the EU has lost some of its leverage vis-à-vis its partners. Is it, in your view, the case that because of the EU’s relative economic weakness, the recent negotiations with Singapore were much tougher than, for example, the negotiations with Korea a few years ago?

J.Zahradil: I definitely cannot exclude that but I have not had such an experience. My feeling so far has been that the deal with Singapore was relatively unproblematic because of Singapore’s size and also because of the portfolio that was covered by the FTA deal. The negotiations with Korea or recently with Canada were surely much more complicated. I do not say that negotiations with Singapore were without any problems but, at the same time, there were much more complicated cases than this particular one.

EUBULLETIN: Regarding the Snowden leak, some people believe that in light of what Mr. Snowden has done, it may indicate that he can actually be a Russian spy.

J.Zahradil: I am not a big friend of conspiracy theories and I am very skeptical of these possibilities to fabricate such a very complicated plot today. When compared with what was possible some 50 years ago, the same is hardly possible today in times of very sophisticated communication technologies.

EUBULLETIN: But if you look at the timing and broader consequences of the leak (of very sensitive data and information from the NSA), his mission somehow appears to have been to destroy as much as possible the strategic EU-US relationship and increase mistrust between the transatlantic allies. And this leak also coincides with the TTIP negotiations between the EU and US. Do you subscribe to these interpretations of what or who is behind Snowden’s leak?

J.Zahradil: I would say, in my eyes, Mr. Snowden definitely is a traitor and he is a man right now who is acting in Russian interest – that’s true. I would not accuse him of having been a Russian spy even before – I have no evidence for that. Maybe he was just an idealistic fool but whatever he says and whatever he does now, taking into account his current settlement in Russia, we have to be very careful because I do not think that now he speaks any more for himself – he speaks for someone else. Definitely, he made damage, no doubt about that, and he will probably continue to do so for a certain period of time. But now we must certainly be careful because he is acting in the interest of another power.

EUBULLETIN: Regarding the latest developments in EU-Ukraine relations, with the important Summit in Vilnius between the EU and with six post-Soviet neighbors fast approaching, Ukraine’s President Yanukovitch has recently scrapped plans for political and trade agreements with the European Union. In that regard, the European Parliament has also done its part in encouraging the Ukrainian authorities to release Ms. Tymoshenko, the country’s former Prime Minister. As a sort of insider, could you predict what will be the next steps that the Ukraine political establishment will take?

J.Zahradil: I have no predictions for that because I do not know how much is the current administration under President Yanukovitch devoted to a real deal with the EU. If they are not interested that much, they do not need to forced by anyone externally not to sign a deal with the EU – they would perhaps do it anyway. On the other hand, if they have the feeling that they need to improve somehow their public image, their PR strategy, they would definitely make some move in the near future. But the real thing, the real issue is whether they are at the moment really interested to pursue further relations with the EU or not. And this is probably only Mr. Yanukovitch – and perhaps Mr. Putin – who are really aware of what their agenda is and what they really want to achieve.

Jan Zahradil is Member of the European Parliament and since 2011 also the Chairman of the European Conservatives and Reformists group in the European Parliament. He is also the President of the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists.

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