Britain, Sweden, Poland want EU Ukraine police mission -document

by Reuters
Thursday, 10 April 2014 15:40 GMT

* EU police, security mission would seek to strengthen justice system

* Russia likely to see proposal as interference in Ukraine's affairs (Updates with German reaction)

By Robin Emmott and Adrian Croft

BRUSSELS, April 10 (Reuters) - Britain, Sweden and Poland are pushing the European Union to send judicial and police advisers to Ukraine to help stabilise the country, according to a document seen by Reuters, a proposal likely to irritate Russia.

An EU mission would seek to rebuild Ukraine's police and legal system in the short-term to help combat sporadic violence in the country of 46 million people and lay the groundwork for implementing a proposed free-trade deal with the European Union.

"Re-establishing confidence in the rule of law in Ukraine will be vital for future stability. We thus propose a capacity-building mission focused on supporting the police and judicial system," the document said.

Such a mission would have to win the backing of all the EU's 28 member states and is unlikely to be popular in Moscow, which has accused the West of interfering in the affairs of its neighbour's affairs.

Germany, which has tried to use its influence with Russian President Vladimir Putin to calm the crisis, said it supported the proposal and the foreign ministry called for swift implementation. Britain, Sweden and Poland say they want the mission in place by June.

The European Union's foreign ministers are due to discuss the plan at a meeting on Monday with the bloc's foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton.

Civilian in nature and focused on advising both the government in Kiev and across the country, the mission would coordinate with NATO's strategy to improve Ukraine's security.

"It would also present a clear EU message of support across the country," said the document.

Russia and the EU have exchanged recriminations since Russia annexed Crimea in March and the proposal for an EU mission comes just as Brussels and Washington try to coax Moscow to the negotiating table in Geneva next Thursday.

One EU diplomat close to the issue said some EU countries including Ireland and Spain felt there was no need to rush into such a mission right now, and want to give more time to the Ukraine monitoring mission of the pan-European rights and security group, the OSCE.

But a concern of Britain, Sweden and Poland is the need for a strong judicial system in Kiev to implement the ambitious free-trade pact that Brussels and Kiev hope to sign following Ukraine's presidential elections on May 25.

The European Union has revived the trade pact with Ukraine that ousted president Viktor Yanukovich rejected in November in favour of cash from Moscow, triggering protests that led to bloodshed in Kiev and his flight to Russia.

The trade deal is at the centre of the EU's efforts to bring Ukraine closer to the bloc and mark a historic shift away from Russia, as well as saving Ukrainian exporters almost 500 million euros ($685 million) a year in customs duties.

"Ukraine's desire to move quickly towards the AA/DCFTA (free-trade deal) should provide useful leverage to allow the EU to insist on real changes in judicial and rule of law structures," the document said. (Additional reporting by Andreas Rinke in Berlin; editing by Angus MacSwan)

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