OPINION – Why are Ukraine unwilling to join the EU?

Credit: www.mhpc.com

Credit mhpc.com

Last Thursday the Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, announced that his country would not sign a landmark partnership agreement with the European Union.

‘Ukraine is a sovereign state and we respect its decision. Nevertheless in the same time we would like to express our strong disappointment that the process of association with the EU was suspended on the final straight’ said Marcin Wojciechowski, spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland.

The comprehensive free trade agreement was seen as the linchpin of a renewed EU commitment to engage with the states of the former Soviet Union. ‘Ukraine’s decision may, unfortunately, lead to indefinite suspension of the talks with the UE and to irreversible losses in the process of modernisation, reform and democratisation that the country needs so much today’ added Mr Wojciechowski. There is a risk of losing what has been achieved as a result of long and difficult preparations to sign the Association Agreement.

The most probable reason of suspending the talks is Kremlin economic pressure according Aleksander Kwasniewski, former president of the Republic of Poland and EU representative in Ukrainian negotiations. Independent Ukraine keeps on balancing between the East and the West, remaining uncommitted to either side and trying to obtain as much advantage as possible from its situation.

For now, Yanukovych has agreed to Russia’s principal demand: to boycott the EU deal. Even if Yanukovych resists Moscow’s blandishments and still does not want to see Ukraine fully absorbed into Russia’s Eurasian structures, he seems unwilling to do anything to prevent his country’s continued dependency on Russia while at the same time declaring the will for closer relations with Europe.

On top of his foreign relations issues, Yanukovych needs to cope with every-day domestic problems – his decision to suspend the deal prompted more than 100,000 protestors to take to the streets in Kiev, resulting in clashes with the militia and the deployment of tear gas. Additionally, Yulia Tymoshenko, the jailed former prime minister of Ukraine, has begun a hunger strike in protest of the president’s reluctance to join the EU. This has caught the attention of foreign governments and human rights watch organisations, and it now seems unlikely that Yanukovyvh will be re-elected in 2015.

Considering the above, Ukrainian authorities bear the full responsibility for their exclusion from the EU. Poland and the European Union itself were prepared to make a far-reaching compromise, benefiting Ukraine more than the other member states. Yanukovych, meeting the European leaders in Vilnius later this week, will have an opportunity to sound out what he might be able to salvage from the wreckage of the deal. Until then, the true nature of his motives remains a mystery.

Katarzyna Sowa

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UCDSU will continue to support student rights

UCD

A campaign has been launched by UCD students to highlight student rights which are currently being violated on the Belfield campus. Students oppose the presence of cameras throughout the residential areas. Officials also hold keys to each apartment and can enter the apartments at any time.

Students believe this is an infringement on basic rights, as these conditions would not be tolerated in other living arrangements, such as private residences.

UCD Residences house over 3,000 students in the separate accommodation locations. The academic year runs from September 2nd until May 19th 2014. Prices range from €4,391 – €8,347 for a fully catered room. The students are required to sign a license to reside; it is this legislation which the students are seeking to renegotiate.

Michael Gallagher, UCDSU President, said: ‘UCDSU is committed to protecting its students’ rights. If this campaign is successful it will ensure that living on campus is affordable, enjoyable and sustainable’.

Katelyn Cook

Man with ‘severe learning difficulties’ will serve seven years for sexual assault

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Credit Courts.ie

A man (20) with severe learning difficulties was sentenced to 7 and half years with 2 years suspended by Justice Barry White earlier this afternoon.

He pleaded guilty during an earlier hearing to sexually assaulting Michelle Hennessy, aged 26, which was later upgraded to ‘aggravated sexual assault’ under section 3 of the Criminal Law (RAPE) (AMENDMENT) ACT, 1990.

The attack occurred on the 29th of January 2011. Sean Thackaberry, with an address in Kildare, was escorting the victim home from a night out. Mr Justice Barry White said that the length of the sentence had been dictated by the fact that Thackaberry was ‘in a position of trust to escort her home’.

The court heard that the defendant had attacked the woman 250 metres from her home by pushing her over a wall before sexually assaulting her.

Gardaí on the scene were alerted when they heard the woman screaming. ‘She was hysterical,’ said Sargent Anne Thompson.  Evidence was given describing the woman’s injuries which she suffered while ‘physically resisting the attack’. Her injuries included extensive bruising to her body. The attack lasted 20 minutes.

Thackaberry was apprehended on the scene and was later held by Gardaí after the victim’s DNA, as well as his own, was found on the inside of his boxer shorts. Thackaberry gave the sample voluntarily. He was accompanied by his mother during questioning due to his severe learning disabilities.

Justice Barry White said that the 2 years suspended on his sentence were given as a result of his compliance with Gardaí.

During the victim impact statement Sharron Hennessy, sister to the victim, described her as an ‘outgoing, bubbly person’. She said Michelle was ‘afraid to walk out of the house’ following the incident and stopped her from engaging in her passion for skydiving.

Quoting her sister, Sharron Hennessy said: ‘I feel safer in the air than on the ground’

Thackaberry was said to have severe learning difficulties with a literacy level equivalent to that of a ‘six year old’. He had been abusing alcohol and cannabis and had ‘attempted suicide several times after the death of his grandparents’.

He had become known to Gardaí after he began ‘hanging around the area at night’.

Thackabbery remained silent for the duration of the sentencing, only responding ‘ye’ when asked if he understood his sentence.

Michelle Hennessy was unable to give evidence as she has since deceased. Her death was not noted as having a connection to the attack.

Eoghan Regan

Old Age Pensioners Critical of Budget 2014

“They really are penalizing the old folk in this budget. Now, they’re taking a chance, because I’m not going to vote for them again”.

Fine Gael and Labour are facing severe criticism from pensioners in the face of today’s budget.

The elderly have already faced cut pensions as well as increased prescription fees in recent budgets, and many fear facing more hardship.

“I worked for 50 years, never drew anything, and now they’re cutting my pension” said one elderly woman. Pensioners are also set to lose telephone benefits, as well as bereavement allowances.

“Even the dead are not safe from this budget” said Fine Fail minister Michael McGrath in his speech in the Dail today.

The government have been accused of targeting the country’s vulnerable, as well as attempting to optimize political favour. This accusation of cynicism follows last week’s highly criticized Seanad referendum.

“The people I’m most concerned about are the disabled and their carers because they are being hit, hit, hit all the time!” said another elderly woman who cares for her disabled brother.

Paul Doyle

First Taste of Budget 2014

the-dailBudget Day has arrived, with many cuts already confirmed ahead of the 2.30pm announcement. Under 25’s job seekers weekly rate will be reduced from €144 to €100. Pensioners will be hit with the removal of their telephone allowance, and one in ten pensioners will potentially lose their medical cards.

More to come.

Lauren O’Halleron