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Czech ratification of EU-Ukraine association uncertain

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Prague, Sept 11 (CTK) – Prague is one of the last six EU members who have not ratified the EU-Ukraine association agreement yet, and its ratification by Czech lawmakers is still uncertain shortly before the lower house’s crucial session, Josef Kopecky wrote in daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) Friday.

Reports about the conflict-ridden Ukraine have gradually disappeared from the front pages of Czech newspapers, overshadowed by the urgent problem of migration, Kopecky writes.

The EU-Ukraine association agreement was submitted to the Czech Chamber of Deputies by the government one year ago. The Chamber approved it in the first reading this April but has not definitively ratified it yet.

The association agreement should help Kiev become independent from the influence of Russia. It was the then Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych’s refusal to sign the agreement that triggered the mass protests of pro-Western Ukrainians in late 2013, Kopecky writes.

The protests toppled the Yanukovych regime, followed by the Russian annexation of Crimea and a war in Eastern Ukraine, with Moscow’s secret military help to the pro-Russian separatists, Kopecky writes, adding that the conflict has claimed 6,500 lives at least, according to official information.

Czech lawmakers have a chance to remedy their inactivity and ratify the EU-Ukraine agreement at its September session beginning next week, Kopecky continues.

In the session’s draft agenda, the agreement figures as No 129 point, which, unfortunately, indicates how low priority the agreement is to Czech politicians, Kopecky writes.

For Ukraine, the agreement with the EU is of a crucial importance, however. It includes a deal on the creation of a free trade zone as from January 2016, Kopecky writes.

According to the draft agenda of their September session, Czech lawmakers are to discuss the agreement at a very uncomfortable time, after 18:00 on Thursday, i.e. following the question time when MPs address questions to members of the cabinet and when the Chamber of Deputies is often almost empty, Kopecky writes.

At that hour, the number of deputies present might be too low to enable the agreement’s approval. Are the lawmakers, who support the agreement, unlike the Communists (KSCM), the populist Dawn and several Social Democrats (CSSD), aware of this? Kopecky asks.

The Chamber’s approval of the agreement on the third try in the first reading, showed that many Czech lawmakers are opposed to Ukraine’s effort to get independent from Putin’s Russia, Kopecky writes.

To prove this, he presents two quotations of deputies from the CSSD, the senior government party of Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka.

“The question is with whom we want to share the European Union and whether we will enable the European Union to expand also to include a group of fascists,” CSSD MP Stanislav Huml is quoted as saying during the first-round debate on the EU-Ukraine agreement.

“Let’s not use rosy glasses to look at Ukraine and dark glasses to look at Russia,” said another CSSD MP, Jeronym Tejc.

There are also the opposition Dawn movement and the traditionally pro-Russian Communists, with their disgusting utterances, which should not be taken seriously, Kopecky writes.

The question is how many of the CSSD’s 50 deputies (in the 200-seat lower house) share the opinion similar to Huml’s.

In the first reading, 11 CSSD deputies did not attend the vote, six abstained from the vote and one, Jiri Koskuba, joined the Dawn and the KSCM’s effort to have the agreement rejected.

For PM Sobotka, the upcoming final vote is a chance to show that he is in control of his CSSD and can make CSSD lawmakers ratify the agreement, a step they owe to Ukraine, Kopecky concludes.

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