Martin Schulz, who became president of the European Parliament earlier this year, has described Ukraine's treatment of jailed former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko a "disgrace" to the country.
The German Social Democrat sat down with RFE/RL's Brussels correspondent Rikard Jozwiak to discuss the European Union's elected chamber's stance on Tymoshenko's imprisonment, as well as its approach to Kosovo.
RFE/RL: What is your reaction to the recent reports about former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko being manhandled in prison, and what will the European Parliament do?
Martin Schulz: This is a complete[ly] unacceptable development. I will meet the deputy prime minister of Ukraine [Valeriy Khoroshkovskiy] tonight and I will pass the message to him quite clearly that the European Parliament is deeply disappointed, because we invested a lot of trust in the country because we think that the EU and Ukraine and should cooperate on political, economic, and on trade levels.
My advice to the government and to President [Viktor] Yanukovich is to do everything possible to bring Ms. Tymoshenko sustainable medical treatment, and if this is needed in Germany or any other country, they should allow her to leave and to go to sustainable treatment. If she was beaten, as I was told, if she is badly and poorly treated in prison, this is a shame and disgrace for the country.
RFE/RL: Should the EU adopt asset freezes and visa bans on Ukrainian officials responsible for her persecution and imprisonment?
Schulz: One step at a time. First of all, we should deal with those who have the capacity to help Ms. Tymoshenko, using tough but open-minded dialogue. That is what I will do.
Before I threaten people, I try to convince them, and I will try to convince them that it is the interest of Ukraine to [work with] the European Union on all different levels. Which kind of alternatives does Ukraine have? My impression is that that they have no intention to go in other directions -- to join Russia or other regional cooperations.
RFE/RL: Should the EU adopt certain targeted sanctions against people involved in the custody death of whistle-blowing Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, as European Parliament resolutions on the matter have suggested?
Schulz: Those who are clearly involved in torture, in violations of human rights, should not be partners of the European Union. I cannot judge which kind of measures would be the most meaningful, but the European Union should not accept people who have the highest degree of disrespect for our fundamental values. I think this is clear.
RFE/RL: This week NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told the European Parliament that the European Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) must step up its role in Kosovo. He also said Amnesty International will soon issue a report recommending that EULEX be given a mandate to start prosecuting war crimes. How do you see EULEX's role?
Schulz: This is a very difficult question. The claims you described are easy to say. But to realize it is much more difficult.
EULEX did a lot to improve the security situation, to support the creation of known judicial structures. I doubt they could be more [supportive] of [the prosecution of] war crimes. In all the cases, the successful pursuit of war criminals happened if the concerned states did it themselves.
RFE/RL: The European Parliament is the only EU institution that refers to Kosovo as the "Republic of Kosovo." Five EU member states have however not recognized its independence yet. How can you and the European Parliament influence them?
Schulz: We did what we could to recognize Kosovo and to support them. The question is a really interesting one, because I followed intensively the debate about the candidate status for Serbia. And [the fact] that the EU as a whole asked Serbia to recognize the sovereignty of Kosovo -- as a union of member states where five of them don't recognize [Kosovo] -- this was a major [compromise], I think.
So the problem is solved now. I hope that in the framework of the next steps in the approach of Serbia and Kosovo, both of them, toward [joining] the EU sooner or later, this reluctance of some of the member states of the European Union will disappear.