KIEV, Ukraine -- In a Sept. 23 interview, "Kiev leader seeks to join EU," Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych again illustrated that the policy goals he presents abroad bear little relation to what is actually going on inside his country.
For example, he talks about "moving steadfastly along the road of European integration."
Yet integration cannot be achieved when democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights are being threatened as a consequence of authoritarian actions sanctioned by his administration.
Just this month the EU issued a statement on the freedom of Ukraine's press, expressing its "deep concern over the disappearance of the Ukrainian journalist Vasil Klymentyev in August."
The statement said, "the EU also expresses its concerns at recent reports of violence and harassment against media professionals in Ukraine."
That statement followed a strongly worded resolution from Europe's largest political party, the European People's Party (EPP), which said it was "deeply concerned by the current situation with the democratic development in Ukraine."
The EPP cited Kiev's curtailment of media freedoms; selective use of the criminal justice system that appears to persecute allies of the political opposition; and the use of the Security Service that it said "appears to go beyond the normal functions exercised by such agencies in democratic states governed by the rule of law."
It also condemned state interference in the main opposition party's internal affairs. As regards a new law governing nationwide local elections due on Oct. 31, the EPP said that it "falls short of democratic standards."
It is time for Mr. Yanukovych to match his public rhetoric with action.
To borrow a quote from EPP President Wilfried Martens: "Democratic freedoms are not safeguarded by public relations visits to European capitals by government leaders; they are safeguarded by sincere and tangible commitments to Ukrainian society."
Without this, Ukraine's aspiration to join the European Union will remain a pipe dream.