KIEV, March 6 – Parliament resumed normal operation on Thursday after four major political groups signed an agreement ending their standoff seven days before President Viktor Yushchenko could obtain the power to dismiss the legislature.
The breakthrough came after the pro-government groups and opposition parties agreed to approve a special resolution that doesn’t allow Ukraine’s accession to NATO until after a referendum.
The development eases concerns that the standoff between the groups would escalate into a major political crisis and would force Yushchenko to dismiss the legislature and to call an election.
“Fortunately this has finally happened,” Arseniy Yatseniuk, the speaker of Parliament, said opening the session. “The agreement has been signed and will come into force after the approval of the NATO resolution.”
Shortly afterwards, lawmakers approved the resolution that demand to hold the referendum before Ukraine actually joins NATO.
Yushchenko, who strongly pushes for the country’s accession to NATO, had repeatedly promised a referendum would be held before the accession. But the resolution now makes it mandatory.
The Communist Party, the vehemently pro-Russian group and decisively an anti-NATO party, has refused to sign the agreement, and has refused to vote for the resolution.
The Regions Party, a moderately pro-Russian group, was joined by a centrist group led by former Parliamentary Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn and some pro-government lawmakers from Our Ukraine-People’s Self-defense and the group led by Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko to approve the resolution by 248 lawmakers in the 450-seat Parliament.
Parliament was in a stand-off mode since the middle of January, when Yushchenko, Tymoshenko and Yatseniuk signed a letter asking NATO’s permission to join the Membership Action Plan, a program that immediately precedes the accession to the alliance.
A NATO-Ukraine summit in Romania in April is supposed to review the request, which may open the way for the country’s accession to the alliance within several years.
The resumption of Parliament’s operation is a victory for the government and for the president that need to approve a number of important bills, including to ratify the accession to the World Trade Organization.
The dismissal of Parliament by the president, the second in the course of the past 12 months, would probably postpone the important legislation and the accession to the WTO.
Tymoshenko on Thursday praised the end of the standoff.
“I see the unblocking of Parliament as an absolutely positive fact,” Tymoshenko said at a press conference in Brussels. “The fact that no constitutional ground emerged for the dismissal of Parliament is of course positive.” (tl/ez)