Ukraine's bid to sign an association agreement with the European Union would be threatened if former premier Yulia Tymoshenko is sentenced to serve time in prison, European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy Stefan Fule said on Friday.
If Tymoshenko "is put in prison" no one can guarantee that the parliaments of EU member states will approve the Ukraine-EU association agreement, Fule said at the Yalta European Strategy forum in the Crimea.
The commissioner, who held a meeting with President Viktor Yanukovych on Friday, said the Ukrainian leader is fully aware of the situation.
Tymoshenko, 50, was arrested on August 5 on charges she forced Ukraine's state gas firm Naftogaz to sign unfavorable gas supply deals with Russia while she was prime minister. She faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
Tymoshenko has repeatedly denied all the charges against her, saying they are politically motivated.
The Ukrainskaya Pravda publication cited its sources as saying the Ukrainian authorities are seeking, jointly with EU representatives, a way out of the deadlock over the criminal case against the former premier. One of the ways out could be to decriminalize the article of the Criminal Code under which Tymoshenko was charged.
A deputy presidential chief of staff, Andriy Portnov, said on Friday that Yanukovych will submit to parliament a draft law on decriminalizing economic crimes next week.
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, who spoke in Yalta, also defended the idea that Ukraine should change its legal norms.
Former EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said earlier on Friday Tymoshenko should be released from jail immediately as politicians should not be treated like criminals or punished for political decisions.