It is good for the European profile on human rights that countries such as the Ukraine and Belarus exist where the European Union can still feel secure enough to lecture their leaders on human rights.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is currently visiting China and while at the start of her chancellorship Merkel was outspoken on human rights, she has since become an advocate of quiet diplomacy. She will at best take the Chinese leadership aside and remonstrate with them that human rights violations can be damaging to China and its image. Therefore ,she has turned down appeals by 26 German journalists, who have faced harassment in China, to intercede publicly on their behalf.
The German chancellor has more important fish to fry such as securing Chinese backing for European bonds and promoting trade relations between the 2 countries. One can say that similar reticence by the Europeans has been on display with regards to Russia. Belarus and the Ukraine are relative small fry.
In the case of Yulia Tymoshenko, the former Prime Minister of the Ukraine who has just lost her appeal against a seven-year prison sentence and a fine of €150 million, the German Chancellor has been open in her criticism and has received thanks from the jailed leader's family for her support and understanding.
Merkel has called Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, a dictator in the mold of Alexander Lukashenko the autocrat of Belarus . It has been rumored that the Ukraine offered Merkel to release Tymoshenko in exchange for a ransom of $7 billion. Yanukovych presumably told Merkel that Tymoshenko had stolen $14 billion from the Ukraine and a $7 billion ransom actually represented a 50% discount.
A spokesman for the EU's "Foreign Minister" Catherine Ashton claimed that the union was "deeply disappointed" by the verdict and its repercussions that opposition leaders "are prevented from standing for parliamentary elections following trials which did not respect international standards as regards fair, transparent, and independent legal processes".
Tymoshenko's lawyers plan to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg and expect that the court will rule in Tymoshenko's favor. A few years ago that might have been enough, but the financial crisis has sapped the EU's prestige and Kiev displays scant concern.
Yanukovych warned last week that he would not negotiate trade relations with the European Union if the price was allowing the EU to interfere in the case.