As expected, on January 15 the European Parliament passed, by a vast majority of votes, a resolution on the situation in Ukraine. MEPs expressed their solidarity with the people of Ukraine and condemned the acts of terrorism the separatists had committed in the country’s east. At the same time, contrary to expectations, the document does not have a provision on recognizing the “DNR” and the “LNR’ as terrorist organizations, although a part of MEPs demanded this. A compromise decision only admits that some separatists have committed terrorist acts.
However, this resolution can also be called rather uncompromising because MEPs said in no uncertain terms that the EU should not only keep the sanctions at the current level, but also toughen them if Russia fails to observe the Minsk Accords.
The European Parliament calls for the continuation of the current EU sanctions regime as long as Russia does not fully respect and, above all, deliver on its Minsk obligations, and urges the Commission to find ways to enhance solidarity among member states should the crisis with Russia continue; stresses the need to adopt a clear set of benchmarks which, when achieved, could prevent imposing new restrictive measures against Russia or lead to lifting of the previous ones, including: implementation of the ceasefire, unconditional withdrawal from Ukraine of all Russian troops and Russian-backed illegal armed groups and mercenaries, exchange of all prisoners, including Nadia Savchenko, and restoration of Ukraine’s control over its whole territory, including Crimea.
In the case of any further Russian actions destabilizing Ukraine, MEPs invite the European Council to take up further restrictive measures and broaden their scope, by covering the nuclear sector and by limiting the ability of Russian entities to conduct international financial transactions.
What is more, the EP calls for swifter and more substantial technical assistance by the Commission’s “Support Group for Ukraine,” including identifying the areas where such assistance is needed to support Ukraine in the elaboration and implementation of a comprehensive reform program and deployment of advisers and experts from EU institutions and member states.
A new element, in comparison to previous resolutions, is that the EP calls on the Ukrainian authorities to set up an EU Integration and Assistance Coordination Ministry or Office, and a high-level interministerial coordination committee which would be vested with powers to effectively monitor and supervise the progress of EU approximation and reforms and would be able to prepare and coordinate their implementation.
Traditionally, the resolution reiterates that, pursuant to Article 49, Treaty on European Union, Ukraine – like any other European state – has a European perspective and may apply to become a member of the European Union, provided it adheres to the Copenhagen criteria and the principles of democracy, respects fundamental freedoms and human and minority rights, and ensures the rule of law.
It is also positive that the European Parliament urges the EU member sates to ratify the Association Agreement before the Eastern Partnership Riga Summit in May this year.
MEPs consider that the EU should explore ways to support the Ukrainian Government in enhancing its defense capabilities and the protection of Ukraine’s external borders, based on the experience of the transformation of the armed forces of the former Warsaw Pact EU member states, especially within the framework of training missions already provided for armed forces in other parts of the world, as well as support the existing delivery of non-lethal equipment.
It is also important that the EP recalled that on July 16, 2014, the Council of the European Union had lifted the arms embargo on Ukraine and that there were thus now no objections or legal restrictions to prevent EU member states from providing defensive arms to Ukraine.
“WHEN UKRAINE IS BEING MALIGNED, OFFICIAL KYIV MUST REACT TO THIS”
Arkadii MOSHES, manager, Research Program on Eastern Neighborhood and Russia, Finnish Institute of International Affairs, Helsinki:
“The very fact of the European Parliament passing this kind of resolutions is important. This shows the stand of a democratically elected body that mirrors Europe’s public opinion. It is a tough and uncompromising stand. It is usually the way public opinion is expressed in Europe. At the same time, it is not worthwhile to overestimate European Parliament resolutions and their impact on real decision-making. We can see that whenever Ms. Mogherini speaks to parliament, she tries to lobby and make statements to the liking of the parliamentary majority, but, at the same time, her office releases documents that can only be interpreted as aimed at the cancellation of sanctions against, if not the complete sellout of European attitudes towards, Russia. We do not have so far enough grounds to say that we know what decisions heads of state or even foreign ministers will make in the debate that will be held in the next two months.
“Russia is going to ignore this resolution to some extent because Russian practical diplomacy is aimed at working with the governments and business circles of certain EU countries. The Russian tactics are in general understandable and predictable. No wonder, when Sergey Lavrov was receiving Latvia’s Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics a few days ago, he said clearly that European sanctions were illegitimate and the Europeans should mull over canceling them.
“I think the importance [of this resolution] for Ukraine is that the latter has support. I emphasize that Ukraine must learn to respond to this kind of EP signals. We should not equate the attitude of the European Parliament with that of the whole European Union. I think that, from this angle, there is a lot of work for Ukrainian diplomats to do in the EU member states. As an observer, I do not think they are doing this work.
“After the Volnovakha tragedy, some media and even EU functionaries began to spread information that people in the bus were killed as a result of a Ukrainian army shelling. Now that there is enough evidence to say that it is wrong, the people who claim this must be prosecuted for spreading false information. Europe has proper laws for this to be done. And the Ukrainian state must take care of this. Nobody is going to do this for Ukraine. Ukraine has been employing counterpropaganda in EU countries with a variable success. It is failing to win this campaign. It is, of course, difficult, but when things like this occur, Ukraine has an opportunity to prove with facts in hand that it is being maligned and smeared with mud and lies – intentionally and absolutely undeservedly. Ukraine’s representatives abroad should keep track of these things and official Kyiv must undoubtedly react to them – not only by words of the parliamentary speaker, but also by applying concrete juridical procedures.”
“THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT HAS NEVER BEEN AFRAID TO CALL A SPADE A SPADE”
Dmytro KULEBA, Ambassador-at-Large, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kyiv:
“This resolution has a number of key points. Firstly, the European Parliament has confirmed in no uncertain terms that sanctions against Russia should remain in force until Russia changes its aggressive policy towards Ukraine and begins to effectively deliver on its Minsk obligations. Secondly, absolutely full-fledged and serious attention is being paid at last to the question of information warfare and counteraction to Russian propaganda which is now a parallel track in the armed conflict on the territory of Ukraine. If we recall the past year, even in the summer nobody was seriously concerned about this danger. And now Europe begins to take an extremely serious attitude to Russian propaganda and the ways to resist it. And the third, I would say crucial, point is a call to the European Commission to draw up the so-called plan of humanitarian actions for Ukraine, which will show the way the EU will be helping us to address the humanitarian problems that arise from the annexation of Crimea and occupation of some areas in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. These are all very crucial matters which found a place in the text as a result of the dialog we are conducting with the EU in order to make them understand better the problems Ukraine and Europe as a whole are facing.
“Naturally, we should neither overestimate nor underestimate the role of the European Parliament in the European Union’s system of power-wielding institutions. At the same time, the EP is free to express its position and has never been afraid to call a spade a spade. By contrast, the European Commission and national governments have been taking a more cautious approach to certain things. This attitude of the EP shows that Europe, at the level of both national governments and the European Commission, is quite seriously prepared for tackling these issues. In other words, although the European Parliament is always a step ahead of governments and European institutions, the latter are still ready to address the problems the EP so clearly and uncompromisingly spells out in its resolution.
“As for recognizing the ‘DNR’ and the ‘LNR’ as terrorist organizations, it is a question of not only the European Parliament. This legislative body always makes political decisions, and this political and legal recognition depends on a number of criteria. We are working with our European and other partners to recognize the ‘DNR’ and the ‘LNR’ as terrorist organizations. We should in no way consider the EP’s resolution as refusal of the EU to recognize this status of the two organizations.
“As for putting our position across to the EU, we have, thank God, established a daily mechanism of interaction with national governments and EU institutions, in the framework of which we keep them informed from both open and confidential sources. So, we have managed now – and it is one of the main achievements of the past year – to make the European Union change its overall position which is now based on the existing realities rather than on the realities Russia is trying to sell to European partners. We need to keep up the pace and do our utmost at ambassadorial level to allow our European partners to receive unbiased information in good time.”