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Europe pressuring Ukraine to meet Kremlin’s demands

President Petro Poroshenko, Commissioner Johannes Hahn
Europe pressuring Ukraine to meet Kremlin’s demands
Article by: Serhiy Sydorenko, European Pravda, June 23, 2015
Translated by: Anna Mostovych

Despite the European Union’s  apparent support of Ukraine, Brussels sometimes comes up with ideas that evoke amazement among Ukrainians who wonder how it is possible to have such a wrong perception of reality.

The only consolation (for Ukrainians) lies in the hope that a public airing of the inappropriateness of the proposals of the EU representatives will convince them  to abandon what they have started. Therefore, we hope that our publication will help stop the new initiative of the European Commission, which, to put it mildly, is rather hostile to Ukraine.

European Pravda  has learned that Johannes Hahn, the commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, during his visit to Kyiv last week, tried to convince Ukrainian authorities that Kyiv needs to carry out the “last” points of the Minsk agreement and not wait for Russia and the Russian-controlled militants to carry out their portion of the agreement.

What are they asking of Ukraine?  

The new proposal so far does not yet have the status of an “official EU requirement.” It is more likely that the EU is currently “testing” the reaction of the Ukrainian side regarding the idea of a “mild renegotiation” of the requirements of the Minsk agreement.

But even Kyiv’s unconditionally firm response during the first round of the negotiations did not prevent the members of the European Commission from raising the issue again.

European Pravda’s correspondent was present during a closed session where one of the highest officials of the European Commission responsible for Ukraine (we agreed not to disclose his name) suddenly announced that there were problems in Kyiv’s implementation of the Minsk Agreement.

“Yes, we are talking about Russia’s violations of the Minsk Agreement,” he said. “But is Ukraine doing everything to comply with the Minsk requirements? Why don’t you move ahead with providing special status to the Donbas? After all, you can do that  immediately and demonstrate Kyiv’s good will toward carrying out Minsk,” the official explained.

The arguments of the Ukrainian politicians who were at the meeting that the Minsk Agreement deliberately consists of separate stages and that there is no point in carrying out the last point when Moscow is not even complying with the first one had no effect on the EU representative. He continued to insist that Ukraine needs to fulfill the Minsk agreement “in advance.”

The Verkhovna Rada is already aware of the new EU requirement.

“Rumors emerged last week and were later confirmed,” Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, first deputy head of the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, told European Pravda.

“The Europeans are demanding that we propose a strategy for the special status of Donbas. And they want this status not to be limited to three years (as in the law about the status of certain territories) but to be made permanent,” she said.

According to Klympush-Tsintsadze,  somehow the complex approach to carrying out the Minsk-2 Agreements is being negated suddenly. “Despite the fact that the first steps have not even been carried out — the ceasefire is not respected, the heavy weaponry has not been withdrawn, our hostages have not been returned — but the EU is telling Kyiv to carry out the fifth or seventh step,” she said.

Kyiv’s Reaction

Multiple government sources confirmed that this idea first appeared during Hahn’s visit to Kyiv. And one of his meetings turned out to be almost completely dedicated to this idea.

The official participants in the negotiations with Hahn refuse to comment officially, explaining that the situation is “too sensitive.”

However, as a result of discussions “not on record” European Pravda was able to put together a scenario of the negotiations.

“The negotiations that were held in the Verkhovna Rada were incredibly complex and emotional. Voices were raised. The Ukrainian participants considered this idea practically a betrayal on Hahn’s part. Europeans, on the other hand, tried to make the case the Ukraine itself must demonstrate greater flexibility and progress on the Minsk issue in order to remove any claims on the part of Russia,” one of the negotiators told European Pravda

“At one point the Ukrainian representative even told the commissioner that he is advocating the same position as the Moscow representatives,” another source said. After emotional and fruitless negotiations in the Rada, Commissioner Hahn went to meet the president.

“There the negotiations were not as emotional. The commissioner was more constructive with President Poroshenko and paid more attention to reports on the violations of the Minsk agreement by Russia,” one of the Verkhovna Rada participants reported. However, another source insisted that during Hahn’s negotiations with Poroshenko the Europeans again — perhaps in milder terms — raised the question of Ukraine “going ahead” in carrying out the Minsk requirements.

Meanwhile, our source at the Ministry of  Foreign Affairs says the situation should not be  overly dramatized and that there are no “demands” on the part of the EU.

According to the diplomat, so far Kyiv is not being asked to grant  special status to the Donbas but to “discuss” the possibility of such a provision.

“The EU wants for all the Minsk questions to be discussed in the subgroups of the Interim Contact Group  in order to avoid taboos on certain topics, including this one. But this is an informal discussion, an exchange of ideas. The official dialogue will begin only after the elections with the legitimately elected representatives (of several regions of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts)” the Foreign Ministry source said.

Instead of an epilogue

At present it is difficult to say if this unexpected proposal by the European Commission, which was made twice in just a few days (first in Kyiv during the visit of the European commissioner and then at a closed session at the EU), will advance further.

Much depends on how categorically this option was refused by the Ukrainian side. For now, all sources without exception say they are against any revision of the Minsk agreements even a “modest revision.”

“My conversations indicate that at the EU they sometimes act as though they want to achieve elections in the Donbas without thinking too much about how to conduct them at present,” said one of our sources who is involved in the “Minsk dialogue” on the Ukrainian side.

“They want the imitation of success in the settlement. However, they do not have any answers to our questions about why they’re not reacting to the destruction of Shyrokino, Debaltsevo, Uhlehorsk. This is very frightening because it means we are being left to face Russia alone.  But our position is firm: the Minsk agreements are a composite and currently no point of the Minsk agreement is being fulfilled,” he concluded.

Translated by: Anna Mostovych
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