Today marks 25 years of diplomatic relations between Ukraine and Germany. In 1992 it was Germany first, among Western countries, sent its Ambassador to Ukraine.
And now, Berlin holds a significant place in the foreign political life of the country. In particular, Germany became part of the “Normandy four” format, with the participation of leaders of Ukraine, Germany, France and Russia, which aims to find ways of settling the situation in Donbas.
In an interview with RBC-Ukraine Ambassador extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Germany to Ukraine Ernst Reichel confirmed the existence of a German-French version of the “road map” implementation “of the Minsk agreements”. He did not go into the specifics, but even the General thesis suggests that this option will not be unconditionally perceived in Ukraine.
Ernst Reichel, in particular, admitted that elections in the occupied part of the Donbass can be held in the presence of the Russian army. All, he said, will depend on the conditions under which these elections will be held. This, as well as about Donald trump, the overall mood in Europe, including against Russia, “the Third world war,” the prospects of Ukrainian-German relations after the elections in Germany — in an interview with Ernst Reichel to RBC-Ukraine.
RBC-Ukraine: the First question about the results of the talks between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. Do you have any details, was reached some agreement?
Ernst Reichel: Mr. Poroshenko and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are in constant contact, both in personal meetings and in telephone conversations. Therefore, the meeting, which took place on 30 January, were not about to negotiate any specific agreements. This meeting is a continued permanent and long-term process of mutual exchange of views. Its main theme, of course, was the question of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, as well as exchange of opinions about the new American administration. Talked about how to start with her communication.
— What are your expectations for Germany from Donald trump? A lot was said during the campaign and after his inauguration that it is quite an unpredictable man, a politician, and that he can go to improve relations with Russia, including at the expense of Ukraine.
— Of course we want our relationship with President trump would develop as much as with his predecessor. That is how to ally on the basis of close ties, shared goals and mutual respect. Everywhere in the world, including in Germany and the Ukraine, trying to understand what exactly should be expected from the President trump and his administration. I think on this question no one else has the complete answer.
— I asked not the answer, I asked about your expectations.
You know, I can’t say anything about the expectations, because you said that to the outside world, President trump is still unpredictable.
— Visit of President Poroshenko to Germany was interrupted due to the events in Avdiivka. How do you assess these events, including in the context of the Minsk agreements? As far as the aggravation of the situation in the town can affect their performance? Do you not think that the Minsk agreement has outlived its usefulness?
— We are following with great concern the events that are developing now in the Donbass and, in particular, in the plant. Unfortunately, the situation there worsened, and now from the effects of hostilities, more and more civilians suffer. Broken water, electricity, there are dead and wounded. Watching what is happening in the town, we have reason to assume, as the situation will change if the Minsk agreement will be terminated. You know that both sides do not perform their now fully — heavy weapons not withdrawn, and is just the opposite — sides converge and there is a great danger. Thus, the current situation forces us to reiterate the need to implement the Minsk agreements.
— You just said that both sides do not fulfill the Minsk agreement of the withdrawal of weapons. What other points of each of the parties, in your opinion, does not fulfill its obligations?
— I would not like to list all the items that are not completed. Almost missed everything.
— Is there any need for a meeting of heads of state of the Normandy format? The last such meeting, as it is known, took place in the autumn, after which the negotiations were transferred to the level of foreign Ministers of Ukraine, Germany, France and Russia.
— There is such a possibility, and talk about this meeting underway. But also there is talk about, and whether it makes sense to pursue it? Negotiations in the Normandy format could be held in if they will progress, will find a way to better fulfill the Minsk agreement. While meetings of advisors, whose task is to prepare the basis for negotiations of heads of state.
— What role in these negotiations playing Germany? Some consultants offer you? What issues are discussed at expert level?
— We are talking about issues that, in principle, cover the whole range of provisions of the Minsk agreements. For the Ukrainian side is very important to establish and sign a specific “road map”, which would be a clearly defined sequence of steps to implement the Minsk agreements. Single aspect — the establishment of a full ceasefire and withdrawal of the parties from the contact line. The next issue is legislative support for the special status of Donbass, the question of Amnesty. And of course, what is very important — the holding of local elections.
— Do you think that special status for the Donetsk and Lugansk regions necessary? They can’t exist with the same rights and the same powers as any other Ukrainian oblast?
— The status I mentioned, because this clause in the agreement. This paragraph, which insisted the Russian side, in turn taking on the obligation to provide for the withdrawal of troops from these territories and give Ukraine control of the border. The Minsk process is an ongoing process, when something is given and something is obtained in return is diplomatic approach. It is a kind of compromise — a concept that has recently gained in notoriety. But this approach is realistic. Your ideas regarding the solution to the conflict, Ukraine can not 100% to defend their interests, because it is necessary to negotiate with Russia on the course of action.
But that doesn’t change the fact that the German side and the French side fully support Ukraine on matters of principle.
— You mentioned a “road map”. What stage is the work on this document, and when it can be presented?
— The “road map” is the path with the designation sequence, the most controversial points of the agreement. The Ukrainian side wants in the first place, were provided with security issues, the second to have been resumed control over the region and access to the border, and only then it is possible to hold local elections and to ensure that special status.
Russian demands the exact opposite. As they see it: first is status, is Amnesty, the election, and then negotiating the withdrawal of troops and give Ukraine control of the border. If we could create and sign a consensual road map, it would be a big breakthrough.
— We know that there are three pre-plan a “road map” — Ukrainian, Russian, German and French. Can you articulate the key proposals of the Franco-German project?
A German — French version is approximately in the middle between Russian and Ukrainian. For us it is very important that the ultimate end of the Minsk process became the full restoration of Ukraine’s sovereignty. This is the ultimate point of all our diplomatic efforts. Another way to achieve the restoration, in addition to diplomacy, no. A military solution to the problem of Donbass impossible.
— As you read Minsk agreement? In the order in which the points specified, or is close to you interpretation of the Ukraine? Agree, very strange that, two years after their conclusion, we are in discussion about how to properly read the document.
— If you look at the timelines for implementation of the steps specified in the Minsk agreements, in accordance with these terms, you can roughly plan the sequence in which they should be implemented.
I will allow myself this analogy — the two businessmen enter into a contract of sale. And the exchange of services under this contract occurs almost simultaneously. This is due to the fact that the smaller the confidence of both parties towards each other, the closer they look at each response step.
The Minsk agreement is more complicated than a contract of sale, so there are many phases of those agreements that require parties of synchronicity. But the idea that first, one party has to perform almost everything, and only then the other side will begin to reciprocate, these concepts are not realistic.
— Is it possible to hold elections before the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Donbass and the restoration of border control? When, in your opinion, do you hold?
— Part of the answer to this question I have already given. If the Ukrainian side insists that to hold the elections after she completely take control of the situation in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, then it means that Russia must fulfill almost all those provisions that depend on it, and only after that will the implementation of important for Russia requirements.
Without a doubt, it is difficult to imagine the holding of local elections without security. But I am convinced that this is not something impossible, all depends on the conditions. Can you give a historical example. The last parliamentary elections in the GDR, which was supposed to replace the Communist regime, took place in the presence of the Western group of Soviet troops and the then existing Communist regime in the GDR. But the election led to his change. I’m certainly not saying that the situation in the Donbas are identical, I just want to say that it all depends on the circumstances. So we have to do circumstances to make elections possible.
— What could serve as a marker that it is already possible to hold elections?
— Certainly, elections should be held in those conditions, which will correspond to European standards. And therefore, the safety and other requirements in the electoral process are essential. Any Ukrainian politician must be able without fear to carry out his campaign. And if it is it will not be possible, then, such an election cannot meet the standards. But not necessarily that the elections in the Donbass can take place only when there will be no Russian troops or at each of the city administration will be posted Ukrainian flag.
— Hardly seem democratic elections even with minimal presence of Russian troops in Donetsk…
I just gave the example of the GDR, and there were not a minimal presence.
— Elections in Germany, France, Bulgaria, Moldova… has Changed there, in your opinion, Europe now? What is the mood there now prevail?
— I guess you could say that the whole world is infected with the virus of populism. It is the tendency to find the simplest answers to difficult questions. The tendency to act based on emotion and ignore facts. I think this is the experience faced by many countries.
— How to perceive Russia in Europe, in Germany? Whether it is your strategic partner? Whether it is a major military threat to Europe? Do not you think that the world is on the brink of a third world war?
— I don’t think the world is on the brink of a third world war. I don’t like to label any country a “strategic partner” or “the biggest threat”. But it is clear that Russia has proved itself a player, which violates international law and fundamental way violated the peace order in Europe.
In this case, what to do with it? Europe recognizes the fact of violation of international law, but limited to verbal warnings, or “deep concern”. There are sanctions, but increasingly heard opinion that sanctions really are not effective and Western countries were tired to bear the loss from restricting cooperation with Russia?
— I’ve already said before — a military victory in the Donbas over Russia impossible. Now performing exercises together with our Eastern partners in NATO to develop a policy of intimidation of the Russian Federation. Also, I do not think that sanctions are not so effective. If this were so, then Russia would not be so radical for their removal. You can say that the economic interests of Western countries are suffering, but we are willing to pay this price because we insist that the Minsk agreements must be implemented.
— Sometimes, perhaps, the impression that we only demand from Europe for something, often forgetting that we have to carry out reforms. How do you assess their progress in Ukraine?
— I agree with you. I think that in the interests of Ukraine itself, if it is to become a state, a society that values and carries out the basic values and Western approaches. I am convinced that since the Maidan has been released a lot of reform energy in many areas, progress has been made, which deserves praise. Now sure you can say that the country is different than it was five years ago. But Ukraine has not yet carried out all the necessary reforms. This is a difficult process that requires a lot of energy and patience.
For example, we call privatization, restructuring of state enterprises, with the exception of “Naftogaz”, land reform. I am convinced that with the land reform for Ukraine will open a huge potential for economic growth. If the villagers will be able to provide their loans to use their own land, then open huge investment opportunities, and in the whole economy will be felt for a significant increase. If there is concern that large investors bought up large plots and then it is possible to prevent at the legislative level.
— Is there an interest of German business in the privatization of enterprises? A few years ago discussed the prospect of creating a joint consortium to manage the Ukrainian gas transportation system with the participation of Germany. Is there still enough interest in this project, will German business to buy some Ukrainian enterprises?
— I will answer you in the spirit of “Armenian radio”! In those areas where reforms are still insufficiently carried out, it is necessary to create conditions for attracting foreign investment. Fundraising is, first and foremost, is the safety of the investment. Security is a judicial reform, law enforcement reform. In principle, the first steps in this direction have already been made. I have a positive expectation, but still need to move in this direction.
On 7 February, will mark 25 years of diplomatic relations between Ukraine and Germany. How do you assess them? Do you think that as a result of your election, foreign policy, attitude to Ukraine be changed?
On 7 February we celebrate 25 years of existence of the German Embassy in Ukraine. This is a symbolic date, because Germany was the first country that has sent its Ambassador. If you compare those times with the current, without any doubt, we see significant improvement and expansion of relations. While the big political issues don’t underestimate that huge volume of economic and cultural ties between our countries. February 7 we will celebrate properly, we will have a big reception at the Embassy.
I am sure that after the elections in Germany the attitude towards Ukraine and Russia will not change. According to recent polls, after elections in the Bundestag will be approximately 75% of MPs support the current foreign policy of Germany. The policy, which now holds the Federal government in relation to Russia and Ukraine, and supported mostly the opposition. So, the disaster is not expected.