EU must support Ukraine's 'European vocation'

Ukrainian foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin has warned of the threat posed by Russia to European security.

By Jon Benton

Jon Benton is Political Engagement Manager at The Parliament Magazine

18 Nov 2014

The Ukrainian foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin has visited parliament's foreign affairs (AFET) committee to discuss the ongoing crisis in the country. He discussed a variety of topics, but emphasised that the European Union was at the heart of everything his government was doing.

The foreign minister began by explaining that the Ukrainian October general election results showed overwhelmingly that citizens backed an EU agenda. Klimkin said, "80 per cent of Ukrainians voted for the European vocation of Ukraine, for the pro-European parties. What is important is there is no real difference in geography, in any kind of perception – the people voted in the clear majority in every location, for our European vocation."

"What we need is EU engagement in every domain of reforms, in every sector, in every industry, to get EU experts to help carry out reforms"

However, the foreign minister was realistic in his assessment of the situation as he conceded that Ukraine could not meet the reform requirements set out in the association agreement without EU help and support. On the issue, Klimkin said, "What we need is EU engagement in every domain of reforms, in every sector, in every industry, to get EU experts to help carry out reforms".

Prior to his meeting with AFET, the foreign minister had signed a status of mission agreement for the EU advisory undertaking for civilian security sector reforms with the EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini. The objective of the EU mission will be to assist Ukrainian authorities in the reform of the civilian sector, including police and rule of law.

Regarding the status of mission agreement, Mogherini said, "We made it clear that we ask the new government to commit to reforms internally as this is crucial to guarantee that EU support and assistance is there."

At the meeting with AFET, the foreign minister also warned of the threat posed by Russia, criticising Putin's support for rebel forces in eastern Ukraine and arguing that this was not just an existential threat to Ukraine, but to Europe as well.

Klimkin said, "We are fighting in the east of Ukraine, not only for Ukraine, but also for the safety of the European Union, for the safety and security of all Europeans." He warned MEPs that any successful attempt to undermine the Ukrainian government would not only be a "challenge and nightmare for us, but for every one of you".

"We are not going to fight back these lost areas with any military offensive, it's about people living there, suffering from the terrorists. It is our commitment, caring about these people"

Since 4 September, a ceasefire has been in effect in Ukraine between the government and rebel regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, based on the Minsk agreement. Regarding the ceasefire, the foreign minister made it clear that the Ukrainian government had been abiding by the agreement.

However, the rebel forces in the east continue to attack government, with Klimkin asking, "Who broke the ceasefire? The kind of question should be asked 20-30 times a day... we never started shelling."

The foreign minister fielded questions from the AFET committee on a number of issues, with the humanitarian crisis and the Malaysian airways crash in particular, highlighted by MEPs.

Klimkin sympathised with the committee's concerns regarding the Malaysian airways crash and stressed that his government will support the investigation, saying, "We will have a real, transparent and unbiased report".

Concerning humanitarian aid, Klimkin elaborated that the government has been, "trying to organise the flow of humanitarian assistance [… but] terrorists do not allow us because they fear it will change the mentality of the people".

AFET was also concerned that the current ceasefire agreement was ineffective. The committee raised the possibility of a second meeting based on the 'Geneva format', including the US, in order to force a Russian withdraw of military forces from eastern Ukraine. Klimkin responded, "I am a big fan of Geneva forward, [and we will be] trying to organise a second meeting".

The 'Geneva format' includes Russia, Ukraine, the EU and US, with a view to discuss a resolution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine. The first meeting took place in April where an agreement was reached to de-escalate tensions and restore security the region.

Klimkin also made it clear that the Ukraine desperately needed EU support to ensure not only the security of its borders, but its democracy too, saying, "we need EU support to ensure Ukrainian reforms are a success. We need military support, I don't mean in the sense of weapons, but sanctions and propping up and strengthening military capacity".

Lastly, the foreign minister announced that Ukraine would not be mounting a military campaign to retake the rebel regions, saying, "We are not going to fight back these lost areas with any military offensive, it's about people living there, suffering from the terrorists. It is our commitment, caring about these people".


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