Štefan Füle assures parliament 'we have not forgotten about Crimea'

Members of parliament's foreign affairs committee have called for ratification of the association agreement with Ukraine and more action against Russia if it fails to de-escalate the ongoing crisis.

By Kayleigh Rose Lewis

16 Jul 2014

Parliamentarians were speaking in a debate with enlargement and European neighbourhood policy commissioner Štefan Füle in the Strasbourg plenary ahead of Wednesday's extraordinary council meeting.

Commissioner Füle, who opened the debate, told members, "The crisis in Eastern Ukraine has not abated. Each day we continue to receive alarming reports about casualties.

"The activities of illegal armed separatist groups remain a source of great concern. Militants still occupy buildings and border posts, keep dozens of people hostage and threaten the territorial integrity and independence of Ukraine and the security of its citizens.

"Innocent civilians, including women and children, are caught in crossfire. We must do all we can to protect and support them. Each killed civilian is one too many," he stressed.

"Allow me to stress - we have not forgotten about Crimea, it will always remain on the radar of our policy until international law is restored" - Štefan Füle

The Czech official continued, "The increase in the numbers of displaced people is also of concern. It underlines the importance of supporting the work of humanitarian organisations.

"It is essential to ensure protection and the provision of emergency assistance to all the Ukrainian civilian population in need, whoever and wherever they are."

In addition, the commissioner said, "There are worrying reports regarding the respect for human rights, not only in eastern Ukraine, but also in Crimea, which remains illegally annexed by Russia and where the most dramatic changes in the situation of minorities and enjoyment of human rights have taken place.

"Earlier this month, the leader of the elected Crimean Tatar assembly was refused entry to Crimea," he pointed out. "This is a clear violation of international law and the European convention of human rights.

"Allow me to stress - we have not forgotten about Crimea, it will always remain on the radar of our policy until international law is restored," he vowed.

German deputy Knut Fleckenstein, said, "The news about the situation in the eastern parts of Ukraine, especially in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, is more and more worrying.

"A growing number of internally displaced Ukrainian citizens are suffering because of the insecure and volatile situation on the ground.

"It is deplorable that despite the ceasefire offered by the Ukrainian president in June the fighting goes on," he said.

"All sides should allow humanitarian assistance to be delivered to citizens in need and allow security and protection for civilians," urged the S&D MEP.

"It is deplorable that despite the ceasefire offered by the Ukrainian president in June the fighting goes on" - Knut Fleckenstein

"We call on everyone involved to stop the violence and to contribute to finding a lasting political solution. No sustainable solution to the crisis will be achieved by military means."

"Therefore," he continued, "The Ukrainian government must get as much support as possible for its peace plan and its initiatives to start an inclusive national dialogue that respects the interests of Ukrainian citizens in all parts of the country.

"While signing the remaining chapters of the EU-Ukraine association agreement will facilitate EU support for Ukraine's reforms in areas such as democracy, the rule of law and fundamental freedoms, the country is first and foremost in urgent need of security and stability," he explained.

"Not only should the EU be willing to lend its full support, for instance by establishing the planned EU common security and defence policy mission, but Russia should also assume responsibility for pacifying the situation in the eastern parts of Ukraine.

"This could be done by stopping the influx of weapons and mercenaries via the Russian-Ukrainian border or by using its influence over separatist groups in order to persuade them to lay down their arms. Russia is a necessary partner for seeking a sustainable solution to this crisis," he concluded.

"We need consequent action towards Russia, if Russia does not de-escalate or fulfil the requirements which we put on the table" - Jacek Saryusz-Wolski

EPP deputy Jacek Saryusz-Wolski also commented, saying, "We need consequent action towards Russia, if Russia does not de-escalate or fulfil the requirements which we put on the table.

"The council decision on further third stage sanctions should be put into motion in sectors like defence, banking and energy.

"In sign of our support and solidarity towards Ukraine the European parliament should quickly and swiftly proceed with ratifications of the association agreement," the Polish MEP concluded.

Czech member Jiří Maštálka addressed the parliament too, saying, "While I think it is positive that we are discussing this topic today, we should have started much earlier, before the association agreement in November 2012.

"The association agreement is one of the factors that led to this civil war that we have today. The EU should have been more objective," he complained.

"One hundred years on from the start of WWI we are today facing war on the European continent; we are seeing fascist tendencies and humanitarian disaster" - Jiří Maštálka

"One hundred years on from the start of WWI we are today facing war on the European continent; we are seeing fascist tendencies and humanitarian disaster," rued Maštálka.

Finally, Johannes Cornelis van Baalen, a member of parliament's ALDE group urged, "What we should do is demand Russian actions, not Russian talk.

"Indeed, if the action is not good we should come with further sanctions, because I think in the end this is the only way to keep Russia on the right side of the Russian-Ukrainian border."

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