Olin tänään maanantaina puhumassa eilen alkaneen ETYJ kokouksen demari- ja sosialisti-osanottajien vastaanotolla. Vaikka kyse ei ole ETYJ:ssä päätöksiä tekevästä kokouksesta vaan parlamentaarisesta kokouksesta – minkä YLE uutisoinnissaan jokseenkin aina unohtaa mainita – on iso vahinko, että sen mahdollisuuksia dialogiin leikattiin kun kaikki eivät voineet osallistua omalla edustuksellaan. Sanoin puheeni lopussa suomalaisten sosialidemokraattien näkemyksenä, että tässä olisi pitänyt ja voitu menetellä toisin. Tästä tuntuivat kaikki osanottajat olevan täysin samaa mieltä.
Muutoin käsittelin ETYJ:n työtä parin viime vuoden ajan hallinnutta konfliktia Ukrainassa.
The ongoing conflict in the Ukraine has dominated discussions and work in the OSCE for almost two years now, for very good reasons, as we are faced with the challenge to uphold the new world order established through the declarations signed here in Helsinki 40 years ago and which now is threatened by the return to power politics and changing borders through military force.
Acting against the principles of the OSCE regime has to be clearly condemned. But we also need to look critically at why and how we have come to the present situation and explore all possible avenues for solving the crisis.
When Viktor Yanukovych announced in November 2013 that he was not going to sign the Association and Free Trade Agreement with the EU some of our colleagues in the EU were announcing that “we have lost Ukraine”. Since the EU had been consistently telling everyone that we were not engaged in any zero-sum competition with Russia about spheres of influence this struck me as unwise and unwarranted. And now that we have definitely lost the Crimea I think it is high time we also ask ourselves what did we possibly do wrong to get ourselves – and Ukraine – into the grave crisis we are now facing.
Yanukovych’s announcement led to the Maidan movement. While many extreme nationalist and even Fascist elements joined it, they did not lead the movement driven by ordinary Ukrainians totally fed up with endemic corruption in the country and who saw the movement towards the EU as an answer to it.
The crisis came to a head in February 2014 and led to the Foreign Ministers from three EU countries brokering together with the high-level Russian representative also in Kiev an agreement to end the crisis which included a new government of national unity and for moving forward the next presidential elections. The agreement was torn up the next night as Yanukovych to the surprise of everyone chose to flee.
This was a surprise for both Yanukovych’s supporters as well as Russia who abandoned him without regrets. The Russian reaction was to label Yanukovych’s exit a Fascist coup and to put into practice the obviously well-prepared operation to take over the Crimea and annex it. It looks like a panic reaction, but it may have been a convenient excuse to execute the ready-made plan.
Russia also initiated a large-scale operation in support of separatist elements in the Donbass. If the aim was to bring about a genuine uprising in the Russian-speaking regions, it did not succeed.
The easy and natural reaction to all that has happened is that we have no-one else to blame except Russia. We all have joined without reservations the clear condemnation of the annexation through military force of the Crimea and support the sanctions taken by EU against Russia.
This is still by no means the full picture. Having early on after the collapse of the Soviet Union declared Russia to be a strategic partner for Europe we did not deliver on the initially very positive expectations this created in Russia. And when we in 2009 started the Eastern partnership with the six countries including Ukraine we could and should have worked much closely and openly also with Russia so as to give credence to our claim that the initiative was in no way directed against the interest of third parties, meaning Russia.
Foreign Minister Lavrov claimed in October that when the Eastern Partnership was started Russia approached the Commission with the proposal that it would like to join it as an observer, but never received any reply. We cannot know how seriously such an approach was made, if at all, but what we do find disconcerting is that none of those present –the High Representative, the Commissioner or any of the 28 EU Foreign Ministers – bothered to comment on this claim at all. Neither did they do so when I reminded them of this a few weeks later at our next meeting.
The Association and Free Trade treaty negotiated with Yanukovych involved nothing that we saw as detrimental to any Russian interests, but why did we wait until January last year before agreeing to have EU and Russian experts meet on a technical level to examine and evaluate the proposal together? The declared principle behind our Eastern Neighbourhood policy was that we did not want neighbours who had bad relations and unresolved conflicts with other neighbours. In this context regarding the Russian initiative of a customs union as inimical to European interests was a mistake – after all the EU is a customs union which has many trade agreements with other Customs Unions in the world.
We were also concerned, that last year Russia began increasingly loudly to portray the EU as something hostile to Russia, even replacing the role of Nato as an enemy image. Many said we should start an offensive of our own to counter this propaganda effort but making an extra effort at the same time to engage with Russia on these arguments was not seen as a necessity.
This said it is not clear that wiser counsels in Brussels could have avoided the conflict. But what is more clear is, that while it may seem futile today to discuss such issues at all, any de-escalation and agreement that will secure peace, stability, democracy and a sustainable economy for a sovereign Ukraine free from endemic corruption, can only be achieved with the participation of all of Ukraine’s neighbours. And all the stupid, unfounded and dangerous Russian poison propaganda about Neo-Nazis in Kiev notwithstanding, this is something that the responsible majority in the Ukrainian government, as well as the majority of the Ukrainian people irrespective of their mother language, recognize.
None of this is a justification for the measures taken by Russia, or should be regarded in any way an indication of taking distance from the EU’s decisions, which we have joined and will follow. But these need to be accompanied by a serious rethinking about our relations with Russia with the aim of producing a policy of conditional engagement with Russia that will allow Russia to return to the table as a rules-respecting equal partner with the EU in respecting the sovereign choice of all our common neighbours in building and developing their relations with everyone in Europe.
Russia is paying a high price for its use of force in Ukraine. Sanctions are not the only or even main reason for these costs. Rather it is an indication of the fact that in today’s globalizing world of growing interdependence military force cannot bring any lasting benefits. A recognition of this interdependence is, that all the harsh rhetoric notwithstanding we have not seen a return to a global Cold war,
There is no military solution to the conflict which would be either sustainable or acceptable. The EU is working for negotiated solution to dismantle the conflict in a way which will provide peace, stability, welfare and democracy in a Ukraine free of corruption, and this will not be achieved without the support of all Ukraine’s neighbors and respect for the country’s sovereignty.
The Minsk agreements are far from ideal, but there is no alternative to their implementation. Here the OSCE has had and will continue to have a vital role which it has executed in a commendable fashion. To be able to fulfill this role the OSCE has to keep all doors open to all the member states even if we have good reasons not to engage elsewhere with some of the people who will come through the door. And on behalf of the Social-Democratic opposition in Finland I can only say that the issue of Russian participation at the Parliamentary Assembly meeting could and should have been handled differently.
(My remarks at the meeting of the Socialist and Social-Democratic delegates to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly meeting in Helsinki.)