Ukrainian interest. Visa lib at final stretch, premiers’ master class, and lack of political will in Hamburg
The European Union agreed on the conditions of a visa waiver suspension mechanism and thus brought closer the possibility for Ukraine and Georgia to achieve the long-awaited visa free regime across the Schengen zone. Several European Prime Ministers held their master classes of big politics - of course, each in their own way. The annual OSCE Ministerial saw no sensational outcome.
The topic of visa liberalization for Ukraine and Georgia is once on the agenda of European policy makers. During the tripartite negotiations between the EU institutions, a mechanism of suspension of a visa-free regime was agreed, which gives hope for Ukraine and Georgia to find out the exact date when they will receive it as early as before year-end. Unnerving anticipation and European bureaucracy in all its “beauty” will hardly be able to downplay the importance of this symbolic step that can influence the situation on the continent as a whole. This intangible asset, showing mutual interest, is objectively much needed both in Kyiv and Brussels.
The Old World is going through hard times, so European politicians are forced to make some difficult decisions. This week, several heads of government came in the spotlight. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi announced his resignation after the defeat in the referendum he had personally initiated. However, any comparisons with Brexit in this case would be superfluous, except that it is worth mentioning that the British Parliament this week approved the mechanism of the country’s civilized divorce with the European Union, proposed by Theresa May’s government. Manuel Valls the prime minister's office to run for president after Francois Hollande announced he did not intend to compete for an opportunity to remain in the Elysee Palace.
The most telling example for Ukraine though is Mark Rutte’s move. The head of the Dutch government demands from the European institutions that the Association deal with Ukraine neither leads to an increased military aid for Ukraine nor gives Ukraine any prospects of getting an EU membership. It is worth recalling that Ukraine’s possible accession to the EU is not discussed in Brussels enthusiastically at all, anyway. Therefore, Rutte’s behavior should be considered both in the context of the referendum held this spring when the Dutch voted against the Association Agreement, and of the next year's parliamentary elections.
The European Union is consistent in its effort to ensure uninterrupted supplies of Russian gas. Ukraine, which has not bought directly any of the Russian gas for over a year, was forced to take part in the talks in Brussels, which resulted in a predictable failure. Russia traditionally uses gas supplies as a tool of political pressure, while it does not make sense for Ukraine to play by these rules on the background of a dispute between Russian and Ukrainian energy monopolies in the Stockholm arbitration.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin heard some words of approval and support during a meeting of the Ukraine - NATO Council. The Alliance has consistently supported Ukraine and now intends to implement the agreements reached during the Warsaw summit. NATO and the EU next year will create the European Center for countering hybrid threats, and it would be useful to use the Ukrainian experience in its work.
The annual meeting of the OSCE foreign ministers in Hamburg brought no feeling of victory to Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. He was forced to admit the lack of political will for the Donbas settlement. Head of European diplomacy Federica Mogherini shared Mr Steinmeier’s thoughts. In turn, Russia’s Sergey Lavrov resorted to his usual policy of denial, resulting in torpedoing the majority of documents that the Ministerial was supposed to adopt. The Kremlin simply cannot stop in their quest to call black white and try to play the tune with four hands, together with Washington. Although, the news from Donald Trump’s camp could hardly be called encouraging for Vladimir Putin's team.