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Javier Solana: “This is the time for political leaders to show their responsibility for the country’s future”

As expected, the recent Ukraine-EU summit did not bring any surprises. But the fact that it was actually held (and not canceled) two weeks before the early parliamentary election is positive in and of itself. This means that Europe is still interested in our country.

Javier Solana, Secretary General of EU Council, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, is quite an often guest not only in Ukraine but in ZN/Mirror Weekly publications also. He has been sharing his opinion with ZN’s readers since the gloomy Kuchma times, the period of big post-revolution hopes, and after Yanukovych’s second coming. His answers and comments have always been full of sincere interest in Ukraine’s fate and firm optimism about its future (which has often been far from our own feelings).

As expected, the recent Ukraine-EU summit did not bring any surprises. But the fact that it was actually held (and not canceled) two weeks before the early parliamentary election is positive in and of itself. This means that Europe is still interested in our country.

Javier Solana was quite reserved and didn’t give any direct advice to Ukrainians in his interview, but his tactful answers to the Mirror Weekly’s questions had some fairly clear hints.

[MW] Mr. High Representative, have you any hope that anything will change in Ukraine after the early parliamentary elections? Do you believe that Ukrainian political bosses are capable of any progressive changes in the country?

[Javier Solana] Ukraine has had a series of political crises in the past years, largely stemming from a lack of clarity on the basic ground rules of political life. The constitutional reform of December 2004 was necessary to find a political solution to the events following fraudulent presidential elections. However, it left many questions unanswered and perhaps did not spell out sufficiently clearly the division of competences between various leaders. We have seen a power struggle, facilitated by the weakness of institutions. Overcoming this and moving on with policies and reforms is what these elections need to help happen. This should be the priority for Ukraine`s leadership.

Elections alone will not solve everything. They are a good method of consulting the population on where the country should go and who should govern. In an ideal case, they would bring sufficient clarity enabling all key political forces to work together to build a functioning framework within which crucial reforms can be pushed forward.

I count many of Ukraine`s leading politicians among my personal friends. I know them well and have full confidence in their ability to bring about change and speed up the country`s political and economic development. Despite the series of crises we have seen, we have also seen on-going work on reforms, even if much still remains to be done. All the main political forces are also in agreement on the need for Ukraine and the EU to continue to come closer. This is a good basis for finding the much needed political will to take things forward, avoiding a relapse into a crisis. This is the time for political leaders to show responsibility.

[MW] Does Ukraine need constitutional reform and what must it consist of?

[Javier Solana] I am on record as having said once that you need to play by and not with the rules. However, now is the time for Ukraine to set these rules. Yes, Ukraine does need to re-visit constitutional reform, putting in place functioning checks and balances and sound institutions. It is up to the Ukrainians to choose their constitutional model. I will not comment on that. I would however recommend close cooperation with the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe.

A constitution governs the basic ground rules of political life. Therefore, it needs to be seen as legitimate by all the major political forces. For this reason, the manner in which constitutional reform is agreed will be at least as important as the content of the reform itself. You will soon have a new parliament, representing the will of the electorate. The new members of parliament will have been given a popular mandate to adopt key legislation. They will represent various political forces. It is important that the key political forces can agree on amendments which need to be introduced into the Constitution. They are the key political players of Ukraine and if they do not agree to abide by basic rules you will not get very far.

I fully realise that finding agreement among various forces will not be very easy, especially remembering the power struggle we have seen. However, the difficult process of forging an agreement will build stable foundations for the future and provide the best guarantee that the rules set through it will be honoured.

[MW] What is the influence of political instability in Ukraine on the negotiation process on the preparation of the new enhanced agreement between Ukraine and EU? Is there any progress in these negotiations?

[Javier Solana] We have now had half a year of negotiations on the new agreement. I am very pleased to note that negotiations have proceeded well, in a constructive atmosphere. The instability in Ukrainian internal politics has not really affected them. This is a clear sign that there is genuine agreement among all political forces on Ukraine`s orientation towards a closer partnership with the European Union.

The new agreement will take our relationship to a qualitatively new level, touching upon all spheres of the relationship. Ukraine clearly sees its conclusion as a national priority, which is very good. Considerable progress has also been made already on the foreign and security policy sections of the agreement. Both political dialogue between the European Union and Ukraine, and our practical cooperation in foreign and security policy, as well as a number of other areas will be deepened and strengthened.

While the effect of the past instability on the negotiations has been minor, let me just note that the deepening of our partnership remains dependent on the quality of Ukraine’s democracy and reforms. This will determine Ukraine’s ability to manage a relationship which touches on many fields which are traditionally seen as being in the domain of domestic politics. The implementation of the new agreement will be greatly facilitated by domestic stability in Ukraine and progress on the ground in political and economic reforms.

[MW] In Europe there are propositions to sharply define future borders of EU. What is your attitude to such ideas?

[Javier Solana] First let me stress that the European Union has not been designed to be a fortress. On the contrary, we aim to strengthen the ties with our neighbours as much as possible. The European Union wishes to project its values -- democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights -- beyond its borders. I am convinced that in this way we can increase the security and well-being of both our own citizens and the people living next door to us.

Yes, we have discussions in the EU on our borders but these have not led us to any conclusions so far. We wish to be open to the world and do more in tackling problems such as regional conflicts, international crime, climate change and energy supply, just to name a few issues of concern to us.

[MW] In his recent address to French ambassadors President Nicolas Sarkozy proposed to work out a new strategy of European security and to approve it next year, under the French presidency in the EU. What do you think of this? Is there any need for this new strategy? In what way should it differ from the old one? How will it affect Ukraine’s role ?

[Javier Solana] We have all taken good note of President Sarkozy`s proposals. The European Security Strategy was agreed in 2003. It has provided a good and functioning framework for EU security policy. We are naturally continuously studying the strategy`s implementation and looking at possible development needs. In this context, we are also studying the various ideas and proposals expressed by our Member States.

Ukraine is and will remain a partner of strategic importance for the European Union. The new enhanced agreement, which we are currently negotiating, will also contain a robust section on political dialogue and the development of our deepening foreign and security policy partnership. Both the Union and Ukraine see the value of working ever closer together to deal with shared regional and global challenges.

[MW] The USA`s plans to deploy missile-defense system in new EU members – Poland and Czech Republic – were publicly named in some EU countries as a “provocation” and “leading towards new Cold War”. What are the propositions of EU on the missile defense problem? What do you think about Russian reaction – to suspend Russia’s participation in the CFE Treaty – on the USA plans?

[Javier Solana] The issue of the planned missile defense system has implications for the security of Europe. It has so far been dealt with mainly in the NATO framework, which is also the appropriate place for this discussion. At the same time, there has been some discussion also within the European Union. Following this discussion very closely, let me assure you that no-one should take talk about a "new Cold War" seriously.

As regards Russia`s intention to withdraw from the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE Treaty), we very much regret this announcement. The CFE is one of the cornerstones of European security. We very much encourage the on-going security policy related dialogue between Russia and the United States. It is clear to us that both are committed to addressing these issues in a serious and constructive manner.

[MW] Do you expect on the eve of cold weather new gas related surprises from Russia, which seems to be becoming a traditional?

[Javier Solana] No.

[MW] Do you know what to do with Belarus?

[Javier Solana] Let me first note how much we appreciate our very close European Union – Ukraine cooperation on policy towards Belarus. Belarus is an important country for both of us and we both hope to see concrete steps taken towards democracy. This would be good for the Belarusian people, but also the region as a whole.

European Union policy on Belarus remains two-pronged: we have put in place restrictive measures targeted at individuals responsible for electoral misconduct and abuse, but we are also open to engaging with a broad range of counterparts, from civil society to the authorities. The Union has sent a clear message that it would be ready to extend to Belarus all the benefits of the European Neighbourhood Policy. It is also true that Minsk would be ready to work with the European Union on fields such as energy and transport. However, concrete cooperation needs to be based on shared values. As long as Belarus is not willing to take the necessary steps to respond to our concerns, for instance the freeing of all political prisoners, such cooperation is not possible.

We would all benefit from closer cooperation. Both the European Union and Ukraine have followed closely developments in the oil and gas relationship between Russia and Belarus. We have seen certain complications in the past year. In this context, we have called for transparent energy relations between the parties, in the same manner as we did during the gas crisis between Ukraine and Russia, in early 2006. All of us share concerns relating to energy security. However, the situation in Belarus unfortunately prevents us from concrete cooperation in the field of energy.

[MW] A lot of experts predict that Kosovo may unilaterally declare independence after December 10. As far as we know, by now some countries-contributors of international peacekeeping mission in Kosovo are making it clear that under such a situation it is impossible to keep their military forces there without a new UN security Council resolution which Russia is blocking. Has the EU any mechanisms to resolve the forthcoming crisis and to stabilize situation in the region (using military forces if necessary )?

[Javier Solana] As you know, the overall responsibility for a safe and secure environment in Kosovo rests with KFOR, which is a NATO-led mission. The EU is preparing for a European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) mission in Kosovo in the area of the rule of law.

I do not want to enter into speculation about what may happen after 10 December, which is the deadline for the Contact Group to report to the United Nations Secretary General. What is sure is that the EU-US-Russia Troika that is conducting the current period of engagement between the Parties - and in which Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger represents the EU - is fully committed to the process of status negotiations, and that it will leave no stone unturned to find a negotiated solution. This remains our primary objective.

[MW] Unrecognized republics of the CIS – Abkhazia, Transdniestria, South Ossetia and Nagorny Karabakh – have been waiting impatiently for a long time for the precedence of Kosovo gaining independence. Do you predict a “parade of sovereignties” after Kosovan independence? Do you fear that this situation may be used by some forces in Crimea?

[Javier Solana] The EU has repeatedly made it clear that the resolution of the Kosovo status issue is a sui generis case and will not set any precedent. Each case you mentioned in your question is addressed by different international mechanisms and on its own merits. Resolving conflicts is about promoting stability which is a fundamental responsibility of the international community. In this context, let me also thank Ukraine for the good cooperation we have in seeking a viable settlement of the Transnistrian conflict in Moldova, which is a neighbour of both Ukraine and the European Union.

I have confidence in the unity of Ukraine. There were certain risks regarding the Crimea in the 1990s. However, the escalation of tensions to a conflict was prevented through skilful political leadership. With Ukraine having just celebrated 16 years of independence, we can see that your population views itself as Ukrainian. The concept of being Ukrainian has also developed into a pluralistic one, encompassing all traditions, religions and ethnic groups sharing the citizenship of Ukraine. Any attempt to try to destabilise the situation in Crimea would be artificial, and highly irresponsible. I do not see this happening.

INTERVIEW: With Javier Solana, Secretary General of EU Council

BY: Tatiana Silina, Mirror-Weekly # 34 (663)

Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, September 15-21, 2007

This article was monitored by the Action Ukraine Monitoring Service for the Action Ukraine Report (AUR), Morgan Williams, SigmaBleyzer, Editor. 

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