Ukrainian Foreign Minister pushes for EU membership on Independence Day – POLITICO

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KYIV – There is war in Donbass in the east and Russian occupation in Crimea in the south. But on Tuesday, Ukraine celebrated 30 years of independence from the Soviet Union, and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba took the opportunity to appeal to the EU.

His message: It’s time to get your guts out – take on Russia and welcome new member countries Moscow threatens.

“The EU needs ambition,” Kuleba said in an interview with POLITICO when asked if Brussels should develop a new grand strategy to succeed its Eastern Partnership program, an outreach effort towards the old territories. Soviets initiated in 2009.

“The problem with the European Union is that it is drowning in its fears and internal problems,” said Kuleba, perched on a velvet armchair in a living room at the Foreign Ministry. “And I put the fears in the first place because I think that’s the factor, it contains the EU, and it destroys the EU from within.”

Kuleba’s argument was that in the 21st century competition between the great powers, including China and the United States, the EU has no choice but to strengthen its ranks.

“The EU must expand to maintain momentum and mobilize as many resources as possible in the global struggle in which it is part,” he said. “So it doesn’t matter Eastern Partnership 2 or Partnership 3 or Association 1. That’s not the idea. The EU should send a very simple message: Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, you are part of us. We don’t set a deadline but you will be in the EU. And that’s a whole different way of approaching it. “

The suggestion would indeed be an ambitious change of course for the EU, which has battled expansion fatigue after rapid growth in Central and Eastern Europe during the 2000s.

Kuleba insisted that Brussels should even deliver a similar – albeit modified – message of inclusion to Belarus, which has been shaken up by protests since a fraudulent presidential election over a year ago: “Belarus , you are in trouble, but you are also historically part of us, so this is the strategy we have for you and we will implement it.

Belarus is symptomatic of the EU’s wider gaps, according to Kuleba.

“Russia has always had a strategy towards Belarus, and the West – not only the EU, but the West as a whole – has never had a strategy,” he said. “And that’s what happens when you don’t have a strategy. Things are falling apart.

Kuleba’s willingness to provide advice in Brussels reflects a new assertion by Ukraine. It developed in part in response to an agreement between Germany and the United States to allow the completion of the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline. The new pipeline would allow Russia to bypass Ukraine by channeling gas to Europe, which some analysts said would facilitate a full-scale Russian military invasion.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy will visit US President Joe Biden in Washington next week, where Ukraine’s continued opposition to Nord Stream 2 will certainly be high on his agenda.

“The point is, we’ll never shut down Nord Stream 2 – and you can quote that,” Kuleba said on Tuesday.

“It’s about money for some and political influence for others, but it’s about Ukraine’s national security,” he explained. “And when it comes to national security issues, it doesn’t matter who we talk to, no matter how much we talk to the best friend, we will stand firm, steadfast and strong.”

He said Ukraine was particularly keen to ensure that the EU applies the rules of its third energy package – legislation intended to help the functioning of the internal energy market – to Nord Stream 2.

“If the third [Energy] The package is not applied or is not fully applied to Nord Stream 2, I think it will be a blow to all EU law and EU solidarity, not to mention the Ukraine and Nord Stream, ”he said.

In the interview, 40-year-old Kuleba credited the EU with providing crucial support to the first-ever Crimean Platform summit, an international conference held in Kiev on Monday to draw attention to the continued the occupation of the Black Sea Peninsula, which Russia invaded and annexed. in 2014.

“The EU has been extremely helpful,” he said. “The Crimean Platform was one of the moments the EU should include in its webinars and manuals as an example of what you can accomplish if you have the solidarity of hope.”

Kuleba proclaimed the summit a success, arguing that he was putting the Crimea issue back on the international agenda. “We have brought Crimea out of the shadows,” he said.

The summit brought together delegations from over 40 countries and concluded with a statement reiterating the international community’s refusal to recognize Crimea as part of Russia and pledging to work to return Crimea to Ukraine .

Still, Kuleba acknowledged some disappointment that some high-level leaders, especially German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, did not attend. Merkel visited Kiev on Sunday and stressed her support for Ukraine, pledging to prevent Russia from using the Nord Stream 2 pipeline as a political weapon against Ukraine.

Ukrainian and European officials familiar with Merkel’s views said the Chancellor did not want to risk provoking Russian President Vladimir Putin by attending the summit. Putin maintained that Russia’s absorption of Crimea was non-negotiable and said anyone suggesting otherwise threatens Russia’s security interests.

Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, issued a statement Tuesday insisting that Russia will never give up Crimea.

“Summit participants, mainly NATO countries and some international organizations, [are united] by a common illusion that the Crimean Peninsula should be part of the current Ukrainian state and that it can be wrested from the Russian Federation by increasing the political and economic pressure on our country, ”Zakharova said.

Quoting the public referendum that took place in Crimea with tanks and armed soldiers in the street, she added: “The question of the return of Crimea to the Russian Federation was finally closed in March 2014”.

Kuleba said Ukraine was confident in Merkel’s support but would have liked her to join the summit, especially as she nears the end of her fourth and final term.

“It would have been a brilliant end to his years of involvement in Ukraine,” he said.

Kuleba said he often won the smiles of his European colleagues by telling them that they had built a caring European empire.

“The European Union is the very first attempt to build a liberal empire, an empire built on… principles of liberalism and freedom,” he said. “This makes this project so unique in the history of mankind. “

But he said he also warned them of the historic dangers of building empires in Europe.

“Ultimately every good empire in this part of the world should be divided between east and west,” he said. “And that’s where they never smile.”


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