The Minsk agreements, though currently not effective and workable, remain at present the only option for the peaceful resolution of the armed conflict. It is obvious that Ukraine and Russia have different interpretations of the provisions, and these controversies are unlikely to disappear.
The Jan Nowak Jeziorański College of Eastern Europe and the Deutsch-Russischer Austausch e.V. (DRA) co-hosted another round of the online discussion on foreign policies of Germany and Poland towards Eastern Europe, this time focussing on Ukraine and the armed conflict in Donbas.
While Poland has been Ukraine’s natural ally since the country’s independence and its advocate in the EU since 2004, Germany’s strong support for Ukraine developed in the end of 2013-2014, during and after the Maidan revolution and Russian aggression, both in Crimea and Donbas. Since then, Germany has significantly contributed to supporting reforms in Ukraine, has upheld its position about the EU sanctions against the Russian Federation and plays a key role in the Normandy format.
“International actors play an important role in the negotiations between Ukraine and Russia”, says Susan Stewart, the Head of the Eastern Europe and Eurasia Division at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP). “Without the Normandy format, the situation would be very asymmetrical, as Russia has more resources at the table, militarily and otherwise”. Stewart added that the German side is more and more inclined to point out that the Russian Federation is a party to this conflict, not a mediator alongside Germany and France as Russia is trying to portray itself.
Tomasz Lachowski, Assistant Professor of International Law at the University of Lodz, said that “Ukraine has so far been successful on the judicial front”. The country has filed a number of complaints to the international courts, including the International Court of Justice (ICJ), European Court of Human Rights and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (following the capture by the Russian Federation of Ukrainian sailors and vessels in Kerch strait in November 2018). The ICJ has so far confirmed its jurisdiction on the matter.
Both speakers have agreed that the Minsk agreements, though currently not effective and workable, remain at present the only option for the peaceful resolution of the armed conflict. It is obvious that Ukraine and Russia have different interpretations of the provisions, and these controversies are unlikely to disappear. Tomasz Lachowski stressed, that Ukraine should be careful not to provide any form of legal recognition to “DNR-LNR”. At the same time, regular meetings of the Trilateral contact group, especially on humanitarian issues, did have some positive outcome. Such steps as repairing infrastructure and restoring water supply may seem small, but they are crucial for the daily life of civilians trapped in the conflict zone.
One of the most controversial questions, says Stewart, is the one on elections. In her opinion, it is too early to enter any discussions on how to organize them. “The practice in other conflicts shows that it’s better to wait at least one or two years after the security and political situation stabilizes. People need time to adapt to a new reality, to develop positions about political forces. Also, these forces need time to emerge or to reappear in the territory. We are light years away from holding elections in the occupied territory”, she concluded and advised the Ukrainian government and its international partners to focus on pressing humanitarian and human rights issues, while developing long-term strategies for the entire Donbas region and seeking new ways to resolve the conflict.
The full discussion moderated by Tim Bohse (DRA), is available via New Eastern Europe’s YouTube channel.
The debates are organized within the framework of the project “Ost/Wschód: German-Polish Views on the East”. The project is co-sponsored by the Heinrich Böll Foundation’s Warsaw Office as well as the Foundation for Polish-German Cooperation.