The meeting in Brussels came on the heels of G20 summit in Brisbane and was followed by German Foreign Minister visit to Moscow in a clear sign that all sides are not ready to prolong the standoff and strive to find the solution to the crisis in Ukraine.
Studio guest Ernest Sultanov, expert from MIR-initiative, an independent think-tank in Moscow, Dr. Hubertus Hoffmann, the Founder and President of World Security Network Foundation, Horvath Gabor, Foreign Editor of Népszabadság newspaper, Budapest, and Soren Liborious, Spokesman, Head of Press and Information Delegation of the European Union to Russia, shared their opinions with Radio Sputnik.
No sanctions were imposed on Russia following the talks in Brussels. Don’t you have a feeling that Europe doesn’t have stomach for sanctions?
Ernest Sultanov: The sanctions are really bad for both sides. So, I don’t think they don’t have stomach to impose the sanctions, I think both sides have to find some other solutions to resolve the issues between them. It is like between a husband and a wife. If they deal with the issue that is making them both angry, they will never find a solution. They have to find another way, another issue to be discussed between them – the issue they can find a solution to and build confidence between them once again. So, what we really need now is not a new agreement, it is not Minsk 2 or 3 or 5, we need confidence.
And confidence can be built on the concrete issues, on the concrete projects, like between the Chinese and Russians. Just a year ago there were no deep relations. But now there are very important projects going on – gas pipeline, the Eurasian high-speed corridor and so on. And the relations are the best in the 20 years history, at least.
The Hungarian Foreign Minister visit to Moscow really sparked the debate on the role of the EU members apart from the EU as a structure. There were some thought-provoking statements made. We have a feeling that they are looking for a sort of face-saving exercise on how to get out of that?
Horvath Gabor: No, I do not fully agree with you. In the case of Hungary, our diplomacy is trying to walk a really tight rope here. They are playing a certain game and Mr. Orban himself described it as the tail of a peacock – saying here this thing and there the other thing. I wouldn’t make conclusions that Hungary is against the EU sanctions. Hungary is a full-hearted supporter of the sanctions when Mr. Orban is talking to Brussels or Berlin. And it is a completely different rhetoric when he talks to the Russian leaders.
The German Foreign Minister visited Sergei Lavrov in Moscow earlier this week. And this is the first visit in months from one of the European foreign ministers. Is this a sign that, perhaps, the EU might be willing to pursue a diplomatic path with Moscow and Ukraine from now?
Dr. Hubertus Hoffmann: I see a diplomatic solution, it is doable but, of course, only if the Russian side decides to agree. The Donbas could stay within Ukraine as a region with its own rights and the best practice that we are proposing in the World Security Network is to copy the best practice from the south-Tyrolean accord from 1971. As you maybe know, since 1919 this part of Austria became part of Italy after the WW I. it was basically German ethnically, in 1971 60% were still German. And the republic of Austria and the republic of Italy agreed on this south-Tyrolean accord and gave maximum autonomy to the Germans in Italy. So, we propose to copy this.
The second, on Crimea, there is a solution possible as well. And it should be basically a new referendum which is controlled by the OSCE from Vienna and by the UN. And both sides – Kiev, Moscow, the EU and the US – will agree on the will of the people. And it should be a fair referendum where for six weeks both sides could promote their proposals, either to have an autonomous status for Crimea within Ukraine or to keep it with Russia.
Federica Mogherini said that Russia should be a part of the solution to the crisis in Ukraine. Does this mean that there is an opportunity for a reset with Russia?
Soren Liborious: We certainly see that a solution to the Ukrainian crisis must be found by all the stakeholders there. We don’t see a solution that does not respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and doesn’t not also include Russia, and does not include a process around Ukraine’s borders that is conducive to peace and stability. There is no wish on the side of the EU to have bad relationship with Russia, quite the contrary. We are disappointed that we cannot improve our relations. We are disappointed that with the Ukrainian crisis we have become hostages of this.