High regard for Ukraine’s reform efforts
Just a few weeks after her meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Berlin, Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel travelled to Kyiv on Sunday. At the press conference with President Zelensky, the Federal Chancellor expressed her high regard for the country’s reform efforts. The visit took place shortly before Ukraine was due to celebrate the 30th anniversary of its declaration of independence on 24 August 1991.
The talks also covered major international issues, including Afghanistan. Zelensky and Merkel both expressed their concern at the critical situation of the civilian population after the Islamist Taliban took power.
Ukraine continues to be a gas transit country
Another key issue was Nord Stream 2. With regard to the imminent completion of the Baltic Sea pipeline, the German position remained unchanged, she said, adding that as far as Germany was concerned, it was still crucial for Ukraine to act as a transit country for Russian gas even after Nord Stream 2 goes into service. The Federal Chancellor stressed that gas should not be used as a geopolitical weapon and emphasised the importance of Ukraine in the energy sector. When Nord Stream 2 was completed, it would not be not a substitute for gas transit through Ukraine, said Merkel.
She recalled that Germany had supported the transit treaty between Russia and Ukraine, which was concluded at the end of December 2019. Germany would continue to work to ensure that the contract would be extended after its planned expiry in 2024, she said. “The sooner this happens, the better,” said the Federal Chancellor, adding that she had defended this position during her talks with President Putin in Moscow on Friday.
Still unresolved: the situation in Donbas
The conflict in eastern Ukraine was another focus of the Federal Chancellor’s talks with President Zelensky. There was still insufficient progress in the implementation of the Minsk Protocol agreed on in 2015, said Merkel, and she said lamented the fact that the ceasefire reaffirmed at least a year ago had become more fragile. Germany was willing to continue to play an active role alongside France through the Normandy Format, she said.
Close relations between Germany and Ukraine
The 80th anniversary of the invasion of the Soviet Union by the German armed forces on 22 June 1941 was just a few weeks ago. The Federal Chancellor commemorated the Ukrainian victims by laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Memorial of Eternal Glory in Kyiv.
Positive developments in relations between the Federal Republic of Germany and Ukraine in recent years are reflected not only in the close contacts between the governments of the two countries. The Ukrainian President also awarded the Federal Chancellor the country’s highest order of merit, the Order of Freedom, for her outstanding services to Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence.
Germany is working with France to find a peaceful solution for eastern Ukraine in negotiations being conducted in the so-called Normandy Format (“N4”) with Russia and Ukraine. The conflict in the coal-rich Donbas region, largely led by pro-Russian separatists since 2014, has so far claimed more than 13,000 lives, including those of numerous civilians. Full implementation of the catalogue of measures agreed in Minsk in 2015, which includes organising local elections in the conflict zone, continues to be the subject of intense negotiations at working level. The sanctions imposed by the EU were a firm and unequivocal response to the annexation of Crimea seven years ago and the conflict in eastern Ukraine.