In 2014, the one hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, it is becoming particularly clear that Europe has learned from the preceding bloody century. European unification, said the Chancellor, is the "great promise of peace, liberty and prosperity". The continent must not now fall back into "the patterns of action of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries".
With its action in Crimea, Russia is exploiting a phase of uncertainty in Ukraine, declared Angela Merkel in the German Bundestag. The country is openly questioning the territorial integrity of Ukraine. "The law of the jungle, the principle that might is right is taking precedence over the strength of the law, unilateral geopolitical interests are taking precedence over understanding and cooperation."
This violation of international law is unacceptable. The Chancellor urged Russia to backpedal in this conflict. An annexation of Crimea and a destabilisation of eastern Ukraine would not only change the relationship between the EU and the G7 states and Russia. Russia would, in the final analysis, damage itself massively "in both economic and political terms."
"This conflict cannot be resolved using military means," noted the Chancellor unequivocally. Military action, she said, is not an option.
The Chancellor, who has talked with numerous partners about the Crimean crisis in the last few days, explained the action of the European Union in the German Bundestag. It focuses on diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict peacefully and on assistance for Ukraine. Should Russia refuse to cooperate, sanctions will be imposed on the country.
The territorial integrity of Ukraine is non-negotiable, said Angela Merkel. This must be the basis of activities for an observer mission and/or a contact or cooperation group. Russia is called on to approve an international mission of this sort. Moldova and Georgia too have the solidarity of the EU.
Parallel to this, extensive assistance is to be launched for Ukraine. This was decided at the extraordinary meeting of EU heads of state or government on 6 March 2014. "Rapid assistance is now called for." Representatives of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the EU are already in Ukraine.
Angela Merkel rejected the comparison between the Crimea and the former Serbian province of Kosovo as has sometimes been heard in the ongoing discussion as "shameful". The situation in Kosovo was completely different to the current situation in Ukraine.
It has also been decided to sign the political chapters of the Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine swiftly. Negotiations on visa facilitation are to progress rapidly. "Neighbourhood policy, not geopolitics" is the watchword, reported the Chancellor. This is not directed against anybody, she stressed. The aim is to help the Ukrainian government be a government for all Ukrainians, to bridge divides, and to prepare free and fair elections to be held in May.
Should Russia not return to the path of cooperation, further sanctions will come into effect against the country, reported Angela Merkel. In this case the EU foreign ministers will agree on travel bans and asset freezes at their next meeting on 17 March.
"None of us hope that it will come to these measures," said the Chancellor. "But we are all ready to take them and determined to do so if they become inevitable."