Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel promised further support for her guest from Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky. This applied not least to the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, stressed Merkel. Prior to a dinner at the Federal Chancellery on Monday, she said she was pleased to be able to pledge 1.5 million vaccine doses as emergency aid to the country, with which Germany had “friendly relations”.
Being an ally, Germany would “do everything to help Ukraine continue to pursue the path of development”, the Federal Chancellor said. The Ukrainian President said that Germany was a “key partner” with whom relations were “friendly, strong and stable”.
In her statement, the Federal Chancellor emphasised that Ukraine had made progress in transparency, decentralisation and the fight against corruption since 2013/14, in spite of the difficult situation in the east of the country and the annexation of Crimea by Russia, which was in breach of international law. She said was pleased that President Zelensky had made the necessary reform of the judiciary a “top priority”. Germany would do its utmost to help in this regard, she added.
Minsk agreements still the main focus
Ukraine was still in a very problematic situation, and insufficient progress was being made in the implementation of the Minsk package of measures, said Merkel. Ukraine had set up a large number of transit points along the line of contact, she noted, but separatist opposition forces had failed to follow suit.
Ukraine was under great pressure from Russian troops on its external borders, said Merkel, and soldiers were repeatedly losing their lives, with conditions in the Sea of Azov being particularly difficult. As such, she could “well understand Ukraine’s concerns”, Merkel said. Germany and France would continue to work towards a solution to the conflict under the Normandy Format (N4), said the Federal Chancellor. The annexation of Crimea – “which of course we do not accept”, said Merkel – had been “a shock" because Russian President Vladimir Putin had “simply disregarded” the Budapest Memorandum.
The ceasefire agreed on at the N4 summit in Paris in December 2019 along the so-called line of contact has been largely observed for almost a year. It is still not sustainable, however. There continues to be a risk of ceasefire violations, especially for the civilian population. What is more, troop disengagement and the withdrawal of heavy equipment are barely getting off the ground.
Close coordination with EU partners and the USA
In the run-up to Zelensky's visit, government spokesperson Steffen Seibert was particularly keen to stress that Germany had always coordinated closely with its partners in the EU, with the USA and within the G7 with regard to the work being done as part of the Minsk process and in the Normandy Format – not least with regard to the sanctions imposed in response to the annexation of Crimea and Russia’s enormous military support for the separatists in eastern Ukraine. “Our clear priority is still to fully implement the Minsk package of measures agreed on in this format,” said Seibert.
Gas transit remains important
With a view to the upcoming completion of the Nordstream 2 Baltic Sea pipeline, Federal Chancellor Merkel stressed the importance of Ukraine in the energy sector. This industrial project had to take into account Ukraine’s future role in gas transit – and Ukraine had to remain a transit country, said Merkel. Even after completion, Nordstream 2 was “not a substitute for gas transit,” she stated.
Ukraine has a particular status within the energy sector. In connection with the gas transit from Russia, it contributes to Europe’s supply security. This was also contractually secured with Russia until at least 2024, not least based on the commitment of Germany and the European Union, said Merkel.
It was in this connection that the German-Ukrainian energy partnership was launched in August 2020, as a way of supporting the modernisation of the energy sector in Ukraine. This was reaffirmed by the partners at the 4th German-Ukrainian Economic Forum on 19 March 2021. The issue would also be crucial at her upcoming talks in Washington with US President Joe Biden, said the Federal Chancellor.
Relations between Germany and Ukraine are close. Together with France, Germany is trying 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. Germany is the largest humanitarian donor, having provided medical care for more than 110 wounded Ukrainian soldiers in Germany.