Developments in Ukraine have been picking up speed again since the weekend. Speaking in Madrid on Monday, Foreign Minister Frank‑Walter Steinmeier emphasised the need to shape the reform process responsibly and safeguard the country’s unity. In view of the bleak economic situation in Ukraine, he said, it was vital to prevent the country falling into bankruptcy. The German Government intends to play a significant role in those efforts, with Foreign Minister Steinmeier heading to Washington for talks with the International Monetary Fund this week.
After many struggles to find a consensus between the Government and opposition in Ukraine, the two sides signed an agreement on 22 February. The agreement had been reached with mediation provided by the German, French and Polish Foreign Ministers. Among other things, the terms of the agreement include reinstituting the 2004 constitution, which granted more rights to the Ukrainian parliament. More on the agreement
The Ukrainian parliament subsequently took a series of personnel decisions, including removing President Yanukovych from office. The Chairman of the Ukrainian parliament, Volodymyr Rybak, also resigned. The Members thereafter elected Oleksandr Turchynov as their new Chairman and acting President. Former head of government Yulia Tymoshenko was released on Saturday on the basis of a parliamentary resolution.
Shaping the political process responsibly
Foreign Minister Steinmeier continues to pay close attention to developments in Ukraine. The situation remains tense and unstable. In Madrid for his first talks there since taking office, Steinmeier issued the following statement on Monday:
The important thing now is for those who were in opposition before, and who will now be assuming the imminent responsibilities, to shape this process in a responsible manner.
The Foreign Minister had previously spoken repeatedly of his concern at the risk of Ukraine being split up. On that subject, he said it was now vital to form an interim Government as soon as possible that reflected the various parts of the country.
German Government Spokesperson Steffen Seibert said on 24 February that the transition must culminate in “elections which are free, fair, transparent, democratic” and which provide the foundations of “the new leaderships’ full democratic legitimacy”. He pledged that Germany and the EU would play their part.
Speaking on the programme “Berlin direkt” on Sunday, Foreign Minister Steinmeier called for good use to be made of the “respite” created by the agreement. The chance to achieve a lasting political settlement was now in the hands of the Ukrainian people, he said:
The important thing now is that those who are going to bear responsibility need to make their philosophy not about revenge but about safeguarding national unity for the future of Ukraine.
This was a day after Yulia Tymoshenko, formerly head of Ukraine’s Government, was released from prison. Foreign Minister welcomed her release and pointed out that she too carried great responsibility with respect to her country’s future.
Stabilising the economic situation
The transitional Government of Ukraine drew attention to the country’s very difficult economic situation. Acting President Turchynov described Ukraine as standing “on the brink of insolvency”. According to the interim Government, funding the state over the next two years will take 25 billion euros.
On this issue, Foreign Minister Steinmeier made clear that he would seek talks with the International Monetary Fund, among others, while in Washington this week, in order to discuss the question of financial assistance. Deputy Federal Foreign Office Spokesperson Sawsan Chebli underlined the need to act quickly to prevent bankruptcy and pledged Germany’s intention to play a significant role in that endeavour.
Ms Chebli also announced the installation of a Federal Foreign Office working group headed by State Secretary Markus Ederer. Bringing together representatives of various Ministries, the working group is intended to coordinate the German Government’s position, thereby to help Ukraine on its road towards economic stability and political unity.