Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier welcomed his Ukrainian counterpart Pavlo Klimkin at the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin on Wednesday (1 June). The two ministers had a packed agenda, from the peace process for eastern Ukraine and sanctions against Russia to Germany’s support for Ukraine and visa liberalisation issues.
Visit by an expert on Germany
Pavlo Klimkin, Ukraine’s chief diplomat, is a proven expert on Germany. Klimkin became well acquainted with Germany over the course of his career. Prior to his appointment as Foreign Minister, he served as the Ukrainian Ambassador to Berlin. It was then that he got to know Foreign Minister Steinmeier. The two ministers therefore greeted each other very warmly.
Following their talks, the ministers held a joint press conference. Steinmeier said that they had discussed a wide range of important topics, including bilateral issues. However, he wryly added: “The most important bilateral event is taking place on 12 June, namely the opening match (between Germany and Ukraine) in Group C of the European Championship.”
Unsatisfactory situation in eastern Ukraine
The key topic on the foreign ministers’ agenda was not the European Championship, however, but the persistent unsatisfactory situation in eastern Ukraine. Steinmeier had recently invited his counterparts from France, Russia and Ukraine to talks in Berlin on this subject. The meeting aimed to achieve further progress in the implementation of the Minsk agreements, whose objective it is to find a way out of the crisis in eastern Ukraine.
Steinmeier sagte dazu: “Das Gespräch ist nicht das, worüber ich mich beklage, sondern es sind eher die mangelnden Umsetzungsprozesse nach unserem Gespräch.” Absprachen zur Verbesserung der Sicherheitslage seien auf der Arbeitsebene oder der Ebene der Militärs immer wieder ins Stocken geraten, kritisierte Steinmeier. Er habe daher mit seinem ukrainischen Kollegen darüber gesprochen, wie man bei den erwünschten Verbesserungen “vorankommen” könne.
Comprehensive German support for Ukraine
Steinmeier emphasised that Germany’s support for Ukraine went far beyond issues relating to the Minsk agreement. He announced that State Secretary Steinlein and eight other State Secretaries from Federal Government ministries would be travelling to Kyiv in the coming week in order to prepare further specific projects to support Ukraine in its difficult economic and political situation.
The future of European sanctions against Russia
European sanctions against Russia were also a topic of discussion. Steinmeier said: “Amid the substantial progress which we will hopefully make – but have not yet made – with the implementation of the Minsk agreements, we also have to think about how to react with regard to the sanctions.” That, Steinmeier emphasised, had to be possible if further incentives were created in the process to drive forward the implementation of the Minsk agreements. Klimkin made the Ukrainian position clear in his statements. In his government’s view, EU sanctions against Russia should not be lifted unless the Minsk agreements are fully implemented.
Furthermore, Klimkin spoke out in favour of progress on the visa liberalisation for Ukrainian nationals envisaged by the EU. Steinmeier assured him that Germany still had a positive attitude towards this matter.