We want Ukraine to stay on the road towards Europe”

03.05.2012 - Interview

Foreign Minister Westerwelle in an interview on the imprisoned former Ukrainian Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, and the future of Afghanistan. Published in the newspaper Rheinische Post on 3 May 2012.

Ms Tymoshenko is on hunger strike, and Charité doctors are greatly concerned about her health. How much time remains for the Ukrainian Government to react?

Ms Tymoshenko and other imprisoned former government members who have fallen ill need immediate medical care. That is why I have personally repeated to the Ukrainian Foreign Minister the German Government’s offer to give Ms Tymoshenko medical treatment in Germany.

There are discussions going on about possibly moving the European Football Championship from Ukraine. What do you think about that?

I would advise not closing the channels of discussion. We want to achieve a good outcome for Ms Tymoshenko and the other prisoners.

Would you be ready to personally escort Ms Tymoshenko out of Ukraine?

All the necessary efforts are being undertaken to aid Ms Tymoshenko. I have met her on several occasions and deliberately went to see her when she was already leading the opposition in order to send out the appropriate message. I am deeply concerned about her.

Kyiv is talking of cold war.

That’s a really absurd comparison. It was Ukraine’s own decision to commit itself to abiding by human rights standards. We expect Kyiv to fulfil these obligations in accordance with the letter of the treaties and the European spirit behind them. We want Ukraine to continue on its way to Europe: – the bridge to Europe stands on two pillars – democracy and the rule of law.

Are there any other instruments to increase pressure on Ukraine?

We are making use of the whole range of diplomatic instruments to achieve an improvement of the situation. This includes above all searching for negotiated solutions. Together with our partners in the European Union we agree that the EU association agreement with Ukraine cannot be ratified as long as the rule of law situation in Ukraine is not developing in the right direction.

The NATO Summit is approaching. Will the plan for withdrawal from Afghanistan be an irrevocable outcome of the Summit?

In Afghanistan there cannot be a military but only a political solution. Reconciliation is progressing. As regards the reintegration of former fighters and tacit supporters we are seeing encouraging success. Building up the Afghan security forces is just as integral to the plan as the process of gradually handing over responsibility for security. Nothing has changed: the withdrawal of international combat troops is to be concluded by the end of 2014.

How do you intend to prevent the Taliban from gaining a foothold again, which would mean that 13 years of fight had have been in vain?

We must not allow a security vacuum to be created. This year, responsibility for security in more than two thirds of the country is to be handed over to the Afghan side. The most recent terrorist attacks in Kabul have been fought by Afghan security forces themselves in a way which experts find commendable. Germany and the international community will continue to stand by Afghanistan after 2014.

What will be the Taliban’s role after the Afghan war?

Our offer of reintegration and reconciliation stands – the precondition, however, is that the Taliban renounce all use of violence, accept the constitution and respect basic human rights, especially those of women. One thing is clear: genuine peace will only be achieved if there is political balance between all groups in Afghan society.


This interview was conducted by G. Mayntz and reproduced by kind permission of the newspaper Rheinische Post.

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