Political and economic pressure was necessary to avert the major threat of a full‑scale war in and around eastern Ukraine and to pave the way for the Minsk agreements adopted on 12 February 2015 in the first place.
Since then, we have made considerable progress:
- At the moment the threat of open military conflict has been banished.
- Violations of the ceasefire remain frequent. But it is basically holding along the line of contact, which has not moved for many months.
- The number of victims is still far too high, but has fallen dramatically compared to how it was during the most volatile phase.
Yet it is also true to say that the status of implementation of the Minsk agreements is unsatisfactory. On many points in the agreements we have not made tangible progress and are still a long way from declaring that all thirteen points of the agreements have been implemented.
This is certainly not due to the lack of commitment and engagement of the mediators in Berlin and Paris [twelve foreign ministers meetings alone have been held].
Moscow and Kyiv are clearly finding it difficult to implement the Minsk timetable as agreed – for different political reasons, but often coming up against problems at the same time on the same issues of content.
We believe it is still right and necessary to maintain the pressure but at the same time to use the tool of sanctions wisely.
Sanctions are not an end in themselves but need to serve to provide an incentive for the political behaviour we would like to see.
In the current situation this means that a demand for all or nothing will not bring us any closer to our goal. If substantial progress is made, the gradual reduction of sanctions must also be an option.
This is one point on the agenda of the European debate that is just beginning.
We are currently working actively on this topic, and another meeting is taking place in Berlin today to consider issues surrounding a law to govern local elections.
And there is enough time for this before we have to take decisions in June or July.