Monday

23rd Sep 2019

German FM visits pro-EU protesters in Ukraine

  • Westerwelle, pictured right, and Klitschko in Kiev on Wednesday (Photo: auswaertiges-amt.de)

German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle has voiced support for Ukrainian protesters in a surprise visit to the Maidan.

His ministry on Wednesday (4 December) published a picture of him strolling next to barricades in the Maidan square in Kiev city centre with opposition leader and champion boxer Vitaly Klitschko.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Westerwelle said in a statement: "We are not indifferent to the fate of Ukraine … You can see from these demonstrations in the streets that the hearts of the people of Ukraine beat for the European Union."

He added: "This is a profoundly European matter that we are observing in Ukraine."

His visit comes after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych shocked the EU last week by refusing to sign an association pact.

EU diplomats were equally shocked when more than half a million Ukrainians joined pro-EU protests at the weekend, however.

Demonstrators still occupy some official buildings.

But government promises to rein in police, to reshuffle the cabinet and to relaunch EU treaty talks have calmed things down.

Ukraine sees Germany, unlike France, as a real supporter of its EU integration.

But Westerwelle's Maidan moment is likely to annoy Yanukovych.

The Ukrainian leader tried and failed to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the run-up to the EU treaty fiasco. His diplomats are also urging the EU not to egg on anti-Yanukovych feeling.

The moment could be a passing one, however.

Westerwelle is to leave his post by the end of the year and might well be replaced by the pro-Russian former FM Walter Steinmeier.

For his part, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has warned the West not to meddle in the Kremlin's former domain.

He said in the margins of a Nato meeting in Brussels on Wednesday: "We encourage everybody not to interfere [in Ukraine]." He added that Yanukovych has a "sovereign right to ratify or not ratify a document [the EU pact]."

Westerwelle will on Thursday also attend a meeting of the Vienna-based pro-democracy club, the OSCE, in Kiev.

Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski decided to join him at the last minute.

But EU foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton, US secretary of state John Kerry and the British and French foreign ministers are not going.

Kerry on Wednesday went to Moldova instead because it did initial an EU treaty despite Russian threats.

He thanked its leaders for their "courage."

He said: "We are convinced that any country ought to be able to make a choice of where it wants to affiliate … without external pressures."

He also listed the EU and US financial aid which Moldova got in recent years in a hint of more to come.

Financial crisis

Meanwhile, Yanukovych is in China amid efforts to get cheap loans or grants from Beijing, Brussels or Moscow to prevent a state default.

Ukraine has debt repayments of $17 billion next year, but just $20 billion in foreign currency reserves and the same credit rating as Cyprus or Greece.

The political crisis has seen the hryvnia fall in value.

But some EU diplomats say a financial crisis could be useful for the Ukrainian chief.

"He could blame it on the EU and on Russia while making himself rich. In the past few years, we have seen members of his 'familia' buy up Ukrainian assets at rock-bottom prices as the economic situation gets worse," one EU contact said.

News in Brief

  1. Doubt cast on new Maltese inquiry into slain reporter
  2. March by Slovak Catholics seeks abortion ban
  3. 600,000 stranded on holiday as Thomas Cook collapses
  4. Egypt: hundreds of protesters arrested over weekend
  5. Global car industry fears no-deal Brexit shock
  6. France: de-escalation between US and Iran priority
  7. Spain demands UK 'reciprocity' on resident rights
  8. Ireland: right Brexit deal is 'not yet close'

Column

These are the crunch issues for the 2019-2024 EU commission

These developments will largely determine who will be running the world in the coming decades and perhaps generations. If the Europeans can't find an answer over the five years, they will be toast. And we haven't even mentioned climate change.

Opinion

Time to pay attention to Belarus

Belarus may be hosting the European Games, but Vladimir Putin is not playing games when it comes to Belarus' independence. The West needs to get serious as well.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  2. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  4. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  8. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  10. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  11. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  12. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us