Tuesday

22nd Oct 2019

Ukrainian president burns bridges in Europe

  • The 41-year old Volodymyr Zelenskiy (l) first made his name as a TV comic (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

Ukraine's new president gleefully joined US leader Donald Trump in denigrating the EU back in July, a White House transcript of their phone call has shown.

"Germany does almost nothing for you. All they do is talk," Trump told Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelenskiy on 25 July.

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

"[German chancellor] Angela Merkel ... talks Ukraine, but she doesn't do anything. A lot of European countries are the same way," he added.

"Yes. You are absolutely right. Not only 100 percent, but actually 1,000 percent," Zelenskiy replied.

"I did talk to Angela Merkel ... I also met and talked with [French president] Emmanuel Macron and I told them they are not doing quite as much as they need to be on the issues with the sanctions [on Russia]. They are not enforcing the sanctions," he said.

"The European Union should be our biggest partner, but technically the United States is a much bigger partner," he added.

The White House declassified the transcript on Wednesday (25 September) amid a row in Washington over next year's US election.

Trump, in the same phone call, asked Zelenskiy for help in digging up dirt on his election rival, Joe Biden, whose son had business interests in Ukraine.

He did it a few days after temporarily freezing $250m [€228m] in US military assistance to Kiev in what looked like blackmail.

And the fiasco has prompted the United States House of Representatives, the lower chamber of the US Congress, to launch an impeachment inquiry into Trump's behaviour.

The US has provided about $1.9bn of economic and military aid to Ukraine and imposed economic sanctions on Russia since it invaded its pro-Western neighbour in 2014.

Ukrainian commanders highly value the US help, such as modern anti-tank weapons called Javelins.

"As soon as they [Russia] knew we had Javelins, the number of tank attacks significantly went down," a Ukrainian colonel, who asked not to be named, told EUobserver on the front line in east Ukraine in January.

The EU has declined to send arms.

But it has agreed to pump in some €15bn in economic aid between 2014 and 2020, most of it from the EU budget, to which France and Germany contribute heavily.

It has imposed sanctions on Russia, with whom it trades a lot more than the US does, and signed a free-trade pact with Ukraine.

British, German, and Polish soldiers have also helped to train Ukrainian ones in the field.

Trump's attack on Merkel was the latest in a long line, following previous jibes that Germany sells too many cars to America and does not spend enough on Nato.

Meanwhile, Zelenskiy's claim that France and Germany were not enforcing EU sanctions lacked substance.

Macron, later in September, did speak of relaxing sanctions, but only if Russia withdrew its forces from east Ukraine.

Germany is to build a new gas pipeline with Russia, but the project is not covered by the EU or US sanctions regime.

Siemens, a German engineering firm, was caught breaking EU sanctions by producing electricity turbines for Russia-occupied Crimea.

But that case aside, Merkel is credited with getting Russia sanctions renewed year after year despite protests by Russia-friendly EU capitals, such as Budapest, Nicosia, or Rome.

Russian champagne

French and German officials have so far declined to comment on Zelenskiy's accusations.

But Wednesday's revelation could harm his ties with EU powers, playing into Russia's hands.

It could also damage his authority at home, where the 41-year old former TV comic has faced criticism that he is unqualified for his post.

His anti-Macron and Merkel comments were made in what was "a difficult period" for Ukraine, Zelenskiy said on Wednesday after meeting Trump at a UN assembly in New York.

"I don't want to say anything bad about anyone ... We thank everyone who helps us," he said, according to the Reuters news agency.

"I personally think that sometimes such calls between presidents of independent countries should not be published. I just thought that they would publish their part," the novice president added.

But despite his apologies, the furore risks making Ukraine a toxic word in transatlantic politics.

"They [Russian authorities] are definitely [thinking]: 'Open the champagne' ... the Russians should be crazy happy about it," Ukraine's former foreign minister, Pavlo Klimkin, told the CNN broadcaster on Wednesday.

And in the meantime, the fighting on the front line, which has claimed more than 13,000 lives in the past five years, went on uninterrupted.

There were almost 900 ceasefire violations recorded by international monitors from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe in their last report on Wednesday - the same as the daily average for 2018.

France calls Russia peace summit on Ukraine

France has called an EU summit with Russia on the Ukraine conflict following a prisoner exchange - but the Dutch are unhappy that Ukraine freed a witness of the MH17 atrocity.

EU envoy sheds light on weird US diplomacy

Remarks to Congress by the US ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland, have shed light on the unusual nature of American diplomacy under president Donald Trump.

Macron warned on danger of Balkans veto

France's veto on North Macedonia enlargement will endanger the Serbia-Kosovo peace process, a senior EU official has warned, but diplomats do not expect Macron to change his mind.

EU countries to halt arms sales to Turkey

EU states have agreed to stop arms sales to Turkey over its invasion of Syria, marking a nadir in relations with their Nato ally. In response, Ankara mocked the decision as a "joke".

News in Brief

  1. Four businessmen charged in Slovak journalist murder
  2. Erdogan accuses EU of 'standing by terrorists' in Syria
  3. Migrants riot in Maltese camp
  4. Spanish PM refuses dialogue with Catalonia president
  5. Putin: Russia will help Africa without 'conditions'
  6. Almost 200 arrests in Catalonia independence protests
  7. Report: Russian hackers used Iranian cover to attack UK
  8. Next EU economy chief calls for looser budget policies

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. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  3. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  4. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  5. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  7. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  11. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work

Latest News

  1. Macron breaks Balkans promise in quest for EU dominance
  2. Snap elections in North Macedonia after EU rejection
  3. UK opposition MPs attack new Brexit deal
  4. Deep divisions on display over post-Brexit EU budget
  5. Juncker: 'Historic mistake' against Balkan EU hopefuls
  6. EU leaders spent just 12 minutes on climate
  7. Crunch Brexit vote in UK This WEEK
  8. EU envoy sheds light on weird US diplomacy

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us