Belsat: What is the EU’s official stance on the case of the so called Novorossiya, the Donetsk and Luhansk ‘people’s republics’? Is there any chance that the EU will recognise them? And if yes, under what circumstances? Is the EU in contact with the authorities of these republics?
Kocijančič: The European Union did not recognise the so called elections that had taken place in Donbas at the beginning of November, they are illegal <…> and we have said very clearly that the European Union supports territorial integrity, unity, independence and sovereignty of Ukraine. And on this basis we are in contact with only the Ukrainian authorities, the authorities in Kyiv. You might be aware that the so called leaders of the so called republics are also on the list of individuals that the European Union is targeting.
Belsat: At a recent sitting of the Council of the foreign ministers of EU member states no new sanctions were imposed on the Kremlin. Does it mean that they bring no effect?
Kocijančič: Not at all, actually the foreign ministers have agreed to step up the measures and they have decided to have additional listings as regards separatists, and I have also supported further action when it comes to the implementation of the non-recognition policy of the illegal annexation of Crimea. And this comes on top of the existing measures which include economic measures. These measures are a tool that the EU is using in order to put pressure on Russia which is part of the conflict and also needs to be part of the solution. We are strongly engaged in diplomatic and other efforts in support of the political solution of the ongoing crisis in Ukraine and we want Russia to do the same. They can do this by exerting influence on the separatists in the east of Ukraine by actively withdrawing armed forces, ets from the east of Ukraine and engage in terms of implementation of the Minsk protocol and implementing the agreement which offers a good base, which paves the way for a political solution of the crisis.
Belsat: It is an open secret that the EU member countries’ attitudes to sanctions on Russia, to the conflict in eastern Ukraine differ. How do you manage to reach common ground?
Kocijančič: The sanctions is a tool we use in exeptional circumstances, it is not our preferred tool, it’s a tool we use as a policy tool, when it is really needed, it is a kind of the tools of last resort. Sanctions alsways need to be adopted by unanimity of the member states. This has been the case so far. So, everything that the EU has adopted, from, for example, the suspension of the EU-Russia summit, from the suspension of negotiations on the new agreement, from concrete restrictive measures like targeting separatists and those responsible for the events in Crimea and in the east of Ukraine – all this has been done by all the members – they meet and discuss the situation, and when the circumstances really require this, they adopt decisions.
Belsat: What should Russia do so that sanctions could be lifted and all could resume its natural course?
Kocijančič: The EU has made it very clear that we support territorial integrity, unity, independence and sovereignty of Ukraine, and because of the actions of Russia which are against international commitments we have reacted in a very strong and determined way. Obviously, these measures are scalable and they are reversible, but only events on the ground can pave the way for that. So, the first step would be the full implementation of the Minsk agreement. Here Russia plays a crucial role. We have called on them to move troops, weaponry away from the east [of Ukraine]. We need ceasefire, so we have called on Russia to use their influence on the separatists, to push for the political solution of the crisis, As I have said, the restrictive measures have a clear objective but they are reversible: if we would see positive developments on the ground these measures can be amended accordingly.