Bundestag Deputy Herdt: The First Inter-Parliamentary Commission for a Peaceful Settlement in Donbass Will Be Held in Minsk

The first meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Commission on Human Rights concerning the peace process in Donbass is to be held in Minsk in spring 2020

Ideological inspirer and speaker of the Commission, Deputy of the Bundestag from the party “Alternative for Germany”, member of the Bundestag Foreign Affairs Committee, member of the Human Rights and Humanitarian Assistance Committee, and main representative of the faction in the Crisis and Conflict Prevention Subcommittee Waldemar Herdt described to “ukraina.ru” what makes the International Commission unique and why great hopes are placed on it.

Mr. Herdt, at what stage is the Inter-Parliamentary Human Rights Commission at today? Who gave the go-ahead to participate in it?

“The Commission is a social and political platform/forum for parliamentarians and experts in the field of human rights. There are already seven Bundestag deputies in it, and there are proposals from the Russian State Duma deputies who want to participate in this format. We also spoke with representatives of the Ukrainian Parliament. Belarus expressed a desire to participate. We have also sent proposals for cooperation to European and foreign parliaments. There are other countries — Austria, and some persons from Latin America. At the moment, many agreements exist between the parties of the conflict in Donbass and the guarantors of the Minsk Agreements concerning the implementation of the ‘Steinmeier formula‘, but they are not being implemented, which means that they do not make any sense.

Even after the last hopeful negotiations, there have been further delays in implementing them. Therefore, the sense of our initiative is that parliamentarians will have the opportunity to exchange views within the framework of the Commission, consult with experts, and adapt the received expertise to their national legislation. This is something that has not yet been achieved by politicians in the top echelon. Perhaps the parliamentarians will be able to find a more constructive approach when they come together, and, of course, they will be obliged to implement what they agreed on in their law-making. So far, there was no such connection. Now it is appearing.”

How popular is your initiative in your native Parliament?

“Our initiative has received a lot of support in the faction and is now officially recognised by the Inter-Parliamentary Human Rights Commission (IPHRC). This Commission has every right to act in the name of protecting human rights, which is what we are doing.”

You recently met with the leader of the Ukrainian opposition party “Opposition Platform – For Life” Viktor Medvedchuk in Berlin. Is it him that we are talking about when you speak about negotiations with someone from the Verkhovna Rada?

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“The Ukrainian delegation has been looking for a long time for an opportunity to visit the Bundestag and meet with our parliamentarians to discuss the situation in Eastern Ukraine and a possible peace plan. I, for my part, expressed my readiness to invite this delegation to our faction. The peace initiatives presented by Mr Medvedchuk coincide with the goals and objectives of our Inter-Parliamentary Commission. And when he asked if we wanted to participate in something like this, I gave him in writing our proposal not just to participate, but to unite – to unite the initiatives of representatives of the State Duma, the Verkhovna Rada, and the Bundestag.

I think that deputies from France and other EU countries will be involved. So then it will be a new format that inspires me with more confidence than purely elite politics, which very often runs into ideological barriers.”

Is it only about the opposition parties, or are you negotiating with the parties in power? Still, you will agree that this same party of Medvedchuk, no matter how much it proclaims peace initiatives, does not have a decisive vote in the Parliament.

We would like such peace initiatives to be applied to all parties, both in our Bundestag and in other parliaments. Already before this we negotiated with an inter-factional association in the Rada, where deputies united on the basis of the protection of family values. In principle, it is similar. We are now saying that our International Alliance for Human Rights is based on conservative Christian-Patriotic views. There is still a debate about Christianity, because there are conservative forces in Islam, for example, and in this way we are cutting them off from this Commission. I think this issue will be resolved later, when we will unite. But conservative, family values are what underlies our Commission, so the negotiations in the Verkhovna Rada are not only with Medvedchuk. I think we will be able to attract others to this inter-factional association, which he, by the way, is a part of too.”

You are right that family values are close to many people, but in the Ukrainian Parliament, for example, there are people who are also close to conservatism and traditional family values, but at the same time they are the outright Russophobes, inciters of ethnic hatred, and glorify Nazi criminals of the Second World War. How to separate flies from elephants and prevent such characters from entering the human Rights Commission?

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“I’ve heard about it, I’ve been told. Patriot and Nazi – what is the difference? In my personal opinion, where patriotism is absent, Nazism flourishes. Patriotism is a healthy, correct sense of love and respect for your people and full respect for other peoples. Only by respecting yourself will you learn to respect others. Patriotism turns into Nazism when the feeling of inferiority prevails inside. If you can’t be a patriot for a long time, a nationalist protest grows. This trend can be seen in Germany, when we have a terrible infringement of the German language in the media, at school and everywhere, and as a backlash, as a spring or pendulum that makes a rollback, people who allegedly love only their nation with all their heart appear. And it’s scary. You can’t love your nation and hate another one. This is not love, this is aggrandisation. It is not for nothing that it is said: love your neighbour as you love yourself, i.e. start with yourself. But if you don’t love your neighbour, you aggrandise yourself. It’s a fine line. I think we should talk to these people from Ukraine. If we agree at least on conservative values, this is already a platform on which we could talk about patriotism and Nazism.

As for their penetration into the Commission, I think that if they fully understand its idea, they will have to agree with it, and if not, they will not sit down at the negotiating table with those whom they are trying to discriminate on a national basis. The same concerns the Russian side. If there are people who hate Ukrainians, they will not be included in this Commission, they have no purpose here, and they will understand that there is no platform for them. There will be people who have clearly understand that we must speak, make friends and create. Those who destroy are already plentiful. Thousands of forums, commissions, and institutions have already been created for them, but there is no such thing as what we are creating in the world yet.”

Spring conference in Minsk. What will be discussed, who are the participants, and what results do you expect?

“The participants are representatives of the Belarusian, Russian, Ukrainian, and German parliaments. Each of them is now deciding who will represent these parliaments. In the Russian State Duma, for example, our meeting was scheduled for March 24th, but has now been postponed due to the coronavirus. There our co-thinkers are being gathered, they carry out the registration of such a group in the Duma, and decide on collective membership in this Alliance. So we get a working group there. We plan to hold the same event in Minsk this spring. When we meet, there will be one main theme — peace in Donbass.

We will thoroughly analyse the entire ‘Steinmeier formula’, pull out the most controversial and hard-to-implement points, and select those points that require legislative initiative. Now the process is going like this: the heads of state gather, decide something, and, in theory, the Parliament should then put it into law. But this bundle does not work. Decisions have been made, but the parliaments do not adopt relevant laws, so there is no implementation of the agreements of the heads of state, while parliamentarians will attend our meeting. If we work out this initiative and expertise as the basis for law-making here, at round tables, in the presence of deputies, and if we come to an agreement, then they will take it to the Parliament.

I think there is something to talk about with the Russian side, there is something to talk about with the Ukrainian side. Everyone understands that there is no alternative to this process, it only needs to be polished and a detailed implementation plan written out. This is the task that we set for ourselves there. We do not cancel the current agreements, we do not invent anything new, we just go into depth and describe the process of implementing each item. After all, many things have been declared, and the method of execution itself is not clear to anyone.

Are there any plans to create a monitoring mission, something like the OSCE?

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“Yes, such a tool is just being born now. While this is an initiative of our faction in the Bundestag, there is an initiative of the Rada and Duma, and there is a small group in the Belarusian Parliament. So far, we are working in the same direction at the level of national parliaments. If we gather in Minsk and indicate that we are becoming an international alliance for human rights, this will be a request for something very serious.”

Pavel Volkov

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