Translated by Ollie Richardson
Kiev and Berlin don’t believe any more that Crimea will return to the structure of Ukraine. Such a loud statement was made by the member of the German Bundestag from the Free Democratic Party Alexander Lambsdorff. He emphasized that Germany all the same still continues to consider the accession of Crimea to the Russian Federation as a violation of the norms of international law. But he added that it is necessary to engage in dialogue with Moscow concerning questions that are of interest to both Russia and Germany.
“Even the Ukrainian government in Kiev no longer hopes that Moscow will return Crimea in the near future. We look at this in the same way,” wrote the Welt am Sonntag newspaper, quoting the member of the Bundestag.
At the beginning of October the President of the Czech Republic Milos Zeman called the accession of Crimea to Russia “a closed case” during his speech at the PACE session, and urged the Kiev authorities to abandon attempts to return the region. Then the Ukrainian side called Zeman “incorrigible”, and some deputies labelled the Czech President as an “agent of the Kremlin”.
However, now a similar statement was sounded from the lips of a representative of the not pro-Russian (most likely on the contrary) Free Democratic Party. Earlier Lambsdorff, who also holds the post of deputy head of the European parliament, already said that nobody in Europe is ready to opt for a military conflict with Russia over the peninsula. In addition, the leader of the Free Democratic Party Christian Lindner in the summer urged to reconcile with the “annexation of Crimea” as a “temporary solution”, although he emphasized that the sanctions should remain in force.
But, as is known, there is nothing more permanent than “temporary” solutions. Besides, over the last few months Europe’s own “separatism” problem – Catalonia – has ripened. On the one hand, the President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani stated that no European country recognizes the independence of Catalonia. On the other hand, if it leads to an armed conflict, it is quite possible that Brussels will change its position. Against this background, to not recognize the Crimean referendum and the accession of the peninsula to Russia will be completely inconsistent.
The deputy director of the Institute for Strategic Studies and Predictions of the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia and political scientist Nikita Danyuk considers that the attitude of Europeans towards the Crimean question will change every year, however he believes that the referendum on the peninsula can’t be compared with Catalan for many reasons.
“Now in the Bundestag about a quarter of its members – from the parties Alternative of Germany and Die Linke – directly support the recognition of the Crimean peninsula as an integral part of Russia. Therefore, in this context the statement of the representative of the Free Democratic Party suggests that the final understanding that Crimea is Russia arrived to representatives across the political spectrum of Germany.
At the official level no country of the European Union is ready to recognize Crimea as a part of Russia yet. This is connected to the internal political situation, according to which there is the united consolidated opinion of the whole of Europe. But, as we see, this consensus is gradually transforming and changing.
Two years ago, in principle, we couldn’t hear such statements from any self-respecting European politician, because they risked losing political weight or even their career. But during this time statements about Crimea being Russian and about the need to invest money in projects on the peninsula were constantly heard from the business community. A large number of businessmen from France, Italy, Germany visited Crimea, showing their position on this question.”
“SP”: I.e., the recognition of Crimea as Russian became more probable?
“The all-European attitude towards Crimea is being transformed, but this is a rather long process. The European Union won’t reconsider its opinion in one night. But the reality shows that in the long term – two-five years – this issue won’t be in the political agenda of Europe. They perfectly understand that Crimea will never return to the structure of Ukraine. But, being guided by the principle of a uniform foreign policy, which is formed by Brussels under the influence of Berlin, Paris, and Washington, they can’t officially recognize it yet.
There is such a concept as euro-atlantic solidarity, and in this context both our European partners and American colleagues aren’t ready to recognize Crimea as a part of Russia. Especially because it is a very convenient tool of political pressure, and they don’t want to abandon it yet. When it becomes convenient, for example, in order to negotiate some preferences, they will remember this precedent.
Nevertheless, over time this topic will be forced out of the negotiation process. This is already happening. No self-respecting politician will raise this topic during negotiations with representatives of our State, as they understand that it will only complicate communication.
The fact that such statements are coming from Germany, which is one of the leading countries of the EU, is symptomatic. It testifies that Crimea is no longer a cornerstone in relations between the European Union and Russia.”
“SP”: Can the situation in Catalonia affect in the long term the attitude of the European Union in regards to the Crimean question?
“The collective West has accustomed the international community to the fact that they constantly use double standards. It is enough to compare the situation with Catalonia with Kosovo. By the way, according to our President [Putin – ed], the Kosovan precedent opened a Pandora’s box, creating a ‘parade of sovereignties’. Then in 2008 our State insisted that a precedent shouldn’t be artificially created, because then it will be a point of reference and it will be difficult to stop this process.
The situation in Catalonia characterizes a systemic crisis, in which there is the European Union. Besides historical, economic, political and other reasons, the desire of Catalonia to separate from Spain, there is the main symptom. The process of building of large political entity called the European Union led to the fact that its States lost most of their national sovereignty.
Financial, economic, political, and foreign policy authority, and even socio-cultural policy were delegated to Brussels. Local and regional elites understood that it is possible to directly delegate their powers in exchange for living in the EU, bypassing intermediaries.
Catalonia, as a successful economic region, understands that Spain possesses not sovereignty, but subjectness. That’s why they want to remove the intermediary – Madrid – and to directly start communicating with Brussels.”
“SP”: Why did this crisis arise right now? It is connected to the general global political context?
“As I already said, the EU is experiencing a systemic crisis. Europe is suffering from an uncontrollable flow of refugees, there are also problems in social and economic development, especially in the group of Mediterranean countries, which Spain is a part of. And this is in addition to external challenges, the threat of terrorist, which becomes an integral part of united Europe, which until recently was an island of stability and safety.
The Catalan precedent, as well as the Kosovan one at the time, can ignite the flywheel of the ‘parade of sovereignties’. In the same Spain there are the Canary Islands and the Basque Country, in Italy referenda took place in the Veneto and Lombardy regions for greater autonomy. There is the problem of Corsica in France, Flanders in Belgium, and even Bavaria in Germany. Not to mention Northern Ireland and Scotland.
The problems of the EU lead to the fact that they have no time to solve Spain’s problems on its behalf. Madrid, which got used to following ready-made directives from Brussels, only aggravated the situation. Therefore, the situation around Catalonia can lead to serious problems in the EU. It’s not a coincidence that Brussels strictly supports the preservation of Spain’s territorial integrity, and insists that only one party – Madrid – can be the negotiator.
As for Crimea, unlike Catalonia, the referendum was held there according to the Constitution of Ukraine. The inhabitants of the peninsula had full authority to organize a plebiscite. Besides this, the referendum in Crimea was realized not because of the political ambitions of certain political forces, but because of the emergency situation in Ukraine. There, in an absolutely unconstitutional manner, Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown, and the power that succeeded it had no legal basis to be at the helm.
The Crimean people came to the conclusion that they don’t want to live in a State where power was changed by a coup d’etat. Therefore the Crimean referendum has much more legal grounds than the Catalan one. And whatever the European politicians say, the norms of international law weren’t violated.
It seems to me that the Catalan situation will end with negotiations, and somehow the parties will reach a compromise, because otherwise all of Europe will be threatened by very serious problems. But Crimea can’t be negotiated over, therefore it’s difficult to compare these situations.”
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