After visit to Crimea German deputies decide to start discussion on lifting of sanctions from Russia
20 February 2018. PenzaNews. Members of a delegation from Germany’s regional parliaments, who visited the Crimea, intend to begin a discussion in their country on the need to lift anti-Russian sanctions. This was stated by a deputy from North Rhine-Westphalia Nick Fogel on the results of a week-long visit to the peninsula, which ended on February 9.
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“After contacts with people here in Crimea, we can say for sure the sanctions should go, and we’ll begin the discussions on revoking them after we return to Germany,” said the deputy from the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which is the third largest in the Bundestag.
He also added that German residents, according to recent polls, feel sympathy for Russia.
Earlier at a meeting with deputies of the State Council of the Crimea, Nick Fogel drew attention to the fact that information in the Western media about the Crimea did not correspond to reality.
“The picture painted by our media suggests that the Crimea is an occupied and suppressed territory where there are soldiers all around and the people’s eyes are full horror. Still, as far as I can see, our media are somewhat mistaken. We’ve have an opportunity of free communications with ordinary people and the impression we’ve gotten is that people are very satisfied and looking into the future with confidence. […] The world community will realize sooner or later that the mainstream media supply incorrect information on the Crimea. The dam has been broken and there’s no stopping the flood. You can only wait,” Nick Fogel said.
According to the Crimean State Council’s Deputy Chairman for Interethnic Relations, Chair of Germans’ regional national and cultural autonomy Yury Gempel during the visit, the German deputies “could personally get acquainted with the political, economic situation on the peninsula.”
The guests visited the international children’s center Artek, the airport being built in Simferopol, met with teachers and students of the university, as well as representatives of national public associations, members of the presidium of the State Council of the Crimea and head of the republic Sergey Aksenov.
“In an open dialogue, the German deputies publicly announced that their party was in favor of abolishing the sanction policy towards the Russian Federation, appreciated the Crimean referendum in 2014, were convinced of the great economic potential of the Crimea,” the politician told PenzaNews.
He stressed that the republic’s authorities intend to further expand contacts with representatives of the public and the deputy corps of Germany and a number of other countries.
“Today we have a large number of appeals from politicians, businessmen, public figures from Germany, Austria, Norway with a request to participate in the IV International Economic Forum, which will be held on April 19–21 in the Crimea,” he explained.
Commenting on the results of the visit of German MPs to the peninsula, Aldo Ferrari, Head of the Russia, Caucasus and Central Asia Program at the Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI) in Milan, Professor at Ca’ Foscari University in Venice, said that Russia and European countries have the opportunity to establish dialogue and restore cooperation.
“Unfortunately the relations between Europe and Russia are in a very difficult period mainly because of the Ukrainian crisis. Yet, while the deadlock in the relations still seems a plausible scenario, it is not the only one we can imagine. Russia and the EU should resume dialogue on several issues, including the most difficult ones and engage in an active dialogue in order to restore friendly relations,” the Italian analyst said.
The end of the mutual sanctions could really give a new enhancement to both European and Russian economies, he believes.
“The present day difficult political relations damage partnership that is strongly necessary in the light of the international political and economic scenario where many countries are rapidly emerging,” Aldo Ferrari stressed.
In his opinion, the visit of German MPs to the peninsula is a very positive signal from the political point of view.
“The EU is slowly acknowledging the need to adopt a tailored approach in its relations with Russia. In spite of the strong rusophobic stances of many EU countries, a more active search for a thaw in the relations with Russia is clearly needed. I would like to express my personal hope that 2018 should be the time when both the EU and Russia demonstrate more creativity and audacity, starting from a genuine attempt to understand each other’s point of view and interests,” the expert said.
In turn, Patrick Sensburg, German MP from the CDU/CSU fraction, reminded that the MPs who visited the Crimea “are members of the right-wing-populist party, which, although being present in almost every German parliament, holds no position of responsibility or power within German politics.”
New configuration of forces in German parliament can seriously change political landscape
“In our new coalition treaty the governing Christian Democratic Union and the Social Democrats have once again set out the principle, that the future of the sanctions depends on the implementation of the Minsk Protocol. This principle remains at the core of German policies in this regard and is backed by a broad consensus within the population and throughout the German Bundestag,” the politician said.
He also stressed that despite the troublesome history, the economic relations between our two countries have always flourished when the circumstances allowed it.
“Therefore I am optimistic that our economic relations will return quickly to previous levels once the sanctions are gone. Maybe we could discuss in the near future the list of people sanctioned by the EU,” Patrick Sensburg said.
Meanwhile, Anton Friesen, a member of the AfD parliamentary group, stated that Germany – one of the main players of the EU – has changed course on Russia.
“Now, instead of a strategic partnership for mutual benefit, Germany is following the course of the transatlantic community, in fact representing not its own, but the interests of the United States and its European allies: Baltic States, Poland. This goes hand in hand with German claims to lead the ‘Western value community,’ leading a kind of cultural war of liberalism vs. conservatism — traditionalism — instead of cooperating on energy, security and cultural matters with Russia,” the deputy explained.
According to him, the sanctions and the economic downturn in Russia in general have led to a creeping, steadfast deterioration in EU-Russian trade relations.
“EU-Russian trade totaled 300 billion EUR in 2012, but fell under 200 billion in 2016. The politics of import substitution in Russia could in fact lead to the substitution of European goods especially in the agricultural sector. Nevertheless, European, especially German companies remain the most technologically advanced in the machine construction and engineering sector. So, I don't think that Chinese or other companies can really win the contest against them. I think that the trade between EU and Russia will return to its previous level and even surpass it, let say, towards 2025,” Anton Friesen suggested.
According to the politician, Germany should engage in mediation between Russia and Ukraine, using wise, diplomatic and balanced actions, which can lead to the end of sanctions. However, official visits of state players can only be carried out to the internationally recognized countries and regions, he said.
Meanwhile, Howard Shatz, Senior Economist at RAND Corporation, shared the opinion that German deputies’ visit to the Crimea would not affect the situation around the sanctions.
“My understanding is that this was a visit by private citizens in an unofficial capacity. European sanctions do not bar private travel. However, Europe does not recognize the annexation of Crimea by Russia. This visit will not change the situation with sanctions,” he said.
Howard Shatz reminded that the sanctions are always designed to change the policy of the country targeted by the sanctions.
“If the policy or policies in question change, then the sanctions should be lifted. If they are lifted, it is very likely that economic relations will return to levels at or near the levels that existed before the sanctions. Absent sanctions or other barriers to trade, trade relations are largely determined by the size of the respective economies and their distance. Russia borders Europe, so the distance is very small. And Russia is a fairly large economy – slightly smaller than Korea, but slightly larger than Spain It may be that during the sanctions period Russian and European business people found alternate suppliers, but I do not think that this will have a large effect on the overall level of post-sanctions trade,” the expert explained.
According to him, Europe and the United States stay solidly behind the sanctions.
“As a sovereign nation, Russia can make its own policy choices, but those choices could have costs. Russia has tremendous potential in terms of resources and, far more important, human capital. It will have a better future with strong links to Europe, and this will involve adherence to European norms, especially since Europe is the far larger economy and a very promising market for Russian goods and services,” the economist added.
In turn, Fernand Kartheiser, Luxembourg Parliament member for the Alternative Democratic Reform Party (ADR), called the visit of Western politicians to the Crimea highly symbolic.
“I think that a lasting agreement on the status of the Crimea has to be found. It is simply unrealistic to imagine that Russia would reverse her decisions and act not only against her strategic interests but also against the will of a large proportion of the Crimean population. From the beginning of the crisis, I therefore asked for an international settlement based, on the one hand, on internationally binding commitments by Russia on the rights of minorities on the Crimea and, on the other hand, a recognition of the status of the Crimea as a part of the Russian Federation by the international community,” the politician said.
The economic sanctions harm both sides and it will take a long time to come to a normalization of relations, he believes.
“Much harm has been done for no result. Modern Russia is a natural partner of the Western countries, not an enemy. Russia is not a stranger to Europe; it is Europe, along with all of us. Certainly we should emphasize what unites us and try together in good faith to resolve our differences,” Fernand Kartheiser said.
In his opinion, for an objective assessment of the situation with the Crimea, the West needs to study in more detail the history and prerequisites for separation of the peninsula.
“The economic sanctions against Russia due to the situation in Crimea are based on a – maybe intentional – misunderstanding of the history of the peninsula as well as the chain of events that has led to the secession of the Crimea from Ukraine. It is an oversimplification and – in my view – a misinterpretation of History to try to present those events as a simple Russian ‘invasion’ and a mere ‘annexation’ in violation of international law. We should learn in the West to interpret and to understand the conflicts in the post-Soviet area in all their complexity and to try to reach a higher degree of objectivity,” Luxembourg Parliament member concluded.