Gernot Erler, Special Representative of the Federal Government of Germany for the OSCE Chairmanship in 2016 and Coordinator for Intersocietal Cooperation with Russia, Central Asia and the Eastern Partnership Countries visited Ukraine. He came to Severodonetsk, participated in East Ukrainian forum and held meetings with representatives of local authorities, NGOs and OSCE. Erler shared impression of his visit at a press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.
OSCE in Ukraine
“Coordination of OSCE projects in Ukraine takes place in time when changes and reforms are unfolding in the country. Nevertheless, they will work only under condition of dialogue with the public, if it is transparent and communication is happening on principles of trust in reforms. Role of OSCE projects in this context can hardly be overestimated,” said Gernot Erler. According to him, Germany’ Chairmanship in the OSCE aimed at intense involvement of civic society and increase in participation of youth in these processes. “In Severodonetsk I could see these aims worked. Many young people participated in the forum. I could also see numerous representatives of civil society,” said Special Representative of the Federal Government of Germany. According to Vaidotas Verba, OSCE projects co-ordinator in Ukraine, the Organization observes positive developments in Ukraine and evaluates its progress with cautious optimism. “We work only upon Ukrainian partners’ request. Willingness and commitment of Ukraine and Ukrainian stakeholders to implement reforms increased multi-fold in the last 18 months,” he emphasized.
Settlement of conflict in East Ukraine
Gernot Erler emphasized that the conflict in the East Ukraine cannot be solved by military means and only dialogue can work. “Sanctions are our bargaining tools. Russia violated OSCE principles and international treaties. Sanctions are a component of decision on peaceful settlement of the conflict. They will remain in force until Russian Federation reconsiders its behavior,” he explained. At the same time, efforts of OSCE Special Monitoring Mission are an important component as well. It performs two functions: monitoring the situation in the conflict zone and, as far as it is possible, improving lives for people who live there. “We are doing our best to make life bearable for people there. We arrange for repairs of infrastructure, electricity supply, demining activities – anything related to people’s hardships,” said Erler.
Armistice and OSCE police mission
Gernot Erler mentioned completely new approach to the demarcation strategy. This involves the framework agreements regarding three checkpoints – Zolote, Petrivske and Stanytsia Luhanska. “The idea was to create safety islands, securing the ceasefire on certain territories, and then try doing it region by region, expanding the armistice further in stages,” he said. At the same time, this isn’t about OSCE police mission in Donbas so far. “You must understand the context – such mission should secure elections. Prior to organizing elections we reach consensus. If there is no consensus between Ukraine, Russia and separatists – elections will not take place. Besides, such OSCE mission never existed before. All participant countries must agree to it. Finding qualified and properly trained people will pose another serious challenge,” explained Erler.