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Ukraine: Europe in mediation or in levitation?

The French and German ministers, L. Fabius and F.-W. Steinmeier make their way to Kiev (credit: German Foreign Office)
The French and German ministers, L. Fabius and F.-W. Steinmeier make their way to Kiev (credit: German Foreign Office)

(BRUSSELS2) The example of Ukraine today, Georgia yesterday, shows that the European Union has a "certain" power of mediation. A power that can be useful and useful during crises but remains largely underestimated, by the Europeans themselves.


What is currently happening in Ukraine is illustrative of the political power of Europe. Even if the trip to kyiv sometimes takes on a personal ambition, the power of intercession of the European Union should not be diminished. The successive trips of the High Representative of the EU, of the various MEPs, of the ministers of the various European countries are important. You must have been to Maidan Square, as you had to go yesterday to Tahrir Square or, a few years ago, to Warsaw. It is symbolic. Certainly ! But the symbol is important in politics. It is also an important mark of solidarity. If this gesture did not exist, there would be a very clear meaning of abandonment.

Speak with one voice or multiple voices

The approach of the three Foreign Ministers, Laurent Fabius, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Radek Sikorski is just as important. The French, the German, the Pole, together, to serve as intermediaries, mediators in a Ukrainian "revolt" is an act which, in itself, has political importance. Because we know that on Ukraine (as on Russia), Paris, Berlin, Warsaw are not necessarily on the same wavelength and will not be in the near future, as the stories are so different. But it is precisely this "unity" that has strength today. Rather than a single voice, Europe needs voices (in the plural) that express themselves differently but know how to find each other and speak the same language at the right time. It is in this that Europe is strong, strong in its differences, but united in the face of crises.

A trio and a diplomatic service

This trio there undoubtedly has more weight than any super-Minister of Foreign Affairs. However, the work of the High Representative of the EU, Catherine Ashton, and the European diplomatic service (EEAS) should not be underestimated. Everyone has their role – the trio of ministers, the High Representative, the EEAS – and fills a piece of European diplomacy. There are a few criticisms here and there. They are not justified today (*). The work of the EEAS is important, vital, because it ensures European permanence, the necessary substantive work, day-to-day diplomacy. The EU ambassador to Ukraine is not just anyone: Jan Tombinski is a “good guy” as they say in diplomatic corridors. The two European actions - that of the EEAS and that of the member countries — are necessary today to face a power that has no intention of giving way or even.

Europe in mediation

The interposition mission carried out in Ukraine is not the only one. The dialogue conducted under the auspices of the European Union between Pristina and Belgrade also shows that European-style pacification can work. In Mali and in the Central African Republic, too, the power of European influence exists and to push for a political dialogue that the leaders perhaps do not want to lead, to a structuring of the States, to a democratic awakening. If in some cases - in Georgia and Abkhazia or Ossetia, in Moldova and Transnistria - the work of mediation has not been able to meet with all the expected success, it has had at least one merit, pacifying the discussion and stabilize the area. This is the real "soft power". And there is nothing to be ashamed of. Those who criticize an "inactive Europe" are therefore on the wrong track.

A body of negotiators

However, we cannot be satisfied with certain results. Europe should continue on this path and develop a body of negotiators, possibly by drawing on the body of "old people", former foreign ministers or former prime ministers, who can turn out to be excellent full-time negotiators. A body that will have to rely on a "mediation" service, a bit like the Finns and the Swedes proposed (read: Sweden and Finland plead for a European Institute for Peace). It cannot be up to the High Representative to be on all fronts. The ministers of the Member States either, they have other commitments, the departure from kyiv to China of Laurent Fabius shows it. If necessary, this commitment should be pushed to the highest European level, to Heads of State and Government. The negotiation in Ukraine (and with Russia) today proves that, in some cases, "telephone" diplomacy must occur at the highest level.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

NB: What is, on the other hand, debatable, and discussed, is the European attitude of engaging in an association agreement process, without considering all the hypotheses, including the worst. To think that the association agreement was "neutral", that the Ukrainian Yes was solid and that Moscow would not react is confoundingly naive...

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Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

One thought on “Ukraine: Europe in mediation or in levitation?"

  • … read with these few days of delay, and here we are in a completely different world.
    this magnificent agreement on the initiative of the three ministers of February 21 was flouted barely the dried ink and today the EU looks like nothing and our three ministers nothing at all.
    to cry…

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