Normandy Format: A Difficult Debate

Josep Borrell EU debates at the EU-Ukraine Association Council

Normandy Format: A Difficult Debate

Berlin hosted a meeting of the political advisers of the participating countries; the Normandy Four. Its continuation is scheduled for January 22

KIEV – The discussion was not easy, but it was constructive. This is stated in the message of the press service of the President of Ukraine following the meeting of political advisers to the leaders of the states participating in the “Normandy format”, which took place on January 12 in Germany.

The consultations lasted more than six hours, the advisers to the leaders of the Normandy Four discussed the status of implementation of the agreements reached by the leaders of Germany, France, Ukraine and Russia during the Paris summit in December 2019.

“In particular, the parties touched upon all the issues on the agenda – from security issues to humanitarian ones. The discussion was not easy, but it was constructive. All parties noted the importance of observing the ceasefire in Donbas, “the message says..

During the meeting, the Ukrainian side focused on security issues and the need to strengthen agreements in terms of security.

Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Andriy Yermak, as part of the Ukrainian delegation, took part in the negotiations and thanked the German side for organizing the meeting, and also expressed gratitude to partners from Germany and France for supporting Ukraine on the way to establishing peace in Donbass.

The meeting was also attended by the Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson in the Trilateral Contact Group on the Settlement of the Russian-Ukrainian Conflict in Donbass Heidi Grau.

A break is currently announced, the continuation of the meeting at the level of political advisers is on Friday, January 22.

Kozak about the meeting in Berlin

TASS reports that the advisers to the heads of state of the Normandy Four held a useful and frank conversation in Berlin on January 11, but did not reach final decisions on any point of the negotiations. This was told to TASS on January 12 by the representative of Russia at the talks Dmitry Kozak.

He stated that at the end of the meeting “there is nothing to brag about.” Dmitry Kozak noted that an “exchange of views on all fundamental issues” took place in the implementation of the Minsk agreements and the results of the Paris summit in 2019.

“It was not possible to find final solutions. We agreed that new principled approaches to the formation of a roadmap in the Trilateral Contact Group on a comprehensive settlement of the conflict will be prepared, ”Kozak said..

About the 2019 Paris Summit

Recall that on December 9, 2019, a meeting of the leaders of the Normandy Four countries took place in Paris. The communiqué following the talks notes “a common desire to create a stable and comprehensive architecture of trust and security in Europe, based on OSCE principles, for which the settlement of the conflict in Ukraine is one of several important steps.”.

Three paragraphs decide on the implementation of “immediate measures to stabilize the situation in the conflict zone”, “measures to implement the political provisions of the Minsk agreements.” The signatory sides urge foreign ministers and political advisers to “ensure the implementation of the agreements reached”.

The meeting participants – the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany – “agreed to hold the next meeting in this format within four months to discuss political and security conditions, including for organizing local elections,” the Kremlin website reports..

About the steps of trust

Executive Director of the Center for Social Research “Sofia” Vladimir Lupatsiy notes that the Normandy format cannot operate in a vacuum without interaction with key international systems such as the OSCE, the UN and the G7.

“It is necessary for an open interface to emerge, and there should be interactions with these international structures – this is fundamentally important for the settlement of the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine. It cannot be resolved within the framework of the two-sided relations between Russia and Ukraine, because this conflict has violated the entire system of European security and settlement in the east should be positioned as a step of trust between Russia and the international community, ”Vladimir Lupatsy says to the Voice of America correspondent.

He believes that in recent years Russia has tried to “channel” this format of negotiations, paying more attention to the Minsk process..

“In essence, translate the settlement process into a bilateral format – negotiations between Ukraine and Russia, and even better reduce it to negotiations between Ukraine and ORDLO. Therefore, preserving the Normandy format is a minimum task, and the next aspect is that this format needs to work and be permanently operating, ”says Vladimir Lupatsiy.

Negotiations at an impasse

Political scientist Viacheslav Potapenko pessimistic about the possibility of progress and achieving results in the short term during the dialogue in the Normandy format.

Normandy Format: A Difficult Debate
Normandy Format: A Difficult Debate

“The positions are settled, the opportunities for progress that were used in connection with the election of the new President Volodymyr Zelensky in 2019, this charge, figuratively speaking, has been used up. Today, this negotiation process is at an impasse in connection with the coronavirus, the situation in the United States, political processes in France and Germany, our international partners are not up to the Donbass, “says Vyacheslav Potapenko to the Voice of America correspondent.

He believes that the conflict is maintained in a regulated phase – this is used by the negotiators, but no one is ready to resolve it..

“In many ways – in Ukraine and in Russia – the conflict in Donbass has become a part of life and reality, the work of social institutions. Its elimination will mean and require major changes and reforms. Nobody is ready for this. This status suits everyone, just no one dares to say it “, – says Vyacheslav Potapenko.

A strategy with European policy in mind

Analyst at the Center for Civil Society Research Maria Kucherenko believes that the meeting in Berlin, in fact, confirmed that the negotiation process is at a point from which one can either worsen the situation – make tactical concessions, or completely reformat the very understanding of work in formats.

“As for Russia, its role in the negotiations remains unchanged: taking its role out of the negotiation brackets, an attempt to force Ukraine to speak directly with representatives of ORDLO, and an attempt to replace the meaning of the Trilateral Contact Group (TCG),” Maria Kucherenko told the Russian Service correspondent. Voices of America “.

She emphasizes that the principles that will “return” political issues for discussion in the Normandy format to the level of dialogue between heads of state or foreign ministers will help Ukraine to avoid fatal misconduct in the negotiations, and discussion of tactical issues – provision of water, repair of infrastructure – will be the prerogative of TCG.

“In addition, it is worth thinking about a strategic vision that we could offer our Western partners, since the problems of Donbass and Crimea are a single process – Russian aggression against Ukraine as a whole,” Maria Kucherenko believes..

According to her, today it is necessary to carefully build a strategy, given that Germany and France are concentrated in this and next years on their domestic policies – the departure from the post of Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel and the start of the presidential campaign in France..

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