MEP Vasile Blaga (PNL, EPP) welcomed on Monday the first announcement by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz supporting Romania’s accession to the free movement area in a speech given by the German leader in Prague.
“We have an extremely good signal coming from Germany today. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has stated clearly that he supports the accession of Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia to the Schengen area. I hope that this signal coming from one of the main pillars of the European Union will create the basis for the support of the other EU states for the effective accession of Romania and the other two states to Schengen. It is the final element for the Romanians to gain full and equal rights with the other European citizens and, in addition, a historical reparation that Romania has been waiting for over 12 years”, the MEP said in a statement to CaleaEuropeana.ro.
According to the liberal MEP, “the postponement of a political decision on the acceptance of our country in Schengen is an unfair debt that the European Union has towards Romania and Romanians”.
Christoph Heusgen, chairman of the Munich Security Conference: We tried to build a partnership with Russia, but Putin destroyed the common base. Romania is correct and NATO should focus more on the Black Sea region
Interview conducted by Robert Lupițu
Russia’s invasion in Ukraine is a turning point in history, including for Germany, who was tried to build a constructive partnership with Moscow over the last decades, argues Christoph Heusgen, chairman of the Munich Security Conference, in an exclusive interview for CaleaEuropeană.ro on the sidelines of the Munich Leaders Meeting, organised for the first time on the southeastern flank of NATO, in Bucharest, just before the NATO Foreign Ministerial Meeting. The Chairman of the Munich Security Conference also emphasised that Romania is correct and NATO should focus more on the Black Sea region.
“I hoped that Putin would be impressed by the international solidarity with Ukraine and would have second thoughts about aggressing Ukraine”, he said, recollecting the strong EU and transatlantic unity at the Munich Security Conference, few days before Russia’s full scale invasion.
Former German Ambassador to the UN and ex-diplomatic advisor to Angela Merkel, Heusgen explained Germany’s longstanding approach to Russia and the stakes of the “Zeitenwende” (turning point) approach on foreign and security policy.
“Germany in World War II was responsible for the death of 20 million people who lived on the territory of the former Soviet Union. Also, without Russia giving its consent Germany would not have been reunited. So German policy towards Russia for a long time was influenced by a feeling of guilt and of gratitude. (…) We tried to build a partnership with Russia, but all of these efforts terribly failed. Putin destroyed the common base we had tried to build”, he said.
“Now, we have to be very tough in response to Russia’s war”, Heusgen added.
The Chairman of the Munich Security said that Russian President cannot be welcomed again in the community of respected politicians and emphasised that Putin is wrong when he is counting on Ukraine’s war fatigue or the fatigue of Western help.
“I believe that Germany and the transatlantic community will have to even strengthen their support to Ukraine. There is demand for political leadership which makes clear what is at stake: If Putin wins this war he will not stop in Ukraine”, he said, mentioning that the only possibility for peace talks is for Russia to return Ukraine’s territories.
Full interview below:
CaleaEuropeană.ro: Russia’s invasion was preceded a few days before by the Munich Security Conference. Did you felt at that moment, when President Zelenskyy took the stage, when Chancellor Scholz, Foreign Minister Baerbock, Vice President Harris or Prime Minister Johnson did the same, that Russia’s full scale military aggression is imminent, and diplomacy will be shadowed by war on the European continent?
Christoph Heusgen: I had predicted already at the end of 2021 that Putin may wage war and invade Ukraine. The Intelligence Community was certain that Putin would actually do it. But when I witnessed the strong EU and transatlantic unity at the Munich Security Conference on 18 to 20 February 2022, and the readiness to give a common and tough response to a possible Russian attack, I hoped that Putin would be impressed by the international solidarity with Ukraine and would have second thoughts about aggressing Ukraine. But he didn’t and went ahead with his flagrant breach of International Law, his breach of civilization.
CaleaEuropeană.ro: You mentioned the transatlantic unity and for many pundits Germany’s stance, including in the context of a brand-new coalition, was remarkable. The Zeitenwende speech, halting North Stream 2, economic and energy sanctions against Russia and stepping forward as a future military power in Europe. Is there a new German foreign and security policy in the making? What does it mean for Europe and for NATO?
Christoph Heusgen: Chancellor Scholz in his speech to the German parliament three days after the invasion, pronounced a ‘Zeitenwende’. We are indeed witnessing a turning point in history. For decades, Germany had tried to maintain a constructive partnership with Russia. To understand German policy towards Russia, one must go back in history. One has to remember that Germany in World War II was responsible for the death of 20 million people who lived on the territory of the former Soviet Union. Also, without Russia giving its consent Germany would not have been reunited. So German policy towards Russia for a long time was influenced by a feeling of guilt and of gratitude. Many in Germany hoped that we could conduct a policy where, on the one hand, we would be a good partner of NATO, but on the other hand maintain a decent relationship with Russia. The latter included a lot of trade, but also a broader dialogue between our societies through the so-called Petersburg dialogue, where an exchanges took place between the political and business class, non-governmental organizations and youth. We tried to build a partnership with Russia, but all of these efforts terribly failed. Putin destroyed the common base we had tried to build. Putin violated every international covenant and every bilateral agreement with Ukraine when he started his full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Putin has destroyed all bridges behind him. Now, we have to be very tough in response to Russia’s war. Some people in Germany have problems to adapt to the new reality to the ‚Zeitenwende‘.
CaleaEuropeană.ro: So, as I understand correctly, this will be a long-time stance of Germany and also of Europe when it comes to Russia?
Christoph Heusgen: As I said, Putin committed a breach of civilization. He severely violated international law. And we must respond to it in a very clear way, defending the rules based international order, also defending Ukraine. And we have to make Putin and his gang accountable for the crimes they committed, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression. There is no way back for Putin into the community of respected, civilized politicians.
CaleaEuropeană.ro: And we saw that Russia’s aggressive war in Ukraine has brought major strategic changes in Europe – Sweden and Finland are almost NATO members, Ukraine and Moldova have received candidate status for the EU, France is more involved in NATO, especially in Romania, Germany’s Zeitenwende approach. But the war costs lives, threatens critical infrastructure, food security, energy prices soaring and so on. Do you envisage a war fatigue in matters of Western support for Ukraine or this “as long as it takes” approach will continue?
Christoph Heusgen: This is what Putin counts on. Putin counts on Ukraine fatigue, Putin counts on Europe and the US becoming weak, no longer ready to pay for defending Ukraine. Putin believes that at some stage we will either pressure Ukraine into a ceasefire and some kind of peace agreement to the liking of Russia. But Putin is wrong. This is what the Ukrainian representatives here at our Munich Leaders Meeting in Bucharest made very clear. The Ukrainians are determined to defend their country no matter what Putin does. He has already flattened Mariupol as he has flattened Grozny and Aleppo. But he cannot destroy the Ukrainian determination to defend their country. And I remain optimistic that Germany, the European Union, NATO and our transatlantic partners will remain at the side of the Ukrainian people despite higher food and energy prices, despite a possible recession.
I believe that Germany and the transatlantic community will have to even strengthen their support to Ukraine. There is demand for political leadership which makes clear what is at stake: If Putin wins this war he will not stop in Ukraine. He has set his eyes on other countries which at some stage in history were parts of Russia, including Moldova or the Baltic countries. This means that when we are helping to defend Ukraine we are defending our own freedom.
CaleaEuropeană.ro: I understand from your very elaborated answer that given Ukraine’s stance to defend its country and given Russia’s destructive war in Ukraine we are far in reaching the conditions for political and peace talks?
Christoph Heusgen: Currently, I don’t see it. First, we have to respect what the Ukrainian people and government intend to do. I fully understand that the Ukrainians are not ready to give up their territory, to give in to a dictator who commits war crimes and crimes against humanity. I only see a possibility right now for negotiations if Russia is ready to give back the territory that according to international law belongs to Ukraine. Also, what is very important is that Russia pays reparation and that there is accountability. At this stage, I don’t see that Russia is ready for it and therefore I’m also afraid that this conflict will continue.
CaleaEuropeană.ro: Since the war began there has been a particular focus on the Black Sea security, a matter that Romania has advocated for since Crimea’s annexation. Foreign Minister Aurescu called for a to do transatlantic list for the importance of the Black Sea region. How can NATO focus better on this part of the Eastern flank, in the Black Sea, and what role Romania plays or should play in the region?
Christoph Heusgen: Aurescu is correct. Russia’s naval blockade has demonstrated how critical the Black Sea is. NATO has to focus more on the region. But NATO is turning already into this direction. There will be more NATO troops stationed here. The fact that the NATO Foreign Ministers meeting took place in Bucharest is a demonstration that NATO is serious, but also a recognition of the role that Romania plays as a key partner in the Alliance. And I am certain that NATO is there to stay and will remain engaged.
MEP Vasile Blaga, after the lifting of the CVM for Romania: We are just one step away from Schengen accession
MEP Vasile Blaga welcomes the lifting of the CVM for Romania by the European Commission and underlines that our country is just one step away from Schengen admission.
“We are at an extremely important moment – we are only one step away from Schengen admission. We should no longer hear, either now or after accession, how bad we are, how imperfect, how lacking in merit”, the MEP said in a statement to CaleaEuropeană.ro.
„It is our right to be in Schengen, just as it was our right to be monitored in exactly the same way as the other Member States – and not through a special mechanism like the CVM. I have said it many times in recent years. And I want to underline once again – at important moments for Romania, politicians must speak with one voice. In unison. In the same way that politicians in Brussels of other countries manage to unite behind their national objectives. It is good to learn from the lessons of the mature democracies we want to live alongside”, he added.
The Liberal MEP also condemned the attitude of some Romanian politicians in Brussels regarding Romania’s merits: “If 2022 was the year of Romania’s integration into the European Union, some Romanian politicians in Brussels would nonchalantly say that we are not ready for integration, that there would be one more thing to do, that the EU should pay close attention to us. This is where we are. I cannot understand the reaction of some politicians who are in Brussels primarily for Romania.”
“The CVM will be suspended after consultations with the European Parliament and the Council. As I said above, we find in Brussels the grey voices that, in subtext, are disappointed: it is good that the CVM is suspended, but, thank God, we will continue to be monitored by the generalised rule of law mechanism”, concluded the PNL MEP.
MEP Vasile Blaga: EU will not recognise Russian documents issued in areas illegally occupied by Russia in Ukraine and Georgia
The European Parliament agreed by a large majority at its last plenary session in Strasbourg not to recognise travel documents issued by the Russian Federation in the illegally occupied territories of Ukraine and Georgia, said MEP Vasile Blaga on Monday.
MEPs agreed by 540 votes to 6 with 36 abstentions on a mandate for negotiations with the Council on a legislative proposal on the non-recognition of travel documents issued by Russia in the occupied Ukrainian regions and the so-called breakaway territories of Georgia for visa purposes or when crossing the EU’s external borders.
At the same time, MEPs amended the Council’s proposal and underlined the right of citizens from conflict zones to flee the war and their right to enter the European Union for humanitarian reasons.
“The illegal annexations in Ukraine and Georgia require clear EU decisions on the non-recognition of documents issued by Russia in those territories to be used for travel within the European Union,” said Vasile Blaga, EPP & NLP MEP, member of the LIBE Committee, which handled this dossier in the European Parliament.
“The Russian Federation must understand that the European Parliament and the European Union will not compromise on these unacceptable aggressions. At the same time, the European Union must allow access to refugees from conflict zones, honest citizens fleeing war. The European Union must also take humanitarian cases into account and provide adequate support to refugees”, said the EPP MEP.
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