From the German point of view, Ukraine is percepted primarily as a state which has been situated on the Eastern border of the EU since 2004, and as a territory intersected by the routes of energy raw material transit from Russia to Europe. On one hand, from this perspective Ukraine has a strategic position, yet from the German point of view it is percepted as a source of potential security risks. On the other hand, for Ukraine Germany is significant as a trade partner and an important foreign investor, as well as a state that will considerably influence the outcome of the European election, i. e. the EU membership. The importance of Ukraine in the eyes of Germany, and also to a smaller degree vice versa, increased particularly in connection with enlargement of the EU by states of the former Soviet block in May 2004. Last but not least, Ukrainian-German relations should be analyzed in the context of German “Ostpolitik” that has been carried out by up-to-present German governments mainly within their relations with Russia, as well as in the context of “European” policy of Germany and policy of the EU towards Ukraine.
Ukraine in German Foreign Policy
Unlike the USA, which have never at least formally accepted the Soviet annexation of the Baltic republics, the Western European countries percepted the USSR as a cohesive unit. A change of the view appeared in the second half of 1980s, partly in relation to disintegrational processes of the former superpower, partly – when it comes to Ukraine – resulting from the nuclear plant disaster in Czernobyl. Still within the reconciliation between the FRG and the USSR, the General Consulate of the FRG was opened in Kiev in 1989 and transformed into the Embassy after the USSR disintegrated. Germany was the first EU member state to accept the independent Ukraine.
Germany played an important role in overcoming certain international isolation of Ukraine in the period 1991-1994. The Chancellor Helmut Kohl visited Kiev for the first time on June 9, 1993, i.e. still before the radical turning point in the “Ukrainian” policy of the USA after the U.S., Russian and Ukrainian presidents signed the trilateral resolution about disposal of Ukrainian nuclear weapons on January 14, 1994 resulting in the fact that Ukraine gave up all nuclear warheads and joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The joint Ukrainian-German declaration from 1993 was signed even before the Ukrainian and Polish Secretaries of Foreign Affairs declared the principles of the Ukrainian-Polish partnership on March 21, 1994.
The basic priorities of German policy towards Ukraine were defined by Helmut Kohl during his second visit to Kiev in September 1996, where he declared his support to the existence of a stable and independent Ukraine as well as to the intensification of its ties with Europe. This did not fulfill the expectations of the Ukrainian president Leonid Kutchma, who talked about “special relations” between Kiev and Bonn in the meeting with German Secretaries of State in October 1995.
The largest interest of Germany in Ukraine appeared in the period 1993-1996, which was caused by the unpredictable course of development in Russia and its intentions to endanger the independence of Ukraine, e.g. by means of territorial claims on Crimea. Disappointment in slow progress of political and economic reformations in Ukraine appeared rather soon. Helmut Kohl`s last visit to Kiev on May 28, 1998 took place already in a new format of intergovernmental consultations. During the period 1998-2004 five meetings in this format took place (1999, 2000, 2001, 2004). They did not take place in 2005 because of the parliamentary elections in Germany and later in Ukraine. The German side only rarely applies this kind of mechanism, with partners such as France, Poland or Russia.
The object of bilateral negotiations was primarily economic agenda. The intensity of the negotiations decreased particularly after the fall of the Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko`s Cabinet in 2001 and after the Melnychenko`s tape scandal. Based on the latter, President Kuchma was accused of selling weapons to Iraq and of initiating the murder of opposing journalist Georgiy Gongadze. For instance, regular consultations of ministries of Foreign Affairs, which used to take place in 1998-2003, stopped. A chill of relations was increased by the Ukraine`s resolution from summer 2003 to send an army unit into a multinational division providing the postwar administration in Iraq. Only the oncoming enlargement of the EU compelled Germany to more active reaction on the progress in Ukraine, as well as on its European and Euroatlantic aspirations. German representatives understood the necessity of democracy consolidation in Ukraine, whereas until then their contacts were restricted only to government representatives. As a reaction to the situation in Ukrainian media in March 2002, the German transmitter Deutsche Welle extended the radio broadcast in Ukrainian. The change of the bilateral relations paradigm of that time was confirmed by the invitation of Ukrainian opposing leaders to the celebrations of the 140th Anniversary of the SPD establishment.
The Ukrainian Orange revolution in November – December 2004 became a stimulus for the revival of bilateral relations. Germany also played important role in peace solving of the Ukrainian crisis, which resulted in the visit of President Viktor Yushchenko in Berlin and his appearance in Bundestag on March 9, 2005. After ignoring Ukraine since 2001, this visit became the most significant turning point in bilateral relations. Another stimulus was the so called “gas dispute” on the turn of 2005-2006, when Russia cut gas export to Ukraine.
Influence of Russian Factor on Ukrainian-German Relations
After the crisis in Russian-German relations in 1998-1999, when the Chancellor Gerhard Schröder criticised in public the state of democracy in Russia, mutual relations between the countries strenghtened, also supported by the fact that Germany imports 34% of their gas and 33% of their oil consumed from Russia. After the intervention of the USA in Iraq the strategic character of Russian-German relations in the field of security increased as well. For Germany, cooperation with Russia has become a means of compensation of the consequencies resulting from the U.S. unilateral tendencies and of forming an independent vision of German foreign policy. While from the German point of view the progress of “Strategic Partneship” is merely a result of the pressure from business circles, Russia pursues to reestablish – with the help of Germany – its influence on the republics in the European part of the former USSR, especially on Ukraine.
This showed also after the change on the position of the Chancellor, when Gerhard Schröder has been replaced by the Christian Democratic Union representative Angela Merkel. CDU-CSU in oppposition criticised the relations with Russia personified in form of close personal relationship between Schröder and the RF President Vladimir Putin and its consequences on the relations with countries of Central Europe.
The change of the up-to-then “Russia first policy” has not come about, the continuity of the “Strategic Partneship” policy with Russia was confirmed also by the program of the new government of “Grand Coalition” SDU-SPD. The first visit of Angela Merkel to Moscow tried to extend the partnership on the basis of joint interests by also joint values, which was related not only to the situation in the North Caucasus, but also to evaluation of the processes in Ukraine and in Belarus. However, the Chancellor did not introduce these subjects again in the second meeting with Vladimir Putin in Siberian Tomsk.
For Ukraine, factor of the “Strategic Partnership” between Germany and Russia means that Germany, when planning their policy towards Ukraine, will try to avoid solutions that would mean a conflict of Ukraine and its Eastern neighbour. Yet this does not mean that Germany is willing to prefer at any price the options that would mean reestablishment of the Russian power status, i.e. a danger to the democratic course of development in Ukraine. It was proven for instance during the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, when the Chancellor Schröder supported repeating the supposititious second round of presidential election and, concerned in peaceful solving of the crisis, he telephoned Viktor Putin twice. Germany played an important role also during the Russia-Ukraine gas crisis on the turn of 2005/2006, when Russian Gazprom cut the gas supplies for Ukraine. The German politicians took critical attitude towards the actions of Gazprom in January 2006 and they bid Russia to act responsibly. The former Chancellor Schröder played an important part in the compromising thanks to his friendly relationship with Putin.
Germany and European Aspirations of Ukraine
European aspirations of Ukraine are influenced by the fact that in 1990s Germany focused on enlargement of the EU by Central European and the Baltic states. However, in connection to increasing economic problems Germany refuses to accept more obligations related to enlargement. These tendecies are characteristic especially for the Christian Democrats, while the Social Democrats declare for the continuance of the enlargement if the process has already been initiated, i.e. as for Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, and they have asserted the opening of the accession negotiations with Turkey. Concerning the issue of non-acceptance of new obligations in the nearest perspective, there is a consensus between both main parties, which is related particularly to Serbia and Ukraine.
Although German representatives (from Helmut Kohl to Angela Merkel) speak about intensifying the ties between Ukraine and Europe and cooperation with the EU, it means neither open declaration of the mempership perspective, nor admittance of the status of an associated member. During intergovernmental consultations in December 2001 Schröder supported the effort of Ukraine to settle a path to achieve the associated membership with the European Commission, yet this promise remained unfulfilled. Two years later Schröder declared for the process of approaching the EU in form of European neighbour policy, although he did not exclude the admittance of associated membership for Ukraine in unspecified time. Still he supported the effort of Ukraine to join the WTO.
Only with the oncoming moment of enlargement of the EU by Poland, Latvia and Slovakia (i.e. by the states supporting integration of Ukraine) did Germany start to take interest in Ukrainian matter from this aspect. In the meeting with the Ukrainian Foreign Secretary Anatoliy Zlenek, the German Diplomacy Chief Joschka Fischer appraised Polish initiative to become a representative of Ukrainian interests in the EU. However, negative attitude towards Ukrainian ambitions has increased as a consequence of political development in Ukraine in 2002-2004. This attitude of Germany raised criticism from the Polish President Alexander Kwaśniewski especially after he notified the change of the defence doctrine and the resignation on European and Euroatlantic orientation. A part of the political elites was afraid that Polish activities in connection with forming the principles of the policy towards Eastern neighbours will disturb the relations between the EU (Germany) and Russia.
At the same time Germany was aware of the risks emerging from the authoritative turn in Ukraine. Thus they agreed to cooperation with Poland under condition that Warsaw agrees to the formulation “everything except the membership”. Both sides came to the conclusion that it is to their own national profit to support democratic reformations and pro-Western orientation of Ukraine. The first result of the bilateral cooperation formulated in this manner was the common initiative of the Diplomacy Chiefs Joschka Fischer and Włodzimierz Cimosziewicz. As a result, Ukraine was accepted by the General Affairs and External Affairs Council (GAERC) as a key neighbour of the EU on October 11, 2004. The Council also declared for realization of independent and democratic presidential election in Ukraine. Already in October 2004 Fischer and Cimosziewicz agreed that relations between Ukraine and the EU should exceed the framework of the Action Plan.
Germany together with Latvia and Poland elaborated a joint platform also before the meeting of the EU Diplomacy Chiefs on January 1, 2005, i.e. already after democratic changes in Ukraine. Although because of the categorical request of Germany it did not mention any pespective of membership, still it did include a pack of steps that lead to Ukraine approaching European standards (EU-fähig). The motion required intensified political discussion, expert help to carry out reformations and increase of financial aid, as well as acceptation of the Ukrainian status of trade economics and declaration of supporting Ukraine in joining the WTO. The document declared the necessity of early beginning of negotiations about establishing a free trade zone between Ukraine and the EU and creating a contractual “Strategic Partnership” EU – Ukraine. The proposition concerned also supporting civil society and opening the student exchange program Erasmus for the Ukrainians. The use of Odesa-Brody pipeline was supposed to be declared as a field of joint interest of the EU and Ukraine. The propositions were not approved as a result of French protest. GAERC has limited its actions only to positive evaluation of the changes that took place at the end of 2004 and declared its willingness to intensify the cooperation only as a maximum use of the possibilities set by the EU – Ukraine Action Plan.
Although Yushchenko`s visit to Berlin on March 9, 2005 was in a spirit of warming bilateral contacts, his initiative to create a “travel map” to achieve the membership in the EU, with a beginning in achieving the associated membership until the end of 2007, met with no response from the side of German politicians. The official appearances were reduced to supporting the effort of Ukraine to obtain membership in the WTO and the trade economics status, although Schröder noncommitally proclaimed in the press conference that “Germany supports membership of Ukraine in Euroatlantic structures and it will be Ukraine`s important partner in the process of joining the European structures”. Joint trilateral consultations between Poland, Germany and Ukraine were being prepared since January 2005 and they took place during the visit of thePolish and German Diplomacy Chiefs in Kiev on March 21, 2005. The original idea was their realization with the participance of France, which would mean acceptance of Ukraine as a partner of the Weimar Triangle, as it was championed by Zbigniew Brzeziński at the end of 1990s. Besides the declaration of support of the membership of Ukraine in the WTO, the visit resulted in increasing the number of grants for the Ukrainian youth.
Negotiations began between the Ukrainian NAK Naftohaz, the Polish company PGNiG and the German gas concern VNG, concerning delivery of natural gas from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to Ukraine and the EU countries. NAK Naftohaz also gained credit from German Deutsche Bank valued at 2 billion EUR to modernize the Ukrainian net of pipelines and to increase the output of natural gas in Ukraine, which in fact means resignation from the Russian project of a trilateral Russian-German-Ukrainian consortium to manage the Ukrainian gas distribution system from 2002. A part of the credit in question is supposed to be used for securing the Caspian oil supplies via Odesa-Brody pipeline and its extension to Polish Płock.
At the same time Germany re-evaluated its – up to then rather half-hearted – attitude towards Ukraine joining the NATO, which was displayed during the NATO – Ukraine consultations in Vilnius on October 26, 2005 when Germany supported intensifying cooperation between the Aliance and Kiev. In particular the CDU and its leader Wolfgang Schäuble declare for the acceptation of Ukraine into NATO.
Visa problem also plays important role in German policy towards Ukraine. Ukraine is viewed by Germany as a source of soft security risks in form of illegal migration and high participance of Ukrainian immigrants on activities of organized crime, although reality is not always identical with the picture offered by German media. The interests in protection of the EU`s outer borders causes, that Germany (within the TACIS program) supports improvement of the work of Ukrainian frontier guards and improvement of border-crossing equipment on the Western border. Yet after 2001 Germany was relatively liberal towards Ukrainian citizens as for Shegen visa issuing. German Representative Office issues annualy 130,000 visa for Ukrainian citizens. Higher number of this type of visa is issued only in Poland. Joint Polish-German proposals from spring 2005 were also related to further liberalization of the visa regime. After the visa scandal and French veto of intensification of cooperation beyond the Action Plan, the only actual result is that the increase in price of Shegen visa from 35 to 60 EUR from 2007 will not include Russian and Ukrainian citizens.
However, the continuance of the EU enlargement process has the lowest support in Germany. In March 2005 only 40% of the population supported the membership of Ukraine and the majority allowed this possibility only after more than ten years. Yet the Europian perspective of Ukraine and Russia has stronger support than in case of Turkey or Morocco (33 or 20% of the respondents).
Thus on the institutional level German policy towards Ukraine has not changed radically even after 2004. Although at present German politicians do not consider the integration of Ukraine to be their priority and there have been some signs of disappointment to be sensed in German press, caused by development of the situation in Ukraine since summer 2005, the Orange Revolution caused that Ukraine became an object of European debate in Germany. It began to be percepted as an important partner of the EU. The debate about the change of attitude towards Ukraine takes place especially in the parties CDU-CSU. On one hand the Bavarian Prime Minister and the CSU leader Edmund Stoiber together with the French UMP leader Nicolas Sarkozy reject the Ukrainian membership perspective because of its “different structure”, which the EU will not be able to handle, similarly to Belarus or Turkey. The Home Secretary Wolfgang Schäuble considers integration of Ukraine to be “a matter of time, not principles”. The leading political parties find it necessary to carry on the cooperation with Poland in supporting the European ambitions of Ukraine. In SPD, the cooperation with Ukraine within the Weimar Triangle is supported by the MP Markus Meckel, in CDU by Christoph Heugsen and the Chancellor Merkel is of the same opinion.
The first actual result of the German strategy of supporting Ukraine in approaching European standards was the decision of the EU – Ukraine summit from December 1, 2005 about the recognition of Ukrainian status as a country with market economy. A special comment concerning the necessity of “deepening and intensification of the relations between the EU and Ukraine” is included also in the coalition agreement between the CDU-CSU and SPD. Although these formulations do not correspond with the objectives of Ukraine and the states of V4, i.e. some of the most important supporters of the Ukrainian membership in the EU, unlike the South European states (Spain and Portugal) that refuse the possibility of Ukraine accessing to the EU, or Great Britain and France that find such ambitions rather early – from the “old” EU members Germany remains the most important partner for Ukraine in the effort of integration with the EU. Despite the fact that Germany is not prepared to support enlargement of the EU at present, it is aware of the necessity to seek for new ways of approach that would allow to the maximum such a step in the future.