Rebecca Harms is a member of EU-Ukrainian delegation of the European Parliament. Member of the European Parliament from the Green Group, from Germany. Former chairman of the Greens in the EP. Just return from a visit to Eastern Ukraine.
During the Ukraine crisis, Harms – a longtime critic of Putin – made a number of statements supporting Ukraine and criticising Moscow. In December 2013, she addressed the thousands of Ukrainians in Maidan Nezalezhnosti protesting the previous regime’s rejection of a pact with the European Union. In the context of European efforts to unify their political response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, Harms claimed that “in the face of a new threat of war in Europe, E.U. states have indeed agreed on a joint strategy towards Russia.
Rebecca Harms spoke to the OPEN Media Hub on March 7, 2017
What is the signal EU wants to give to the Ukrainians by lifting visas? What else then can expect except free travel?
I think free travel has to come now for the Ukrainians. They not only wanted it, they needed the best possibility to get closer together with the European citizens. We did it for Georgia and it is high time to finish the regulation also for the Ukrainians.
It will happen for the Ukrainians in June on my opinion. And I‘ll fight everybody who wants to have further delay.
Do you think Ukrainians are ready for this? Can they profit otherwise than free travel? For example, the business and even the democracy?
The free access to the European Union member states is not only a symbol of the fact that Ukrainians have chosen the pro-European way. They wanted to go direction-West and we need to enable them as good as we can, to go direction-West. There are many other issues we have to support them in but the most problematic development is the war in the East of Ukraine.
I visited Avdiivka, the city where the fights have been very, very tough again and my experience in Avdiivka was that for the reform forces, for the change of the country, Ukrainians really need peace. The problem in the East of Ukraine is that Kremlin has interest to use the war in the East of Ukraine against the reform process and against the Ukrainian turn towards the EU. They use this war even against the EU and its solidarity.
Do you believe that the legislative process that has to happen in the Parliament and in the Council, will go as smoothly as for Georgia, as there are many other problems with Ukraine?
I was so happy for the Georgians when finally, we got all decisions done for the free traveling towards the EU. And at the same time, I was very sad that the Ukrainians still have to wait. Now, me and my colleagues in the European parliament, really do everything so the Parliament gets ready as soon as possible. We will vote in mid-April and in mid-June, latest in mid-June, Ukrainians will get what they want, and they need and they deserve from Europeans, when it comes to visa free regime.
What is the experience of the EU with other countries that received visa free travel? Did EU achieved what it expected in Moldova? Did the lifting of visas helped the reforms there?
The visa free regime is not the solution for all the problems in the countries with association agreements. There are various big problems which we have to tackle. For example, in Moldova there is this on-going fight against corruption. The EU has not always performed well to support Moldovans in this.
The visa free regime is mainly dedicated to the citizens and their freedom, and their will to move. What we achieved for the EU citizens to move as free as the wand is not a distortion for the democracy in the association countries. It will help democracy and will develop a country into a normal state, as Ukrainians and Moldovans often say.
You have a meeting of the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary association committee next week in Strasbourg. What we can expect from this meeting?
I hope we will define the most urgent issues and I hope that we can then said as I wanted, the point, the day from which the visa free regime for Ukraine, will be there. I hope in addition that we can discuss about the problems created also by the EU. On one hand, we are supporting the Ukrainians, on the other, we restart nearly every month, for example the discussion on sanctions against Russia. Facing the return of the war in Avdiivka, I think the one thing the Europeans should learn is not to touch the sanctions against Russia until Russia stops using the war as a tool against sovereignty of Ukraine.