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Security

Sikorski: 'Ukraine needs a compromise'

Government and opposition forces are at a deadlock in Ukraine. Poland's Foreign Minister Sikorski has called on both sides to compromise. In order to solve the crisis, both sides will have to meet halfway, he told DW.

DW: You met your Ukrainian counterpart Leonid Kozhara at the start of the Munich Security Conference. You used to warn of a "bloody scenario" in Ukraine - have you changed your point of view after you spoke with Kozhara?

Radek Sikorski: I have better insight now into options for a dialogue between those in power and the opposition. Ukraine is in dire need of reforms and this can only be accomplished by a stable and effective government. I am pleased that the government in Kyiv contemplates talking about changing the constitution which would make for a better [power] balance between president and parliament. The opposition and government could meet halfway.

Ukraine has repeatedly called for a Marshall Plan - a kind of plan to facilitate the country's recovery. What's the Polish government's take on this demand considering its own experiences with aid while on the way to becoming an EU member state?

Ukraine already has a Marshall Plan - and it's certainly not a small one. I may just recall the fact that Poland, when it signed the treaty of association in 1993, only received minimal financial aid from Brussels. We had been offered funds from the United States, but we didn't make use of them or paid them back. Ukraine, on the other hand, would immediately be given billions [of dollars] by International Monetary Fund programs as soon as the country were to start reforms.

Brussels also promised macroeconomic aid to help ease repercussions of low tariffs - and one really has a bit of leeway there. There are also pledges by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Investment Bank. Ukraine would become much more credible by signing the association treaty - which in turn would give them cheaper loans.

In other words: Ukraine gets enough help already?

If Ukraine wants to talk about costs and help when implementing the association treaty, we should be open to it.

You are going to meet German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov. What would you like to hear from Russia?

When Russia offered Ukraine cheaper gas and loans, it was labeled as an act of "Christian benevolence." Now we hear of conditions. I would like to hear whether Russia thinks recent developments in Ukraine are optimal, and I would like to ask if Russia shouldn't consider that Ukraine is going to decide about its own path.

How closely do you synchronize your position with the German position?

Sikorski and Steinmeier
Photo: Michael Kappeler/dpa

Sikorski (right) works closely with his German counterpart Steinmeier

We talked about this since it's important that two big EU member states coordinate their positions - especially since it is Germany and Poland in Europe which are highly interested in Ukraine. We don't have any differences. But other EU member states talk about sanctions. For Warsaw and Berlin it would be far too early for that.

What would a positive scenario look like? You mentioned the opposition and government sharing responsibilities. Could that mirror Poland's experiences in 1989, when opposition and governing communists formed a government?

Indeed, we managed a successful transition. There was a compromise right at the beginning which had been criticized at this point. President [Viktor] Yanukovych's offer a couple of days ago to make a leading opposition figure prime minister resembled this sharing of tasks. In Poland, it was said: "Our president, your prime minister." That has ended well. Poland and Ukraine had a similar economic standard back then. Today, we are three times as rich as our neighbor. These are valuable experiences one can refer back to.

But not everything was going great at the time.

We have made mistakes as well. For instance in 1981: The opposition didn't realize that those in power had repressions and martial law at their disposal. Some leaders of the Solidarnosc [trade union] just came up with unrealistic demands. That's why we warn both sides about unrealistic demands. We call on both sides: The government should stop repressing people, and the opposition should consider that some of what seems to be unthinkable could indeed be real.

German President Joachim Gauck spoke of Germany's role in his opening remarks. Three years ago while you were in Berlin, you called on Germany to take on more responsibility. Do you think that's what's happening now?

Germany was highly involved in calming financial markets and saving the euro currency. But it is important that European diplomacy and its institutions have instruments at hand so that they are able to implement our common political strategy that we agreed to.

The Munich Security Conference is in its 50th year. In light of the many global crises, can we speak of an effective development in terms of security policy at all?

I think the requests that had been formulated by the conference 50 years ago were fulfilled for the most part. But we shouldn't forget that a rich and stable Europe is not automatically a secure one. If things get serious - as they are in Libya or Syria - our helplessness and inability to act becomes visible. While there are more and more global trouble spots, Europe's ability to deal with this in an appropriate manner is going down. That's not a good trend.

Poland's Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski took office in 2007. After studying politics, economics and philosophy at the University of Oxford in the UK, he went on to work as a journalist for multiple British newspapers. He also went to Afghanistan as a war reporter. In 1989, he returned to Poland and started his political career.

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