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Udenrigsministerens tale ved møde i Den Trilaterale Kommission

Udenrigsministerens tale ved møde d. 7. november i Den Trilaterale Kommission: Ukraine og Rusland

I am very glad to be part of this panel, and to be here with my friend and colleague, foreign minister Klimkin.

I will start on a personal note.  I grew up in the 1970’s and 1980’s. What triggered my interest in international politics was the spectra of the Cold War: The clear divide between open, free and democratic societies - and those that were not. The fear, that international rules and norms could instantly be swept away by the raw use of power. This compelled me to take a stand. So I joined The Liberal Party, the party of Uffe Ellemann-Jensen. Uffe left very little doubt on his stand in the Cold War.

We are now in at historical situation. Since the 2. World War borders in Europe have only been changed in full respect for paragraphs and international law and with pencil and ballot boxes. This was the case when East and West Germany were united. It was the case when Czechoslovakia was divided into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The opposite was, however, the case with the farcical referendum on Crimea last year. The vote did not take place in accordance with the Ukrainian constitution. It is therefore invalid and illegal. 

Therefore, we are now in a situation that reminds us of the cold war, or perhaps even the late 1930's. If we accept, that borders can be redrawn, international law ignored and basic human rights violated by use of force in Ukraine, the same can happen in other countries this year, next year or later. Obviously, that is not acceptable. We must maintain the principle that borders can only be changed by pencil and paragraphs. Never by guns and force. History will remember how we responded to this aggression.

A few weeks ago, I witnessed in Kramatorsk a few miles from the frontline the massive destruction in Eastern Ukraine. I witnessed the remains of bombed bridges, hospitals and houses. And I witnessed and talked to disillusioned internally displaced Ukrainians. The attempt from Russia to destabilize and violate the sovereignty of its neighbour is terrifying.

So what should guide our policy from here? First of all, Russia’s aggression calls for a firm international response. I am proud that the EU has been able to provide such a response. On 20 separate occasions the EU has adopted, continued or strengthened restrictive measures against Russia. This is 20 tough decisions reached by consensus - even when it has had significant costs for member states. How many would have thought this possible just a few years ago? It is fair to say that EU solidarity is in some respects a lot better than it is sometimes given credit for.

I will work hard to ensure that we continue the principled approach and maintain pressure on Russia to implement the Minsk Agreement.

Denmark will continue our bilateral assistance to Ukraine. Our best and most effective response to the Russian aggression is helping the Ukrainian government develop a stable, free and prosperous Ukraine.

At the same time, we need to strike the right balance in our approach to Russia. Our firm hand of sanctions must be matched by an out-stretched hand, inviting to a constructive dialogue. We need to work with Russia on important international issues such as; The Iranian nuclear programme, the threat coming from ISIL, climate change and the Arctic region.

Let me conclude by sharing an episode from my visit to Kramatorsk. I met the local Governor, who governs the part of Donetsk oblast not occupied by the Russian-supported separatists. The governor, his staff and local journalists constantly changed between speaking to each other in Ukrainian, Russian and different mixtures of the two. And nobody took any notice of it.

This tells me something important: The conflict in Eastern Ukraine is not about some speaking Ukrainian and others Russian; it is not even about ethnicity. It is about a fundamental choice made by a country and region to be ruled by European values, human rights and respect for international law. And on the other side: Those who oppose such a choice. It is about the right of the people of Ukraine to freely and democratically make that choice without foreign interference.



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