Ukraine experts gather at DCU to discuss crisis
Experts from Ukraine, Russia, Poland and Georgia gathered in DCU yesterday to discuss the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.
Ukraine: one year after Maidan, was organised by DCU’s Institute for International Conflict Resolution and Reconstruction (IICRR) to mark the anniversary of the wave of demonstrations and civil unrest in Ukraine to demand closer integration with Europe. The conference coincided with the emergency peace summit of international leaders, Presidents Putin (Russia) and Poroshenko (Ukraine) along with Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande, which brokered a ceasefire to hostilities.
Dr Donnacha Ó Beacháin, post-Soviet politics expert and researcher with the IICRR at DCU explained,
“The international community has struggled to develop a coherent response to events in Ukraine. Today’s conference brings together international figures intimately involved with efforts to achieve a peaceful resolution to the fraught situation in Ukraine. Drawing on the conflict experience in Northern Ireland and the expertise of our researchers in other regional conflicts around the globe, the Centre hopes to offer, through this conference, insights which can be brought to bear in situations such as the current conflict in Ukraine.”
The conference presented the complex situation in Ukraine from various perspectives, discussing the necessary steps for a comprehensive and sustainable solution, and exploring whether there is potential for small states such as Ireland to play a role in building an EU consensus.
Mr Aleksander Kwaśniewski, former President of Poland and EU special envoy to Ukraine spoke of his pessimism in relation to the current fraught situation in Ukraine. Speaking in advance of the conference, Mr Kwaśniewski said,
‘Russia, and especially President Putin, wants to have, not only part of Ukraine, but the entire country in the zone of his influence . His dream, his strategy is to have Ukraine as part of a newly formed Eurasian Union and for that he is prepared to do absolutely anything. The destabilisation of Ukraine is a key element of that strategy. The Russian expectation is that Ukrainians, totally frustrated, will abandon the experiment with Europe and the West and turn to Moscow to create a special relationship with Russia. My forecast is pessimistic - we have in front of us a very long and very dramatic crisis.”
Mr Kwaśniewski continued by calling for a united policy from the European Union,
“We need a united, common policy not just towards Russia but also China, the US and our other main EU partners. It is a real weakness of the EU that these policies in relation to the environment, the energy are not strong enough. The result of President Putin’s actions is that Europe is more united than before. A further result of his policy is that Ukraine was never so strong in its own sense of own identity as it is now. Of course they pay an extremely high price for that. Today, we should discuss how we can support peace in this part of the world, how we can support Ukraine and how we can help the Ukrainian economy to overcome the consequences of this crisis.”
Professor Sergey Markedonov of Russian State University for the Humanities warned against viewing the crisis in Ukraine as merely a regional issue,
“The Ukrainian crisis presents the most serious and dangerous challenge to European security since the collapse of Yugoslavia and the series of ethnic conflicts it gave rise to in the Balkans. What we are witnessing is the combination of the largest confrontation between Russia and the West since the end of the Cold War, growing animosities between Russia and Ukraine over Crimea and south-eastern Ukraine, and the transformation of the Ukrainian government project into something closer to hard line national statehood. Ukraine is the nexus where the interests of such key players as Russia, the European Union and the United States have clashed, making this purely domestic crisis turn into a regional and even global issue.”
Andriy Shevchenko, Member of the Ukraine Parliament and a prominent Maidan activist reflected on his involvement with the protests which brought down the regime of President Victor Yanukovich,
“In many senses the Ukrainian Maidan showed what Europe is meant to be - a strong civil society with values over procedures, with enormous desire for freedom and justice, and with people who are ready to risk their lives for a better future for their children. That was why Putin treated the Ukrainian Revolution as an existential threat to his empire. EuroMaidan was a clash of civilisations, a battle of two mindsets competing for the hearts and minds of Europeans and the whole democratic world.”
Štefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, who was responsible for managing the EU’s relationship with Ukraine during the outbreak of the crisis, echoed calls to intensify efforts towards a peaceful resolution in Ukraine,
“Aggression does not pay and Russia should prove in deeds its respect for international law and the territorial integrity and sovereignty of its neighbours. We should support Ukraine to become a more democratic, prosperous and rule-governed country. Ukraine deserves the same opportunities that were afforded to mine and other countries in Eastern Europe after 1989. Our common European house has been destroyed. The time has come to rebuild it - all of us must jointly work on a vision of cooperation on the European continent, where all countries can take advantage of economic opportunities from Dublin to Vladivostok through European economic free zone.”
Other key speakers at the event included Thorniké Gordadze, Former Minister for Euro-Atlantic Integration of Georgia and Mr Sergii Reva, Ukrainian Ambassador to Ireland, who jointly unveiled an exhibition, Ukraine: Inspiring Dignity, alongside the Ambassador of Lithuania.