Ukraine has agreed to the so-called “Steinmeier Formula”, which, according to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, will only apply to local elections, held in Donbas under Ukrainian law. Earlier in New York, we spoke to the Secretary General of the OSCE Thomas Greminger on what the “Steinmeier Formula” is and how he sees the first steps of the new Ukrainian government on resolving the war in Donbas.
How do you assess the first steps of the new Ukrainian authorities towards the Donbas war?
Positive, very positive. On the political level we’ve seen the implementation of an important confidence building measure, and that is the exchange of the detainees. I think this could be an effort towards improving Ukrainian-Russian bilateral relations. On the ground, since the last recommitment to the ceasefire, we’ve seen a 75% reduction of ceasefire violations.
All in all, the ceasefire is better respected than in previous periods. We have seen from June 26 a disengagement in Stanytsia Luhanska - finally, one is tempted to say - which, in turn, allows starting repairs of this famous Stanytsia Luhanska bridge.
We also see in the Trilateral Contact Group, where the five signatories of the Minsk agreements meet, a more positive and more constructive mood. And I think we are quite close, as well, to the start of disengagement from the disengagement areas II and III, which are Zolote and Petrivske (It is now planned on October 7. - Hromadske).
What we need clearly is a sustained political commitment in order to consolidate this positive dynamic.
Could those steps have happened earlier?
I think the change in government clearly brought a strong new impetus, a positive impulse, and a political commitment that you need. But I would immediately add that you obviously need political commitments from all sides if you want to progress. And what I can see right now is the political will by the key stakeholders to move forward in implementing the Minsk agreements. That for me is clearly a light at the end of the tunnel.
Can we say the change of government is the reason why it has happened?
You always need enlightened political leaders that master political commitment to advance in a peace process, to also make at times the concessions that are necessary in return for steps forward. And I think that is what we are currently witnessing.
How do you understand the “Steinmeier Formula” and what is the role of OSCE in its implementation?
Well, the “Steinmeier Formula” is basically a proposal on sequencing certain important measures that are foreseen in the Minsk agreements. It’s basically about the entering into force the special status law once local elections have been held. At first on a temporary basis and then, once there is a declaration that the elections were held according to OSCE international standards and Ukrainian legislation, the law would enter into force for good.
As OSCE’s center of expertise for elections ODIHR would have to conclude if this standards have been met by and large.
What should be the conditions to conduct these elections?
Let me start with security. I think you need fair security conditions, we need a sustained ceasefire. But this is clearly not enough. We need freedom of movement, we need freedom of assembly, we need freedom of speech - these are all necessary elements for an enabling environment to hold an election that can be considered free and fair.
We continue to see in the reports of OSCE Special Monitoring Mission that the mission is restricted from access to the separatist-controlled territories. Why, what don’t they want you to see there?
I wouldn’t want to speculate about the future but I clearly expect the freedom of movement restrictions to also be a reality of our work in the future.
It is always a hindrance to transparency. And if I see obstacles to transparency I have immediately have suspicions that there is an attempt behind it to hide something from our, and the international community's, eyes.