Ralf Fuecks is the president of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, a German policy think-tank which promotes the development of democracy and civil society worldwide.
✅ The organization's representative office in Kyiv is helping Ukraine in improving energy efficiency and modernisation, promoting women's rights and in urban development. The NGO is also involved in improving dialogue between Ukrainian and European organizations in order to build democracy across the former Soviet Republics.
✅ Fuecks: "I'm convinced there will be no political settlement, no political solution until the Kremlin is ready to recognize the independence of Ukraine and to understand that Ukraine will not return to the Russian world, which is obviously the goal of Putin"
In April, you authored an article in which you criticized the Minsk agreements. Now we see the Minsk Agreements don't really work, despite the efforts of German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. What alternatives do you see to the Minsk process and how can it be changed or made to work?
In the moment, if I'm realistic in political terms what can be achieved, I don't see a real chance for a completely new start of the political negotiation process, leaving the Minsk Agreement aside and starting new from scratch. I think the Minsk agreement is the reference system we have to deal with. This is the political framework agreed by the European Union and the United States. Of course, Russia is trying to promote its interpretation of Minsk.
But I think there have to be some clarifications , especially between Ukraine and the European Union, the German and the French government concerning steps (how the) Minsk (Agreement) should be implemented. So, for us, it's the wrong approach to start with autonomy for the Donbas and to start with regional elections in the Donbas. It's the other way around, first, there should be, of course, a lasting and sustainable ceasefire (and) the withdrawal of Russian troops and weapons from the Donbas region. And then the establishment of a transitional administration under international monitoring which could provide free and fair elections including pluralism of media, freedom of speech and on the ingredients you need for the democratic elections.
So, we are trying to convince the (politicians) and public in Germany that, we need a kind of clarification of what is (the) Minsk (Agreement) about and how could it be implemented. We are rejecting the idea that....and of course, I see that Ukraine can not offer the kind of Russian protectorate in the Donbas. We have to stick to the political sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. I'm convinced there will be no political settlement, no political solution until the Kremlin is ready to recognize the independence of Ukraine and to understand that Ukraine will not return to the Russian world, which is obviously the goal of Putin.
You advocate for civil society participation in the political process. In Ukraine, we witness the formation of illiberal civil society when society supports the government in the conditions of war and is willing to give up some of its liberties. How dangerous do you think this is? Is it normal at all in these conditions?
Civil society in Ukraine is much more advanced than the political system. Most of the political parties still are, I would say, are old fashioned. They still have the habits and political culture of the past. And the Parliament is not, I would say, working like a modern democratic parliament that (can control) the government and discuss political alternatives, (ensure) transparency in policy making.
We, of course, are aware, there's a lot of corruption still going around and there's this alliance between big business and big politics. (There are) a lot of remains of the old, post-Soviet system. At the same time, there is a very vivid civil society as far as we see - all these NGO's, independent think-tanks, intellectuals and also part of the media, (all( trying to put pressure on the governmental institutions.
Especially in the situation of war, it is necessary to have a big deal of transparency and participation of the people, otherwise, I think there is a danger that people will lose trust in politics and they will lose their belief in a better future of Ukraine. For me, there's no contradict between defending Ukraine's independence, also militarily and democratization. These are two sides of the same coin.