EU-Russia clash caused by different integration views - Czech PM


15.06.2014 20:16

Prague - Different ideas of Eastern Europe´s integration are behind the conflict between the European Union (EU) and Russia, Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) said in an interview with the Monday issue of Respekt weekly.


Předseda vlády Bohuslav Sobotka. ČTK Doležal Michal

He reiterated that he would not agree with boosting the U.S. military presence in Europe.

However, he admitted that, for instance, Baltic countries can feel threatened by Russian steps in Ukraine.

"I have been convinced since the very beginning of the Ukrainian crisis that the conflict between Ukraine and Russia does not have a military solution but only a political and diplomatic one. This is why I cannot agree with the reinforcement of U.S. units in Europe," Sobotka told the weekly.

The Czech Republic is not threatened, he said.

"The discussion about the boosting of NATO troops was initiated by the countries that feel threatened and I fully respect their fears. The Baltic countries have strong Russian minorities on their soil, and this is why they are in a different situation than us," Sobotka said.

There are no signals showing that Russia is preparing an attack on a NATO or EU member state, he noted.

Sobotka made similar statements during his visit to Austria in early June.

In reaction to a statement by U.S. President Barack Obama who announced in Warsaw that the United States would boost its military presence in Europe, Sobotka said the Czech Republic did not call for boosting NATO's military presence in Europe as it does not need it in view of the current security situation.

Sobotka´s words were criticised by President Milos Zeman and the junior government Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) and he had to explain them at a government meeting.

Ukraine, which has signed part of the association agreement with the EU, has the right to decide about its future itself, Sobotka told Respekt.

"However, at the moment when the EU continues with the integration and enlargement eastward, it may clash with Russia´s different ideas of the integration of Eastern Europe. The reinforcement of military units on NATO borders have nothing to do with the core of the Ukrainian-Russian conflict," Sobotka pointed out.

He called for a more intensive dialogue between the EU and Russia.

Moscow violated international treaties by its annexation of Crimea and this step was unacceptable, Sobotka said.

The Ukrainian government does not know how to deal with separatist tendencies in eastern provinces and military actions against separatists continue, he added.

Sobotka said he believed that the election of Petro Poroshenko Ukrainian president would help stabilise the situation.

He again stood up against the imposition of across-the-board economic sanctions against Russia as he feared their impact.

Not only the Czech Republic, but also France and Germany, for instance, take the economic aspect of sanctions into consideration, he noted.

Europe has so far imposed targeted sanction against particular people and firms.

"We supported them exactly because they had basically no negative impact on our economic contacts," Sobotka added.

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