The foreign affairs council and parliament’s foreign affairs committee have both met to discuss next steps following the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 in which 298 people, most of which were European, died.
Ukraine foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin, who was speaking at parliament’s foreign affairs (AFET) committee meeting on Tuesday, expressed his condolences to the family and friends of those on board the MH17.
He told the committee, “This tragedy is not just an incident – it’s a vicious narrative we are in. It started months ago with the occupation of Crimea.
“It went on with clear attempts to destabilise eastern and central Ukraine. It went on with the whole inflow of mercenaries, weapons, money, heavy weaponry, across the Ukrainian-Russian border. And now we have the SA-11 missile which shot down a Malaysian airplane.
“We are in the situation where we have crossed the point of no return. This is a point for the whole of Europe,” he warned.
Also speaking in the meeting, German deputy Knut Fleckenstein, said, “We hope that the tragedy will be a wake-up call. Everything must be done to ensure a peaceful solution to the crisis in Ukraine.
“The EU must immediately declare a collective arms sale ban on Russia and work harder for ending violence in the east of Ukraine.
“The only way forward is a ceasefire that includes an agreement for effective control of the Russian-Ukrainian border, possibly with OSCE support, in order to stop the flow of weaponry and mercenaries from Russia,” said the S&D MEP.
“Russia and all parties involved need to engage in a sustainable negotiation process to bring peace to Ukraine and defuse the conflict before it gets completely out of hand,” he finished.
Afterwards, Elmar Brok, the AFET committee chair, reflected, “It was a very broad, cross-party understanding that this is a game-changer,” adding, “Russia has gone too far. Russia has to stop any arms supply to the separatists.”
On the incident involving the civilian airplane, the EPP deputy stressed, “This is a way of war which cannot be accepted.”
“There was a cross-party consensus that the position Russia has taken on – that of transporting weapons to eastern Ukraine, training personnel and incentivising war – has led a civilian airplane to crash with many innocent people onboard.
“Therefore, there has to be the consequence that Russia has to give up this behaviour, that it has to expect more sanctions,” he said.
Speaking following the foreign affairs council meeting in Brussels, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said, “It is crucial that the separatist groups in the area ensure full, immediate and safe and secure access to the site of the crash and the surrounding area so that we can see identification and recovery of the remains of all victims as quickly and respectfully as possible.
“We need to see the crash site secured and preserved so that there can genuinely be a full and transparent and independent international investigation,” she stressed.
“Those directly or indirectly responsible for bringing down this plane must be held accountable and brought to justice,” she explained. “We call on all states and parties to fully cooperate in this.
“We in particular call on Russia to actively use its influence over the illegally armed groups to achieve access to the site.”
The UK official continued, “We urge Russia to stop the increasing flow of weapons, equipment and militants across the border, so we can achieve rapid and tangible de-escalation, and we ask it to withdraw its additional troops from the border area.
As for next steps, Ashton said, “We today decided to accelerate the preparation of targeted measures agreed at the summit last week, in particular to put in place very quickly a list of entities and people, including from Russia, under the new, enhanced criteria, and to expand the restrictive measures to target individuals or companies who actively benefit from support of the Russian decision makers responsible for the annexation of Crimea or the destabilisation of eastern Ukraine.
“We are also ready to introduce without delay a package of further significant restrictive measures, if we do not see full and immediate cooperation,” she confirmed.
But Greens/EFA group co-chair Rebecca Harms criticised the outcome of the council meeting, saying, “Given the events of the last few days and the horror of the shooting down of flight MH17, it is incomprehensible and disappointing that the EU foreign affairs ministers have again failed to send a clear message to Moscow.
“The commission was once again tasked with coming up with the actual proposals, which leaves it open as to which measures the EU is ready to take,” she complained.
In addition, she said, “It is crucial that EU member states work together on a common strategy in order to effectively address this crisis.
“Effective closure of the borders to movements of weaponry must be made an absolute priority.
“If the Russian government and leader refuse to cooperate, there should be a significant shift in EU policy towards Russia.
“However, currently, all non-military means possible must be used in order to neutralise the destabilisation strategy which is dragging Ukraine ever further into conflict,” concluded Harms.
Written for theparliamentmagazine.eu