‘Ukraine must develop outside EU and NATO’
RT:Ukraine has secured financial support from the IMF - but can it pay the cost of that, especially with parts of the industrial East now brought offline by the fighting?
Harry van Bommel: We are very uncertain about that, because there is enough money in Ukraine as it is, but it is sometimes in the wrong pockets, and I am not sure whether Ukraine will be able to return the money that it is borrowing from the IMF. And of course the IMF usually has a program of reform that is involved in their schemes, so we need to find out what exactly the IMF program for Ukraine means for the short term, but especially for the longer term. Corruption is endemic in Ukraine. It is a central problem, it has to be addressed. But also the country is more or less run by rich oligarchs that really have the power in the country.
RT:What's in it for Europe to pump so much money into supporting Ukraine? Is it going to keep doing that should the crisis continue?
HB: Obviously, this is a matter for political discussion. Those political parties who want Ukraine to become a member of the EU, will be willing to spend billions of euro to get Ukraine attached to the EU. My party, the Socialist Party believes that it would be unwise to pressurize Ukraine to take steps towards the EU.
‘Decentralization in Ukraine is vital for stability’
RT:Do you think the country will become more stable following the Presidential election in May?
HB: I think it is very short-term to have elections in Ukraine. Obviously it is not up to us in Europe to decide when there will be elections in Ukraine, but being an elections monitor for OSCE in earlier times I know that it is very difficult to organize elections in the short term, to make the elections credible, to register voters and to have a free and fair election process. I doubt very much whether this all will be successful on such short notice, but it has been decided that there will be elections, and we can only hope for the best.
RT:On Maidan during the winter, one of the most prominent slogans was "out with the gang", referring to President Yanukovich's administration... are the new top officials any better?
HB: No, definitely not. What we see is that the president who was elected in a fair and free election has been ousted and the one who has come in place is very defused, also with the influence of the extreme right. So we do not know where Ukraine is heading. What we need in Ukraine is stability. Let's hope that the writing of the new Constitution and fair elections will eventually lead to stability in Ukraine.
The eastern regions have clearly shown that there has to be decentralization of power in Ukraine. Only a new Constitution, new politicians can work that out. The fact that already it is known that the outcome of the elections may not be recognized is as a problem, a major problem in Ukraine. The country is divided, the people are divided, and we have to take that into account with future plans for Ukraine. What is certain is that any diplomatic solution for Ukraine has to be supported by the whole people of Ukraine.
I think for stability it would be most important if we could see a decentralization of power in Ukraine. That along with the program to fight corruption could lead to stability. Those steps have to be taken on the short term, in the coming months.
‘Being part of EU and NATO not in the interest of Ukraine’
RT:So much blame has been piled on Russia over allegedly destabilizing East Ukraine, while Moscow has not even responded to the Donetsk People's Republic's plea of acceptance. Do you think Russia is really behind it?
HB: We have to go back six years ago, with the historical mistake that has been made at the NATO summit in Bucharest in 2008. At that NATO summit it was decided that Ukraine and Georgia would one day become members of NATO. It was my conviction then, and it is today, that it was a huge mistake. We have to step away from that decision, we have to undo that decision, because I don't think that Ukraine and Georgia will become NATO members. It is not in the interest of NATO and it would not be in the interest of Georgia and Ukraine, because it would be a different membership than other members [have]. An Article 5 situation, when a country can reckon that NATO will defend the member states, could arise around Georgia and Ukraine, and no other member of NATO will take responsibility to defend Georgia or Ukraine. It was a wrong decision and it should be taken back. Then the EU started to try to get Ukraine under its sphere of influence, that also was not a wise step. It was only logical that there was a reaction from the eastern part [of Ukraine]. We should come back on those initiatives, we should make sure that Ukraine can have development outside the European Union, without the EU interfering with domestic politics in Ukraine, and the same goes for NATO.
I don't think it's in the interest of Russia to recognize independence of these new small republics, it would be in Russia's interests to have a stable neighbor, a stable Ukraine, to have a reliable partner and to make sure that relations with the EU and the rest of the world is restored. I think it would be wise of Russia to seek a diplomatic solution to the situation.