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New CDU leader & possible Merkel successor Laschet voices support for Ukraine joining EU, but says Nord Stream 2 must be completed

New CDU leader & possible Merkel successor Laschet voices support for Ukraine joining EU, but says Nord Stream 2 must be completed
Less than a month after being elected as leader of Germany's most powerful political party, Armin Laschet revealed that he believes the European Union should give Ukraine a pathway towards becoming a member of the bloc.

Laschet, who now heads Chancellor Angela Merkel's party, is seen as the favorite to replace her as the next leader in Berlin.

Speaking to German magazine Internationale Politik, in his first foreign policy interview since being elected head of the CDU party last month, Laschet revealed his support for sanctions against Russia, and reiterated support for Kiev and its future relationship with the European Union.

“We have a strong interest in Ukraine's stability, sovereignty, and modernization, and we must support Ukraine on its difficult journey,” the CDU leader said.

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Since the election of Volodymyr Zelensky as Ukrainian president, he has repeatedly stated his goal to become a member state of the political and economic union. Kiev and Brussels already have a very close association agreement, signed in 2014. Last year, Zelensky told Polish President Andrzej Duda that Ukraine is doing “everything to be equal partners.” The country is yet to meet the required stipulations for ascension to the bloc.

Laschet's statement on Ukraine potentially joining the bloc came after he was directly asked about his relationship with Moscow, which has been accused by some of being “pro-Russia,” but he describes it as pragmatic Realpolitik.

“Foreign policy consists precisely of understanding one's negotiating partners as well as possible,” he said, noting that he supports sanctions against Russia and has criticized Moscow for “the annexation of Crimea in violation of international law,” “the warlike events in eastern Ukraine,” and “the poison attack on and imprisonment of Alexey Navalny.”

At the same time, Laschet expressed his support for the completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, while also noting that the geopolitical interests of Ukraine must be taken into account.

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“For 50 years, even during the aggressive times of the Cold War, Germany bought gas from the Soviet Union, now from Russia,” he said. “The German government is following the right course. We have phased out hard coal mining, are now ending lignite mining, and will end nuclear energy in 2022. For a transitional period, we will need gas that is not produced in Germany.”

Nord Stream 2 is an offshore gas pipeline set to link Russia and Germany in order to provide central Europe with a cheaper source of energy. Due to be launched in mid-2020, construction has been held back multiple times by Washington's sanctions. According to the US, Nord Stream 2 would “undermine Europe's overall energy security and stability.”

When asked about the protests from Washington and Paris, both of whom have requested that Berlin end the pipeline construction, Laschet remarked that the US buys crude oil from Russia and “from other countries around the world that are not model countries of freedom and human rights.”

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