Steinmeier Formula: Betrayal or Road to Peace in Ukraine?
The Steinmeier Formula is the path towards negotiations in the Normandy Format. Without it, the Minsk process would be frozen. This is the position of the Ukrainian government. Meanwhile, civil society calls it a capitulation and is holding rallies against it. The formula raises many questions and the mechanism for its implementation isn't fully clear
According to the proposed “Steinmeier Formula,” a special status could be granted to the currently occupied territories of Donbas under certain conditions.
On Oct.1, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Ukraine has agreed to implement a roadmap based on the formula.
The news sparked protests and criticism, with critics saying the “Steinmeier Formula” amounts to capitulation – enough so that Zelesnsky addressed the nation.
“It will permanently enter into force under one condition – now please listen carefully – only under the condition of holding local elections in those territories that comply with the constitution and legislation of Ukraine as well as only after the publication of the OSCE report that the elections were held according to OSCE standards and international standards of democratic elections,” Zelensky said.
However, critics say, many issues that need to be resolved prior to the holding of elections have not been addressed.
“If we’re going to close the border—but how are we going to do it? We’re talking about disarming the armed groups—how are we going to do it and how are the Russians going to assist us, as a party in this conflict? Another issue is that Russia refuses to admit to being a part of this conflict,” Deputy Bohdan Yaremenko said.
With regular local elections in Ukraine scheduled for 2020, whether internally displaced Ukrainians from Donbas would have a say in electing local authorities in what—in theory—should once again be their home is one of many questions that would need to be answered before the Ukrainian government attempted to organize elections on the territory, which it currently does not control.
Olha Ayvazovska, from the NGO ‘OPORA’, said that based on the history of similar conflicts, it would take at least a year after a definitive peace deal was signed before any kind of election campaign could be launched.
“A democratic vote requires security. That’s demilitarization, pacification. That means a state program for reconciliation needs to be implemented. Because people can be at each other’s throats, an election in itself is a crisis, a conflict, which can add fuel to the conflict that will remain on the emotional level. Obviously there also needs to be de-mining. And it’s not physical access of journalists — the Ukrainian media presence needs to be restored in the area. Ukrainian political parties, the whole system. The judicial branch needs to be restored, the banking system,” she said.
With the old law on the status of the Donbas expiring on Dec. 31, a new one will likely be a key discussion point at the much-anticipated Normandy Four meeting.
The original version of the law was written in 2014 when the presence of regular Russian troops on the ground in Donbas was reported on by Western media outlets. The law adopted by the Ukrainian parliament contains a number of provisions seen by many as unacceptable, including a high level of legal autonomy for the region, as well as amnesty for those involved in the fighting on the Russian side. Five years later, some believe the balance of power in this conflict has changed enough to demand that many such provisions lobbied by Moscow be excluded from the new law.
“Ukraine will never agree to allow persons, who committed war crimes or other crimes to run in the elections. But there are other categories that didn’t commit crimes connected with using arms or participation in armed groups, and yet they still don’t know what awaits them, legally speaking. They worked there in the government service or were in charge of schools,” ‘OPORA’ NGO Analyst Oleksandr Kliuzhev said.
According to a recent poll, 48 percent of Ukrainians are strongly against amnestying the Russian led militants and only 23 percent support granting the currently occupied parts of the Donbas autonomy, whatever that entails.
The Steinmeier Formula is a peace plan that was drawn up by current German President and former Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier back in 2016.