EU High Commissioner Catherine Ashton is currently in Kiev and in discussions with the Ukrainian government. Guy Verhofstadt, former Belgium prime minister questioned the absence of Ashton in the debate.
Whilst most agreed that the EU could not standby whilst 100,000’s demonstrated in freezing temperatures, there was little agreement on the way forward. Verhofstadt called to ‘load the gun’; to prepare target sanctions; to impose visa restrictions and travel bans and to prepare to freeze assets. Others called for the freeze of bank accounts of oligarchs and those responsible for repression. EU strategy should be centred around engagement and not sanctions.
There were calls to release protestors and for early elections and for the EU to present a credible strategy. However, there was not even general agreement on sanctions, one MEP insisting that they would mean an end to dialogue, another that they were like a nuclear button, a deterrent.. Another insisting that Ukraine is not an EU protectorate and that it was not the business of the EU to liberate Ukraine. A comparison was made with 1968 and also that the risks of an East-West conflict are the highest since the end of the Cold War. Even the territorial integrity of the country of Ukraine was suggested as being at stake with the region of Odessa in dispute and the Russians concern about the naval base at Sevastopol.
Migalski said the EU had previously been too vague in it’s approach to Ukraine in the context of offering membership to Ukraine.
What is sure as one speaker pointed out, it is a race against time, the longer it continues, the more time it gives for extremism and radicalisation to grow.