VISEGRAD COUNTRIES WOULD BE AFFECTED FROM SANCTIONS AGAINST RUSSIA

Founder Editor Tazeen Akhtar..

Budapest - Any European sanctions introduced against Russia would have the gravest impact on the Visegrad Group countries, Foreign Minister János Martonyi declared after a meeting of the V4 ministers with the German Foreign Minister in Budapest on Thursday.

Mr Martonyi stated that if EU put in effect a third stage of sanctions against Russia, Hungary would "expect solidarity" from other EU member states. He also urged that assistance to Ukraine should be speeded up in terms of trade, the EU-Ukraine association agreement, a planned financial package and energy supply.

The Hungarian Foreign Minister stated that the meeting showed that the positions of the V4 countries and Germany are the same or very similar. He added that they would do their utmost to facilitate a political solution to the crisis but they also had to prepare for a worst case scenario.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who attended the meeting of foreign ministers of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, said that Russia seems to have decided to annex Crimea, and is evading settlement efforts. He added that he saw little hope that the situation would change before next Monday. After the referendum, it is expected that preparations will begin for Crimea to join Russia, he said, calling the Crimean referendum on ceding to Russia, planned for Sunday, "unacceptable" both in terms of international law and Ukraine's constitution. He said it was not necessarily a goal to apply sanctions but if events unfold in an unacceptable way then the necessary decisions will be made. He added that a third wave of sanctions may be needed.

The German Foreign Minister expressed appreciation for the role that the Visegrad countries had played during the Ukraine crisis, adding that the standpoints of Germany and the V4 were "identical or very similar". There is a danger that after 25 years of European reunification the continent will be divided once again, he said. The situation is "highly flammable", but in this case Europe must keep a "cool head".

concerns of the V4 "are not Hungarian, or Czech, or Slovak or Polish worries but European worries, and therefore our concerns, too," Frank-Walter Steinmeier said. He claimed that memories in central and Eastern Europe of 1956 in Hungary and 1968 in Czechoslovakia were still fresh. He added one should not allow the most important aspect, support for Ukraine, to be ignored, however. The support offered should be of a kind that genuinely helps the lives of the country's citizens rather than "disappearing through various channels," Frank-Walter Steinmeier said.

16 March 2014