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Explanatory note: What is the Steinmeier formula?

Author : 112.ua News Agency

Key questions about the ‘Steinmeier formula’ and some answers
16:39, 2 October 2019

Steinmeier formula
112 Agency

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky said that Ukraine had announced the approval of the text of the ‘Steinmeier formula’ in response to a letter of the OSCE Special Representative to the Trilateral Contact Group, Martin Sajdik.

“We responded to the letter of Mr Sajdik that we are agreeing to the text of Steinmeier formula. Steinmeier formula should be implemented in the new law on the special status, which is not elaborated yet,” Zelensky said.

As we reported Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Vadym Prystaiko stated that he agreed on the application of Steinmeier formula for Donbas conflict settlement.

According to him, the consent was announced during a meeting of diplomatic advisers to the leaders of the countries of the Normandy Four on September 2.

"We agreed on the Steinmeier formula and I consented to it. The law about the special status comes into effect on the moment of the elections and enters into force completely after the decision of OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights on the recognition of the election results," Prystaiko said.

At the same time, he noted it was exclusively about the special status of the occupied part of Donbas.

“There is nothing else, no other words. Nothing about the way the elections are held, nor who, where, before whom, at rifle point or at the moment of gaining control over the border. There was nothing else in our agreement,” the minister added.

He also said that elections are impossible without ensuring the security and control of Ukraine over the Russian-Ukrainian border.

Earlier, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky announced the Steinmeier formula and possible discussion of it at the meeting of Normandy Four.

Now, about the formula.

What is the Steinmeier formula and how did it appear?

It is a variant of implementation of the Minsk agreement signed in February 2015. Frank-Walter Steinmeier who was a Foreign Minister of Germany in 2016 voiced it.

There was a divergence of positions between Ukraine and Russia regarding the implementation of the Minsk agreements. In particular, Kyiv insisted on the initial cessation of hostilities, the withdrawal of all illegal armed groups from the occupied territories and return of control over the border - and ONLY THEN will Ukraine agree for local elections and consideration of the special status of Donbas.

Russia insisted on the reverse order.

Steinmeier's proposal was as follows:

- First, Ukraine adopts a law on a special procedure for holding local elections in controlled territories.

- After that - local elections.

- If the OSCE confirms the democratic nature of the elections, the occupied territories of Donbas temporarily receive special status.

- Then the special status is enshrined in the Constitution, and only then, Ukraine receives control over the abroad.

The formula is like this: “special status for fair democratic elections in line with OSCE standards.”

Commentary of ex-Foreign Minister of Ukraine Klimkin

Pavlo Klimkin wrote this:

“We should clearly understand that the formula is not a roadmap of Minsk agreements implementation and it is not a plan of de-escalation. It concerns only one point of the Minsk agreement: the so-called “special status” of the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine. These are features of local self-government. This is fundamental.”

The “Steinmeier formula” itself cannot be considered in isolation from other important terms of the Minsk agreements. I repeat, it is only one component of the overall process.

The key is for the elections to be held according to OSCE standards. Therefore, it is important for us to keep this component of the formula. By these standards, they cannot be held in the presence of foreign troops and mercenaries. There must be required safety conditions.

According to Klimkin, this means that the safety conditions of Minsk must be fulfilled first, including the withdrawal of troops, weapons and mercenaries.

In addition to security conditions, the key is the modality of holding elections (that is, in the translation from the diplomatic language, their parameters) – the role of our Central Election Commission, media rights, the participation of internally displaced persons and Ukrainian parties in this process.

In all these matters, by the way, the OSCE standards for fair democratic elections are sufficiently clear and are in accordance with Ukrainian legislation.

“Pay attention to Article 10, paragraph 4 of the law on the features of local self-government, which the Russian Federation does not like. It refers to the freedom of election campaign, the access of Donbas occupied territories’ residents to the Ukrainian media, the security conditions, and much more.”

In this regard, the formula is not something threatening.

Commentary of current Foreign Minister of Ukraine Prystaiko

Vadym Prystaiko on September 14 said that the so-called Steinmeier formula concerns only the implementation of the law “On special order of local self-government in certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions” and does not contain provisions on the location of troops or the procedure for holding local elections.

He noted that foreign policy advisers to leaders of the Normandy format countries did not agree on the ‘Steinmeier formula’ on September 2 in Berlin but “agreed on what had already been written.”

“In what we agreed was written that on the first day the law on the special order of local self-government takes effect on a temporary basis, and when the OSCE says that the elections were held in accordance with international standards, this law takes effect in full. There is nothing more or less in the Steinmeier formula,” Prystayko said.

Commentary of Leonid Kuchma

Leonid Kuchma, representative of Ukraine at TCG, said that "there are certain points in the Steinmeier formula that we can agree with, but there is something that we can definitely not agree with."

"Well, how can there be elections when people carry around the weapons? The elections can be held when the troops leave Ukraine and when heavy machinery is taken away; when the Ukrainian authorities come in and when journalists could come there," he said.

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