EU seeks negotiated outcome to crisis in Crimea

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 March, 2014, 3:33am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 March, 2014, 3:33am

I would like to respond to the letter by James Walker ("Unelected EU leaders' attack on referendum in Crimea hypocritical", March 20).

Mr Walker has his facts wrong.

First, he is wrong when he says that European Union decisions on Ukraine lack democratic legitimacy. These decisions are taken by 28 democratically elected EU heads of state and government in the EU council. EU leaders like the council president or commission president are not directly elected, but their appointments are approved by the elected European Parliament. They and all other senior EU officials are accountable to parliament. Any legislative decision needs the approval from parliament. Moreover, any EU law directly affecting the functioning of member states has to be consulted with the national parliaments of the EU member states.

In short, there is a high degree of democratic legitimacy in how the EU functions. Such is our law.

Second, Mr Walker is wrong when he suggests that Crimea's referendum about joining Russia meets the standards of democracy and international law. The contrary is true. Crimea was invaded by masked Russian forces. The pretext was to protect Russian-speaking citizens who were not under threat. The region's leaders then called a referendum that was in breach of the Ukrainian constitution. No independent body was allowed into Crimea to monitor what went on. There is no ground in international law whereby one country can annex part of another on the basis of such a vote.

There is no legal basis either for Russia's eviction of Ukrainian troops and citizens from Crimea. Nor is there a legal ground for Russian military incursions even further into Ukraine. Crimea's referendum is not an expression of democratic will and rule of law, as Mr Walker argues; it is an attempt to legitimise the violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and of international law.

At their summit last Thursday, the EU heads of state and government stated that the EU will not recognise the referendum or the illegal annexation of Crimea.

The EU feels strongly about respect for Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty. The first priority now is a negotiated and peaceful outcome to the crisis. The EU will do everything in its power to contribute to a solution that respects international law and the will of the Ukrainian people.

Vincent Piket, head of the EU office to Hong Kong and Macau