The Croatian MEP said in an interview with Hina before his departure for Ukraine at the helm of the European Parliament’s delegation, that he could see Milanovć’s claims about Ukraine not belonging in NATO and his understanding for Russia’s arguments in the Russia-Ukraine crisis “as his statements serving primarily the purpose of his conflicts on the internal policy scene.”
The president and the premier are so deep in the conflict that some of the topics that are supposed to reflect a minimum of state unity such as foreign affairs topics have also fallen victim to that conflict, the Croatian MEP told Hina.
Last Tuesday, Milanović said that Croatia would not have a military presence in Ukraine in the event of a Russian invasion, that the events in Ukraine of 2014, known as the Revolution of Dignity, were a military coup, that Europe had not done enough to assist Kyiv, and that the tensions on the Ukraine-Russia border were a consequence of the US home policy. “All that is happening in the antechamber of Russia. One must reach a deal that will take account of the security interests of Russia,” said Milanović then.
Picula said that at the moment no one is considering the deployment of NATO’s troops in Ukraine.
“I am against the policy that undermines the credibility of Croatia as a member of the European Union and of NATO. Milanović’s pro-Russian attitudes undermine that credibility and I also hold that PM Plenković, too, undermines Croatia’s credibility primarily through toleration of corruption in his own ranks.”
Picula calls on the head of state and the head of government to refrain from spilling their conflicts over to foreign affairs.
“This story should be closed as soon as possible. Croatia needs definitely a higher degree of consent between top leaders for the sake of its credibility abroad,” said Picula who was the foreign minister in the coalition government led by Prime Minister Ivica Račan of the SDP party in the early 2000s.
Ukraine crisis exposes weaknesses of EU
While Kyiv and Western countries are bracing themselves for a potential invasion of Russia along its border with Ukraine, where Russian troops are being amassed, Moscow refutes claims that it is preparing attacks on its southwestern neighbour, and insists that the West provides it with guarantees that NATO will not be expanded further eastwards.
On Sunday, the eight-member EP delegation, which includes Picula, is set to fly to Ukraine to meet the Ukrainian leadership.
In the European Parliament, there are different views on the Ukrainian crisis.
Picula said that a majority of the MEPs express solidarity with Ukraine, and support the respect for that country’s sovereignty and right to choose which associations it would like to join.
Different approaches of the EU member states to the response to the Russia-Ukraine crisis have an effect on the EU’s political strength, he said.
“This crisis also exposes the EU being stuck halfway in its integrations, and this half of unfinished integrations prevents the Union from responding to ad hoc crises, notably when they are external shocks.”
The Ukrainian crisis also juxtaposes much wider geopolitical interests, he said adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin would like to avoid EU leaders in efforts to settle the current crisis.
“He wants to talk with the Americans and not with EU leaders, and this is part of his strategy to disintegrate the West.”
On the other hand, he does not refrain from holding talks with the economic establishment of the EU and reminding them of the benefits of the Russian-European cooperation, Picula said.
Granting Russia’s maximum demands such as that Ukraine should not join the EU or NATO and that NATO should pull out of eastern countries would mean that the European project is abandoned, said the Croatian MEP.
He says he cannot accept the arguments of Moscow that it could feel threatened in the event of the further eastbound expansion of NATO.
“Although Russia’s fears about an invasion from Europe have their roots in the past, also the east of Europe has the historically rooted fears of Russian invasion,” Picula told Hina in the interview published on Saturday.
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