It is no secret that pro-Russian lobby in industrial circles of Germany is one of the main forces in the European Union striving to cancel economic sanctions introduced against Russian aggression. They appeal to significant economic losses incurred by the German economy and other European countries that have strong traditional ties with the Russian Federation.
In an exclusive interview with Ukrinform correspondent in Brussels, MEP from Germany, representative of the European Conservatives and Reformists political group, Hans-Olaf Henkel shared his opinion about possible return to such ‘business as usual’ with the country-aggressor, as well as prospects of visa liberalization and difficult path of Ukrainian reforms.
NORD STREAM 2 IS A BIG MISTAKE THAT MUST NOT HAPPEN
- Mr. Henkel, you are a member of the European Parliament's Committee on Industry, Research and Energy. Therefore, the question I would like to ask is in the sphere of your direct responsibility as a German politician. It is well known that it is Germany that will get greatest benefits in the EU from the construction of Russian gas pipeline Nord Stream 2. And what is your attitude to this project?
- I've worked all my life in the industry. I had been the president of the Federation of German Industry for six years. Now I am in politics and, therefore, I’ve come to a conclusion that the Nord Stream 2 project is a big mistake that must not happen.
BAN ON TRAVELLING TO THE COTE D'AZUR IS A SIGNIFICANT BLOW TO SANCTIONED RUSSIANS
- Continuing the EU's policy towards Russia, it should be noted that consequences of sanctions imposed against Russia is also painful for German industrial circles…
- I support these sanctions. Many of my colleagues from German industrial circles are against them. But I see no other means that could be used against the aggressive policy of Vladimir Putin. We can’t wage a war. Therefore, the only way that has an effective impact on Russia is sanctions.
- In your opinion, how effective the European sanctions against Russia are?
- I want to note personal sanctions against Russian officials and other figures. The inability for them to come to their apartments, for example, on the Cote d'Azur, sail yachts, or visit estates in New York, or have access to bank accounts in London - all these deliver a considerable blow.
So, this is the only language that Putin understands. That’s why I’m for sanctions, and I voted for them.
UKRAINE WILL FACE HARD TIMES UNTILL REFORMS IMPLEMENTED
- The current issue for Ukrainians is to complete the process of abolishing visas with the EU. When this issue will be put for vote at the European Parliament’s plenary session, what will be your decision?
- I will clearly vote for the abolition of visas for Ukrainians. I am convinced that we must support Ukraine in all matters we can: economically, morally, and also possible free travels in the European Union.
- How do you assess Ukraine’s readiness for deepest integration with the European Union, the final goal of which must be the acquisition of membership?
- I think that the Ukrainian democracy has not been fully developed yet. I mean corruption that is one of the biggest problems in Ukraine. But we must help Ukraine so that it can move independently to the European Union, or become a NATO member. And it should not be a decision made by Putin. Therefore, I and my party will vote in favor of Ukraine.
- As a representative of industrial circles of the largest economy in the EU, how do you assess the progress of economic reforms in Ukraine?
- It is necessary to objectively acknowledge that the Ukrainian economy still doesn’t function as a real market system should work. Ukraine still has large state-owned companies, or such companies that are supported by the state. I think that Ukraine, if we compare with Poland, has lost 20 years on its way of economic reforms. I would advise the Ukrainian government to invite several very famous and successful leaders from Europe that managed to promote economic reforms in their own countries, for example in Poland.
Also, it should be noted that the time period, between the launch of reforms till the moment of achieving certain results from these transformations, is very hard. This may lead to an increase in unemployment, as happened in East Germany, Poland, Bulgaria, and Romania. And Ukraine, unfortunately, will not escape these negative trends.
Andriy Lavrenyuk, Brussels