EU should be ready to respond to

EU should be ready to respond to "referendum" in occupied areas of Ukraine - Romania’s foreign minister

The European Union should already be discussing the situation around Russia's intention to hold so-called "referendum" in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine regarding their accession to the Russian Federation, and come up with the options for an appropriate response.

This was stated by the head of the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Romania, Bogdan Aurescu, who spoke in Prague at the doorstep of an informal meeting of the EU foreign ministers, an Ukrinform correspondent reports.

The top diplomat expressed concern about the possible negative effect of the “referendum,” emphasizing that the relations between the EU and Russia, as well as the impact of Russia's aggressive war against Ukraine, are of utmost importance to Romania. At the same time, according to him, it is also important to continue supporting Ukraine, so Romania intends to proceed in several directions at once.

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These include the humanitarian sphere as more than 2.1 million refugees from Ukraine have crossed into Romania so the government is working to assist them. Other measures are important in the context of the food crisis and EU-Africa relations. Romania supported the transit of Ukrainian grain through its territory, Aurescu noted, adding that, as of August 17, more than 3.4 million tonnes of Ukrainian grain passed via Romania, which is almost half of the total volume of Ukrainian grain exports throughout this period. The country will continue its efforts to support Ukraine in political, economic and other spheres, said the Romanian government official.

He expressed hope to hear from the high representative of the EU the results of the discussion at the level of defense ministers on the issue of strengthening Ukraine's defense capabilities and creating an EU training base for the nation’s armed forces, and on making further political decisions at the level of foreign ministers.

Another important aspect, Aurescu believes, is that the EU must continue to put pressure on Russia. Romania fully supports the suspension of the agreement on facilitated visa issuance to Russians, remaining ready for restrictions on the movement of Russian citizens within the European Union holding tourist visas. At the same time, he noted, the EU should not block the possibility for Russian youths to embrace European values. On the other hand, the minister added, it is important not to ban humanitarian and medical visas, as well as visas for the regime opponents or those facing threats from the Russian government.

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He emphasized that the future state of relations between the EU and Russia will depend on the further development of the situation in Ukraine, but it is already obvious, Aurescu noted, that it is impossible to return to "business as usual" with Russia. At the same time, according to the Romanian government official, European countries should get rid of any dependence on Russia as soon as possible.

Aurescu said that today the European ministers will meet with the foreign ministers of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. This will be the first such meeting after the important decision was made by the European Council in June to grant these states the status of accession candidates, which will allow discussing with them the progress in reforms and security, as well as possible assistance from the EU in advancing toward EU membership.

As reported, on August 30-31, informal meetings of defense ministers and ministers of foreign affairs of EU member states (Gymnich) are taking place in Prague, the capital of the EU-presiding Czech Republic, where one of the main issues on the agenda is the current situation in Ukraine and problems for the European and world security caused by the unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine.

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