France's plan to resolve the conflict in Ukraine
Where it all started: when Macron met Poroshenko
On; 26 June, a week before the G-20 Summit, the President of Ukraine Pyotr Poroshenko met with the President of France Emmanuel Macron in Paris. Two official statements concerning Donbass were the results of the meeting. Macron noted the necessity of finding concrete resolutions in order to end the crisis at the next meeting of the leaders of the countries of the Normandy Four.
Soon, the Ukrainian media began to write about ‘Macron’s plan’ and to list concrete points.
Macron’s plan: The Ukrainian viewpoint
According to Ukrainian diplomants, the plan consists of the following five points:
-All parties must cease firing immediately;
-Heavy weaponry must be withdrawn from the line of demarcation;
-Hot points of conflict must be demilitarized;
-The OSCE mission must receive access to all areas on both territories;
-All hostages must be freed.
If this is truly Macron’s plan, it echoes much of what has already been said in the text of the Minsk agreements: both documents specify points concerning a cease-fire, the withdrawal of weaponry and the freeing of hostages.
What is new about this ‘plan’ – does it have any new ideas?
The Presidential Administration of Ukraine claims that the plan consists of mutual compromises on both the Russian and Ukrainian sides, which is meant to nullify the deepening of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict in the coming months.
One of the provisions may conditionally be called ‘two for two’, say diplomatic sources who spoke with Hromadskoe.
For example, in the first point, Russia is asked to repeal a decree which provides for the recognition of passports and other documents issued by both the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics. In turn, Ukraine would guarantee all residents of the territories of the Donbass the right to Ukrainian passports and other forms of identification.
According to the second point, Ukraine must repeal its decision to economically block specific regions of the Donetsk and Lugansk oblasts (regions), and Russia, in turn, must return ‘nationalized’ enterprises to their owners.
Western diplomats believe that Macron is trying to relaunch the Minsk process from the beginning.
“Paris is trying to start from the beginning, in order not to end up in a Donbass dead-end. The White House is trying to do this as well. This is needed in order to liberate more space and make negotiations with Putin on Syria and terrorism more possible.
Diplomatic sources told Hromadskoe that the Macron Plan, as a concrete, original document consisting of a specific number of points and plans, does not exist. Macron, like Hollande, is aiming to force both sides to observe the tenets of the Minsk agreements.
“This doesn’t mean that there are no new decisions,” say diplomats. But the Minsk agreements remain the basis for the French President’s policy in Ukraine.
Despite the absence of a global plan, there is a new ‘Macron method’ concerning the participation of France in the Normandy Four (format). Diplomats explain that the novelty of the method can be found in its dynamic nature, its political will, its pragmatism and desire to achieve a clear and obvious set of goals.
“Macron’s style is wildly different from that of his predecessor. He is more realistic and pragmatic,” said Florent Parmentier, a professor at the Higher School of Political Studies in Paris to Hromadskoe in an interview.
French journalists who follow the issue have also noted Macron’s enthusiasm and charisma.
“Macron depends on his charisma and dynamic nature… he hopes that enthusiasm and impatience will be enough in order to achieve progress with the old methods,” explained Benoit Vitkine, a journalist from Le Monde newspaper.
“We wants to more actively bring in the OSCE – not only as a force which will control and patrol the observance of a potential ceasefire, but as a separate institution in negotiations so that the sides of the conflict – Russia, the DPR and Ukraine – will not be able to place responsibility on one another for the breaking of the ceasefire,” explains Vitkine.
In these circumstances, the journalist is sure that Macron will implement a policy of ‘taking small steps’.
Diplomats believe that that there is no reason to over-exaggerate the abilities of Macron to resolve the Donbass issue. The policy of the current French President on Ukraine will continue to be the policy of the former president – it will not contradict it in anyway.
However, the absence of an all-powerful Macron plan, which would be able to solve the conflict in Donbass, should not be the basis for any pessimism.
The long-term plans of Macron are more ambitious than those of his predecessor, believes Aleksandr Melnik, an international lecturer who teaches geopolitics in a number of French business schools.
“He won’t act like a fireman, which tries to cordon off the perimeter of the fire. He would prefer to find solutions to conflicts in the renewal of the European community and society at large, in a sort of renaissance based on the values of freedom, democracy and rights.”