Austrian President Heinz Fischer warned against intensifying sanctions against Russia, calling the move “unwise and harmful” in an interview to Wirtschaftsblatt newspaper.
The approach that more and more sanctions should be implemented against Russia until it is “weak enough” to forcefully accept the EU’s own “political objectives” is a mistake, according to Fischer.
“I support those who say that we have reached a stage where…the imposition of new sanctions against Russia will continue to hinder its development, but will not bring us closer to an amicable solution,” Fischer said, adding that it will only create a deeper rift.
“The Russian economy has a certain degree of robustness, but the sanctions pose considerable problems…a serious crisis in Russia and an economic collapse would only create more problems. The doors between Europe and Russia must remain open in the economic field,” he stressed.
What the Ukraine crisis needs are talks around decentralization reforms, Fischer noted.
“Serious talk of reforms in the area of decentralization or federalization would have to be done, which would foster a situation in eastern Ukraine where both sides could live together.”
In terms of moving towards a solution in Ukraine, a respected ceasefire and reasonable dialogue would need to be observed, Fischer added.
According to the Austrian leader, the EU overestimated the appeal of the free trade deal, which forced Ukraine to choose between Europe and Russia.
“Brussels apparently overestimated the attractiveness of European Association Agreement compared to the other option for Ukraine – namely the offer from Russia,” he said. “It was recognized only at the last moment that it was a real ordeal for Ukraine to choose between EU offer and the billion offer from [Russian President] Vladimir Putin, which was better suited for the realities faced by Ukraine in the fall of 2013.”
Ukraine needs to be free to build its own relationships with both Europe and Russia, Fischer concluded.