A German discussion: “Crimea three years later.” Part one, travel

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April 11, 2017 – Fort Russ News –

Maria THIELE, in Ostexperte.de, translated by Tom Winter –

An insight into the current situation in the Crimea: What do residents think about the Crimean’s affiliation with Russia? Can European tourists travel safely?

Self Determination or ‘Territorial Integrity’?
The Crimea has been part of the Russian Federation for three years. However, there is still no agreement on the legitimacy of their membership. The reason for this is the legal/philosophical question, whether the power of a people’s decision is superior or the constitutions or legislations which are set by the government.

According to the Ukrainian government and the majority of the NATO countries, the secession of the Crimea is an illegal act. The referendum, held on 16 March 2014, in which the Crimean population voted on the Crimean membership, does not correspond to either the Ukrainian constitution or the standards International law.

The German federal government also agreed with this view. The NATO countries therefore claim that the joining of the Crimea to Russia is an annexation. They therefore enacted economic sanctions against Russia in 2014, which continue to this day.

The Russian government is opposed to these assertions and rejects the existing accusations. The result of the referendum in 2014 showed a majority of 95.5 per cent of Crimeans who voted for a connection of the autonomous Crimea to Russia.

The majority of the inhabitants of the Crimea had also repeatedly voted during the presidential elections in 2004, 2010 and 2014 for the candidate of the presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovich. The separation efforts of the Crimea are therefore due to the unrest in Ukraine regarding the presidential elections there and the political division of the Ukraine.

Secession or annexation: 
Disagreement with regard to the conception and the question of legitimacy of Crimea reuniting with Russia also prevails in Germany among the frequently cited legal experts Prof. Dr. iur. Karl Albrecht Schachschneider, Prof. Dr. iur.  Anne Peters Prof. Dr. iur. Reinhard Merkel and Prof. Dr. iur Claus Kress. The use of the terms “secession” and “annexation” depend on the respective interpretation of the legal basis. There are two principles of international law – the principle of “equality and self-determination of peoples” under Article 1 (2) of the UN Charter and the principle of “territorial integrity” under Article 2 (4).

Comparison with Scotland and Kosovo

It must be clarified, especially in the further dialogue between Russia and the NATO countries, as the connection processes of the Crimea to Russia will be legally valid in the future. The situation is often compared with the separation and independence processes in Scotland and Kosovo.

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As a result of the Brexit, a referendum on its independence is planned for autumn 2018 in Scotland. In addition, the legality of the Kosovo Declaration of Independence 2008 is still being discussed.

Independence of Catalonia, Abkhazia and Tibet

The international discussion and the decision on the legitimacy of the autonomous Crimea and its connection with Russia are also of great importance and interest internationally for other regions with independence aspirations such as Tibet, Catalonia, Abkhazia and Ossetia.

According to surveys conducted by the Political and electoral Institute Infratest Dimap in November 2014, there was also disagreement among the German population regarding the legitimacy of the Crimean re-connection. The results of this survey showed that 39% of the German population voted for and 48% against the acceptance of the Crimean reconnection to Russia.

One-sidedness in German media

Prior to this, however, it was strongly criticized that the majority of the German journalists in the mainstream media were not doing enough to carry out their reconnaissance work on the Ukraine conflict and the Crimean conflict. According to Gabriele Krone-Schmalz, former ARD correspondent in Moscow, it is striking how clearly one-sided the coverage of the Crimean conflict is.

In a democratic system such as the Federal Republic of Germany — where the population is supposed to have political co-decision-making power — a one-sided presentation of information about the Crimean issue, however, hinders the public opinion process.

Traffic between Crimea and the Russian mainland

Despite the existing discussions about the legitimacy of the Crimean connection to Russia, daily flights or bus service lead to the Crimea from Russia. But foreign transport companies were prohibited by the sanctions to operate further transport connections to Crimea.

To this day, the Ukrainian government forbids tourist access to Crimea. Therefore, foreign travelers are being accused of illegal entry to Ukrainian territory when entering the Crimea via the routes offered by Russia.

Illegal entry
Entry into Ukraine from the north of Crimea is still blocked for travelers. Anyone traveling across Russia to the Crimea and then encountering Ukrainian border guards at the northern border with the Ukrainian mainland faces a punishment in the form of a deportation stamp in the passport plus a passport entry forbidding travel to Ukraine for three years.”Because they are, from the Ukrainian point of view, illegally in Ukrainian territory,” as the German Embassy in Kiev explains the perspective of the Ukrainian government “They are now practically not officially submitted. They have only pssed through Russian border officials at the airport. They have not passed through any Ukrainian border officials, although they are now in Ukrainian territory.”

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