“The war began in Crimea in 2014, and must end in Crimea as well.” These words are heard more and more often from foreign politicians (including heads of parliament), experts and ordinary observers. However, two or three years ago, when no one had even dreamed of the Crimea Platform as a format for international cooperation and strategizing the de-occupation of the Crimean peninsula, the messages were completely different: “Crimea is Ukrainian under international law, but is in fact now Russian.”
That way of thinking is now in the past. In the present and looking towards the future, the Crimea Platform, has become a powerful mechanism which has strengthened, matured and benefited from expanded involvement among the likes of parliamentarians, experts and academics, including young people, students and professional/experienced scientists.
The First Parliamentary Summit of the Crimea Platform organically continued the tradition of holding high-level forums within the framework of international coordination and cooperation between Ukraine and foreign partners. It aimed to develop a common approach to responding to the occupation of the Crimean peninsula and its further de-occupation.
At the Inaugural Summit of the Crimea Platform, which took place in Kyiv on Aug. 23, 2021, participants approved a strategic vision for the Platform’s future, notably at parliament level. It was on my initiative that the most prominent and active representatives of foreign parliaments – our partners, who are also members of inter-parliamentary assemblies and groups within international organizations such as the Council of Europe, NATO, OSCE, Inter-Parliamentary Union, GUAM, BSEC and others – took part in the work of the Inaugural Summit.
The main force in the system of the parliamentary track of the Crimea Platform is the inter-factional association of deputies, which works on a multiparty basis. With the active participation of the Permanent Delegations to the inter-parliamentary assemblies, as well as inter-parliamentary groups on bilateral relations with foreign parliaments, this association ensures strong international cooperation within the Platform.
First Parliamentary Summit
The First Parliamentary Summit of the Crimea Platform was held in Zagreb, Republic of Croatia, on Oct. 25, 2022. Expert discussions were held with the participation of both the Ukrainian and Croatian sides, which have gained substantial experience in the reintegration of temporarily occupied territories. The union of the chairmen of parliaments, inter-parliamentary assemblies and heads of the relevant committees of foreign parliaments, allows the Ukrainian side to convey more information about the state of affairs in the occupied Crimean peninsula and to advocate more effectively for Crimea and its reintegration into Ukraine.
Representatives of foreign parliaments ensure direct dialogue with these nations, helping to raise their awareness about Crimea and, even more strongly, support the struggle of the Ukrainian people for the restoration of its territorial integrity and its contribution to the human rights system. The Summit featured 57 speakers – 45 in-person and 12 online. Ukraine is extremely grateful to the members of 55 delegations who agreed to come to the Summit and declare to the whole world that Crimea is an integral part of Ukraine.
Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi stated that she had come to the Summit to express support for Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. And the President of the German Bundestag, Bärbel Bas, stressed that attempts at blackmail made by the Russian Federation will not divide European countries. On the contrary – Europe today is united as never before.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky, who launched this initiative, spoke about the importance of the Crimea Platform for the reintegration of the peninsula into Ukraine following its de-occupation; which can also also as a launchpad for other humanitarian and diplomatic platforms and the restoration of genuine peace. For example, it can potentially contribute to the de-occupation of other territories that were once enslaved, from Transnistria and Abkhazia to the Northern Territories of Japan.
A speech by the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Tiny Cox, was particularly impressive. PACE supports the establishment of a special tribunal to respond to Russia’s crime of aggression, and is the first and only organization that not only expelled Russia, but also declared the Russian regime as “terrorist.”
Summit participants approved an important Joint Declaration. Each participating country, having signed the document, undertook to consider its content in decision-making at state level. The main purpose of the Declaration is to ensure comprehensive support for Ukraine on the issue of the de-occupation of Crimea, as well as the establishment and implementation of an effective parliamentary dimension of cooperation between participating countries.
Equally important during the Summit was the topic of the human rights situation in the temporarily occupied peninsula, which is deteriorating day by day. In order to cover this issue as effectively as possible, a meeting of the Ombudsmen of foreign states was held, as well as a number of events involving human rights organizations.
Outcomes from the Summit
The Summit is expected to strengthen and intensify decision-making at a qualitatively new level in foreign parliaments, inter-parliamentary assemblies and organizations. This should certainly contribute to the rapid and effective de-occupation of the Crimean peninsula and the restoration of normal life there within the framework of an integral and sovereign Ukrainian state.
Participants agreed with the proposal of Ukrainian parliamentarians to consider establishing a permanent inter-parliamentary committee of the International Crimean Platform, which could provide expertise to national and international partners, at national levels and as part of international platforms focused on the real situation in the temporarily occupied Crimea.
We must understand that the act of aggression that crowned all previous criminal actions of Russia began in Crimea, with its occupation and terror of the local population: Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars. And we must, on the basis of the International Crimea Platform, raise the issue of pressuring Russia to take responsibility for its crimes as soon as possible. This should include the creation and launch of a special tribunal for the crime of aggression, the launch of a compensation mechanism for loss, damage or injury, and an international register of damages.
This issue will be discussed by the UN General Assembly on Nov. 14. Ukraine must have all the necessary means to overcome the negative impact and consequences of the occupation of Crimea.
The Summit has strong potential for a positive impact. A diplomatic event of this scale does not happen often, but lays the foundations for great work ahead. We will gather again on the basis of the Interfactional Association to determine priorities of future work. First of all, however, it is necessary to actualize legislative initiatives on Crimea, and to implement the results of the Summit. This should contribute to solving the most pressing problems faced by the peninsula’s residents.
Both Parliament and the Government should also develop a system of measures aimed at solving existing problems in light of Summit decisions. In this regard, it will be useful to create working subcommittees for closer cooperation with the expert and human rights community.
And, as it was said in Zagreb, one day we will gather at the next Summit in Bakhchisaray, in the free Ukrainian Crimea.
Maria Mezentseva is a Verkhovna Rada deputy and head of the permanent delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
The views expressed are the authors’ own and not necessarily those of Kyiv Post.
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