After weeks of diplomatic tensions over the German president’s planned visit to Ukraine, which ultimately did not happen, there are new attempts at rapprochement between Berlin and Kiev. German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier spoke by phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenski on Thursday. According to media reports, Steinmeier assured Zelensky of Germany’s full support during the roughly 45-minute conversation.
Steinmeier’s refusal has worsened relations between Germany and Ukraine
The reason for the Ukraine-Germany standoff was the German president’s scheduled mid-April visit to Kiev, where he was to travel with other European leaders. Steinmeier had been preparing for a joint trip with the Polish president for many days, but shortly before he was surprised by the Ukrainian government’s refusal to accommodate him. In a written note from Kiev, Steinmeier then received a very clear signal that he was not welcome in the Ukrainian capital. The likely reason for the German president’s refusal to receive him was Steinmeier’s previous pro-Russian course.
The issue contributed to the deterioration of diplomatic relations between the two countries; there was talk of an “affront” in government circles in Germany. Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) recently refused to travel to Ukraine on the grounds, among others, that Ukraine’s treatment of Steinmeier stands “in the way” of his own visit.
Who will go to Kiev?
The telephone conversation between Steinmeier and Zelenskiy may now make a difference in relations between the two countries. Sensitive issues have been clarified, and Zelenski has invited the German president, chancellor and federal government ministers to Kiev. For the time being, it is unclear whether Steinmeier intends to personally travel to Kiev. However, if his relations with the Ukrainian government have warmed, then Scholz’s argument that he is holding off on coming to Ukraine because of the April affront will no longer hold water.
There is hope among SPD members that the chancellor will soon change his mind and visit Kiev. There is talk of an “important sign of solidarity.” Some are betting that Scholz will travel to Ukraine along with French President Emmanuel Macron, who arrives in Berlin next Monday.
A visit to Kiev is planned by the German foreign minister and the Bundestag president
Meanwhile, some politicians already have concrete plans to travel to war-torn Ukraine. One of them is Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who announced that she will soon travel to Kiev for talks. She has not yet given a specific date for the trip. Bundestag President Bärbel Bas (SPD) is also planning a visit to the Ukrainian capital. A spokeswoman said that Bas would like to go to Ukraine at the invitation of her Ukrainian counterpart to commemorate all victims of World War II and hold political talks together.