First of all, thanks to Estonia for organizing this event.
The illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula by Russian Federation started seven years ago. Today, as always, the EU stands in full solidarity with Ukraine, supporting its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The illegal annexation remains a direct challenge to international security, with grave, serious implications for the international legal order that protects the territorial integrity, unity and sovereignty of all States. This issue is hence not only a serious bilateral or European concern, but a global one. The increasing Russian militarization of Crimea and Sevastopol over this period has had a negative impact on the security situation in the whole Black Sea region. The restrictions to the unhindered and free passage of ships through the Kerch Strait by Russia are clear violations of international law.
The EU reconfirms its implementation of its consistent non-recognition policy of the illegal annexation, including through restrictive measures, together with our partners. We call on all states to consider similar non-recognition measures in line with the UN General Assembly Resolution 68/262.
The EU calls on Russia to comply with its international commitments. The violations related to the illegal annexation must be prevented and justice sought for its victims. We welcome the approach of Ukraine to seek justice using the international legal system: the European Court of Human Rights, in arbitration courts and the International Court of Justice. The decision of the ECHR on 14 January, recognising that Russia has exercised de facto control on Crimea since 27 March 2014, is very important in this regard.
The EU supports the work of international organizations in this regard – the OSCE, the Council of Europe, and of course the United Nations. We welcome Ukraine’s diplomatic efforts and we are currently studying the proposals related to the International Crimean Platform.
Allow me to stress the deterioration of the situation of human rights on the peninsula, which is particularly worrying as a direct consequence of the illegal annexation. Residents of the peninsula face systematic restrictions of their fundamental freedoms.
The rights of the Crimean Tatars have been particularly targeted, through the shutting down of Crimean Tatar media outlets, and the banning of the activities of the Mejlis, their self-governing body, and the persecution of its leaders and members of their community. The EU expects Russia to reverse these decisions and to end the pressure on the Crimean Tatar community.
In accordance with UN General Assembly resolution 75/29, it is crucial that all human rights violations are investigated and international human rights actors must have full, free and unrestricted access to the peninsula.
Ukraine is not alone in the face of this undermining of its sovereignty and territorial integrity. The EU will keep enforcing its strong non-recognition policy of the illegal annexation, and recall, as I do today, that Crimea is Ukraine. Crimea is Ukraine. Thank you.