Ukraine embassy staff can voluntarily return to Netherlands
Personnel of the Dutch embassy in Ukraine who want to return to the Netherlands will be allowed to do so. But the Netherlands, unlike the United States and the United Kingdom, still sees no reason to evacuate employees, said Foreign Affairs Minister Wopke Hoekstra.
The choice for evacuation "is a huge dilemma," said Hoekstra. Recalling staff too early could add fuel to the already heated conflict between Russia and the West. But too late is terrifying, with the chaotic evacuation from the Afghan capital of Kabul last summer still fresh in our minds.
Like France and Germany, the Netherlands does not yet consider Ukraine too unsafe for its staff. The US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who joined the meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Ministers by video link on Monday, did not change their minds either. But "we have indicated that, if employees themselves or their families want to the Netherlands, they, of course, have the possibility to do so," Hoekstra said afterward. A spokesperson could not immediately say whether anyone had already made this request.
The United States and the United Kingdom have much larger embassies that cannot easily be moved to safety. But they're not closing their doors entirely either, said Hoekstra.
Hoekstra asked other Dutch people in Ukraine to ask themselves whether it is really necessary to be there and to pay close attention to the situation in case it suddenly deteriorates. He emphasized that the fall of Kabul and the subsequent evacuation were "really different." Unlike Afghanistan at the time, Netherlands residents can leave Ukraine "without restrictions" for the time being. The country shares a border and good connections with EU and NATO countries like Poland and Romania.
EU Foreign Ministers asked the EU Foreign Affairs chief Josep Borrell to devise sanctions should Russia attack Ukraine. But they won't speculate on which act Russia can expect which punitive measure. Hoekstra did not rule out any sanctions but also did not want to say whether it is, therefore, conceivable that Russia will be excluded from international payment transactions, for example. The answer will be "big" and "quick," is all he wanted to say. What he noticed above all at his first meeting with the EU Foreign Ministers was their unanimity, he said.
It is precisely the elaboration on sanctions that regularly appears to divide the EU countries. Heavyweight Germany is hesitant, while eastern member states are invariably in favor of a hard line.
Reporting by ANP