The most active phase of Ukraine's rapprochement with the European Union has begun and is taking place against the background of Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine. Maybe, in a historical perspective we will learn about the cause-and-effect relationship of these two very important aspects of our modern history. We see how two approaches, an attempt to preserve the past and stimulate development, are competing, but which one will win and will determine Ukraine's future depends on our efforts today.
On this, as well as the progress of our country on its way to the EU, an Ukrinform correspondent was speaking with Vice Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze. Below is a brief version of the interview. The full version can be found on Ukrinform website in Ukrainian and Russian languages.
- There were media reports that the EU-Ukraine summit, where the decision on a visa-free regime will be announced, could take place on November 24. What determines the date of the summit?
- Yes, there is such a proposal regarding the date. The Council also determined the date of the Association Council between Ukraine and the EU for December 19. Obviously, the Ukraine-EU summit will be held after the groundwork is completed.
As I know the President will also have a narrow circle meeting with the leadership of all EU institutions before the EU summit on October 20-21. This will be another opportunity to discuss the agenda between the EU and Ukraine. I think that then a final decision on the EU-Ukraine summit date will be approved, taking into account agendum and schedules.
- The EU has a lot of problems to solve and its leaders acknowledge this. How much should we now aspire to the EU? Maybe, we should choose one direction of cooperation and focus on it?
- We have an Association Agreement foreseen for ten years. It primarily envisages that we in our country should establish European rules, bring them to the laws effective in the EU. We have taken obligations under 350 directives and regulations. We should bring our legislation in line with 50 directives, and we understand how difficult it is for us because of various reasons.
That's why, in my opinion, there is unambiguous understanding - we are implementing the Association Agreement, which Ukraine needs the most, which will enable us to bring our Ukrainian procedures and rules to a civilized dialogue not only with our partners in the EU.
For example, I just yesterday [the interview was recorded on October 5] spoke with representatives of South Korea and Japan. They also monitor current changes taking place as a result of the Association Agreement, and they consider this another positive aspect for their business, kind of 'the green light' to start actively pay attention to us.
So what we currently change within the country gives an opportunity for internal improvement, as well as additional access to a dialogue and foreign markets with third countries, and to invite potential investors not only from the European Union.
That's why we have to fulfill the Agreement on Association and Free Trade Area and conduct active economic and political dialogue. The agreement enable us to review some addenda, and it should be on a constant basis, like a live dialog, because our and EU economic conditions change.
- At the EU summit in October, the leaders of member countries will hold a detailed discussion of the effectiveness of policy of sanctions against Russia. But we can hear more often propositions in Europe to cancel sanctions as they do not work. What should we expect from this discussion?
- No decisions to prolong or scrap sanctions will be taken at this summit. The leaders of European countries actually intend to discuss their strategic approach towards the Russian Federation. That is, this was not in essence a discussion on sanctions although, of course, they will be one of the components of this discussion.
Unfortunately, Russia - unfortunately, probably above all for it - recently demonstrated a complete inability to conduct effective and trustful dialogue with the West, for example, to resolve the situation in Syria. I think this does not add anything positive about how Russia is disposed in general to dialogue and the implementation of commitments in different areas, including with respect of Ukraine.
I believe that this is an additional argument that the sanctions imposed on Russia for violating international law and direct aggression against a sovereign country should be retained. European countries must continue to insist on the Russian Federation observing international law, in particular through the preservation of sanctions, and even better, due to their intensification.
And the arguments that they do not work, do not simply appear in European states, but are actively stimulated by Russia. If sanctions did not work, then Russia would not remain at the negotiating table in the "Normandy Format," it could more actively use troops on the occupied territory of Donbas, and would act much more acutely in general. After all, if sanctions did not work Russia would not be trying to cancel them! Because of this, it is throwing huge resources at fanning the opinion that sanctions do not work.
- And how can Ukraine oppose this?
- We have truth in our arsenal.
- Is it heard in Europe?
- Of course it is heard, but not by all.
- Do they want to hear it?
- (Sighs) Someone wants to, someone does not want to ... You know, the truth is sometimes hard to hear, it is not always easy to understand.
But, again, the truth is that those rumors are spread by Russia, about the endless losses incurred by the economies of the EU due to sanctions in the Russian propaganda variation are very much exaggerated. Moreover, from our dialogue with European partners who know exactly what Soviet, and what Russian presence are, respectively, we know for sure that they are willing to endure even more serious economic costs of sanctions being place against Russia, but at the same time they are hold the line as to their continuation, as they understand what their scrapping may mean for their security.
And they are those voices, besides our own, that are also heard in the EU, which help us promote this objective reality, and we just need to continue to do so at all levels.
- But we have recently seen unfriendly steps on the part of those countries, which remember our common socialist past. What do you think about this?
- I have repeatedly asked my Hungarian colleagues: "Did you forget the time of 1956? This generation still lives, it lived through it». Unfortunately, it turns out that not everyone remembers that time.
Once again, this is the issue of impact of financial capabilities of the Russian Federation, the interests of certain political groups and analytical centers, the presence of Russia Today absolutely in all EU countries and overseas - in the USA, Canada. And you know for sure that, for example, Ukrinform also cannot be available everywhere.
- So because of the lack of comparability of financial resources, we are doomed to failure in this struggle for influence on European public opinion?
- No, why are we doomed? I do not like that word at all! We just have to understand who we are fighting with. Russia has a greater impact because it has more financial opportunities. But what is the price for its citizens?
Since my childhood I remember that in the Soviet school we were taught that for the sake of a mythical grandeur of the state and ability to influence the world we have to endure the lack of many common household items. The question is whether we as citizens have won? The Russian people still continue living and bringing up their children according to these Soviet dogmas. But I am convinced that we live in a different country!
Nadiya Yurchenko, Kyiv