Ukraine through the eyes of its foreign friends: Independence Day poll

Ukraine through the eyes of its foreign friends: Independence Day poll

What the ambassadors of Azerbaijan, China, EU, France, Germany, Japan, Lithuania, Turkey, and the USA said about Ukraine.

On the eve of the 30th anniversary of Ukraine's Independence, Ukrinform asked foreign diplomats working in the country three questions:

1. What’s interesting to the world about Ukraine today?

2. What experience of your country could be useful to Ukraine in the process of strengthening the state and increasing its resilience to existing challenges?

3. What mistakes would you like Ukraine and Ukrainian society to avoid in the future?

There have been many similar opinions in the ambassadors' replies. They express deep respect for the history and culture of the Ukrainian people, for their struggle for freedom and independence, for their will to find their place in the world. But they also kindly advise that the country do everything possible to consolidate the nation, develop democracy and the rule of law, maintain mutual respect and understanding, and develop leadership qualities in people. There is an idea in every wish: the path to success isn’t easy, sometimes you have to take a step back before taking two steps forward, so you need to learn to overcome challenges and, nevertheless, pursue your goal. A fresh look at the Ukrainian present, past, and future through the eyes of representatives of other nations gives an opportunity to discover something new in Ukraine.

Ambassador of Azerbaijan to Ukraine Elmira Akhundova

1. It’s an experience of building a new independent state in difficult conditions of political instability, economic recession, military-political confrontation with a neighboring power. It’s am instructive experience of peaceful coexistence of dozens of ethnic groups and nationalities within a single country. It’s an interesting experience of developing democracy and freedom of speech in a country that was absolutely not free in this regard.

As for Azerbaijan, we are interested both in bilateral and regional cooperation with Ukraine and in supporting the positions of our countries within the framework of international organizations in almost all issues and spheres: first of all, protecting the territorial integrity and sovereignty of both countries, fighting the pandemic, pollution, as well as protection of cultural heritage, and military-technical cooperation. Also, it’s a mutually beneficial geographical location of our two countries, contributing to building up a strong economic and transport connection between the countries of the Caspian Sea and Black Sea basins and beyond; the development of cooperation in nanotechnology, and, of course, cooperation within GUAM.

2. It’s sustainable development of the national economy by attracting foreign investment, creating medium-term programs for the socio-economic development of regions, ensuring political stability and building a strong centralized government. It’s national consolidation around a single idea of ​​ensuring the country's territorial integrity and sovereignty. It’s about building a multicultural tolerant state. It’s about creating a strong modernized army capable of completing the most ambitious tasks. It’s about enhancing the country's influence and prestige in the international arena by pursuing a multi-vector policy equidistant from political centers of power.

3. I wish you succeed in avoiding political confrontation in your society, that excessive politicization, which leads to frequent changes in the supreme power and lack of political and economic stability in the country. It should be kept in mind that all revolutions, no matter how good the intentions of their leaders are, throw a country many years back. Only the continuity of power, only consistent forward movement can lead a state to progress. That, in fact, we saw on the example of Azerbaijan in recent years, where a strong, self-sufficient, and consolidated society has been built.

May Ukraine, the country friendly to Azerbaijan, live and prosper!

Ambassador of China to Ukraine Fan Xianrong

1. Ukraine enjoys an excellent geographical position, significant natural resources, and has a good foundation and remarkable conditions for economic development. Considering the land area, population, development conditions, or any other factors, Ukraine can be called a worthy European power. Being the world’s third largest grain exporter, it has gained a reputation of “Europe’s granary.” The centuries-old history of Ukraine, its magnificent culture, beautiful landscapes, hardworking and wise people – all these are wonderful business cards of the country Ukrainians can be proud of. Over the past 30 years of independence, the Ukrainian people have achieved significant success in various fields of activity, including politics, economy, and culture. The bright path to independence, self-sufficiency, democracy, and freedom has been conquered. I’d like to congratulate the Ukrainian people on the 30th anniversary of independence and express my most sincere and heartfelt wishes.

2. Due to objective differences in history, culture, politics, economy, and other industries, the development paths of different countries are also different; it is simply impossible to totally copy and repeat them. But since the peoples in all countries live on one planet Earth and are very closely related to each other, they, naturally, constantly borrow each other's experience. This is an important factor in accelerating the development and progress of all humankind, including every country and its people.

China is currently developing at a fast pace. The Chinese people have finally tackled absolute poverty, while China has become the world’s second largest economy. In terms of average per capita income, China can be classified as a middle- and high-income country. China is the world's largest state in terms of trade and the largest trading partner for more than 120 countries and regions. Over the next 10 years, it will import more than $22 trillion worth of goods and its connection with the world will become even closer. China pursues its own, independent and peaceful foreign policy, adhering to the principles of equality, mutual benefit, justice, and universal development, also becoming a friendly partner for an increasing number of countries across the world. In developing science and technology, education, culture, health care, and defense, China is showing tremendous vitality. Peaceful, friendly, developing and prosperous China is good news for the peoples of all countries, as well as a positive factor for promoting the development of Ukraine.

China has come a long way of development; a lot of research has been done and a significant amount of experience has been accumulated in all areas, and the most fundamental experience is the development of a strong leader-chief, able to unite and lead large masses. Only under this condition will everyone work in one direction, be able to focus on a common task, and move forward together. In addition, the people should remain in the spotlight of attention, so all work should be based on their aspirations and well-being, seen as the main initial goals. Finally, we must attach great importance to economic development because without development, everything loses its foundation, like “water without a water stream and a tree without roots”.

I have noted that President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky is making significant efforts in these areas. Continuing to persist, you will certainly achieve new successes!

3. As they say: "Whether the shoes fit or not, only the one who wears them knows." On whether a country's policy is right or not, only its people have the right to reflect. The Ukrainian people are a wise nation, capable of constantly drawing conclusions, adjusting, and revising development policies in order to constantly improve their country. In fact, the development path of any country cannot be unhindered, because at every stage of development, the country will always face various internal and external challenges and problems. This is an objective natural process. And the main thing here is to keep up with the times, constantly analyze, improve, change, and regulate policies in line with the peculiarities of the era and people’s will for a better life. The key factor that determines quality of a country's policy is whether it contributes to the development and strengthening of the country, uniting broad masses of people and ensuring social stability. We are glad to see how Ukraine is continuously developing and progressing in these directions.

Head of EU Delegation to Ukraine Matti Maasikas

1. This year Ukraine marks the 30th anniversary of its Independence. It is a unique country with immense potential and a vibrant civil society, rich culture and history. The people of the country determined its direction toward European and Euro-Atlantic integration – now enshrined in the Constitution of Ukraine. This comprehensive geopolitical shift, which we have been witnessing since the Revolution of Dignity, is irreversible. It makes Ukraine a priority partner for the EU.

With the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area signed in 2014 and in force since 2017, our relations have achieved an unprecedented level of closeness, and dynamism. The Association Agreement also acknowledges the European aspirations of Ukraine and welcomes its European choice.

This partnership has its tangible dimensions, it influences the lives of people, delivers real benefits  – and there are many success stories, such as visa-liberalisation, the growth in trade, the EU becoming the biggest trading partner of Ukraine, as well as an unprecedented array of technical and financial assistance to help Ukraine to succeed on this reform path, decentralisation, public administration reform and others. 

As part of a ground-breaking media reform, a modern public service broadcaster – Suspilne - was established 4 years ago - and the EU generously supported it. According to independent monitoring, public trust towards public broadcaster has been growing particularly during COVID crisis, when disinformation has been on the rise, and during recent local elections. 

Bearing in mind how much effort has been invested into establishing independent public broadcaster, it is one of the treasures that Ukraine should protect.  

All this provides us many thing to admire. And looking back to where we started, one would notice that we indeed are moving forward together.

2. In the EU, we often recall the quote of Jean Monnet, one of the EU’s founding fathers, who said that noting is possible without people, nothing is lasting without institutions. Lasting, efficient, strong institutions free from any type of interference would definitely contribute to the resilience of Ukraine – both to internal and external challenges, current and future.

Transparent and effective anti-corruption and judiciary systems both lay the foundations for building stable institutions. A strong rule of law, incessant fight against corruption will not only advance the socio-economic development and investment, but also help make all other important reforms, where Ukrainians expect improvements, a success.

Strengthening national broadcaster which provides information and content as a public good will contribute to Ukraine moving closer to the EU – in the broadest sense of the word.

3. Of course it is for Ukrainians to take stock of its mistakes and successes. It is absolutely clear that reforming your country is not a one-day task. This process is not linear, requires patience. Ups and downs, mistakes, one step back and two steps forward walk is sometimes inevitable. But it is crucial to keep going, to complete the reforms to make them last. And on this uneasy path, the EU remains Ukraine’s most reliable partner.

Ambassador of France to Ukraine Etienne de Poncins

1. Ukraine is full of riches. In fact, it is a vast country, with a strong culture, and various traditions, including gastronomy, music, costumes, art, and much more besides. Ukrainian culture deserves to be known and recognized all around the world!  Its history, of course, is also a major point of interest, something everyone should be interested about. Hence, Ukraine has much to offer to the world, as I was able to see for myself when I visited and discovered this beautiful country, and I hope I will continue to do so!

2. This is an important question, and indeed the 30th anniversary of Ukraine independence is a good moment to reflect on the recent past and on perspectives. Sharing experience, I believe, is always of great help, and this is by the way one the missions of diplomats. As far as France and Ukraine are concerned, I would like to share two ideas: the first one is the importance of the Rule of Law, which is a very Cartesian principle, so very French, and is to me the basis of a solid and democratic State; the second one is the importance of unity, which in my view works thanks to fraternity, equality, and freedom, the three core values of the French Republic, and despite or, should I say, thanks to diversity, and here we come to the core value of the European Union, which obviously we deeply share. Of course, this cannot be achieved in one day, and it is never perfect, believe me. The way is long, difficult, and in a sense never ending. But there should always remain one’s intangible aims, if one wishes to secure a resilient State. And I am convinced this is Ukrainian’s dearest wish.

And, on this 30th anniversary of Ukraine independence, I would like to recall that Ukraine could always rely on France’s, as EU’s, strongest support towards these goal, on this path. My country was standing next to Ukraine 30 years ago, when it re-gained its independence. France is still standing by, 30 years later, supportive, as a friend. This the message the minister of Foreign Affaires Jean-Yves Le Drian will deliver in person in Kyiv on the 23rd and 24th of August. More than ever, in these difficult times, we defend Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. A democratic country, complying with our common European values.

3. Building a democratic State and consolidate a Nation are two very difficult tasks, that put you on the edge, because you need to find your own way, to build while walking, not to lose track of the objectives while many will try to make you shake. And the risk is always here, very close, to change the direction, and go to the extreme… The extreme of ideologies, forgetting that a country is always diverse, and the extreme of ruling, because power can be dangerous, which is by the way the reason why democracy relies on checks and balances.

But on this 30th anniversary of the independence of Ukraine, I first and foremost want to wish the Ukrainian all the best on their way towards an ever stronger democracy, and to enhance unity. Slava Ukraïni!

Ambassador of Germany to Ukraine Anka Feldhusen

1. Ukraine is an incredibly interesting country in the center of Europe. Now there are quite a lot of events developing in politics and other areas. Much has happened in politics over the last 30 years, the Revolution of Dignity has changed the country, and numerous reforms have progressed since then. Besides, Ukraine is just a great place to travel. There are impressive landscapes, countless fields and lakes here, while Kyiv is a colorful and radiant metropolis with a creative club and fashion life.

2. We in Germany are still convinced that it is extremely important to have an honest and controversial discussion about our own past. This is especially true of the understanding of National Socialism, as well as the period of division in the country, which shaped Germany’s recent history. This experience has shown us that, despite the protracted conflict, every opportunity must be taken to build bridges between people. This is the only way to create a common understanding in society, write a common history where citizens are also able to find their place. And this creates trust: both between members of society, as well as in the country and its political institutions.

3. The word "trust" is also very important here. In a strong democracy, citizens must to be engaged at the local level and have a sense that there is some progress, that their issues are being addressed positively. And they need to be confident and aware that their rights are well protected by courts. That is why we seek to strengthen cities and communities, and that is why judicial reform is so crucial. If there are clear structures that everyone supports, other reforms will move forward at a higher pace.

Ambassador of Japan to Ukraine Takashi Kurai

1. For the world, development of the geopolitical situation of and around Ukraine. Ukraine is located in a very sensitive but important area of the world politics. We believe that the world is looking very closely at any step taken by Ukraine with a view to looking to the future of the strategic environment of European region.

For the business circle of Japan, IT is the one in which the people are becoming to be more interested. We know that Ukraine is a country of so many excellent IT engineers.

For the people of Japan, the immediate interest is in the athletes’ success of Ukrainian national team during Paralympic Game in Tokyo which starts 24 August. Ukrainian team is very strong and we are looking forward to seeing excellent results in the Paralympic Games and how they have won their own success in life.

2. First and foremost, to strengthen the cohesion of the people. After the Second World War, Japan was devastated and people were so poor, and could not help being united and looking forward. In the parliament conservatives merged into one in 1955 and it still is a ruling party of Japan. Economic development would not have been  possible without shared and strong aspiration of the united people to bring about it, we believe.

Second, cooperation with the international community. Japan’s post-war development was possible, among others, due to the efforts of the people of Japan, as we believe it. However, those efforts would not have borne fruit without effective cooperation with international community. We have paid special attention to “pacta sunt servanda” through the effective and long-lasting cooperation with international community.

Third, focus on basic science, research and development. It does not produce immediate results but great in the long run, and Ukraine is a country of so many excellent scientists based on long history of academic education. In many cases, technological invention can be created through completely unfettered thought of scientists or people who work in laboratories of companies. It is not always easy to create environment where those people could work freely but it has been proved important.

3. The most important for Ukraine to avoid, I believe, is any policy or movement of political, social or cultural nature, which could lead to undermining the cohesion of the Ukrainian society. Ukraine has a huge potential and the source of its power is in the Ukrainian people united.

In economic term, what should be avoided is to pay attention only to large enterprises and take little care of SMEs. In Japan, SMEs consist of 99.7% of all the enterprises and we do believe that the SMEs are the very source of technological invention and big enterprises in fact are supported by SMEs.

Ambassador of Lithuania to Ukraine Valdemaras Sarapinas

1. Ukraine is dynamic and very promising European country. With rich history and diverse culture, vast territory and rich in natural resources, well educated and enterprising population. For Lithuania Ukraine historically has been a strategic partner and best friend.

2. The challenges facing Ukraine are in many ways unique and your nation’s heroic resistance against the Russian aggression is widely admired. The key to Ukraine’s ultimate success lies in making sure that the ongoing reform processes in the security, defence and other key sectors are profound and irreversible. Successful implementation of reforms will help Ukraine to build prosperity, resist external pressures and advance on the path of Euroatlantic integration. You can trust that Lithuania will be with you all along the way.

3. Time tested long term strategy of integration to Europe is best for Ukraine. Had Ukraine earlier not hesitated with the reforms and integration to the European and Euroatlantic institutions there is a chance that we would be in the EU together now.

Ambassador of Turkey to Ukraine Yağmur Ahmet Güldere

1. Ukraine is going through a dramatic transformation. Judiciary, economy, law enforcement – Almost all fields and institutions are parts of this ambitious reform process. To double the challenge, Ukraine is going ahead with these reforms under very difficult circumstances. I think the most interesting thing for the world about Ukraine is how successful this process will be.

2. One area where Turkish experience could be especially useful for Ukraine is the Turkish type industrial zones. Many Turkish towns with moderate economic output became true powerhouses and export centers with our very successful organized industrial zone concept. This concept rests on incentives at both government and local administration levels to attract investments. I think that Turkey’s public-private partnership experience, which is the foundation of many multi-billion dollar projects such as Istanbul Airport, mega-hospitals that can treat thousands of patients or infrastructure projects like dams and bridges, constitutes a great example for Ukraine.

3. We commend Ukraine for its ambitious reform agenda and the concrete results. However, it is important to remember that conducting a long term reform agenda is not an easy task. There will always be internal and external challenges, as well as difficult trade-offs. At those rough times, remember the wise words of Lesya Ukrainka: “Away, dark thoughts, dark clouds / A golden spring is here.”

Charge d’Affaires a.i. of the United States Embassy in Ukraine, Kristina Kvien

1. The world is keenly interested in Ukraine’s story. Thirty years ago, Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada made a courageous choice to seek an independent and democratic future for this country, one founded on European values and based upon a profound belief that democracy, open markets, and the rule of law can improve the lives of citizens.

There have been ups and downs as Ukraine has pursued this dream, of course, but when you step back, you can see that the steady forward arc of Ukraine’s progress toward its Euro-Atlantic future has been clear and dramatic. 

Despite Russia’s aggression, including in Crimea, the Donbas, and Ukraine’s territorial waters, as well as efforts by corrupt internal forces to claw back reforms or undermine confidence in Ukraine's historic choice in favor of Western integration, Ukrainians can be proud of their achievements.  The courage and sacrifice of the Ukrainian people in making these changes over the long term are inspiring.

2. The world is keenly interested in Ukraine’s story. Thirty years ago, Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada made a courageous choice to seek an independent and democratic future for this country, one founded on European values and based upon a profound belief that democracy, open markets, and the rule of law can improve the lives of citizens.

There have been ups and downs as Ukraine has pursued this dream, of course, but when you step back, you can see that the steady forward arc of Ukraine’s progress toward its Euro-Atlantic future has been clear and dramatic. 

Despite Russia’s aggression, including in Crimea, the Donbas, and Ukraine’s territorial waters, as well as efforts by corrupt internal forces to claw back reforms or undermine confidence in Ukraine's historic choice in favor of Western integration, Ukrainians can be proud of their achievements.  The courage and sacrifice of the Ukrainian people in making these changes over the long term are inspiring.

3. Ukraine’s 30th day of independence provides a great opportunity for Ukrainians to reflect upon the hopes and dreams that founded their country.  Ukraine took the enormous risk by choosing in 1991 establish a democratic, sovereign state where the rule of law and open markets would bring a better life to all citizens.  We know there are external and internal forces that do not want this for the country. We know that reform, step by step, is incredibly difficult and often politically costly, often requiring personal sacrifice in order to obtain long-term gains. But it is worth it!

When I look around and see Ukraine’s vibrant, innovative businesses, speak with youth who are so talented and speak multiple languages, or meet dedicated officials, civil society activists or journalists, I sincerely believe that Ukraine can and will succeed.

Our belief in an independent Ukraine animates the strong support the United States has provided to Ukraine over the last 30 years. We truly believe that Ukraine will achieve its Euro-Atlantic goals and will succeed in beating back the forces seeking to undermine it, be they corrupt internal forces or aggressive external forces. Slava Ukraini!

Nadia Yurchenko, Kyiv

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