Made with Italy. Made in Ukraine

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“We must first of all rely on our own forces, build, strengthen and make our Ukraine more attractive on the basis of common European values.”

Italy is a country that has become a global brand. Cooperation between Ukraine and Italy is gaining momentum in the transformation of the world-famous “Made in Italy” quality label into the development of new bilateral economic projects “Made with Italy. Made in Ukraine”. The Ambassador of Ukraine to Italy, Yevhen Perelyhin, tells “Fashion of Diplomacy” about the implementation of joint projects.

Encouraging Italian business circles to expand their work with Ukraine

In one interview, you said that Ukrainian diplomats, along with their Italian counterparts, are working to transform the world-famous “Made in Italy” quality label into new “Made with Italy. Made in Ukraine” bilateral economic projects. Do you have any success on this way?

Over the past two years, much of the time and eff ort has been focused by the Embassy on encouraging Italian business circles to expand their work with Ukraine. The key issue of this concept is to move away from ordinary bilateral trade with a focus on joint projects. That is why I am pleased to provide an affirmative answer to your question about the successes on this way. So, only this year a new plant of the Ukrainian-Italian “Guala Klehers” company for the production of food packaging was opened in Sumy. The Italians have invested in the project about 17 million euros and are not going to dwell on this. In addition, there are already two Ukrainian-Italian factories producing ready-made textile products (in the first place, Belmonte men’s shirts) in Transcarpathia, which are sold in the network of brand shops, which only in Italy have more than 40 boutiques. It is also worth mentioning “Taiko Electronics” in Ivano-Frankivsk region, which is the supplier of wiring and convectors for “Fiat” and “VET AutoMotive Ukraine” from Transcarpathia, which produces seat heating systems for Ferrari. All these testify to the fact that Italian brands of the world-class already have a Ukrainian share or origin.

In 2011, the peak of export of Ukrainian goods to Italy was about 5 billion dollars for a year. We have twice as little now. How to increase these indicators?

The figure of 5 billion USD relates not to our exports in 2011, but to the Ukrainian-Italian bilateral turnover of commodities as a whole. According to this indicator, the worst year was 2015, when the volume of mutual trade in goods amounted to 3 billion USD. But in the wake of the same year 2016, Italy became the sixth trade partner of Ukraine among the countries of the world with a turnover of 3.3 billion USD and we are working to bring this year closer to 4 billion. All these testify to the fact that today it has been managed not only to stop the negative tendency of trade reduction, but also to break it and to move upwards over the past ten years. By the way, unlike other EU countries, trade with Italy is always characterized by a significant positive balance for Ukraine. Name me, please, at least one country of the EU or Group of Seven, with which Ukraine would have a positive balance of almost a billion USD!

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Export to Italy of raw materials and agricultural products

The main product group of our import from Italy consists of machines, mechanisms, devices and equipment. Ukraine exports mainly raw materials and agricultural products to Italy. Why so? Are our products not competitive? How has Ukrainian export changed in recent years?

Regarding our export of raw materials and agricultural products to Italy, I would like Ukraine to export iPhones, Ferraris, Play Stations or Louis Vuittons to the world markets very much, but to have this there should be a corresponding structure of the national economy and production. Our export reflects the existing production system of the country. Agriculture in recent years has become one of the key, dynamic, export-oriented sectors of the Ukrainian economy, and it would be surprising not to export Ukrainian grains or oil, which are known all over the world, to Italy. By the way, Ukraine has bypassed competitors, becoming the number 1 supplier of sunflower and rapeseed oil, corn and ground oil-cake in Italy.

Now, about your question and about the import of high-quality, competitively priced equipment and equipment from Italy. Yes, it is on this approach that we emphasize our work with Italian manufacturers. The increase in the importation of industrial equipment and technological lines is, among other things, an indication of the revival of our economy, the desire of Ukrainian enterprises to modernize enterprises to increase their productivity and efficiency, and this is clearly a positive signal. Most Italian companies know the position of the Embassy that we are primarily promoting the export of advanced technologies and equipment to Ukraine, which is why, in recent years, the share of these goods in Ukraine has grown by about 30% annually in the structure of Italian export to Ukraine.

For a long time, you have been involved in European integration in the Government and the Presidential Administration. How to evaluate our integration today on a 12-point scale? Is visa-free regime the limit for the coming years?

Undoubtedly, the provision of a visa-free regime for Ukrainian citizens is not the ultimate goal of European integration. At the same time, the abolition of tourist visas for Ukrainians is an important stage in the process of returning Ukraine to the European community. It should be noted that when Ukraine in the mid-2000s first took up the matter with the EU regarding canceling visas for Ukrainian citizens, few believed that it would be implemented. As for me personally, the granting of a visa-free regime means a radical change in the attitude of the Europeans towards our country and, at the same time, the acquisition of freedom of choice for every Ukrainian. Regarding the future development of European integration projects, I think it is necessary to set ambitious but at the same time realistic plans. In particular, it is about expanding economic cooperation until Ukraine joins the customs union with the EU, until there is a single digital and communication space and the gradual extension of the principle of four freedoms to Ukraine.

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Citizens of Ukraine have been granted about 250 thousand residence permits in Italy

The Ukrainian Diaspora is one of the most numerous in Italy. It is officially more than 240 thousand people. How are the Ukrainians settling? Has the number increased since the beginning of the war?

According to official data from the Ministry of Social Policy of Italy, last year, about 250 thousand of residence permits were issued to the citizens of Ukraine, which indicates a strong representation of the Ukrainian community. At present, given the crisis in the European and Italian economies, the problems of the vast majority of Ukrainian citizens in Italy is in the economic plane, since the overwhelming majority of the Ukrainians have arrived in this country in the search for a job (the so-called economic migration). At the same time, it should be noted that among the Ukrainians in Italy, quite a large number have high qualifications, are fluent in Italian and thus easily integrate into the local environment. In my opinion, the factor of Russian aggression practically has not affected the dynamics of migration from Ukraine to Italy.

Is it possible for Ukrainian children in Italy to study in Ukrainian? Maybe there are Sunday schools? How do parents get out of a situation when they want children to know the language?

At present, there are dozens of Ukrainian Sunday schools in Italy, most of which are part of the program of the International Ukrainian School (IUS) under the patronage of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine. A large number of Ukrainian children visit Sunday schools in order to preserve and develop the knowledge of the Ukrainian language, literature and history. In spite of taking classes on the day off, Ukrainian students attend Sunday schools enthusiastically.

Do you see the threat that the Ukrainians go abroad for work? How can this phenomenon be stopped?

Most European states (in the last period these are Spain, Portugal, Poland, the Baltic States) have experienced periods in their history when the citizens were forced to travel abroad in search of work. Even earlier Italy was one of such countries. It should be understood that each problem can be turned into an advantage if to respond properly to such processes. What do I mean? During the forced stay in the European countries, the Ukrainians gain experience in a competitive business environment and learn foreign languages. In my regular contacts with Ukrainian businessmen abroad, I have heard not once that if our Government can create conditions for active business development then the Ukrainians will be ready to return home and on the one hand to implement their business skills “European like”, and on the other hand, they will be the leaders of those European values for which the Ukrainians entered the Maidan in 2013.

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There is a feeling that Ukraine can remain on its own in confrontation with Russia. In Europe, internal problems are increasing. And they are more important for the Europeans. How should we attract attention to ourselves? Should we rely more on our own strength? How should the Ukrainian authorities act, so that the country does not remain on the margins of European integration processes?

These questions have a close interconnection. The protection and strengthening of our state are inextricably linked with its progressive development and European integration processes.

Support of Ukraine by a democratic world is an important aspect of our struggle. We are aware of what our partners are doing for us and we feel this solidarity of friends from all over the world. But, as the Italian writer and thinker, Giuseppe Donadei, accurately pointed out, “knowing how and on whom one can rely is an important component of their own strength.” Although in many countries there are such powers that make the same mistake that the Europeans made in 1939, expressing their reluctance to “die for Danzig.”

At the same time, let’s always keep in mind that it was the Ukrainian people who, during the years of armed conflict, demonstrated the best examples of human victory and destroyed the plans of the aggressor to ruin our state. Therefore, we must first of all rely on our own forces, build, strengthen and make our Ukraine more attractive on the basis of common European values. Then it will be an important argument for all of our partners, who, I believe, will continue to defend the “power of law” and not the “law of power”. Reforms, the fight against corruption, changes for the better, transparent investment and business climate — these are the challenges that we must successfully overcome and which are important key success factors of our dialogue with partners in Europe and in the world.