We must set the ambitious goals for further and deeper European integration

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Vice Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze tells the Fashion of Diplomacy about  peculiarities of Ukrainian foreign policy.

Today we have a very serious level of cooperation with the Alliance in all the spheres – everything that we do have within this cooperation makes us stronger.

What would you determine as the main obstacle to the European integration path of Ukraine?

–- One of these obstacles is the slow adapting of our legislation to the European Union’s one. Our law-making process takes more time and eff ort than it used to be in many European Union countries that were passing – as we now do – on the path of European integration. At least, they had a sort of the national agreement about European integration.

In Ukraine – despite the fact that the five political forces, entering the Parliament, proclaimed European integration a priority – we can witness the absence of the national agreement, some of these political parties do not always follow their goals, or even deliberately destroy our Eurointegration principles.

At the same time, among those factors that hinder our European integration populism and certain “corporate” interests that impede the introduction of new, transparent and fair business rules, should be mentioned.

Besides that, we have one more serious challenge – we lack the specialists who would ensure the administrative implementation of many European integration procedures at ministries and departments, as well as those ones that should ensure the political and legal activities of people’s deputies in this direction. This, of course, seriously constrains our move to the EU. That is why, in particular, we started the reform of the civil service because we need to have an appropriate executive professional environment that would enable and speed up the processes mentioned above – we have already managed a lot in this regard, but it takes a lot of time and eff ort.

When will it be possible to talk about the beginning of the complete integration into the European Union?

– I believe that we must set out ambitious goals for further and deeper European integration, but the implementation of the Association Agreement is a serious platform for comprehensive integration already, because it foresees the removing of barriers in trade of our goods and services. This, in fact, is a visafree regime for goods and services. As for me, it would be necessary, first of all, to focus very much on the implementation of the provisions of this Agreement. At the same time, we must work with additional offers, and for example, in two years we could say that we have fulfilled the lion’s share of tasks, created a new framework, we can move on to the next level and talk about the prospect of membership.

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Sure, the doors are not opened yet, but this is not a purely Ukrainian issue – there are many challenges facing the European Union itself.

Therefore, we must focus on the implementation of the Association Agreement and understand that at this moment the EU is experiencing not the most favourable time to accept us. This is firstly. Secondly, we must understand that we need to work hard on ourselves. Well, and thirdly, these obstacles eliminate the task of forming an additional agenda of relations between Ukraine and the EU today.

In the last century, in the Russian Empire, people did not joke whilst saying – “The main European in our country is the state administration”. Can we say the same about the modern Ukraine?

– In fact, our society stimulates changes in the establishment – by Europeanizing it. This demand for European way of governing, this requirement of society was unequivocally stated during Euromaidan, and it is aimed at the transformation of power. Therefore, I think that power is a reflection of society – in our case, it is a democratic way of electing the leadership of the state, and therefore the issue of political preferences of the Ukrainians will remain relevant. Unlike modern Russia, where it is clear who will win the presidential election and which political force will lead the ranking of parliamentary races.

We adhere to the norms of the democratic process, and owing to that, the society and the power are European ones. But we must remember how long and how painful was our staying in other empires, in particular, in the Russian Empire – due to it a large number of our European instincts at the genetic level were muffled and deliberately destroyed and that is why we are now restoring them.

How do you evaluate the activity of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine at the modern period of Ukrainian history?

– In my opinion, in the last years, that is, at the end of the Revolution of Dignity, our Foreign Ministry increasingly formulates the subjectivity of Ukraine in the foreign policy arena. I should remind you of the problems we encountered in 2014 and 2015. Then there was a lot of inflation, and this could not but imply the financing of those structures that represented Ukraine abroad. Starting from 2016, the financing of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs improved. In 2017, we provided additional funding in the amount of one billion hryvnias to the already planned budget of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine.

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This allows the ministry to cover more needs and tasks to meet the challenges facing us.

Recently, a new law on the diplomatic service was adopted, and I hope that the president will sign it soon. This law will allow the modernization of the diplomatic service and will improve the system of the ministry, making it more flexible. The reform of the diplomatic service in the framework of the new law will give the opportunity to get rid of that ballast that impedes the efficient and fruitful work of the MFA.

What kind of the solution should be found to resolve the conflicts that we now face with Hungary and Poland?

– I would not definitely call these problematic situations as the conflicts, and at the same time I would like to distinguish their nature and the actual state of affairs.

This is, sometimes, the rigid, multilayered and unpleasant discussion that we have to conduct, and which, unfortunately, does not always turn into a dialogue during which the parties hear each other. As for me, the most problematic point in historical discourse of our relations with Poland has already been passed. We owe this to diplomatic work at all levels, and the constructive approach of our lawmakers that tried not to exacerbate the problematic issues with the western neighbour and formulated the constructive position of Ukraine.

I had a conversation with the representatives of our business community that have been working with the Poles. They say that in the media on the coverage of Ukrainian-Polish relations the tragic notes are common but business people keep working efficiently and in profitable way. This should be the basis of our further relationships. So, we lost a lot of useful issues that were got during the presidency of Kuchma and Kwasniewski, but we must restore the principle of the then Ukrainian-Polish reconciliation “We forgive and we want to be forgiven” and look at the future together.

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About Hungary – in the discussion, concerning our Law “On Education” and in particular in its language article, Ukraine demonstrates the most constructive approach. So far, we do not see a positive understanding of our constructivism from Hungarian colleagues and it is very annoying that the situation is constantly stirring up. We will defend our right to build a political nation of the Ukrainians, in which every national minority will have the opportunity for self-fulfillment in the state of Ukraine, and for this purpose it is necessary to know the Ukrainian language. The ignorance of the Ukrainian language limits the possibilities of the representatives of the Hungarian community. That should not be so. I hope that our Hungarian colleagues, as well as the representatives of the national minority here, will hear us.

What does it mean for Ukraine to get the status of the post-graduate country of NATO? How will this affect the development of events in case of the military conflict escalation in the Ukrainian East?

– The North Atlantic Alliance has reflected in its information resource the real state of affairs with the fact that Ukraine has changed its domestic legislation and formulated its strategic goal for membership in NATO. This is reflected now on NATO’s website – that Ukraine has been seeking for NATO membership. I expect that in the nearest future the political recognition of this aspiration of Ukraine by the Allies will take place either. Until then, the country did not become a full member of NATO, Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty does not apply and does not extend to countries that are NATO partners. But we now have a very serious level of cooperation with the Alliance in all areas and everything that we do have within this cooperation makes us stronger.

Is it possible to pave the path to the EU through NATO?

– Our neighbours have succeeded in that. And this is probably the best path. The position of the Vice Premier I occupy includes these two components. I believe that these processes are interrelated. Most of the changes that we have to undergo are the same for Euro-Atlantic and for European integration. We are convinced that we will pass this road worthily and quickly.