Exclusive Interview with Ambassador of Ukraine to Georgia Vasyl Tsybenko
"Ukraine and Georgia will Join EU”
The latest news from Ukraine, where massive demonstrations have been staged since President Viktor Yanukovych declined to sign the Association Agreement with the EU, have been in the spotlight of the whole world, and reactions from the West have been strong. Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs & Security Policy, criticized the Ukrainian government for removing protestors’ tents. Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary of State for European & Eurasian Affairs at the United States Department of State, as well as John McCain, Senior United States Senator, visited Ukraine, proving once again that Ukraine is very important for Europe and the United States. However, protests still continue. Georgian Journal kindly asked H.E. Mr. Vasyl Tsybenko, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine to Georgia, to comment.
G.J: What is the latest from Ukraine?
V.T: News from Ukraine indicates that tension in society still has not decreased. The government partially took into account the opposition’s demands. The parliament’s work is over, the budget process is delayed. In my opinion, positive signs in this situation are the renewal of consultations with the EU, and establishment of negotiations with Maidan leaders and representatives of the international community.
By the way, during the meeting with the US senators John McCain and Christopher Murphy, the President of Ukraine once again emphasized the invariability of the European integration course of Ukraine. Besides this, he assured that government would do everything possible to ensure the rights of citizens to peaceful demonstrations, and hold fair and transparent investigation of the events that took place at Maidan Nezalezhnosti in Kyiv on 30 November 2013.
G.J: What is the official position of the Ukrainian government regarding the latest events in Ukraine?
V.T: The Government of Ukraine is oriented towards constructive cooperation with all institutions of civil society, including dialogue with the opposition. At least the first meeting of the Nationwide Panel Discussion involving Head of State Yanukovych, leaders of political parties, and non-governmental civil organizations gives hope that such a way of negotiations will allow us to normalize the situation.
G.J: President Yanukovych met with three of his predecessors, who advised him to make concessions. Leonid Kuchma also remembered that he had resigned from the post of the Prime Minister in the past as a result of the people’s demand. Do you think that Ukrainian authorities will satisfy the demands of the opposition that calls for the resignation of the Prime Minister, freeing of detained demonstrators, and not letting special services to raid them again?
V.T: I’ll start with the last question. Ukraine firmly stands on the path to rule of law. And despite existing problems, a lot has been done in the sphere.
No governmental instructions are needed to make sure special forces, as you stated, make no raids against peaceful demonstrators. Primarily, existing legislation will urge them not to do so.
According to my information, right now all detained participants of mass rallies at Maidan Nezalezhnosti have been released.
In a while, investigation over illegal actions of law enforcement officers during clashes with demonstrators on 30 November 2013 should reach its end. I think that the President, having the results of this investigation, will reach a corresponding conclusion, including about some of the members of the Cabinet of Ministers.
But, without waiting for them, he dismissed Deputy Secretary of the NSDC V. Sivkovych and Kyiv CSA Head O. Popov at the request of the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine, on suspicion of involvement of these officials in the violation of the constitutional rights of citizens who were at Maidan Nezalezhnosti in Kyiv on 30 November 2013.
As for the possible replacement of the Cabinet of Ministers, this issue is much more difficult than it appears at first.
As you know, recently 186 deputies out of the necessary 226 voted in the parliament of Ukraine for dismissal of government. Given the fact that during one session this issue cannot be considered twice, deputies will have to wait for next February to be able to return to it again.
In such circumstances most likely the government will face only partial changes.
G.J: How would you assess Catherine Ashton’s meeting with your President?
V.T: It was quite useful. It seems to me that such meetings not only help us to get better understanding of each other, which is important by itself, but also help to find balanced solutions to existing problems.
G.J: Ukraine is the central country of Eastern Europe. That is why it is in focus. Georgian politicians back the Ukrainian people unanimously, as they are sure that nowadays not only Ukraine’s fate is under question, but also Georgia’s fate is being decided. What is your prognosis for the near future for Ukraine and Georgia?
V.T: I am sure that Ukraine as well as Georgia one day will join European Union. Of course, and I am not the only one who says that, much work has still to be done. The main thing is to act consistently, step by step changing the country and society. In short, to build, regardless of how pathetic it may sound, a Europe in oneself.
G.J: During his visit to Ukraine John McCain mentioned that Europe will make Ukraine better. There are 200,000 supporters who stand for European Integration. However, the Prime Minister also claims that they back this course and demand 20 billion Euros from the EU to avoid the probable economic crisis. How feasible is it that Europe will give Ukraine this sum, and do you confirm that Ukraine’s aspiration towards Europe is really there?
V.T: I definitely confirm it … as well as the fact that Ukraine has to join European Union not with a bunch of difficult problems, which won’t make the EU stronger but with a stable economy, its unique culture, science, sport achievements, etc. This is constantly emphasized by our President Yanukovych, including during the recent meeting with U.S. senators.
As for me, today we need from Europe, first of all, to accept Ukraine not as a poor relative, but as an equal partner. We need her to open its markets to us and introduce a visa-free travel regime for Ukrainian citizens. By the way, if it happened, it would be just an appropriate EU response to something that Ukraine has done for the Union a long time ago.
G.J. The Ukrainian government says a delegation will go to EU and sign the Association Agreement in March. Are there any changes in this direction?
A couple of days ago Brussels hosted a governmental delegation led by First Vice-PM S. Arbuzov which started working with EU experts on some elements of the Agreement, adoption and implementation of which will allow us to adopt in a better way our national economy to European market conditions.
Once this work is completed, you can determine a date for signing the Association Treaty. This may, indeed, take place next March during the EU-Ukraine summit.