Ukraine-Norway: twenty-five years of diplomatic relations
Interview of the Ambassador of Ukraine to the Kingdom of Norway Mr Viacheslav Yatsiuk to the Norwegian-Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce (NUCC) on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Ukraine and Norway
On February 5th in 1992, shortly after Ukraine gained its independence, was the start of the diplomatic relations between Norway and Ukraine. In connection with the 25th anniversary, NUCC has interviewed Ambassador of Ukraine to Norway, Mr. Viacheslav Yatsiuk.
– The 25th anniversary is a remarkable date for our countries. At the same time, we shall remember that our relations have deeper roots. They can be traced back to Kievan Rus more than 1000 years ago, says the Ambassador.
On September 22nd in 2016, the Ambassador of Ukraine presented his Letters of Credence to His Majesty King Harald V of Norway. Previously, Mr. Yatsiuk was posted in New York, London and Moscow. He also held various diplomatic positions in Kyiv. He worked for several years as Head of the Department for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration within the President’s Administration. As Political Director General at the Foreign Ministry of Ukraine, he coordinated the activities related to the signing of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU. He was also in charge of Ukraine’s 2013 OSCE Chairmanship. Altogether, Mr Yatsiuk has worked as a diplomat for more than 25 years. During his six months in office, he has proven to be an active supporter for Norwegian-Ukrainian business cooperation.
The partnership between Norway and Ukraine is, according to the Ambassador, based on solid foundations of strategic character. He says that the cooperation between our two countries stretches over several spheres, but points out three areas, which he sees as most topical:
The Norwegian-Ukrainian relationship has become stronger since the Maidan revolution in 2014. The Ukrainian President, Petro Poroshenko, visited Norway in October last year as the first incumbent Head of State. During his visit, the Norwegian Prime Minister, Erna Solberg, and President Poroshenko signed a joint declaration on the bilateral partnership, where they commit to promote respect for international law, strengthen international cooperation and regional security, and contribute to closer and enhanced economic ties between Norway and Ukraine.
Inspired by the Nordic model
The Ambassador is impressed by the solidarity among Norwegians and how everybody contributes to the shared value creation.
– Norwegian model is inspiring. Norway has achieved impressive results when it comes to social and economic development. Ukraine can also learn from Norway’s relationship with the European Union, says the Ambassador.
As a part of the European Economic Area (EEA), Norway has achieved high level of economic integration.
Norway can, according to the ambassador, also learn from Ukraine.
– First, Ukraine has a strong scientific sector and highly educated population which explains why the Ukrainians granted the world with many unique technological innovations. Ukraine’s achievements range from sophisticated missiles and aerospace technologies to revolutionary discoveries in medicine. The ICT sector, which is the fastest growing in Europe, is another very promising area where Ukraine can help Norway to diversify its economy, says the Ambassador.
Second, the Ukrainian people have a high degree of resilience and a determination to meet current challenges. Last year we made notable progress in our internal reforms, stabilized the economy and achieved the economic growth despite the continuous efforts by Russia to undermine our success. And Ukraine is ready to share this experience with its partners, including in resisting the hybrid warfare, says the Ambassador.
The Ambassador has also noticed that Norwegians and Ukrainians have a lot in common. For example, Norwegians and Ukrainians are strongly attached to nature and both like to spend their holiday at their «hytte» or «datscha».
The most important change in Ukraine after the Maidan revolution in 2014 is, according to the Ambassador, that the civil society has become much more active and aware that the country’s future depends on them. People have volunteered as soldiers to stop the external aggression, helped internally displaced persons, and have been pushing for internal reforms.
– There is a sense of urgency among the citizens to transform our country into a modern and well-functioning economy, says the Ambassador.
The government has launched a comprehensive reform program. Several steps have been taken to increase transparency, reduce corruption and improve business climate. Anti-corruption efforts have the highest priority, according to Mr Yatsiuk. He says that the launch of the electronic system for declaration of governmental official’s assets, income and expenses is quite revolutionary.
The Ambassador also mentions the reduced number of permits needed to start and run a business as important. He says that issue of permits was an important source of corruption. As a result of the reform efforts, Ukraine has climbed 32 places on the World Bank’s Doing Business index over the last three years, up from 112 in 2013 to 80 in 2016.
– Norwegian businesses should be a bit bolder. The Norwegian economy needs new driving forces and businesses need to look for new markets. Ukraine is really such market and such a new opportunity, says the Ambassador.
– We live in a different world today than 10 years ago. In this world we face new challenges, but also in this world we need to look for new opportunities. I am deeply convinced that Ukraine is one of these opportunities. In the early 1990s, no one could with certainty anticipate that the Norwegian experience in the Baltic states could become such a success. Norwegian businesses were bold enough to take the opportunity, says the Ambassador.
His advice to Norwegian businesses is to identify carefully their most promising projects in Ukraine and find reliable partners. Then the advantages will pay off for Norwegian companies.
– There are already several Norwegian companies which are doing business in Ukraine. Some are also expanding. We have several successful examples within ICT, seafood and energy sector to mention a few, says the Ambassador.
– Ukraine has a great potential. The country has a highly-educated population and is rich on natural resources and fertile land. The country also has several well-developed sectors, such as ICT and aerospace. Everything is there, we just need to keep doing and implement successfully what we started, says the Ambassador, with reference to the reform process.
– With its proximity to the European Union, Middle East and Asia, Ukraine has a favourable geographic location. Ukraine is intensifying its dialogue with China on cooperating within the Silk Road Economic Belt initiative. If Ukraine could be on the path from China to Northern Europe, that would be another promising undertaking for our bilateral partnership, says the Ambassador.
– The Ukrainian government pays very special attention to create proper opportunities for foreign investors in Ukraine. We realize that the best strategy to face current challenges is to become a successful economy, says the Ambassador.
The Ukrainian government is also reforming its energy sector. This is an area where Norwegian companies have expertise and can open for new opportunities. The Ambassador say that Ukraine cooperates actively with Norway in this area.
The Ambassador stresses that the bulk of these reforms are being implemented in conformity with the European Union regulations. This means that the Ukrainian business environment is becoming closer and closer to the European Union and Norwegian business environment.
– The Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU, which creates the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, as well as the Free Trade Agreement between Ukraine and the EFTA States, provide important opportunities for expanding economic ties between Norway and Ukraine, says the Ambassador.
– There are several strong institutions that are helping our bilateral cooperation, such as the Bilateral Commission on Trade, Business and Economic Cooperation, which had its first meeting in September last year, the Nordic Environment Finance Corporation (NEFCO) and NUCC. The Embassy see NUCC as an important instrument in promoting our business ties and we are very much looking forward to cooperate with NUCC in the future, says the Ambassador.
– I truly believe in the potential of our bilateral partnership and the potential is enormous. We have to work actively together to unlock this potential, the Ambassador concludes.