20 Years of Close Cooperation with Norway
Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Pavlo Klimkin gave an exclusive interview with The Nordic Page and answered all questions about Ukraine from European integration to relations with Norway.
Klimkin described European integration as a priority for “national development and internal policy.” Ukraine’s negotiation with the European Union serves as the best tool for domestic reform
For two decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine has been dynamically evolving between the political axis of Europe and Eurasia.Marking twenty years of this unique country's independence and its diplomatic relations with Norway, The Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI) hosted a seminar focused on bilateral relations, foreign policy, and European integration of Ukraine.
The speakers from both Ukraine and Norway elaborated on how the relationship between the two countries has evolved during the past 20 years, and how it will be shaped in the future. Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Pavlo Klimkin, was one of the esteemed speakers from Ukraine.
Klimkin, a career diplomat, has worked as the deputy head of mission in the Ukrainian embassy in London and as director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' EU department in Kiev, before being appointed Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine in April 2010.
After the four-hour seminar, Klimkin gave an exclusive interview with The Nordic Page and answered all questions about Ukraine from European integration to democratic reforms.
What does Norway mean for Ukraine? What is the current level and future of cooperation between two countries?
Norway actually means a lot to us. I am saying this not as a formal statement. Norway has continuously provided very important assistance for Ukraine in different areas from legislative reforms to the shutting down of Chernobyl and elimination of landmines. All our projects with Norway were quite successful. We had and have now a very positive political dialogue and have structured a very effective diplomatic bridge between two countries. We have economic cooperation and exhaustive potential to go. Recently, we have been working on the EFTA (European Free Trade Association) agreement. From June 1 it will enter into force, and boost the investment and trade between our countries.
The detention of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has been called "politically motivated" by some Norwegian politicians and Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre. How do you respond to these accusations and how does it affect the good partnership and political atmosphere between the two countries?
First of all, everyone in Ukraine is aware of the perception of the court case against Tymoshenko. It has negative implications in relationship with the EU and other countries. But this negative image influences only the atmosphere not practical dimension of our relationships.
Secondly, I have to express that it is court decision, I cannot comment on a court decision. The court sentenced her, not for the conclusion of the gas agreements, but for violations that were carried out during the negotiations.
The government cannot influence the court proceeding. Nobody, even the former prime minister of Ukraine, can be taken out of the juridical system. Everyone should be accountable for his or her actions. So, the decision was not taken for her political activities, but rather from the controversy surrounding an expensive natural-gas supply deal that Tymoshenko signed with Russia.
Do you find the criticism by Norwegian and other EU politicians offensive, then?
On the contrary, we welcome very much their concern to bring forward the reforms in Ukraine. The precondition for the rule of law is the clear division of powers and the decision of the court has not been finalized yet.
Subjected to competing pulls from Russia and the European Union, Ukraine has been looking to the East, especially India and Pakistan, for collaboration in a large number of areas including civil nuclear energy and other areas. Is it sign of a new foreign policy era for Ukraine? If so, what will be the significance of Europe in this new era?
Not at all! Our strategic priority is future membership in EU. Because of that, we continue to negotiate. European integration is not just a foreign policy priority but a comprehensive bunch of reforms we have to implement in Ukraine. It is necessary for the development of our own country.
It is true that we have reached a considerable momentum with Asian countries like China. We have high-level cooperation through our economic projects. This is not about changing our priority in foreign policy, but it is about making use of existing opportunities and a natural result of globalized system.
Will Ukraine change its attitude to Russia and Europe if EU membership does not happen?
Russia is a very important neighbor and strategic partner for Ukraine and our relations are also key for European security. We always believe that we have to act as responsible and predictable partners. So, we have shown a considerable progress in the last two or three years. The high level political contact and considerable amount of economic turnout between the two countries are proof of this improvement. But still we have a number of points to sort out like the famous Russian-Ukrainian gas contract.
In the aftermath of the civil revolution movements in The Middle East, we remember that Ukraine was a leading country in this area. How did the orange revolution change the country? Did it meet the expectations of the Ukrainian people?
I personally believe that Orange Revolution was a concentration of the Ukrainian people's beliefs in a better future for Ukraine, and it was a struggle for democracy and prosperity. The most problematic part after the revolution was the lack of political commitments to reforms.
In the last several years there has been some talk of Ukraine rising as a strong state on the borders of Europe together with Turkey. What are the current perspectives after the recent developments and economic crisis? Where do you see Ukraine after another 20 years?
We see our future in European Union, and I believe in this on the basis of Ukrainian history and mentality which is, in fact, European. We should definitely become a member. It is the common public goal.
What does this commitment provide for investors who are interested in Ukraine?
Ukraine has already great potential for investors and this potential will be strengthened with the EFTA agreement. Ukraine will be integrated into European economic and trade system with this agreement. That will trigger an economic momentum for investors. Specifically, agriculture has enormous potential, and our service sector due to our geography and experience are all attractive areas for investment.