On 29 October 2013, Gorshenin Institute held the III National Expert Forum “Ukraine after Vilnius”.
During the event, leading experts, politicians, local and international diplomats and civil activists discussed the threats and opportunities for the national economy after the creation of the Free Trade Area with the EU, as well as the humanitarian aspects of the European integration of Ukraine.
The Forum was divided into two thematic panels.
The first panel – “FREE TRADE AREA WITH THE EU. THREATS AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR NATIONAL ECONOMY”
The work of the first discussion panel started off with a video address by former president of the European Parliament JERZY BUZEK to participants in the III National Expert Forum.
Buzek noted that the possible signing of the association agreement with the EU was a decisive moment in the development of relations between Europe and Ukraine, while the choice of the current Ukrainian government was determining for many decades.
“Will the Summit open a new European integration chapter of the Ukrainian history? I hope. I trust. It will. The EU preconditions are very well known. Now everything is in the hands of your authorities”, Buzek stressed.
He added that holding such events as the Expert Forum, which bring together experts, representatives of the civil society, politicians and officials to elaborate on different ideas, promoted a better understanding of the current developments, including relations between the EU and Ukraine.
“The EU is not only the biggest global market, not only a very attractive institutional promise for Ukraine. First and foremost, the EU is a place where all the values Ukraine is aspiring for are being fostered. In other words, being Europeans means not only to know the price, but also to understand the value,” the former president of the European Parliament stated.
The chair of the Avanhard company’s board of directors, NATALIYA VASYLYUK, said during the III National Expert Forum that the Ukrainian agricultural business would benefit from the association agreement with the EU. “The success of Poland, which has already become an EU member, allows us to judge about opportunities for Ukraine,” the top manager said.
In her opinion, integration into the EU is not only about new markets for selling Ukrainian agricultural products, but also about new technologies and new standards of quality. “There will be redistribution on the Ukrainian market [due to the opening of the borders - editor], but this is a temporary effect. I believe that Ukraine will become a powerful economic player as time passes by,” Vasylyuk added.
She also noted that even though the main markets for selling products of the Avanhard company were in Asia, the association agreement between Ukraine and the EU would benefit the firm. “This is a sign of quality. For example, when our company passed Nestle’s test, it gave us more points on the world market,” the participant explained.
The ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of Hungary to Ukraine, MIHALY BAYER, believes that after signing the association agreement with the EU, Ukraine will not undergo any major changes. “Nothing will change in one day, or maybe even in 10 years. This is because changes happen slowly, incrementally,” the envoy said.
Bayer added that the association agreement with the EU gives Ukraine the chance to change its economy, which at present suffers from insufficient competition. “What do you export? Metals and raw materials. Yet, developed countries export products with a high added value,” the ambassador added.
In his opinion, for European integration to be a success, there is a need for the cohesion and involvement in this process of the entire Ukrainian society – of both regular citizens and business.
The trade coordinator of the EU Delegation to Ukraine, JOCELYN GUITTON, said that Ukrainian companies would be granted access to European markets right after Kiev signs the association agreement with the EU. “From the first day on, Ukrainian companies will be given access to the European market, while there will be a postponement for European companies,” Guitton, explained.
The trade coordinator added that an important part of the agreement was the transition of Ukrainian exporters to European standards. “A big and ambitious part of the agreement is about the fact that the trade agreement is conceived as deep and comprehensive. What does it mean? It means that Ukraine undertakes the commitment to comply with European standards. We will have no obstacles represented by standards. However, this means that one will have to comply with these standards,” the European representative said.
In his opinion, the association agreement with the EU is a tool for Ukraine. One can either use it or not.
Ukrainian MP, CEO of the Fortetsya All-Ukrainian Association of Medium and Small Businesses, OKSANA PRODAN, stated that Ukraine’s association agreement with the EU would benefit small and medium enterprises, which would receive access to cheap loans.
“At the moment, any investment fund says ‘too much risk’ in response to the word ‘Ukraine’. And the issue does not even have to do with a company itself. The biggest risks are political and related to the country’s risks,” Prodan explained.
She added that after signing the association agreement with the EU, the attitude to Ukrainian companies would change abroad. “The second issue is European technologies and standards… We will be able to use their tools to improve the marginality of our business,” the MP said.
She compared the EU association agreement with a glass of water. “It is either half full or half empty. It all depends on how you look at it and how you use it,” Prodan concluded.
The managing partner of the Capital Times investment company, ERIC NAYMAN, believes that the Ukrainians were used to relying on the hope that someone would come and help them overcome a crisis. However, no one but us is interested in that, he added.
Nayman also said that changes were already underway in Ukraine. In the most recent Doing Business rating, Ukraine has improved its position. However, he noted that there was no progress in key issues, protecting the rights of investors and ensuring that contracts are implemented.
“Can investments come without resolving these issues? They cannot. Can Ukraine develop without investments under the conditions of a negative trade balance? Poland also has a negative balance, but it does have an influx of investments,” Nayman stressed.
He also expressed a concern that Europe would like to use Ukrainian markets and the Ukrainians in its interest. Yet, Ukraine has not identified its own interests yet.
The government envoy to the Eurasian Economic Commission, former Ukrainian economy minister (1997-1998), VIKTOR SUSLOV, said that daily negotiations with Russia were being held at all levels in order to forestall or soften its reaction to Ukraine’s signing of the association agreement with the EU. However, they have not been a success so far.
“Russia and the CIS overall remain the major market for Ukrainian exporters. While we have a negative trade balance with Europe, it is positive with Russia. One cannot help taking this into consideration,” Suslov said.
The economist also expressed the opinion that a trade war with Russia might cost Ukraine too much since it had a huge economic influence on our country. Suslov added that in its actions Russia was guided more by political rather than economic motives. In his opinion, in response, Europe should undertake the commitment to help Ukraine if relations with Russia drastically deteriorate.
In his turn, Guitton said that the EU allocated approximately 200m euros to Ukraine every year. “This is not loans. This is EU assistance to Ukraine,” the EU representative explained.
During the III National Expert Forum “Ukraine after Vilnius”, the results of a sociological survey carried out by Gorshenin Institute in October 2013 were announced. They suggest that there are more Ukrainians who favor European integration than those who back the country’s entry into the Customs Union. As many as 47.2 percent of respondents support European integration (there were 41.6 percent of them in May), while 32.4 percent of those interviewed are for the country’s integration into the Customs Union (34.7 percent in May).
Second panel – “HUMANITARIAN ASPECTS OF THE EUROPEAN INTEGRATION”
Artist and filmmaker IHOR PODOLCHAK expressed the opinion during the III National Expert Forum that Ukraine’s aspirations for European integration were a step taken without much deliberation.
“I am afraid that European integration will become yet another empty form, as it typically happens in Ukraine. In other words, there will be a form created, but we will not be able to fill it up,” Podolchak opined.
“We can adopt European norms, but will we comply with them? This is a lot of work for the society. We speak about intentions for European integration, about some challenges. I do not see such challenges. I have more questions about how law-abiding Ukrainian citizens are and about their ability to resolve certain issues together. This could fill the form that is being created,” he added.
Podolchak also said that he saw no resources for consolidation and no “resources for joint action”, noting that the prospects for European integration might possibly promote their emergence.
Writer YURIY IZDRYK believes that it is hard to integrate Ukrainian society into European society because the two are antagonistic.
“One can integrate the thing which, at the bare minimum, has been previously assembled. How can one assemble two absolutely different societies, Ukrainian and European? I am not talking about culture or democracy. There are two antagonistic models. In the first, the law is above the society. This includes European countries. In the other one, society rises above the law. These are the countries of the former Soviet Union. This cannot be assembled,” Izdryk opined.
At the same time, the writer believes that integration is already set in motion by the interaction among representatives of different societies: “Do we have a choice? I do not know. Have we chosen anything over the past 200 years? As always, it is a fool’s fortune, so he does not know what to do with it.”
In her turn, president of the Jazz Koktebel international festival LILIYA MLYNARYCH opined that Ukraine lacked the standards of behavior. “We can complete a puzzle only when we have common notions of how things are – standards of behavior. For a long time, Europe has been trusting only in itself, only in what it can do itself. But we still believe in a fairy tale,” she noted.
Mlynarych added that Ukraine’s European choice represented a return to those values which had previously existed in the country.
“European integration is a return to those values which we have already had, which have previously existed in Ukraine. However, on the other hand, Europe is also changing a lot, and is not the same as before,” Mlynarych noted.
In her opinion, the European choice is also about what the Ukrainians can offer to Europe and about how they can be useful. The producer stressed that Europe already perceived Ukraine as its part. “Now Ukraine is no longer confused with Uganda, as it was 20 years ago. Even though it is considered to be a periphery, it is a European one,” Mlynarych opined.
Stage director SERHIY PROSKURNYA during the III National Expert Forum stated that Ukraine needed culture reform for its full European integration.
“The problem lies in ourselves. We need to implement reforms in the culture sector as soon and as energetically as possible. Otherwise, all our ‘Euro aspirations will be doomed to constant problems with Soviet repercussions in the area of culture and arts,” Proskyrnya said.
Philosopher SERHIY DATSYUK expressed an opinion that the idea of European integration would be realized sooner or later if at least one person believes in it.
“The humanity has come to the point when living is no longer interesting. Therefore, a new layer of ideas is emerging. Sooner or later, these ideas will be implemented when there is a sufficient number of intellectual people who believe in these ideas. The same is with the idea of European integration. If we cope with its implementation, it will be implemented now. If we do not cope with it, it will be implemented later. I know for sure that it will happen. This project will work out, even if it is carried by a single person. And there is at least one individual – this is me. I need Europe, I need open horizons. If I am the only person of this kind, it will happen in a 100 years. If there are a few of us, then in 20-30 years, and so on,” the philosopher explained.
“Intellectuals do not live now, they live in the futurology. They see an ideal and already live in it,” Datsyuk added.
For his part, stage director VLAD TROITSKY said that the Ukrainian society was not ready for adequate cultural dialogue either with Europe or with Russia.
In his opinion, Ukraine could fulfill cultural orders both from Europe and Russia if there was anyone in Ukraine to manage large-scale projects. “The Culture Ministry and other state-run joys are fear and terror. They are inert, corrupt, stupid and uneducated. And yet there is demand for adequate and equal dialogue with Ukraine – both in Europe and in the progressive part of Russia,” Troitsky explained.
The stage director also noted that Ukraine was aspiring for the signing of the association agreement with the EU so tensely in vain: “Nothing will change, this is an absolute illusion and is only a watered down marking of some road. And Russia will not go anywhere.”
Ukrainian MP IRYNA HERASHCHENKO believes that among the causes of existing problems in the cultural area was not only the inattention by the government, but also a lack of effort made by representatives of the art sector.
“Even though the humanitarian sector is apolitical, it also represents an ideology. And here the responsibility of participants in this sector is important. European integration is, in reality, more frequently a public relations process than a deliberate choice of Ukrainians society. The signing of the association agreement will become only a tool for changes. This is also important for the cultural sector and not only for a free trade area,” the MP noted.
Herashchenko also explained what she implied by the lack of effort made by artists. “The European values which are being formed in Ukraine do not always create demand for art. Representatives of the Ukrainian art do not always put in enough work. They are silent when one needs to speak. The voice of representatives of art should be heard and is important,” she stressed.
Rights defender SEMEN HLUZMAN stated that despite the fact that the majority of citizens were not ready to realize their European choice, the young generation was gradually recognizing that the European choice was the only reality for Ukraine to become a calm and comfortable place for living.
At the same time, Hluzman noted that Europe was calling on Ukraine to join it only because there was the “very dangerous” Russia next to Ukraine. “First of all, Russia is dangerous for itself. Russia is historically on the verge of a domestic war and an internal disintegration,” Hluzman explained.
The rights defender also believes that it is very important to understand with what Ukraine has to go to Europe: “Sociological surveys which were conducted in Ukraine suggested that the vast majority of Ukrainians are actually not ready to go to Europe. They only want to remove visa restrictions to enter the EU.”
According to a poll conducted by Gorshenin Institute, 55.8 percent of Ukrainians believe that the level of morality is low in the country.
The panel’s moderator, MARYNA TKACHENKO, read these results during the III National Expert Forum, which was organized by Gorshenin Institute.
At the same time, 33.2 percent of respondents believe that the morality level is average, and only 4.2 percent of them consider it to be high. As many as 6.8 percent of those interviewed did not provide an answer to the question.
It is to mention that the results of the survey suggest that 76.2 percent of the Ukrainians have never crossed the EU border. Around 22.6 percent of respondents visited the EU at some point, while 1.2 percent of the poll participants did not give an answer.