Q1. Among the countries included in the Eastern Partnership Initiative, the Ukraine is probably the most advanced in terms of its relations and cooperation with the EU. Are the benefits of the Eastern Partnership Initiative less for the Ukraine than for the other countries?
Obviously it is less. Since the Ukraine was much more advanced in it rapprochement with the European Union that any other countries of the region. From the very beginning we were a little bit concerned with the concept of the Neighbourhood Policy in general, because it was very universal in nature and because it united countries which are so different in their political structure, in the economic development and their integration process with the EU. Thatís why at least we see the positive side of the Eastern Partnership in that it singled out the eastern European countries which might in the future, if they decide to, and if the EU is ready, to become the next members. So from this point of view it is a strategic approach. But on the hand, I don't see that the Eastern European partnership as it is now can offer much to the Ukraine, because we have already competed some of the processes which are offered to us. For example, next year hopefully we will complete talks on the Association Agreement and we are including the very complicated part of it, deep and comprehensive free trade area. Then we hope to receive from this yearís Europe-Ukraine Summit the action plan on the visa-free regime, which is very complicated but we believe that it is doable. And in this Ukraine will again play a leading, trailblazer type role with the countries in the region, opening the path for others. We were told several times that exactly the Action Plan and the Association Agreement would serve as a pattern for the relations with the other countries of the Eastern Partnership. That's why we understand our responsibility and we look at the Eastern Partnership as not a complement to our bilateral relations with the EU.
Q2. Is there a risk of the EU deciding to bundle candidate countries, that is, have a group of countries such as in your region all join at once, thus potentially delaying those more progressed in meeting the EU ascension criteria?
We are not talking any dates at the moment. However yes there was a political decision that was taken in the 1990s to get the countries of the Eastern Central Europe to join the EU. Moreover at that time they set a timetable which probably didn't serve a useful purpose, so this time we were told that no timetable will be set for any country. We must base this process on performance and not on political will and on certain dates. That is why from this point of view, our road to the EU will be much more complicated than it was for our neighbors; Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria. We are aware of that and we understand that Ukraine will be a very difficult case. I don't think we will be grouped with other countries, because we are the biggest European country by territory. We are one of the few countries that can really be asset to the EU. Ukraine is one of the richest countries in the region, not just human resources, but mineral resources, natural resources, we have the best soil in Europe. We have oil gas, gold, you name it. That is why for the European Union it would be very important to keep Ukraine interested and not to leave us for twenty, thirty, forty more years. We believe that the kind of European perspective that should be given to the Ukraine which would keep us interested because so far we have to do it voluntarily and at our own expense. The EU keeps saying that it is in our own interest, it probably is, but in order to drastically change the system without spending lots of money we need for other purposes as well without having a clear set target would be a waste. That is why we need some kind of incentive for the reforms which are sometimes painful and sometimes very costly because if we know that one day that we will become an equal and fully-fledged member of the EU, all these efforts will be worth it.
Q3. In an interview with the Ukrainian News, you highlighted views suggesting that Ukrainian exports to Germany will rise if the EU creates a policy which liberalizes a free-trade-zone within the European Union. How difficult is it to meet the standards and norms of the European Union?
We counted that in order to meet one directive we are now negotiating with the EU we will have to spend $4 billion. That is only one directive and there are so many of them. Of course it is because we have a system that is, to say the least, different, nevertheless we understand that we have to do it and that is why we try to do it step by step. It would be much better if we were together on this route and not on our own. In general though Ukraine can definitely increase its exports to the EU, there is certain areas for example in agriculture, but how much the EU is prepared for that I am not quite sure. So I think that it is not a very wise decision to keep as away because that is just in the interest of a relatively small lobby group of farmers against the interests of 95% of people in the EU. The competition is in the interest of the consumers, besides be keep on hearing that there will be an imminent food crisis in the world; why not prepare for it now? Why not begin the programs which would produce enough food for everybody? Ukraine can easily not only double but maybe triple or even quadruple our production of food provided we have the right investments, technologies and equipment. As I said the soil and resources we have are really something. We nearly doubled our production in the last ten years without real big investments and it could be easily increased. So far Ukraine can export to the EU in the agricultural sector: grain, honey and dry milk for animal consumption. That is it. Recently we got permission to start exporting some eggs and probably in the future some dairy milk but in very limited numbers. After the inspection that recognized that we are up the standards. That is why the EU in this approach lacks a little bit of strategic vision.
Q4. I was interested in what you said about the role plays in a democracy. Can you tell us about the role of civil society in the Ukraine in fomenting change and creating greater cooperation?
Civil society can play a role in everything because they are many of them and they are so diversified. It was quite obvious what the civil society did during the Orange Revolution because that was not somebodyís project, it was the initiative and one of the successes of civil society. We believe we must encourage the development of civil society in every possible way because the situation is far from ideal. One of the problems that we have to face at the moment in the civil society movement in Ukraine is that there are many small organizations, but its quasi-civil society and that is one of the biggest problems.. On the other hand we have organizations that are truly NGOs which lack resources but they know what to do and they make a difference. Thatís why in the cooperative with the civil society in the Ukraine we always important to get people connected. I have never been a part of any of the NGOís but I was cooperating with them and I see a lot of difference between all of these organizations and I was always trying to support those where people are really making some socially important things. For example there was a very important organization in the Ukraine which helped victims of women trafficking and itís not only Ukrainian but it is also international organizations. There were organizations that were really concerned about the environment and environmental protection but there were also organizations which were getting money for environmental protection they were making a fuss but in reality they didnít make a difference That is why in this connection I believe that civil society is very important for the democratic development, moreover in the countries in which, in a way, recently started this process. On the other hand, it is also very important for the organizations such as the European Union to try and support these organizations which not only know how to report and get grants but which make a difference, and it is not that difficult to find out.
Thank you very much for speaking with us Madam Zarudna.