Recently, Faure-Muntian, who represents the movement “La Republique En Marche!”, arrived in Ukraine for the first time in her capacity as a member of the National Assembly of France. Among the French legislators, she stands out due to her Ukrainian origin: she was born in Kilia, Odesa oblast in 1984, and emigrated to the French city of Besancon at the age of 14 with her family. In 2005, Faure-Muntian received French citizenship, giving up the Ukrainian one. After graduating from the faculty of law at the University of Franche-Comte in Burgundy, she worked for the bank Societe Generale and companies EDF, VieBTP, and Groupama... In 2016, she joined Emmanuel Macron-led movement “La Republique En Marche!” and entered the parliament on the list of that political force after defeating in the legislative election in the Loire’s 3rd constituency Francois Rochebloine, who had represented it in the French parliament since 1988. In the National Assembly of France, Faure-Muntian serves on the Economic Affairs Committee. Since last September, she has headed the France-Ukraine Friendship Group of the National Assembly of France. Interestingly, she began her visit to our country with a warm-up of sorts as she spoke with Ukrainian journalists. Talking with her was quite instructive in many respects. Many people would like to find out how a Ukrainian was able to adapt quickly in a foreign country, become involved in politics, and get into parliament. Also, it would be interesting to get the French legislator to describe what the French think about the conflict in the Donbas and ways of its resolution, as well as the role of Russia.
“ADAPTATION WAS NEITHER EASY NOR REALLY HARD”
“I did not take any decisions at 14. Our parents did not explain anything, they just told us, me and my two younger siblings, to pack up our belongings, and we went to Besancon. Adaptation was neither easy nor really hard. We were sent to school, and the most important thing there was to learn the language. Without speaking the language, there is nothing to do there. When I began to understand the language and started to communicate with the French, I encountered a cultural barrier. There is a different culture and style of relationship between children and parents there. When communicating with my 12-to-14-year-old adolescent peers, I saw that their attitude toward parents and teachers was quite different. In France, the dialog is freer and it was glaringly obvious that there was less respect for adults. The French are completely different in their personal relations, communication, the way they present arguments. Everything is different there. I even think that having such mental baggage makes it easier for me to understand the logic and emotions of the French.”
JEAN-MARIE LE PEN AND INTEREST IN POLITICS
“I became interested in politics while I was learning French. To do this, I was listening to the news on TV, where the language is at its purest and most interesting. In France, there are a lot of debates being held between political parties and one often hears it all in news broadcasts.
“It was very interesting for me to understand the difference between the rightwing and leftwing parties in the National Assembly. I sensed the importance of this after Jean-Marie Le Pen’s entry in the second round of the 2002 presidential election. I studied at a lyceum at the time and began to compare the information received with what I perceived myself. And then I began to seriously ponder the essence of politics, why we had reached such a situation, why populism was on the rise in France. But neither the rightwing nor leftwing political forces offered answers to these questions.
“At that point, Macron appeared. We began to come together in the committees of the movement ‘La Republique En Marche!’ and developed a program that addressed all aspects of life: political, economic, and social ones. It turned out that the whole program was compiled as a grassroots project. The presence of the opposition in the National Assembly helps to discuss some issues and questions.”
“THE FRENCH KNOW LITTLE ABOUT UKRAINE, BUT WE OUGHT TO KNOW MORE”
“On the one hand, there are economic and cultural relations between France and Ukraine. Our country is interested in industries which are well-developed in Ukraine, its scientific achievements, new technologies, information industry, and good engineers.
“On the other hand, French companies are interested in investing in Ukraine.
“I am very interested in developing economic relations between France and Ukraine. One of the obstacles on this path is the fact that the French know little about Ukraine, but we ought to know more. The French should know that Ukraine is a country with its own culture and cuisine. That it is not just a piece of the former Soviet Union, but has its own identity.
“How to raise awareness about Ukraine? First of all, the existing cultural relations in the field of music and theater can contribute to this. Ukraine can offer a lot to France. In addition, we have had many associations established between Ukraine and France. I think that they need to be supported and discussed more widely in the press and on social networks.
“For my part, I will try to get President Macron to come to Ukraine next year, because this is very important.”
“THE DONBAS MUST BE UKRAINIAN. PERIOD”
“Now to the conflict in the Donbas. On that issue, all developments happen in a dialog involving France, Germany, Ukraine, and Russia. The Normandy process continues and France is interested in having peace restored in our continent, as well as in preserving the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. The Donbas must be Ukrainian. Period. And we must help Ukraine restore peace in its territory.
“With regard to the origins of this conflict, judging from the information that I have, Russia should not have intervened. Now the Kremlin supports the status quo. It has no interest in integrating these territories into Russia itself.
“It is not for me as a member of the National Assembly to judge whether the sanctions are severe enough to force Russia to fulfill its part of the Minsk Agreements.
“On the other hand, the recent elections in France and Germany have stopped the progress in resolving the situation to an extent. We paid less attention to this dialog during the elections.
“Our role is to help, rather than to solve the problem instead of Ukraine and Russia doing it themselves.
“In our opinion, Russia should withdraw from the Donbas altogether, while Ukraine, for its part, has to do more to demonstrate that the Donbas is its territory, inhabited by its people. It is not Russia that should be asked what people of the Donbas want.
“For our part, we are not going to interfere in Ukraine’s internal politics and tell you how to organize your internal politics or internal setup. It is important for France and for Europe to restore peace in our continent.”
“FRANCE AND EUROPE ARE AFRAID OF RUSSIA’S POTENTIAL REACTION”
“Have the French changed their attitude towards Russia after the annexation of Crimea and Russian aggression in the Donbas? In fact, before the latest parliamentary election, legislators were routinely connected to Russian culture. The Russian embassy organized many events and invited French legislators to them, which made the impression of the previous convocations of the National Assembly being pro-Russian.
“With new members, there are fewer such connections. Because, firstly, they were less concerned with politics before, and secondly, most of them are interested in domestic issues.
“In my opinion, it is possible to overcome populism by solving economic issues which would make the unemployment problem less acute. And it should also be noted that the French and Europeans are generally tired of the old way of doing politics.
“On the other hand, the political problem lies in the fact that Russia invaded Ukrainian territory, and Ukraine is not well known here; the press and TV write or speak about Ukraine only very rarely. And, in my opinion, France and Europe are afraid of Russia’s potential reaction, just like we are afraid here in Europe of Donald Trump and his reaction.”