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Henry M. Robert

On the priorities of Canada’s G7 presidency

Roman WASCHUK: “We should support the plans of Ukraine itself about reforms
1 February, 2018 - 09:52
Photo by Mykola TYMCHENKO, The Day

This year Canada has assumed the one-year presidency of the Group of Seven (G7), an informal grouping of seven of the world’s advanced economies, for the sixth time. “Canada’s 2018 G7 Presidency is an important opportunity for Canada to speak with a strong voice on the international stage, engage G7 counterparts on pressing global challenges, and make real progress on goals we all share,” the Canadian presidency website https://g7.gc.ca/en notes.

The Day requested Canada’s Ambassador to Ukraine, Roman Waschuk, to tell us about the priorities and particularities of the Canadian presidency and explain, in particular, the meaning of “progressive agenda for the presidency,” as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, presenting the priorities of Canada’s G7 presidency at the end of last year.


“Our prime minister explained it a bit more clearly in his speech at the Davos Economic Forum on January 24. It is emphasis on the role of women as full-fledged participants in development, which is mirrored in our policy of supporting global development. Progressive agenda also means emphasis on the problems of environmental protection and climatic change. As you know, the G7 summit will take place in Charlevoix, Quebec, situated at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River which empties into the ocean. This emphasizes the role of the global ocean and the ongoing changes that have an impact on the weather and our everyday life.

“Apart from these global issues, we should mention openness in trade, which is important to us. I’d like to remind you that Canada and 10 other countries agreed yesterday [the interview was recorded on January 24. – Author] to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement which promotes trade, environmental protection and guarantees cultural sovereignty. Economic problems must not be separated from the ones that are important for the life, dignity, and identity of people. On Canada’s part, we agreed to continue the negotiations for six months to keep all our partners fully satisfied.”

Should we perhaps give credit to Trump who pressed for a new fair agreement to replace the existing NAFTA?

“Every leader chooses his priorities. And we in Canada have said quite clearly that all countries, including neighbors, have a natural right to care about their priorities.”


Mr. Ambassador, you haven’t mentioned one more priority of the Canadian presidency – building a more peaceful and secure world. In what way can it be projected on Ukraine, particularly about resolving the Donbas conflict caused by Russian aggression?

“This priority is the wish of every normal individual, and we have discovered nothing radical and new here. As for Canada, we are really cooperating through our military and police missions here with Ukrainian security and defense agencies which maintain peace and order in this country. I think all of our G7 partner states are making efforts, one way or another, in this direction, particularly as part of the Normandy process. Not all will be making the same kind of contribution, but we are trying to find such a harmony and synergy between countries that each of them could apply the best instruments they have to maintain peace, particularly here in Ukraine.”

Does this mean that Canada is prepared to take part in the peacekeeping mission on the occupied territory of Ukraine if the UN makes this decision?

“We have already said that we are ready to consider this option if a framework for this mission is set. This has not been done so far. We hope the negotiations of Volker and Surkov later this week may contribute to this in some way. But there is no reason why we should rush here and put the cart before the horse.”

Sometimes countries that are not members of the G7 are invited to its summits. Does the G7 under Canada’s presidency propose or wish to invite Ukraine so that the Ukrainian question could be discussed in this circle with the participation of our state’s representatives?

“We think that the whole G7 process, ministerial meetings, and summit of heads of state may comprise various talks with partners. But no final decision has been made yet as to whether such a proposal is possible or at which stage this question can be considered.”

The US recently expanded sanctions against Russia for invading Ukraine and breaching its territorial integrity. And can we hope that Canada, which passed the Magnitsky Law last year, will also build up pressure on Russia and impose new sanctions to force the Russian government to observe the Minsk Agreements and abide by international norms?

“As you know, we don’t have to extend sanctions against Russia every six months. We fulfill our decisions, and as long as the problem exists, we will be taking action. As for increasing the sanctions, we should examine the situation as well as the available materials about the lists that derive from the Magnitsky Law. This process is underway in Ottawa, and it is too early to speak of any concrete decisions.”


Does the placing of Ukraine on the list of countries that can be supplied with firearms mean that we can receive Canadian weapons? Are any concrete steps being taken in this direction?

“I will say here as follows: there is an exchange of delegations to negotiate further military-technical cooperation.”

I read that there are plans to extend the training of the Ukrainian military by Canadian instructors until 2019.

“Yes, no doubt, this decision was made. The visit of our governor-general last week showed that our presence is considerable – Canada is taking part in training the Ukrainian military personnel along with such international partners as the US, the UK, Poland, Lithuania, and others.”


Mr. Ambassador, as you are going to be the head of G7 ambassadors in Ukraine, it would be interesting to hear from you what agenda was adopted last week after the meeting with your colleagues.

“As for Canada’s presidency, our approach is that we should support the plans of Ukraine itself about reforms, especially where our support is the strongest, where it is necessary to reiterate that commitments should be met – but it should be done in the context of broad support for reforms. We will publish our agenda for everybody to see it.”

President Poroshenko said at a press conference with the governor-general that Ukraine accepts the Canadian agenda and priorities of the presidency. What do you think of this?

“It just means an intention to present the agenda to the general public, and we, of course, hold consultations with both the Cabinet of Ministers and the Presidential Administration. So, our approach to this is that of a partner.”


Incidentally, you must have heard the recent statement of former US vice president Joe Biden that corruption is the No. 1 problem for Ukraine. And what do you think of this now that you’ve worked in this country for a long time?

“Bo doubt, corruption is a very important item on the Ukrainian agenda. It stirs up strong emotions. To fight it, new institutions were and are still being established. Corruption is not the only item on the Ukrainian agenda. Economic growth, security, social standards, and health care are also important issues. It seems to me that Ukraine, a 42-million-strong European country, does not have one problem and one opportunity – it has a lot of problems and a lot of opportunities.

“Of course, it’s necessary to choose priorities at different times, but you can’t possibly lose the prospects of overall national development because of only one issue, no matter how important it is at the given stage. Therefore, we support the establishment of the Anticorruption Court and support the new institutions: the National Anticorruption Bureau (NABU) and the Special Anticorruption Prosecution Service (SAP). But all this must fit in with the overall development of the rule of law in Ukraine. We had a meeting yesterday [the interview was recorded on January 24. – Author] with Valentyna Danishevska, the new Chairperson of the Supreme Court of Ukraine, who gave us very clear signals that she would build the judicial branch on the principles of law and values, rather than on literal formalism, and on zero tolerance towards the judges who do not meet the proper standards of behavior, abuse justice, or are open to corruption. It is a very powerful signal.

“Therefore, a broader systemic approach will produce the best results for Ukraine.”

And what drawbacks do you think are in the Anticorruption Court bill the president submitted to the Verkhovna Rada, which stirred up a storm of criticism on the part of the EU, the IMF, and other international institutions?

“This bill has a different interpretation of Venice Commission recommendations. Some of these recommendations should be taken into account more seriously in the further editing of this document.”

Could you specify what you mean?

“It’s necessary to specify the role of foreign experts in weeding out dishonest candidates. Besides, requirements to candidates are somewhat overformalized and very stringent, and it is difficult to find people who will meet all them in the whole country. There is also a question of jurisdiction. It would be logical if the whole scope of NABU and SAP activities were part of this court’s jurisdiction. And should any other questions arise, it is up to specialists to discuss.”


Experts point out that, thanks to the establishment of a Ukraine-Canada free trade area, the commodity turnover between our countries has risen by almost 60 percent. And are there any other obstacles to attracting more investments to and setting up more joint ventures in not only our, but also your country?

“We are satisfied with the first months of this agreement in force. It is necessary that customs offices, particularly Ukrainian, know when to impose zero duty. There still are instances when some officials try to ignore the agreement. But we react promptly and receive strong support from the ministry of finance. I can see some progress as far as investments are concerned. For example, on the coming Friday, January 26, I will attend in Nikopol the opening of the first solar power station completely built at the expense of TIU Canada’s investments. They are planning to further broaden their activities. I can clearly see this recovery. It seems to me that we can successfully surmount any obstacles on our path in collaboration with our Ukrainian business and governmental partners.”

And what about intensifying cooperation in the aviation sector? What prevents us from producing jointly the An-70 now that we have carried out the An-132D project?

“The point is that Ukroboronprom and the Antonov enterprise are still being restructured. Canadian entrepreneurs are closely watching it and are ready to get involved in projects. In other words, we will be watching the management and funding situation in the next few months and years.”

Is Trudeau, who visited Ukraine two years ago, planning to visit our country this year? Or there is no need to do so?

“I don’t want to arouse envy of my colleagues, Canadian ambassadors in other countries. If you look at the two past years, you will see that perhaps no other country has been visited so many times by the prime minister, ministers of defense and foreign affairs, governor-general, and commanders of Canada’s armed forces. Our ambassadorial team is ready to deal with visits, but we deserve a few months’ break to relax.”


It was reported yesterday that your country ranks as the world’s second best country by the aggregate of such determinants as investments, the development of technological processes, environmental protection, and satisfaction with life. Would you comment on this?

“This means we must continue to endeavor. We are trying to strike a balance between individual initiative and common societal responsibility that includes preserving the best elements of the past and planning the future. It is a dynamic process. We must not stop. We were always glad when strangers noted something positive in our life. But, speaking of this debate in Canada, we ourselves always find what can be improved.

“We are prepared to share experience. This week a delegation of the ministerial secretariat, composed of Minister Saienko and a number of his associates, is in Ottawa. The first comments on the Canadian and Ukrainian part are very positive. The question is how to implement programs as effectively as possible and how to streamline process in the central bodies of power so that MPs, ministers, and others can see the results of their efforts as soon as possible and, what is more, that ordinary people can feel them. So, we work in various sectors and are glad that we succeed one way or another. And we are ready to help Ukraine achieve still more.”

Mr. Ambassador, there are photographs of your country’s top governmental officials inside the embassy, and most of them are women. Can we say that there is an imbalance in your government in favor of the fair sex?

“Trudeau spoke of vesting women with power in the fall of 2015, when the government was formed. And now it is 2018, so the process is going on. Women seem to hold 60 percent of university positions in Canada. So, men will have to brace themselves and begin to study and think harder in order not to be totally outstripped. In other words, we have a sound competition.”

By Mykola SIRUK