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Ambitions of “green” kingdom

Michael Borg-Hansen: It is in our interests that Ukraine will be a successful country
15 December, 00:00

Two weeks ago the UN International Climate Change Conference was launched in Kopenhagen. Some scientists say that it is our last chance to save this planet. What objectives does this Scandinavian country pursue in organizing a conference on such a high level? What stimuli are the Danish authorities using to introduce green technology? How does Denmark assess Ukraine’s efforts to fight climate change? These questions have been answered by Michael BORG-HANSEN, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Denmark to Ukraine, in an exclusive interview given to The Day.

DENMARK’S ECONOMIC INTERESTS AND UKRAINE’S PRIORITIES

Mr. Ambassador, can you explain the reason why Denmark is so involved in fighting against climate changes and taking the burden of organizing this conference?

“It is mostly a political decision. But, of course, we have very egoistic reasons for seeking the limelight in questions like climate policy because we believe it makes economic sense to invest in this. It is going to be another kind of idealism. It is going to be a process where market forces take over. We are going to see more and more green economy being competitive. Of course, we want our share of that. So by hosting this big conference we are going to make sure that our companies and our brands so to say will be well known. But mainly it is political judgment that we would like to bring this question forward. A little like the role we took upon ourselves eight years ago during our Presidency of the EU — we pushed very hard for EU enlargement. The name of Copenhagen, if you go back some years ago, is connected with criteria.”

Yes. With the Copenhagen criteria.

“You see the Copenhagen criteria. And, of course, we hope for a Copenhagen treaty on climate that probably is not going to happen, but we still want to be helpful. Our people have a huge debate on climate policy. It is much stronger than in your country. So a politician that can answer the expectations of his voters has to have very strong profile on climate and environment and energy. So you have got an explanation.”

Can you tell our readers about Danish recipe do make country green? What incentive should the government make to succeed in this enterprise?

“Best incentive possible is that it pays economically, that there is a material interest in doing this. I have difficulty sitting here and telling you in detail how this is going to work in Ukraine. But I think that is the way forward much more than treaties, political declarations, and so on. It is going to be the market which sort of forces one in this direction simply because there is no alternative. We are going to face some almost existential questions if you are to believe the scientists. And I think most people do. So it is necessary and it should pay.”

And what about taxes?

“Taxes are part of it. … But government intervention does never solve questions completely. There should also be an incentive. I think there will be. We will see new kind of business growing up …. The EU just launched very big fund under Swedish Presidency. We are contributing to it, and the EU is very focused on Ukraine to assist business in investing in energy efficiency in this country.”

Is this fund working?

“It was just established last week (the interview was recorded on December 3. – Author). This is now way for the future.”

Mr. Ambassador, can you give your opinion about the Ukrainian government’s effort in the fight against climate changes?

“I think you lack a strong center in the government in defining climate policy in this country. It is rather split up in different agencies. So if you were to introduce, say, after the elections, a new administrative power center for this, I think it would make a big change, because you know very well [that] this question is not up on most people’s minds in this country.

“Ukraine is among the major emitters in this world but people have not really woken up to this problem. I think it would take some leadership from your politicians, some stronger structures. I mean Ukrainians are very good at selling quotas. So I think it is not a lack of imagination or a lack of intelligence. It is a simple question of getting new priorities in place. Therefore, we are looking, at least here in the embassy, with some interest how Ukraine is going to be represented at the climate summit.”

MANY EU MEMBERS SUPPORT UKRAINE’S MEMBERSHIP

Mr. Ambassador, you spoke about the impact of your country on the enlargement process eight years ago. Are the Danes equally optimistic now about the further enlargement of the EU?

“I have not seen the latest opinion poll. You know [that] my government is in favor of further enlargement. This is a complicated question. If you look at Turkey, which is in many ways a growing economy and is playing a very important role in geopolitics, you will probably see some body of opinion against. In the case of your country, I think there is a lot of opinion for. At the same time, it is also the position of my government that these Copenhagen criteria, which you know are pretty strong criteria, have to be met.

“So enlargement is not a question of doing favors. We want the European Union to come out stronger after enlargement, not weaker. This is an important message for your country. There are quite a few member of the EU, and I think of the EU institutions, that are really in favor of Ukraine becoming a member because we need Europe be complete. But it is going to take some work on the part of Ukraine.”

FEUDS AMONG UKRAINIAN POLITICIANS HURT THE COUNTRY’S IMAGE THE MOST

Mr. Ambassador, you have arrived quite recently to Ukraine. How do you get information and understand what is happening in Ukraine?

“I use the Internet. And I know Russian from University. I think it is quite necessary here. I use your daily Den’ for my Ukrainian lessons. I work at Ukraine as much as I can. I talk to people. I get to meet officials, of course. I find that one of the most interesting facets of life in your country is the lively civil society and all NGOs are active here. And these are very informative.

“Of course, you have to broaden your network as far as possible. But … my main interest here is to observe a vibrant society that is developing in a different way than some other post-Soviet societies.

“I am just beginning to understand more and more. It is a fascinating moment with the elections coming up. You know the unpredictability shows that this is true democracy. You can’t tell me who is going to win the election?”

No.

“You have your expectation, your wishes. The observers are coming now. It is going to be very closely scrutinized. So I think it is a moment of truth for Ukraine. We are looking forward to follow that.”

You are talking about moment of truth. So you have some concern about the future of Ukraine?

“Last time you had presidential elections there was a revolution. And on the part of the EU it was made quite clear that for relations to develop we will need to see truly fair and democratic elections in your country. Between people there are some cynicism and dissolution about promises made in 2004 not having been delivered, all of them. But I think especially in the second round you are going to see a real political contest. If that contest takes place on a fair basis, I think you really can move forward.”

Mr. Ambassador, you are reading British newspapers and probably you have noticed some critical articles about Ukraine. Do you share the tonality of these newspapers, which say that the EU should turn back to Ukraine or change policy towards Kyiv?

“I think the main thing which really hurts your image is all of the petty infighting between your politicians. That is really harmful. So I would say you would get this election over in a good way. And then you know a lot of people are wishing for more order, more authority. I would not say authoritarian because there is big difference there. I saw opinion polls which say that about 85 percent like general de Gaulle, Roosevelt, or Mrs. Thatcher. You know, to get proper direction democratically correct but still [have] strong leadership — that’s what this country needs. Less blockading of your parliament and some clarity and some order. If that happens and you move forward with the huge resources at the disposal of this country, which are not fulfilled, I think you are going to see very positive reaction of the EU.”

And what should the EU do to help the young Ukrainian democracy to transform? You maybe know that many in Ukraine consider that Europe lacks leadership and Brussels often looks on Kyiv through Moscow eyes.

“You have to be clear: there is difference in the size and influence between Russia and Ukraine. You have to be realistic about it. And I think whatever happens in the elections, you are going to have a leadership that will be more inclined to pragmatic cooperation with Russia, which is a natural thing all things considered. And I think that on the part of the EU it would be very much welcomed.

“Now as to your actual question: it is a two-way street and I think the first step has to be taken here. If you don’t get the positive result [that] I think everybody is hoping for, really it almost does not matter what the EU does, because it is not going to help. The only thing that really would help is that politicians here have to act together, stop quarreling among each other, and do something about corruption and reforms. Everything would follow.

“We do a lot on the part of the EU. Even a small country like Denmark — we have projects that help you modernize your veterinary system that you can export to the EU. We are helping you with your public service sector. We help you form your cadres in a modern democratic way. We are investing in agriculture and many other sectors of your country. And we would do much more if we had the right conditions.”

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