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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Olivier VEDRINE: “Ukraine needs to get rid of the Soviet legacy”

18 June, 2013 - 09:51

The rector of the Continental University, lecturer of the European Commission (Team Europe), editor-in-chief of the Russian edition of La Revue Defense Nationale magazine participated in the international conference The Visegrad Group and the European Integration of Ukraine during the Polish Presidency of the Group. During his short presentation, the audience applauded his statement that signing of the Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine will put a definitive end to plans for restoration of the USSR. The Day interviewed Vedrine during a break.

We know that former President Nicolas Sarkozy was very supportive of Ukraine’s European integration. What can you say about the position of President Francois Hollande?

“President Hollande, like the rest of Eastern Europe, is more proactive concerning integration of Ukraine towards the EU. He talked about it when he had a meeting with the Polish president. He really believes in Eastern part of Europe. And that includes Ukraine.”

And concerning the conditions of signing the Association Agreement in Vilnius, are there disparities between him and Angela Merkel who insists that Tymoshenko must be released first?

“There are no differences. We do not have any differences with Germany because this is a policy of the EU. We have one policy concerning new Agreement and enlargement, which includes the same view among member states.”

And how can you explain that there are no contacts, meetings between heads of states and government of our countries?

“You are right. I think we need to build contacts between Paris and Kyiv and Paris and Moscow. But because of our old mentality, maybe of our old geopolitical views, when we talk about the East we talk with Moscow. And now we understand that Ukraine is independent and we also have to talk with Kyiv. For example, now we talk more and we include Kyiv in our geopolitical analysis. You know, your state has been independent since 1991 and the diplomacy of France now attaches more importance to your development. But that is a time-taking process and we really needed time to understand what happened, to understand the new role of Ukraine in Europe. Now we understand it. And I am sure you are right that we need to underline the important role of Kyiv and Ukraine for Europe and this bridge or, if to put it in other words, the border between the EU and Russia. In fact Ukraine is a connection between Western and Eastern Europe, because for me Eastern Europe is Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia, and Central Europe – Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. And you are the door or the bridge between the Western part of Europe and the Eastern one. If the European Union understands and accepts Ukraine, we will understand the entire Eastern part of Europe and finally accept the entire Eastern part of Europe.”

Does the EU, or to put it in other words, Brussels understand the importance of including Ukraine and signing the Association Agreement as the first step in this direction?

“We are for such perspective. At first I’d like to underline that Europe is open to Ukraine. And we still talk to Ukraine and expect that the Agreement will be signed. Europe is open to Russia as well. Each year we have a EU-Russia summit.”

But both sides have been attaching less and less importance to such events.

“Yes. But we are open. We are not against. But with Ukraine we are at the next stage: we are talking about the Agreement. And you are also in Eastern Partnership Initiative. You are very-very close to us.”

What does EU-Ukraine Association Agreement mean for Europe in geopolitical terms?

“It means recognition of Ukraine as an independent state, a part of Europe. And Ukraine can be like Serbia in the process of European adhesion.”

Is the EU right when it pays much attention to release of Tymoshenko without considering the complexity of this case, which is now an obstacle to signing the Agreement?

“That is a difficult question. This EU’s position that Tymoshenko must be freed is shared by the majority of countries in the EU.”

During the discussion on International conference “V-4 and Eurointegration progress of Ukraine under Poland’s presidency in the association” you said that signing of EU-Ukraine Association Agreement means dead end to Soviet Union which Putin is now trying to restore. Would you mind to explain your point?

“This is a very interesting question. So I’d like to point out two aspects. First of all, I think you are to destroy the Soviet heritage in Russia and in Ukraine as well. This means you are to destroy the Soviet way of thinking. In Ukraine you are at the beginning of this. In Russia, it is different. But for me the Soviet Union is the worst system in the world. This system committed genocide against its own people. If the former countries of the Soviet Union want to be in the 21st century, they are to destroy the Soviet Union heritage mentality. And I think if Ukraine comes gradually closer to the European Union, this will be a very good thing to do. And there will be the impact to destroy the heritage of the Soviet Union thinking.”

And the second aspect?

“If Ukraine signs the Association Agreement, it will have a good impact on Russia as well as, on the establishment of the Customs Union. For some families in Russia have cousins in Ukraine and when Ukrainians say ‘we have new roads, new hospitals, more human rights and free election,’ the Russian cousins will say ‘hey, I want to go to Ukraine’ and if this includes the new middle class in Russia, that will be very good for the democracy in Russia.”

Even now there are Russians who are coming to Ukraine and apply for asylum and citizenship…

“And this is very good for democratic Russia. And that would be really the end of the Soviet Union.”

You mentioned that the Soviet Union was the worst system ever. But former Czech President Vaclav Claus once said that the European Union is the same as the Soviet Union. What can you say about this?

“I would say to him that we do not have Archipelago Gulag, we do not kill people, and we do not have big KGB, we can buy everything in our shops and markets. When we have crises we take care and render financial help to poor people. We have civil parties and alternative election.”

Mr. Vedrine, why have you come to Ukraine or what have brought you here? I have seen that you have frequently visited Russia as lecturer.

“I really like Ukraine and Russia. The first time I came to Ukraine was in 1994 when I was very young student. The second time I came here was in 2012. I was invited by your government, your president, and prime minister. Then I saw Arbuzov who was at that time the president of the National Bank. I wanted to build a European University in Kyiv. I try to do this now with the help of the Drahomanov University. Ukrainians can get there MBA, BBA with the help of Ukrainian professors and foreign ones who come from the EU, Canada, Russia, and other states. There will be representatives of universities, as well as European and international institutions.

On the Internet I have seen your photos with the president, prime minister, and other Ukrainian officials. Do you have impression after meeting with them that they are eager to join EU?

“I think that they are for the EU because they want to be independent. And they know that independence of Ukraine will be guaranteed by the EU.

“I want to add that for me Ukraine’s European adhesion means a united Ukraine, without divisions, and the respect to the needs of the people.”

By Mykola SIRUK, The Day