Before being appointed Ambassador of Great Britain to Ukraine in July 2006, Tim Barrow had made several visits to our country. He first traveled to Ukraine when it was part of the Soviet Union. Later, the British diplomat visited Ukraine during the Orange Revolution. Today, as the representative of Great Britain, he is in a position to analyze what is going on in Ukraine. His assessment of the situation in our country and Ukraine’s progress on the road to integration with Euro-Atlantic structures may be interesting for Ukrainian readers.
How does London assess the conflict between the president and the prime minister in the struggle for power? Will the geopolitical climate change after Blair, Chirac, and Bush leave office? Answers to these and other questions are in the following exclusive interview with Timothy BARROW, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United Kingdom of Britain and North Ireland to Ukraine.
THE ORANGE REVOLUTION AND UKRAINE’S RETURN TO THE MAP
Mr. Ambassador, you once said that the Orange Revolution was the most interesting event of your career. Are you disappointed with the revolution after becoming acquainted with Ukraine, its politicians, and businessmen?
You are right. The Orange Revolution was a tremendous event, and not just in Ukraine. Night after night viewers in Europe were glued to their television screens. It was an awe-inspiring sight, watching thousands of people braving the winter cold for weeks to have their individual voices heard. This was very striking, and I must say that in some way it put Ukraine back on the map of European consciousness. Since I’ve been here, I see the same spirit in society when I talk to the press and civic organizations. A lot of changes have happened here, not least of all the free elections that took place in Ukraine last year. And another point that is very important is that the revolution was peaceful.
But the first striking point was when I first visited Ukraine in 1988. The changes that have taken place since that time are huge. I think that Ukraine and the Ukrainian people can be proud of the changes that have taken place since that time. But, of course, I expect that Ukrainians want the reforms to continue and be successful. And that’s what is important.
What do you think about the fact that the creators and initiators of the revolution are now in the opposition, while the people and the politicians against whom they were fighting are in the government? Is this situation influencing the process of reforms and Ukraine’s progress?
Actually, President Yushchenko is still the president, and the current government was formed on the basis of elections that were recognized as free and fair. Democracy is not about being friendly to one side or another in the correlation of political forces but about diligently carrying out the will of the people.
“UKRAINE NEEDS A NATIONAL CONSENSUS”
Does the current political struggle for power in Ukraine between parliament and the government on one side and the president on the other correspond to the principles of a parliamentary system as exemplified by Great Britain?
Let me say three things. I hear a lot about different political systems, and people often compare the British system with the French system. What is important is that both of these systems enshrine the same principles and values of democracy. And whatever system Ukraine wants to develop, the most essential is that this system should enshrine those principles. Secondly, we understand in the West that change is difficult. It took a long time to develop the British parliamentary system. There are certain reasons why the dispatch-boxes between the government and the opposition are two separate lands. So, change is difficult. What we need here is a national consensus. And, for instance, seeing the opposition party’s support for the laws on the WTO that the government adopts demonstrates the possibility of that.
Do you believe that Yushchenko and Yanukovych will find some consensus, some common points? Will they be able to find it in the nearest future?
Let me give you another example. We had the Minister for Europe Geoff Hoon in town last week. And both the president and the prime minister, and everyone whom we met, stressed that in Kyiv consensus is needed for Ukraine to move closer to the EU. What I would like to see here and in other countries is the agreement on issues that are clearly in the national interests and heated political debates concerning these issues.
“THE ENLARGEMENT POLICY REMAINS IMPORTANT AND NOT ONLY FOR THE COUNTRIES IN THE PROCESS OF ACCESSION”
You are probably well aware of the views of Ukrainian politicians and parties on European integration. And perhaps you have noticed, having been in Kyiv for some time, that Yanukovych is constantly emphasizing during meetings with EU members that Ukraine’s EU prospects should be included in the new enhanced agreement with the EU. Do you think it is necessary to include this question in the new agreement so that Ukrainian society will feel closer to the European Union? We are hearing criticisms of the EU, which does not want to include the membership prospect, from ex- foreign minister Borys Tarasiuk and many Ukrainian ambassadors.
If I may, I can quote the findings passed by the European Union as of the adoption of the mandate for conducting negotiations on the new agreement: “The Council and the Commission have considered and acknowledged Ukraine’s EU aspirations and Ukraine’s European choice. The EU recognizes and welcomes the progress Ukraine has made in the consolidation of democracy.” And “the new agreement should not prejudge any possible future developments in EU- Ukrainian relations.” So, one should pay attention to these findings. Secondly, the new agreement will be an important step forward in EU-Ukraine relations. I recently saw estimates saying that through this agreement Ukraine can adopt 40,000 out of the 60,000 pages of the Acquis communautaire (legislative directives of the EU). This is why we are talking about a long-range agreement that can be a powerful mechanism of moving relations forward.
Is the article that was published in the German paper Frankfurter Allgemeine, stating that the prospect of Ukraine’s EU membership was excluded from the future agreement on France’s initiative, particularly by Minister Delegate for European Affairs Catherine Colonna, accurate? Does this mean that the UK supported Ukraine’s prospects for EU membership?
The EU has traditional views on the EU’s further enlargement. We think that this has been an effective instrument and continues to be an effective instrument. We believe this policy continues to be important, not just for those within the process, but as a strategy case for the EU enlargement process in the future. And these views are shared by the main political parties in the UK. With regard to Ukraine specifically, we believe that the door remains well and surely open. The key issue that should determine the future relations of Ukraine with the EU is progress with the reform and democratization.
Do you think that the application of new EU rules vis-a-vis Ukraine is fair? From the very beginning Romania and Bulgaria had membership prospects, and this stimulated these countries to implement reforms. Perhaps it would be reasonable to give such a signal to Ukraine to boost reforms?
Well, that is one of the reasons why I read out the Council’s conclusions. There are certain signals from the European Union. I think they should be heeded and studied. And I reach different conclusions about the accession of Romania and Bulgaria. The accession of Romania and Bulgaria, the start of negotiations with Turkey and Croatia, and the position concerning Macedonia demonstrate that the enlargement policy is continuing.
“IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO PROVIDE INFORMATION ABOUT WHAT NATO IS RIGHT NOW, BUT ALSO TO DISSIPATE CERTAIN MISUNDERSTANDINGS ROOTED IN THE PAST”
Speaking about NATO, do you see alarming signals concerning the slow-down of Ukraine’s integration with the North Atlantic alliance? On Sept. 14 the Ukrainian prime minister declared that Ukraine is not ready to switch to the Membership Action Plan. And recently one of his advisers, Kostiantyn Hryshchenko, announced that Ukraine needs to make a pause in its integration with NATO?
I have to say that it is for Ukraine to decide when it is ready and what it wants to gain. What I can say is that NATO’s doors for Ukraine also remain open. But I have the responsibility and, I think, journalists have the same responsibility, to try and explain better what NATO is. And NATO as an organization has changed a lot, and I think it is important not only to offer information about what NATO is now but also to dissipate certain misunderstandings that are rooted in the past. We welcome Ukraine’s participation in NATO operations. We want to see further reforms in Ukraine and assist in implementing them. We want to strengthen cooperation between Ukraine and NATO. And we want to make sure the right picture of NATO is given to society.
Do you think the current government is keeping its promise to create a positive image of NATO?
As far as I know, budget funds have been allotted for this purpose. But everyone can play a role in this.
POTENTIAL FOR COOPERATION IN THE ENERGY SPHERE
After his meeting with you, the Ukrainian prime minister declared that there is a large potential for cooperation in the energy sphere. What do you think about this?
As you have rightly noted, Prime Minister Yanukovych has identified energy as the main priority. You probably know that such companies as Shell, TNK-BP, etc., are working in Ukraine. This sphere includes not only the commercial aspect of energy. It also includes such questions as energy efficiency, and we have held a series of seminars on energy efficiency. These issues are very important for both of our countries. Also related to energy efficiency is the issue of climate change, and a constructive dialogue between our two countries is taking place on this question.
There are also other sectors where we are closely cooperating. The UK is the fourth-largest investor in Ukraine: 1.5 billion dollars have been invested. British exports to Ukraine grew by some 20 percent last year. Ukrainian exports to the UK rose by 30 percent last year. So, a lot is going on, and that is not surprising. Ukraine is a big country and it is close to the UK.
REFORMS TO IMPROVE EVERYDAY LIFE OF UKRAINIANS
(Laughing) Very close. Ukraine has 48 million people. Our investors and your companies are looking at opportunities. There are things that we need to work on to make investments here easy and more attractive. Thus, the reform in Ukraine is not only important for moving closer toward EU membership but also for the development of prospects in Ukraine and raising the level of the everyday life of its citizens. If, for instance, there were improvements in questions of law and the certainty of investments, that would have an impact on the economy and citizens’ everyday life.
So, you see progress in this area, and particularly an improvement in the investment climate?
I see progress in investment. But I know that investors are looking for further progress in the investment climate. Next week I will be in London attending a conference about investments in Ukraine. I expect to hear about the great interest to Ukraine and the wishes concerning the improvement of the investment climate (the two-day Ukrainian Investment Summit, March 12-13, 2007 — Ed.)
EMPLOYMENT PROGRAMS FOR UKRAINIANS AND IMPROVING VISA SERVICES
At the beginning of this year Great Britain cancelled a program providing temporary job placements for Ukrainians in the UK. Will there be other programs offering Ukrainians an opportunity to work in your country?
The program you heard about is a scheme of job placements in some economic sectors, and it ended last year. We have other programs, for instance, seasonal job placements in agriculture. I think some 3,500 Ukrainians may come to the UK this year on that program. We are constantly reviewing our temporary employment schemes. But what we see in general is that travel between the UK and Ukraine is increasing each year. Last year there was an increase of 11 percent. And the British Embassy is trying to make sure that the system we offer and the service we offer to Ukrainians is going to be as good as we can make it. We offered improvements last year, including putting applications for visas online. And we are always looking for what else we can do.
Do you expect a visit by Tony Blair in Ukraine before May, or Yanukovych to the UK?
I don’t have any information about this, but we had a good meeting between the two prime ministers in Davos.
Did Yanukovych make a good impression on Blair?
It was a nice meeting.
Don’t you find it an alarming tendency that former high-ranking officials from leading European countries find jobs in joint Russian enterprises? Ex-Chancellor Schroeder became the co-head of the Russian-German consortium — the operator of the North-European Gas Pipeline — and last year ex-General Secretary of NATO George Robertson became the co-head of the Board of Directors of TNK-BP.
I think that when politicians end their careers, it is their own business where they work, not ours.
“WE SPEND MORE AND MORE OF OUR TIME ON WORKING ON QUESTIONS THAT DIRECTLY CONCERN OUR CITIZENS”
What impact did the Litvinenko case have on relations between the UK and Russia?
Well, there is an investigation of the circumstances surrounding Litvinenko’s death. And that is all that can be said concerning this question.
What will be the geopolitical order when Blair, Chirac, and Bush leave office?
This is a very interesting question, because it is about how much politics depend on the personality of a leader. But in my perspective, this question concerns something else, and that is, how we see changes in the priorities of the international political agenda over time. I have been working in foreign policy for more than 20 years. And there have been big changes, and they have nothing to do with personalities. I now work on things that I think ambassadors have not worked on before so intensively. But climate change has become the current question, both in domestic policies and in international debates. When Geoff Hoon was here last week, he spoke at a conference on human trafficking. And when I go back to the UK for a conference in two weeks, I will be talking about the avian flu problem. And I find it encouraging and positive that we spend a lot of our time dealing with specific concrete issues that are of direct concern to our citizens. And that is what foreign policy is all about.