“Future of the European project depends on relations between Kyiv and Berlin”

Ambassador of Ukraine to Germany Pavlo Klimkin thinks that Europe has never had political will to divulge its vision of Ukraine’s European future

The present state of relations between Ukraine and Germany can only be described as chilly. This is indicated by the long absence of contacts between the capitals of these countries on the highest level, and also by resignation of heads of Ukrainian diplomatic institutions in Berlin. And if in April 2008, the then ambassador Ihor Dolhov was fired because Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel blocked the Membership Action Plan for Ukraine at the NATO Bucharest Summit, this spring, Natalia Zarudna was removed from the post for her failure to explain to Berlin officials that the Tymoshenko case is not an example of selective justice. At the end of June, Deputy Foreign Minister of Ukraine Pavlo Klimkin was appointed as the new Ambassador of Ukraine to Germany. He agreed to be interviewed by The Day quite fast, and invited our journalist for a breakfast in his residence in Berlin. By the way, this is one of ten residences of Ukrainian ambassadors abroad that are owned by the state. The Ambassador treated the author to omelet, sandwiches, and coffee with pastries, was very happy to receive a few copies of The Day, and started the interview by refuting the rumor that he supposedly did not want to go to Germany as an ambassador.


“This rumor is still being spread, and I was quite surprised when I found out it reached Germany. A lot of my close German friends asked me if I wanted to be an ambassador. With all due respect to my colleagues, I think that now this post is crucially important for Ukraine. I am sure that relations between Ukraine and Germany are the relations between two large European countries. The future of the European project depends on them a lot. And there is no doubt that the dynamics of Ukraine’s integration into Europe also depends on these relations. Not a single important decision in the EU is made without Berlin’s participation. That is why there is not just one challenge in front of me, but a whole set of them. That is why Berlin is one of the most interesting areas of diplomatic service today.”

Why was your actual arrival to Berlin delayed so much?

“I was responsible for the completion of negotiations on the Association Agreement, and headed the delegation for the past two years. The agreement was initialed on March 30. I have also been working on the preparation for the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul. Many things had to be done for it to be a success, for example, we had to begin the construction of a neutron source research facility in Kharkiv. And this object is literally unique, it is the first of a kind to be built in Europe. It will give Ukraine the opportunity to conduct extremely interesting scientific research and acquire a broad spectrum of isotopes.”

But we still have negative memories of Kharkiv in context of relations between Ukraine and the US. Because back then Ukraine rejected a favorable project of nuclear power plant construction in Busher, and promises were all we received from Americans.

“I remember Busher very well. But this time we have secure guarantees. Kharkiv Physics and Technical Institute, where this source is created, made contracts that clearly define what needs to be done for the construction. These contracts are the very guarantee themselves. Besides, we have a memorandum of mutual understanding on the political level, and the letter by the US President Barack Obama. In this case you can sense the spirit of determination, I am sure this project will be a success.”

By the way, do you think the quality of cooperation between Ukraine and the US depends on who will be the next head of the White House?

“I think that Ukraine will remain an important country for the US in any case. Nowadays, we observe the shift of American external politics interests towards Asian and Pacific regions. This is a quite logical process, and I do not think it is a secret that the whole Europe, and Germany in particular, are worried by the gradual decrease of attention. However, support of reforms in Ukraine is one of the priorities for both the United States and the European Union. That is why Ukraine will certainly be not set aside.”


And do we see similar support from Germany?

“Even though it is not proper for me to say this in the present situation, I must point out that compared to other EU countries, Germany provides Ukraine with substantial support in all areas: from energy sector and public service projects to creation of export promotion system. By the way, this is done not only on the governmental level, but on the agrarian level as well; let us remember Bavaria, for example. However, I would be glad if Germany supported Ukraine as much as it supported Poland during its EU pre-integration and integration processes. There are a lot of things to work on in this area, but we definitely cannot complain about the absence of support.”

But it is impossible to say the same about contacts on the highest political level.

“First of all, contacts on the political level are still being kept, there are a lot of ministerial visits and meetings. I have just come back from Kyiv, where I participated at the meeting of Ukraine-German Agricultural Forum, and by the way, I came back with new ideas and tasks.

“I think the contacts will definitely be more active after the elections, because the matters of European integration require political drive and everyday work.”


They also require support from German business. Is this support present today?

“German business is rather active in Ukraine, and I can say that as of today, a decision to create the German Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine has almost been made. Because German business is interested in creation of a new powerful structure that would help it promote its interests.

“About two weeks ago I was introduced to results of a very interesting research. It presented a list of 10 countries, which German business is the most motivated to work with, because of their impressive prospects of future development. And Ukraine is on that list. That is why promotion in Ukraine is very significant for German business. At the beginning of this year, a survey of German business representatives was conducted, and according to it, almost 70 percent of German companies in Ukraine said that their business went well there. Of course, as an ambassador, I would like for this number to be 99 percent, but even 70 is quite satisfying against the background of comparison of business climate and prospects in Ukraine, and for example, Asian countries.

“At this point we need to expand the scope of activity of German business. The trade turnover with Germany for 2011 equals to more than nine billion dollars. This might be a small number for Germany, but for Ukraine it is more than six percent of total trade turnover, and this number can be increased even more: there are opportunities for it, they just need to be used in a more effective way. For example, we need to participate in numerous fairs, and help medium-sized German companies enter Ukrainian market, since large ones tend to be able to do that by themselves.”

Perhaps, that is what the Association Agreement is for, but Germany opposes it.

“First of all, German business does not oppose the agreement. Moreover, a few days ago, Eastern Committee of German Economy made one more statement about the importance of implementation of visa-free regime with Ukraine. And this statement drew a wide response in Germany. German business is very interested in the conclusion of this agreement, since it has prospects to operate on the market with rules and standards similar to those of the European Union, and maybe in future, on a joint Ukrainian and European market. Concerning the agreement, I am always trying to explain that the future agreement is not just one tool, it is a whole variety of tools that will help Ukraine come closer to European integration and apply European legislation and standards in all spheres of life in Ukraine. Germany understands this, and the decision on further dynamics of Ukraine’s European integration will be based on results of the parliamentary elections. The very best option would be for the agreement to be ratified in the near future, either at the end of this year, or at the beginning of the next one, as soon as all the technical issues are settled and the body of the agreement is translated. Later, and this is very important, we could have moved to a temporary utilization of the agreement. Very few people know this, but Lisbon Treaty allows to utilize not only the economic part of the agreement, but political and sectoral ones as well. A lot of German politicians that I have contacted treat this idea positively, since they understand that formal ratification of the agreement might take from three to five years, and nobody is willing to lose this much time.”


You said once that Europe does not know what to do with Ukraine. But do you see Europe’s desire to understand what is going on in Ukraine?

“Yes, I did say that Europe doesn’t know what to do with Ukraine, but I did not mean it in the sense that Europe does not have the tools of cooperation with Ukraine, but that as far as I understand, Europe has not had a political will to divulge its vision of Ukraine’s European future. When I talk to politicians not only in Berlin, but in Brussels and other European Union capitals, the absolute majority of them unofficially speak about seeing Ukraine as a future member of the EU, and this is not an exaggeration. It is a truly curious phenomenon. When you talk to politicians privately, they speak rather openly about the prospects, but they say with the same openness that they cannot come out to their electors with such slogans. And the problem is not that they are tired of constant expansion, they are more concerned with European crisis, which, I am sure, will be over.

“It is utterly important for Ukraine to demonstrate the effective ways of the agreement’s implementation, the safe way of visa-free regime operation with the maximum level of mutual trust, the way integration projects will function.

“During the past few years Europe could not find effective tools of cooperation. Today they have the European Neighborhood Policy, which is constantly improved and updated. Eastern Partnership was also created. And this is the clear evidence of the fact that the EU is in the process of continuous adaptation, which is the result of the fact that at the moment the Union cannot clearly state: our common goal is Ukraine’s membership in the EU. As soon as we say it, cooperation will become much easier. And at the moment we are moving towards it, while being guided by the Tao logic: the path is what matters the most, and the goal will be reached eventually.”

And whom do you mean when you say “we”: Ukrainians and Europeans, or Ukrainians only?

“Of course, I mean both. It is important to say it together, to make it a common political commitment, the way it happened with the Balkans. After that we will find it much easier to work on many practical issues.”


Your colleague, now former ambassador of Germany to Ukraine Hans-Juergen Heimsoeth said in his interview to The Day that it is important for Ukrainians to realize what they want. Should Ukraine prove more that it wants to be a part of Europe?

“I think that Ukrainians already realize this very well. And this argument, that Ukrainians still do not fully understand if they want to be a part of Europe or not, sounds like some kind of excuse when it comes to not adopting important strategic decisions. By the way, it is not Europe that we strive to be a part of (this is where we actually are, and not only in geographical sense), but it is the EU. Let us look at any public opinion survey. The majority always supports the EU membership. By the way, there is a curious tendency, which was noted by Germany. When in the 1990s Ukrainians were talking about entering the EU, they were looking for a certain level of prosperity. But now, more and more Ukrainians who have been to Europe, value the opportunities that are provided by the EU and clear rules that function there. The reforms that are being implemented in Ukraine at the moment are important in this very context for reaching of European standards. And so is the fundamental principle of solidarity, which is the best guarantee of safety for all member states, and for Ukraine in the future in particular.

“European project has to develop in accordance with development of the world around it. And if European project is at least one step ahead of this development, it will continue being a successful center of gravity and an example of a kind. European project has this chance, and Ukraine’s wish to integrate into the EU is an example of this gravity.”

Is the EU capable of overcoming the existing global challenges? Will the recent reforms, presented by a group of the EU foreign ministers and elections of the EU president aid it in this mission?

“I like the comparison that was made by one of China’s leading politicians in his speech on the importance of reforms: he told about a frog that is sitting in hot water, and the question is if it manages to jump out of it, or not. So, there is no other way out, but to succeed. And discussion of certain propositions will make sense only when it is clearly known if the future EU agreement project is supported by its member states. Since the key challenge for the EU is not the question of direct election of the president, but the fundamental asymmetry: existence of single currency and absence of coordination of social and economic policies. I personally think that the solution to this matter can be brought nearer by borrowing finance models that function in federal countries. But let us wait for the further development of the discussion.”

Some Ukrainian government officials say that Ukraine needs to unite efforts with Russia and offer their own civilization project to counterbalance the European one, which “rots and is bogged down in sodomy,” etc. Would this benefit Ukraine?

“I think that a discussion that instead of cooperation presupposes contraposition of Europe and Russia as options of Ukraine’s development, leads to nowhere. It damages relations with Russia and obstructs our European integration. We live in a world where relations with all partners are crucial, and nobody stands in our way of building these relations in an effective, consistent, and dynamic way. We can move towards European integration, and develop (I want to stress this, not just preserve, but develop) relations with other key partners.

“So, the very discussion, based on principles of contraposition instead of cooperation, stands in the way of any progressive development, but not only European integration.”


You started communicating with various representatives of German elite. Do they understand your arguments about the situation in our country and the necessity to aid the formation of Ukrainian civil society through exchange programs and simplification of visa regime?

“They do understand this. So, what is the problem? Germany and Europe in general do not know enough about Ukraine yet. And one of our tasks should be discrediting of existing cliches about Ukraine. Like the one that Ukraine is divided into East and West, for example. We want to show modern Ukraine in Europe. And one of my ideas is to create Ukrainian House or Ukrainian Institute in Berlin. Actually, we have to create a chain of such institutions in all key places all over the world. There is a lot of interest in modern Ukraine, its art, and its people, after all. Germans really lack the picture of modern Ukraine’s diversity. Another point: today Ukraine remains a very important country in political and economic context, but when it comes to human exchange, for example exchange of students, we still have huge potential in this area. I try to promote quality activization of such exchange. Actually, why don’t Ukrainian students come to study in Germany? Maybe, the reason is their lack of knowledge of the German language? The level of teaching provided by schools is insufficient. Classes in Goethe-Institut are quite expensive. And I tell the German side today, why don’t you decrease the fee for German classes? A few hundreds of euros are quite a large sum for Ukrainian students. And if the prices were two or even three times lower, perhaps more school and university students would come to Goethe-Institut, learn German, and then go to study at German universities. It would benefit German educational system as well as exchange between Ukrainian and German business. And this argument of mine is accepted as a reasonable one. So, we actually can do many things. We have a lot of relations with partnership towns, which actively function instead of existing on paper only. We have close relations with many federal lands. For example, days of Ukrainian economy in Bavaria are going to start on November 27. We are also going to establish relations with other regions.

“So, there are a lot of contacts, but their potential for such countries as Germany and Ukraine is very far from being exhausted. A big number of Germans are not indifferent to Ukraine. And I will take a risk and say that a lot of them feel that Ukraine is similar to Germany. For example, it is similar in history, since both countries lived through hard periods and were influenced by other nations. German people feel that Ukrainian traditions somewhat resemble those of Germany. Mentality, openness, and caring for others are the things that unite these two countries. After all, even national cuisines are similar. That is why Ukraine is not a strange country for Germans.

“And Germany is not strange for us either. I mean, we feel a kind of friendly understanding of each other. And this mutual understanding should grow into cooperation not only between the countries, but between the societies as well. This cooperation will benefit European integration. In what way? Let us remember the way Germany supported Poland’s integration: almost all reforms that caused further modification of Polish institutions in compliance with European standards were implemented through the EU projects, including the bilateral projects with Germany, which were greatly supported by German business. I wish that not only Germany, of course, but Germany in the first place would support Ukraine on its way to European integration. And in order for this to happen, we need a wide network of interpersonal ties.”


And what about the usage of Ukrainian community’s potential in Germany? Why is Ukrainian cuisine not promoted there?

“This is a very good question, by the way, considering there is a large community of Ukrainians in Germany. According to the most modest calculations, about 10,000 of Ukrainians live in Berlin, and over 100,000 live in Germany in general.

“Ukrainians are very active and well-organized, they generate a lot of ideas. There are a few Ukrainian organizations here. For example, I was pleasantly surprised by our celebration of Ukraine’s Independence Day. A few weeks ago we gathered a young team, which mostly consists of Ukrainian students, and heard quite a lot of brilliant propositions from them on the ways to promote Ukraine here. The discussion on the embassy’s Facebook page is really interesting and creative as well.

“And what comes to Ukrainian cuisine, I accept this reproach in a positive way. I heard that once there was a Ukrainian restaurant here. Maybe, another one will appear in the near future. Because it is also hard to promote the image of Ukraine without its cuisine, because all the majority of Germans know about it is limited to borshch and varenyky. But in fact, the variety of dishes of Ukrainian cuisine is similar to that of Germany. We need to show the diversity of our traditions to overcome the stereotype of ‘borshch and varenyky,’ but of course, we need not to forget about these two dishes too.”

And how do we step outside of cliche boundaries, when Germans associate Ukraine with Klitschko brothers only, and hardly know anything about our culture and literature?

“Klitschko brothers became a legend in Germany, and this is wonderful. But there are a lot of Ukrainians from other areas that became famous here too. Speaking of literature, Ukrainian writer Adrukhovych comes to Germany these days, and he will perform readings of some of his works here. Ukrainian literature becomes more well-known here. Besides Andrukhovych, we should also mention Serhii Zhadan, Oksana Zabuzhko, Taras Prokhasko, and Maria Matios. By the way, a book of the latter is being translated into German now. So, now more than just one or two authors became known here, and we are going to promote the appearance of Ukrainian literature at fairs in Leipzig and Frankfurt.

“Let us talk about Ukrainian football players. They are very popular here. Voronin plays for Fortuna Dusseldorf. And Tymoshchuk is one of Bavaria’s key players. This means that quite a lot of Ukrainian names are well-known here. But the idea is to represent modern Ukraine that is not limited to a number of certain names. Today the whole world competes in the best representation of country’s image. We have to show that we have a modern European brand, capable of representing modern Ukraine in modern Germany. That is why we do not want to represent Ukraine here time after time, we want it to be constantly present here.”


In what way the knowledge of German language assists you in your work?

“In the present-day environment English becomes a lingua franca, which is quite natural. But it does not mean that other languages are less important. When I started working with Latin America, I realized I should start learning Spanish, so that was what I did. The more languages a person knows, the better.”

It seems that learning Ukrainian is quite a challenge for many people in our country.

“This is a very serious issue, in fact. We are thinking about the ways to learn Ukrainian here. There is only one Ukrainian language class, in Greifswald. In Berlin, for example, lectures on Ukrainian literature are read, but there are no permanent Ukrainian language classes here. And we are thinking about the way to organize a real course of Ukrainian for students (there are a lot of German students willing to learn Ukrainian, by the way). Our language should be studied in Germany.”