The EU should not freeze its relations with Ukraine as a result of the sentencing of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymosenko to seven years of imprisonment, Mykola Malomuzh, advisor to the president of Ukraine and former head of the foreign intelligence service told EurActiv in an exclusive interview.
Mykola Grygorovych Malomuzh said he was representing a 'new political elite' with solutions for Ukraine. Regarding the future of his country's relation with the EU, he spoke of a 'higher quality level' than membership today provides, and a "higher quality of the European Union itself". The interview was done with the assistance of Ukrainian Foundation for Democracy, “People First”.
He spoke to EurActiv' Senior Editor Georgi Gotev.
Could you please introduce yourself?
I was the head of the Ukraine foreign intelligence service from 2005 to 2010. I am an army general and currently the counsellor to the president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovich.
Does it mean that you are a supporter of Mr. Yanukovich?
I consider myself a person who serves his country and his people and provides advice to the country's leader. What guides me are the highest international standards, the democratic principles, the rule of law, modernity. When contradictions occur on a personal basis, I stick to those principles.
I offer him my advice and expertise in the fields of utmost importance for the country, problems of strategic importance, of political, economic nature, on security and foreign affairs issues.
You also worked under Yulia Timoshenko when she was prime minister. What is your position regarding her recent sentencing to seven years of imprisonment?
I cannot comment a court decision. I consider that we are all equal in front of the law.
But the court in Ukraine is still governed by Soviet-style procedures…
I am a jurist by background and I agree that the Ukrainian judiciary needs modernisation. Indeed, the juridical system still contains a lot of negative elements inherited from Soviet times. On the one hand, we have the juridical base, on the other hand, the juridical procedure, and both are imperfect. Cardinal change is needed, in terms of legislation, of organization, but also in terms of spirit, in order to align it with the best world practices.
There is a push by the government in Ukraine to change the electoral law, ahead of general elections due in 2012. Do you think that this should be the country's priority?
I consider that changes need to be introduced, in order to add majority elements in the proportional system. Election lists should allow voters not only to cast a ballot for a party, but for concrete representatives of this party.
Indeed, Ukraine has a voting system in which all its 450 deputies are elected by closed lists, meaning that voters only vote for parties, which may be subject to criticism. But was it a good idea to push for a change of the electoral system so close to the elections?
I consider that adding open lists for the elections would be an important step forward. If we keep the closed lists, people wouldn't know for whom they are voting.
Do you think it would be fair if the EU would freeze its relations with Ukraine over the Timoshenko sentencing?
I think EU-Ukraine relations should continue. Too many efforts over too many years have been invested in the effort, and Ukraine gradually, although not without difficulty, is moving towards European standards. I think it would be a mistake to shut the door on Ukraine. Some subjects or deadlines could be reviewed, but dialogue should go on.
A new political elite in Ukraine is already considering what should be the country's perspectives, what kind of integration it should pursue, what kind of cooperation to develop in foreign affairs, in the security field, in the fight against terrorism, in the field of security of energy supplies, to avoid situation such as in the winter of 2006 and 2009 [when gas shipments were interrupted]. I have been proposing to the president, the former one and the present one, models that would work, programmes that would bring us closer. That's why I think that cutting relations would be wrong and even destructive.
What's new in relations with Russia?
Russia considers that it now has the possibility to achieve its goals more effectively on the territory of the former Soviet states. They are particularly interested in Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus. The model of relations which we want to develop is a model of equal rights relations, in which Ukraine would not be under economic or political pressure but would feel the partnership. Another important aspect is that Ukraine-Russia relations should not impede our movement toward Europe.
If Ukraine-EU relations are put on hold, will this give Russia an advantage?
If this would happen, Ukraine would be left without an alternative. This means that our market, our economy, would turn more to the East. We would form new effective political and economic balances.
Does the eurozone crisis make the development of EU-Ukraine relations more difficult?
To a significant extent Ukraine is suffering from the fallout of crisis in Europe and the world. In 2008-2009 Ukraine experienced the negative impact of the world crisis on its economy. In my capacity as head of the intelligence I have forecast a second wave of the world crisis in 2012 and I have warned my colleagues in the EU about that.
What are needed today are not piecemeal solutions for countries such as Portugal or Greece, not just extinguishing the fire, but big transnational projects on alternative energy, on new technologies, on innovative management. That is, to transform the crisis into an opportunity for a quantitative leap in technologies, economy and living standards.
How do you imagine Ukraine and the rest of Europe in 10-15 years from now?
I expect a new philosophy of relation, on a global and interhuman scale. I expect Ukraine, with its huge resource and intellectual potential, to be an active participant of forming these major shifts in human development.
I notice you don't mention EU accession?
I consider that new models of EU integration should be considered. Like membership to the EU, but of a higher quality level. And I anticipate a higher quality of the European Union itself. Meaning that integration would occur not necessarily in its neighbourhood.
You mentioned a 'new political elite' in Ukraine. What do you have in mind?
I consider myself as representative of a circle of managers, counsellors and like-minded intellectuals, not only representatives of the secret services, but scientists, legal experts, economists, which probably represents what the country has as the best to offer. We are ready to work in close relations with partners from the European Union. And I expect the first major results of our work to become visible in the next three to five years.