The Netherlands cannot block the European Union over the ratification of the EU-Ukraine Association agreement, Ukraine’s First Deputy Prime Minister Stepan Kubiv told EurActiv.com in an exclusive interview.
Stepan Kubiv is First Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine and Minister of Economic Development and Trade. He is a former university professor and acting chairman of the National Bank of Ukraine.
He spoke to EurActiv’s Senior Editor Georgi Gotev. The discussion was conducted in Russian.
We are speaking in Brussels one day ahead of the EU summit where, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte is expected to inform his colleagues about the next steps following the referendum last April, which rejected the EU-Ukraine association agreement. But it seems that the Netherlands has no solution for ratifying the agreement. What would this mean for Ukraine?
Tomorrow, President Petro Poroshenko will be in Brussels. He is responsible for the issue you are raising and he will express the clear position of Ukraine. What I can say, as a person who has been in Ukrainian politics, in the Ukrainian parliament, and who is now in government, that if we are talking about the relations between the EU and a country, a small fraction of the EU population should not block the common strategy of the Union. Otherwise, the whole system won’t fly. From my contacts in the European Parliament and in the EU as a whole, I think this is understood. And I hope that tomorrow we will have an answer to the question.
Can you explain in popular terms what the Association agreement means for Ukraine?
Let me start by saying that Ukraine is Europe. We are in Europe. Secondly, our country is powerful and competitive and has been so throughout its history. And by analysing the milestones in EU integration, we should look at the people. It’s about a mental integration, a historic integration, against the background of macro-globalisation in which Europe is only a fraction. And when I held a meeting yesterday on the digital economy [with Commissioner Guenther Oettinger], we realised that in many aspects we are already together.
This is in the more general angle. But more concretely, perhaps using figures, as you are a former banker?
18 years ago, I was leading Ukraine’s commercial bank. When I took a walk yesterday very early in the morning in Brussels, because there was no other slot, I saw the building of the KBC bank. Well, 18 years ago, KBC, through its Polish branch, came to our bank as an investor. Today I can say that this was a wise decision. Despite the banking crisis, thanks to this cooperation, Ukraine’s commercial bank remained stable. This is about communications, about technology, about risk management expertise, about expertise, about knowledge of export-import and markets.
This is an example. Ukraine is a big country, and in IT technologies we have made our proof in being part of a global process, ranking 10th in numbers of IT specialists in Europe and 30th worldwide. In the US and here in Brussels, I (get) congratulations (for) our performance. Talking about industry, I will name three areas. The first is agro-industry, where we have our successes, but together with the EU, we need to undergo processes of modernisation. The bottom line is to add more value to our products. The second is industry. Ukraine is proud of being able to construct satellites, high-quality airplanes, and helicopters, boats, machine tools, so we are talking about science-based industry. Five days ago I was in Dnipropetrovsk, I visited large enterprises, and saw that we need modernisation, cooperation with EU countries, including in the aviation sector. The EU label would make us even more competitive. The third area is improving the infrastructure. Here our example is Poland. 15 years ago Poland applied a strategy, on the economic, but also on the philosophical level. We should follow this example. It’s about road infrastructure, it’s about energy efficiency, it’s about ecology.
Who did you meet here in Brussels?
I had series of meetings in the European Parliament and have met Vice-President [Jyrki] Katainen, with whom I had a very good first contact. Then I met with Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis with whom we had a very constructive discussion discussing issues including the fight against corruption. Then I attended an extended meeting of EU digital ministers under the leadership of Commissioners Oettinger and [Johannes] Hahn, where I said that we want Ukraine to be a success story in the digital market. I still have a series of meetings with the Belgian authorities.
European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker was saddened by the outcome of a Dutch referendum which saw voters reject a key EU pact with Ukraine, his spokesman said today (7 April).