Since 20 January, a truly European radio station is broadcasting in Ukraine, its main sponsor, Karl-Habsburg Lothringen, told EURACTIV in an exclusive interview
Karl Habsburg-Lothringen is an Austrian politician and head of the House of Habsburg. Since 1986, he has served as President of the Austrian branch of the Paneuropean Union. Habsburg-Lothringen was an MEP between 1996 to 1999. He is Chairman of Blue Shield, the organisation for protection of cultural heritage in armed conflicts.
He spoke to Senior Editor, Georgi Gotev.
You are behind a new radio station that was launched in Ukraine yesterday (20 January), a European station, as it is called, broadcasting on 100.00 FM. Can you describe it?
We now have a truly European radio station in Ukraine. There was already a radio station, but it was rebranded in such a way that now it bears the name of the EU, it has the connotation; it is known as the European station. And of course, what it really has as a goal is to create a bit of the European spirit in Ukraine, which I think is quite important, because in communications with Ukraine, a lot of things have gone badly or wrongly lately, so I think it would be very good to have an outlet there that carries a strong European message.
Does it mean that this project is designed to counter the Russian propaganda? There is a lot of talk about the European Union needing to do something about it. Are you part of this effort, or is it something you have decided on your own?
The main role should not be propaganda. The main role should be to deliver balanced information, because we shouldn’t forget that Ukraine is very much a Central European country. It has a very long European history, even from being partly in the Hanseatic League, and other organisations. Therefore, I think it is important to emphasise the strong European point that exists there. And of course the conflict that we have been seeing, the war in eastern Ukraine, and the invasion of Crimea, these questions have led to a conflict where a lot of communication went wrong. A conflict that also led to the fact that in the eastern Ukraine, due to some problems within Ukraine, most of the information to reach the Russian-speaking population was information coming exclusively out of Russia. So it is very important to have a media outlet that is covering Ukraine and that is carrying the European news.
What languages will you use?
There will definitely be both the Russian and Ukrainian languages, and we have the possibility to weigh it according to where we are broadcasting.
And are you getting some support from the EU or elsewhere? You should be transparent, or you will end up being branded as an American outlet….
Currently, the project is funded entirely by individuals. There is no state involved, there are no institutions involved. There is a group of really interested individuals that have brought it together, and we will definitely try to keep our independence, by all means.
Can you describe the media landscape in Ukraine? Is the Ukrainian media free?
There was one particular problem that is often referred to, and that is the fact that there was a restriction on the use of minority languages in Ukraine. But I think we will overcome that, because we have the possibility to broadcast in Russian, or in other languages. So yes, the media is free, but there have been problems after the change in the constitution in 2004.
Are you personally interested in Ukraine?
I have a family link to Ukraine, because part of Ukraine was very closely linked to Austria not that long ago. I think that radio is a very interesting media, with the possibility to reach a lot of people in an immediate way. So it is of personal interest to me that I have the chance to continue being active in Ukraine. I was very active there when I was an MEP, on the question of EU enlargement. I never had this reduced view of Europe being just the EU. I think it is very important to say that we have a greater Europe.