Diplomat: ‘Room for improvements’ in German-Ukrainian ties

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Ukraine's ambassador to Germany, Nataliya Zarudna, says her country is committed to European integration as a 'civilisational choice' and argues that German authorities should be more understanding of her nation's difficulties.

The EU-Ukraine summit held in Kyiv on 19 December failed at initialling an Association Agreement with the Union largely due to the imprisonment of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko on charges of abusing her office.

Brussels had called the sentence "politically motivated".

But Zarudna indicated that the document was not initialled due to differences over granting Ukraine a perspective for future EU membership. 

"Surprisingly enough, it was difficult for Germany to admit that we have an European identity," she said in an interview with EURACTIV Germany.

According to diplomats, Ukraine attaches more importance to the preamble of the Association Agreement, rather than to the initialling of the document.

The preamble could either state that Ukraine is destined to become an EU member, or just "take note" that Ukraine attaches importance to its European identity.

Diplomats told EURACTIV that the country most opposed to any overtures to Ukraine is Germany, while many other countries, such as Poland, were lobbying for closer ties with Ukraine before Russia could try to pull it into Moscow's vision for a Eurasian Union of former Soviet states.

"Frankly speaking, I would like to see a little bit more understanding in Germany of Ukraine, its realities and developments. And I would like them to appreciate more what has already been achieved and view Ukraine as a potential member of the European Union and treated adequately," Zarudna said.

The Ukrainian diplomat stressed that in other respects her country's relations with Germany progressed well, saying the two sides had "brought back the positive dynamics" in commerce and investment cooperation, amounting to a nearly 50% increase in bilateral trade. The ambassador also praised German aid to Ukraine in areas such as agriculture, energy efficiency and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster site.

However she said that after more than three years as ambassador to Germany, "I must admit that there was room for improvements".

Choice of Europe

Zarudna said Ukraine was dedicated to European integration despite the costs, saying "by this Association Agreement, Ukraine has pledged to implement up to 80% of the EU's acquis communautaire. It will require a lot of effort – and a lot of money."

"The majority of Ukrainians support the idea of Ukrainian integration into the EU. All major political forces welcome and support this process … For us European integration is a symbol of the modernisation of the country and society in all aspects. In other words, it is a 'civilizational' choice," she said.

While partially dismissing charges that the Tymoshenko case was politically motivated, Zarudna conceded that more generally Ukrainian democracy "is still far from being an ideal case".

The ambassador added that Ukraine was working on judicial reforms recommended by the Council of Europe's Venice Commission, which advises countries on democracy. In a previous interview with EURACTIV, the commission's director, Thomas Markert, had expressed strong criticism of the country's electoral reforms.

To read the interview in full, please click here.

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