Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy, hinted Monday (1 December) that the EU executive was aware of the surge of Russian propaganda against the background of the Ukrainian crisis, and that it had some ideas about how to deal with it.
Hahn met with the Brussels press to debrief following his visit in Ukraine on 27 and 28 November, which coincided with the first session of the new Ukrainian parliament and the re-election of Arseny Yastenyuk as Prime Minister.
EURACTIV asked Hahn how he was planning to deal with Russian propaganda, which targets not only Ukraine, but also Western societies.
“We are fully aware of this increased, let’s call it, ‘communication efforts’ by Russia and we have some ideas to deal with that,” said Hahn, who took care to replace the term “propaganda” with a less negative term.
The neighbourhood commissioner said that a difficulty to deal with the challenge was the fact that unlike in Russia, most of the broadcasters in the EU are privately owned. “But nevertheless, we will be in contact”, he added.
Hahn also said that over his visit, he had the opportunity to meet with leading media representatives and media companies in Ukraine, and that the issue was discussed.
“In Ukraine, there seems to be no real danger that this kind of propaganda might have an impact. The last year has certainly contributed (to the fact) that Ukraine and also Ukrainians have more than ever defined themselves as a nation,” said Hahn, this time making use of the term which he first had tried to replace.
Hahn said that it was expected that the new Ukrainian government is approved today (2 December), that its pro-European course was clear, and that it was expected to be approved in parliament by a “huge majority”.
Hahn said that “everyone”, the citizenry, but also the EU, wanted the promises of the pro-European leaders of Ukraine to be kept.
According to Hahn, the IMF has been carrying out an evaluation with a view to releasing its next two tranches of support, to the tune of $2.7bn (€2.16 billion).
He also said he was able to confirm that the second tranche of the second macro-financial assistance to Ukraine will be delivered shortly, and that there would be an announcement by Economic and Financial Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici later this week.
He said that EU is not exactly a donor, but a “friendly investor”.
“It wants something in return”, he said, not only in quantifiable terms, but by giving perspective to people, or transforming the brain drain into “brain circulation”. Ukraine should not be a recipient of aid, but a country where investment is possible.
At the beginning of next year, Hahn also said that the Commission would organise a conference, which will not be called a “donor conference”, but a reform conference.
The Commissioner also said that he had committed to visit Ukraine at least once in a quarter.
Hahn also said it was important that Ukraine addresses the issues seen by the EU as top priority, stating “everything related with rule of law, (to) fight against corruption”.
He also stressed that it was not only about adopting the necessary legal provisions. “It’s also about implementation. We need to see visible and sustainable results that the fight against corruption is indeed a successful one. The same applies on decentralisation – it’s about implementation, training of people, adequate staffing etc.”, he said. Decentralisation is a commitment the Ukrainian leadership took in order to address the problems of the regions, some of which resent the central power of Kyiv.
Hahn said that Brussels wanted to see a “roadmap of reforms” with timelines and the first proofs of what has already been achieved. “It’s a kind of confidence-building measure”, he said.