Tymoshennko chooses EU for first foreign visit (Interview with EuroNews)
"The question of energy supply diversification is also a question of political independence... Ukrainian business is protected and, in general, is weak and loss-making... NATO membership divides us... The revolution ran into so many problems..."
After the victory of the Orange coalition in last year`s general election in Ukraine, Yulia Tymoshenko has become the country`s prime minister. Her first foreign visit was to Brussels, where she has held a series of meetings with European leaders. In our interview, Tymoshenko presents her view on the building of the Ukraine-EU relationship, how it is progressing, and how it is seen on both sides.
EuroNews: "Prime minister, welcome to EuroNews. It`s your first overseas visit as Ukrainian prime minister. Does it symbolise your country`s desire to integrate in Europe?"
Yulia Tymoshenko: "Absolutely, because the road to European integration has been one of our national priorities for a long time. Around 70 percent of Ukrainians support this strategy, and in this context my visit here is easily understandable".
EN: "When does Ukraine hope to join the EU?"
YT: "I think what is really essential is to build an integration pathway, to build new norms and standards in Ukraine that meet EU benchmarks. The government`s new programme, written in 15 days and sent to parliament, details the internal policies we need to prepare for EU membership. Beyond that everything depends on whether or not we can be a good partner. The EU`s problems are diminishing, and that makes it possible to open Europe`s doors to other new members".
EN: "Ukraine and the European Union have much in common. Both depend on Russia for energy supplies. Can this dependency be reduced?"
YT: "For Ukraine the question of energy supply diversification is also a question of political independence, and our freedom. Because of this all projects connected to energy diversification in Ukraine also fall into the overall EU system of national priorities. This means we can be useful partners in this sector, in the construction of new transit corridors for gas, for example the transcaspian and trans black sea routes. They`re essential for Ukraine, and the EU. We could be partners in the creation of a consortium united around the base of the Odessa-Brody pipeline, which could become an alternative corridor supplying Europe with petrol. We are considering together alternative nuclear energy production, perhaps using European expertise. We are talking about synchronising and uniting our electrical grid systems, all of which is interesting for Ukraine and the EU. Maybe it`s not possible to see Ukraine joining the EU in the short term, but clearly there`s systematic progression towards integration in several areas already, and Ukraine is a desirable and necessary partner".
EN: "Can we say that Ukraine`s World Trade Organisation membership is now a done deal, and you could literally join within a week?"
YT: "Yes, and we`re very happy that we`ve satisfied all the qualification procedures. We had been waiting for this for a long time, and we hope it will happen between the fifth and seventh of February".
EN: "Once in the WTO do you think Ukraine`s businesses will be able to resist the increased competition from western and Asian companies, with whom they`ll have to deal on the same conditions?"
YT: "Ukrainian business is protected and, in general, is weak and loss-making. Real competition improves business practices and makes the business class stronger. I want Ukraine`s entire commercial sector to be strong, modern, and competitive. WTO membership gives Ukraine this chance. You can stay out of a market system, but at the price of falling behind world trade developments".
EN: "What are the advantages of NATO membership?"
YT: "This is a complicated question for Ukraine. While 70 percent of people support EU membership, NATO membership divides us. I think that`s the real subject of this process. Today we are starting to discuss the implications; openly and directly, and we ask ourselves, `what is NATO?`, `how would we feel in it?`, `could membership reinforce our independence?`... There are many details to this question, but for the moment we think the best way is to go down the same road as NATO, collaborating, with membership only later, and subject to a referendum".
EN: "Ukraine remains split in two; orange, and blue and white. Is this what`s stopping the country from moving forward?"
YT: "I think two problems need to be solved to reunite the Ukrainian people. The first is that politicians have to stop stirring issues dividing the west and east of Ukraine. The second is that people need to feel a sense of justice, of the rule of law. People need to know their government cares about them, with fair pensions, salaries, jobs, and access to housing and medical insurance. We`ve been independent for 17 years now, and we`ve done next to nothing about these things".
EN: "You and Viktor Yushchenko were the leaders of the Orange revolution, then you worked together as president and prime minister, but only briefly. how do you get on today?"
YT: "After the Orange revolution we didn`t have a parliamentary majority, and the former regime retained control. This is why the revolution ran into so many problems. Today there`s unity, and that`s the perfect base to effect real reforms in the country. What I want to say is that for me the revolution was about more than coloured ribbons, it was about ideas and principles. They give my life, and the lives of my team, meaning and direction. What we want is to speed the moment when Ukrainians will realise they didn`t spend all that time in the public squares for nothing. They did it to change their politicians, and change the country. This is my faith, and I try and follow it daily".
The interview was taken by Euronews