Interview with H.E. Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine to Canada Andriy Shevchenko
What Is, in Your Opinion, The Main Indicator Of The Level And success In Bilateral Relations?
Charles Darwin might help us with that. As he said, it is the animals that adjust to changes the best, which survive. Therefore to have good relations between nations means to be mutually responsive to needs and challenges of the partner. One good example of successful cooperation is Canada’s response to the russian aggression in the Crimea and Donbas. Canadian uniforms and boots for Ukrainian soldiers, satellite images of the war zone, Canadian officers, training Ukrainians on the ground etc. – all of that timely and much appreciated assistance came as quickly as possible. Canada was also one of the drivers of the international sanctions against Russia. This made Canada a leader of the international coalition in support of Ukraine. And this is exactly what you expect to receive from a good partner. This responsiveness’, of course, requires appropriate tools, such as good channels of communication, legal framework, and a ‘win-win’ approach to the issue. However, once again it is an ability to react to new challenges that is essential.
In Which Spheres Cooperation Between Ukraine And Canada Is The Most Meaningful?
We are privileged to have a very healthy and beneficial cooperation. It is something that I call ‘proactive empathy’. Firstly, it is defense security cooperation. We work together to provide more security in eastern Europe, which has been suffering from Russian imperialistic hostilities. This cooperation includes training of Ukrainian officers by Canadians under UNFIER, support for the new Ukrainian National Police, information exchange etc. It is a mutually beneficial process, as Ukraine can share its experience in fighting the hybrid war against Russia.
Secondly, it is a state building. An impressive part of the 45 million technical assistance package, assigned by Canada to Ukraine in the 2016-17 fiscal year, will go to strengthen governmental and civil society institutions in Ukraine. Thirdly, it is trade investment. None of us can be satisfied with the low volumes we have, however, we do have to recognize successful cooperation between businesses, especially in IT or agriculture.
Are There Any Questions In The Ukrainian-Canadian Bilateral Relations, Where Their Opinions Are completely Opposite?
The only one I can think of is the visa free-regime between the countries. We have never heard ‘no’ from our Canadian partners; we do not see much progress either. Our visa-free dialogue with the EU, which is getting closer to a happy-end, should serve as an inspiring example.
Politics, Security, Economics Or Humanitarian Issues ? What Are Your Priorities For Future Development In The Bilateral Relations?
My top-3 will be the following: security, trade and education. In terms of security, Ukraine can and should be a Western foothold in the region. That means a lot more cooperation in diverse fields: defense, fighting international crime, and countering money laundering.
We also have to learn from the Russian hybrid warfare in Ukraine. We hope to cooperate with Canada and other NATO partners, breathing life into the idea of launching an excellence center, which will help to consolidate hybrid war knowledge. Regarding trade, my big hopes are with the Free Trade Agreement that will be signed shortly and which will eventually eliminate 98% of the tariffs. This should give businesses on both sides of the Atlantic good chances to rediscover Ukrainian-Canadian opportunities.
Education is another great hope. We already have some promising projects of cooperation in this sphere, and I believe we can greatly benefit from closer cooperation between the leading academic institutions.
What Are The Main Challenges In The Embassy Work?
Our big challenge is to fight ‘Ukraine fatigue’ among the partners. There is feasible frustration with no progress on the Minsk agreements and a slow pace of reforms in Ukraine. This requires very thoughtful and creative efforts in explaining both our challenges and successes. Canada’s political class has a decent understanding of the Russian aggression. Now we need to make sure
that Canada understands how we are modernizing the country
When Countries Traditionally Have Very Close And Warm Relations – Is It A Challenge Or A Benefit For The Ambassador?
For me it is a great and priceless asset and a huge responsibility. My long-term challenge is to convert our warm cultural and historical connections into a powerful, pragmatic and mutually beneficial partnership. We are on the way.
Prior to the diplomatic appointment, Mr Shevchenko had accomplished an an outstanding career in politics and media. He is also well known in Ukraine as a civil activist and a human rights defender. A seasoned journalist, he was one of the founders of Ukrainian 5th Channel, the first 24/7 news channel in Ukraine, and a leader of the journalists’ movement against censorship. In 2005, he received the Press Freedom Award from ‘Reporters without Borders’ (Vienna). After that, Mr Shevchenko won seats in the Ukrainian Parliament 3 times (in 2006, 2007, and 2012). In 2006-12, he served as the Chairman of the Free Speech Committee; in 2012-14, he served as the 1st Deputy Chairman of the Human Rights Committee. He was a Yale World Fellow (2008), a Draper Hills Fellow at Stanford (2009), and a John Smith Fellow in the UK (2013