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Interview with Inna Ohnivets, the Ambassador of Ukraine to Slovakia
“Our countries share the striving
for social harmony and well-being”
Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of Ukraine to Slovakia
Ms Ohnivets answers questions put to her by Welcome to Ukraine Magazine.
Have the relations between Ukraine and the Slovak Republic been influenced by Slovakia’s membership of the European Union? Is there anything that should be borrowed from Slovakia’s experience?
Good and neighbourly relations between the people of Ukraine and Slovakia, and between these too states have passed the test of time, and Slovakia’s joining the European Union has not influenced the developments of relations between Slovakia and Ukraine in any negative way. The other way round — Slovakia is gladly sharing its experience of Eurointegration with Ukraine. Certain technological problems, which have been caused by the necessity to adjust the foundation of mutual agreements to the EU standards, are being successfully dealt with.
Is the cooperation between Slovakia and Ukraine in the spheres of trade and economy developing successfully? Are there any projects that are being currently carried out or planned?
The dynamics of the Ukrainian-Slovakian trade and economic cooperation is positive. In 2006, the general trade exchange of goods and services between Slovakia and Ukraine reached 987 million US dollars, which is higher by 12.2 percent than in 2005. The volume of exports of Ukrainian goods and services from Ukraine to Slovakia in 2006 grew in comparison with 2005 by 3.8 percent and reached 579 million US dollars. The volume of imports from Slovakia to Ukraine grew in 2006 almost by 27 percent and reached 407 million US dollars. The positive balance in the foreign goods and services trade between Ukraine and Slovakia in favour of Ukraine amounted to over 171 million US dollars in 2006. Exports of electrical power energy from Ukraine to Slovakia increased almost twice. During the first months of 2007, the positive tendency of growth in trade exchange between Ukraine and Slovakia continued. In the first two months of 2007, the trade turnover alone amounted to 148 million US dollars, and the volume of goods exported from Ukraine to Slovakia for the same period of time grew by 35 percent in comparison with the same period of 2006 and reached almost 95 million US dollars. The positive balance in the foreign goods and services trade between Ukraine and Slovakia in favour of Ukraine reached 41.4 million US dollars.
Prospects of the development of trade and economic relations between Ukraine and Slovakia will lie within the framework of the development of economic relations between Ukraine and the European Union. Ukraine’s getting the status of a country with market economy. Ukraine’s entry into the World Trade Organization, and Ukraine’s signing of an agreement about free trade with the EU, will be of a great importance for further expansion of the economic and trade cooperation with the European Union and Slovakia.
The cooperation in the sphere of energy saving has great prospects — joint production of cogeneration units for the Ukrainian market with the use of Ukrainian engines will reduce the amount of imports from Slovakia and will also reduce the power consumption in the production of Ukrainian goods. Joint introduction of the newest energy-saving technologies such as use of biomass, energy of small rivers, energy of the wind, energy of the sun, will lead to the expansion and improvement of the structure of trade exchange between Ukraine and Slovakia.
Cooperation between Ukraine and Slovakia in the sphere of power generation and in the sphere of transit of energy carriers also has good prospects. It will increase the amount of energy power exported from Ukraine to Slovakia, and will help carry out the project of the Euro-Asian oil transport corridor, which is included into the strategy of the EU energy security, with the delivery of the Caspian oil via the pipe-line Odesa-Brody across Ukraine and Slovakia to the oil refineries of the Czech Republic and other countries, which will allow Ukraine and Slovakia to use their oil transit capacities more effectively. Slovakia is interested in increasing imports of Ukrainian electrical power because Slovakia does not have energy supplies of its own and because this problem will be exacerbated by the shutting down of two reactors of nuclear power stations, and because of the increases in energy consumption by automobile-making plants.
Assessments of the growth tendencies of automobile making in Slovakia, one of the leading branches of Slovakian economy, show that after the expansion of the European Union and Slovakia’s membership of the EU, the movement of automobile making to the east of Europe will be intensified, particularly in the sphere of making components and spare parts. In connection with the increase of the potential of automobile making in Slovakia, involvement of Ukrainian producers in cooperation with Slovakian plants in production of components and parts for automobiles will have excellent prospects.
The shift of emphasis from exports of Ukrainian steel products to exports of metal semi-finished products and finished products, full use of the EuroCommission quotas on all the steel products will also have good prospects.
It will be expedient to further decrease exports of unprocessed timber from Ukraine and to switch over to exports of finished products; joint ventures can be set up in Ukraine for this purpose and plates made of wood and wood shavings can be imported from Slovakia.
In connection with the directive of the EuroCommission to have a certain obligatory amount of biodiesel fuel and bioethanol at refuelling stations in the EU countries, wide opportunities open up for Ukraine and Slovakia in production of biodiesel fuel and bioethanol in Ukraine.
Realization of the Norwegian financial mechanism, whose funds were given to new members of the European Union, Slovakia included, for carrying out the trans-border and inter-regional cooperation opens up new possibilities for intensification of the Ukrainian-Slovakian trans-border and inter-regional cooperation.
Are any official visits planned from Slovakia to Ukraine and from Ukraine to Slovakia in 2007?
I’d like to emphasize the intensification of the bilateral dialogue between these two counties at the highest level. The head of the Slovakian government Robert Fico visited Ukraine in February 2007. In May, the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine O. Moroz will pay a visit to Bratislava, and the visit of the Prime Minister of Ukraine V. Yanukovych to Slovakia is planned in June. President Yushchenko is scheduled to pay a visit to Slovakia in October.
What can you say about cultural cooperation between Slovakia and Ukraine?
It is encouraging that the development in the spheres of culture and education has resonantly become more dynamic. The solid legal base is conducive to the development of cooperation too. Traditional links in the sphere of culture, education and science are being extended and deepened.
The main directions of cooperation lie in the exchange of song and dance ensembles and theatre troupes within the framework of international music and theatre festivals, big music, drama, cinema or other important cultural events; in museum and exhibition activities; in protection of the cultural heritage; in activities connected with the return of culturally valuable things; in support of direct contacts among theatres and concert organizations, museums, folk art centres, and so on. I’ll give you some examples of the Ukrainian-Slovakian cooperation in the sphere of culture. In March 2006, the Days of Ukrainian Culture were held in Slovakia, the first time in ten years. These Days were held not only in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, but also in other cities of central and eastern Slovakia, which gave this cultural event a nation-wide scope. The program of the Days of Culture included concerts of the chamber orchestra Kyivska kamerata, an exhibition of books from the National Parliamentary Library of Ukraine, an exhibition of paintings of the Ukrainian artists M. Abramova, and show of recently made Ukrainian films. Among other events of 2006 on a lesser scale but important for the promotion of cultural exchange one can mention: exhibitions of Ukrainian artists in several cities of Slovakia; performances of dance ensembles from Donetsk and Lviv in Bratislava. The Veryovka National Academic Choir from Kyiv, the Cossack Equestrian Theatre from Luhansk performed within the framework of the traditional Festival of Culture of Rusins-Ukrainians held in the town of Svidnik. The Ukrainian Folk Choir Karpaty from Kosice, Slovakia, performed in Kyiv, and in December 2006, the Shevchenko Music and Drama Ensemble, the only amateur Ukrainian opera troupe in the world from Bratislava, took part in the Theatre Festival of Ukrainian Diaspora in Kyiv.
29 higher educational establishments of Ukraine and 13 higher educational establishments of Slovakia maintain direct links with their counterparts in both countries; such contacts also exist among specialized and secondary schools. In 2006, 24 joint projects were carried out by research centres of Ukraine and Slovakia. Exchange of students, teachers, instructors, graduate students and scientists is maintained between Slovakia and Ukraine.
Cooperation between libraries, archives and other similar establishments of the two countries is active and effective too. The National Parliamentary Library of Ukraine, for example, keeps close contacts with 5 libraries of Slovakia.
The seventh sitting of the Ukrainian-Slovakian intergovernmental National Minorities, Education and Culture Commission will be held this year to discuss further developments in the cultural sphere and it will be an important event in the cultural relations between Ukraine and Slovakia.
There are several other important events that are planned to take place in 2007 — signing of a new agreement by the governments of Slovakia and Ukraine about mutual recognition of diplomas of education, and signing of an agreement by the Ministry for Youth and Sports of Ukraine and by the Ministry of Education of Slovakia about cooperation in the sphere of physical culture and sports.
The Days of Slovakian Culture are planned to be held in Ukraine in 2007; a monument to the Slovakian scholar, writer and public figure D. Krman will be erected in the town of Poltava in Ukraine.
It is planned to open a Ukrainian culture and information centre in the town of Presov, whose activities will hopefully contribute to the further development of cultural relations between Ukraine and Slovakia.
Could you describe the state of things in the Ukrainian Diaspora in Slovakia?
People of Ukrainian descent live mostly in the southern-eastern part of Slovakia in a region which is known as Presovshchyna. Altogether, about 11 thousand citizens of Slovakia consider themselves to be ethnic Ukrainians. They had a number of organizations, kindergartens, elementary and secondary schools at which Ukrainian is taught. Ukrainian language and literature are also taught at the University of Presov and at the M.Bela University in Banska Bystrica. There are dozens of dance and songs and other amateur ensembles and groups that function in the Ukrainian Diaspora in Slovakia. Every year art and music festivals are held which attain the level of a nation-wide scope — one of such events is a festival of culture of the Rusin-Ukrainians in the town of Svidnik. Ukrainians in Slovakia publish their own newspaper, literary and art magazine; there is even a union of Ukrainian writers in Slovakia; works by Ukrainian authors are regularly published in Slovakia, as well as other books on political and scientific subjects. There are programs on the Slovakian radio and television which are broadcast in Ukrainian. There are certain problems, for example in education and in the work of the department of Ukrainian programs at the Slovakian radio, there is not enough financing of cultural needs but the problems are being dealt with, and in general, people of Ukrainian descent have their worthy place in Slovakia.
Are there any people of Ukrainian descent in the political establishment of Slovakia?
Of course, there are. But there are particularly many people of Ukrainian descent among scientists, scholars and artists of the Slovak Republic.
Photos have been provided by Slavuta SA