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Democracy as a part of national DNA: Ukraine as seen by the eyes of a foreigner

Democracy as a part of national DNA: Ukraine as seen by the eyes of a foreigner


16.04.2020 (№ LDaily #4)

Democracy as a part of national DNA: Ukraine as seen by the eyes of a foreigner

Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Switzerland to Ukraine Mr. Guillaume Scheurer on his biennial work at the embassy, on pressing issues, on the experience of Polish-Swiss relations, ways to improve the political image and investment attractiveness, Ukrainian and Swiss values, picturesque Ukrainian cities, its people and changes that are already happening. Exclusively for .

Is there a consistent algorithm for Ambassadors? To come to the country, to establish relations with the government, to communicate with business and the public, to thoroughly understand the history and begin to work on change. The theory is simple, but in practice everything is much more complicated. Each country is unique, has its own historical past, its own cultural code and the way of development. Mr. Guillaume Scheurer has been working in Ukraine for two years now. He is delighted with talented and sincere Ukrainian people, picturesque cities and nature, original traditions. And the main thing — from the courageous decision of the Ukrainian people to step on the thorny path of change. Mr Scheurer frankly says that this way is just the beginning — much has already been done and more needs to be done. It is impossible in a few years to throw everything old and build a new one. It is impossible to briefly depict the experience of another country, as if under a checkerboard. This is a lengthy and complicated process, and the main mission of the Swiss Embassy and Guillaume Scheurer, as its leader, is to become a friendly adviser and guide in the new Ukrainian course of change.

: Mr. Ambassador, you arrived in Ukraine in 2015. How was Ukraine when and now? What has changed, and what remains unchanged?

G. Scheurer: Unfortunately, since then some of the annoying things have remained unchanged — the Crimea is still occupied, the war in the Donbass continue to take lives of both military and civilian. As a result, one and a half million people lost their homes and forcedly moved to a controlled area. But if we look at Ukraine from another perspective, we will see a lot of positive changes. This is, first of all, economic recovery and macrofinancial stability. Many reforms have been launched. Many laws passed. For example, the recent Law on Medical Reform. And, of course, a significant event was the introduction of a visa-free regime with the countries of the Schengen zone, in particular, with Switzerland. These improvements were due to the government, the Verkhovna Rada and the Ukrainian people, who agreed to go through the difficulties for the well-being of the new generation.

: How do you present Ukraine to the international community?

G. Scheurer: On the one hand, I say that this is a country that has to go through a series of reforms. There are still a lot of problem areas, for example, corruption. On the other hand, I note that this country is open to positive changes and already makes the first sure and correct steps.

Ukraine is an extraordinary potential, it’s kind, hardworking, educated people. This is a country of real values that are very important to business.

For its part, Switzerland is investing in this country, establishing imports and exports. I would call Ukraine “a new Poland”, because in the early 90’s, Switzerland and Poland were associated with similar relations.

: What picture do you personally imagine when you think about Ukraine? Do you see fields, industry or perhaps something else?

G. Scheurer: Your country is various. However, the first thing that comes to my mind — this is a huge agricultural land. True pearls are shining Ukrainian cities. I toured quite a lot through the country, except Kyiv, I visited Lviv, Odessa, Chernivtsi, Kharkiv. As a true Swiss, I fell in love with the mountainous areas of western Ukraine, this region is close to my heart. You are, in fact, very rich. And most importantly, you have learned to combine loyalty to traditions and openness to the whole world.

: Is there any difference between representing Switzerland in Ukraine and in the United States?

G. Scheurer: We equally present Switzerland in different countries, for this there is a certain common approach. First of all, you need to put Switzerland on the map of the country in which you arrive. One of the main methods of such integration is the establishment of political, cultural, and public relations with the country. In this regard, it was a little easier to work with the USA, because in the United States there are many people of Swiss descent, they have founded about 100 cities in the country. At the same time, there are not many Swiss people in Ukraine, for today they are about 250 persons. In Ukraine, there are two settlements founded by my compatriots — Zurichtal in Crimea and Shabo in the Odessa region.

: Can we conclude that you have new functions as an ambassador to Ukraine?

G. Scheurer: It is definitely difficult to answer, but rather “no” than “yes”. In each country, we are trying to promote bilateral relations. Undoubtedly, the circumstances in which we work are changing, but experience helps us
to adapt to different conditions. We like the fact that in Ukraine communication with people, the media, and
the government is more accessible than in the United States. Cooperation with Ukrainian officials is very fruitful, simple and transparent. I am grateful for the responsiveness; it is very helpful in our work.

: What could be your advice to Ukrainian politicians regarding changes that should be implemented to make our country more attractive to investors?

G. Scheurer: The rule of law should be the main element of the investment attractiveness of Ukraine. When the judicial system is established, corruption, the absence of which is the second mandatory component for foreign businessmen, will automatically be destroyed. I also want to point out the political culture in Ukraine. You should learn to listen to each other and make compromises.

The word “compromise” is not bad. It, rather, has a positive connotation and is connected with the integration of thoughts and rules into reality. Rarely in public and private life is your mind dominant. We are compelled to always seek a compromise. Then it becomes a habit.

: Do you think that national values have been formed in Ukraine? If so, do they match with the Swiss ones?

G. Scheurer: I think the process of forming values is now in work. Ukraine is at a turning point when new values are pushing out old, outdated and false ones. Leading values such as responsibility, family, democracy, and others, of course, coincide in Ukraine and Switzerland. I would say more — they are panEuropean.

: Mr. Ambassador, you have been working in Ukraine for two years now. Has the image of Ukraine improved among the international community?

G. Scheurer: In general, yes. The image of Ukraine is improving, but rather slowly and the reason for this is war. You understand, the image of the country at the international level forms mass media, and in the top news negative information gets more resonant, as a rule. The world community has recently spoken about Ukraine
through demonstrations in Kyiv. This loud event created the impression that you have political instability, and
nobody mentioned reforms and improvement. Therefore, the priority task of embassies and Ukrainian media is to maintain a balance between negative and positive developments in the country, thus working towards a good image of the state.

In general, changing the political image — is not the fast process. I can compare Ukraine with a big boat, which is going to change the course. Around the storm, huge waves hit him, the aft returns slowly, with a loud crunch, but the sailors are full of paddles, and the boat necessarily floats in the other direction… The process has already begun!

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