More than a year passed since the appointment of the French diplomat Hugues Mingarelli as the Head of the EU Delegation in Ukraine. The Diplomat magazine asked the politician: what has changed in Ukraine during this time and whether his personal opinion changed about the state situated in the center of Europe, with which he earlier as a European Commission member built bridges of cooperation.
It was the politician who stood at the source of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement and by the end of 2010 he was the main EU negotiator on the “new enhanced agreement” (the working title of the document). Some period of time the politician refused to insert in the title of “the Ukraine-EU Agreement” the word “association”.
So how has the Europeans’ perception to Ukraine changed? Are they really ready to deepen the EU association and integration with Ukrainian society? This is all in our conversation with Hugues Mingarelli.
Hugues Mingarelli in his public speeches for the Ukrainian audience used to say that Ukraine has all chances to become a developed European state and is always at the center of EU attention, primarily because of Russia’s aggression in the East. According to the ambassador, the difficulties that take place must be overcome as soon as possible, this primarily concerns the elimination of corruption, deeper implementation of democratic reforms and the creation of favorable conditions to attract the European investors, in particular in such branches as energy and gas sectors, agriculture, environment protection, deepening cooperation in education area. Already a lot of positive things have been done on this path in Ukraine, new institutions work (NABU, Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office), but there is still a lot to do, so there is no time to stop, just go ahead.
Now close and special relations have been established between the European Union and Ukraine. They became even stronger after the signing and launching the ambitious Association EU-Ukraine Agreement, a part of which is the introduction of a deep and comprehensive free trade area. The Association Agreement has already revived Ukraine’s trade relations with EU countries, has pushed for harmonization of domestic laws and standards with European ones, opened the way of Ukrainian goods to the markets of the EU member states and vice versa. Such cooperation, according to the experts, strengthens our common democratic values.
The European Union is Ukraine’s biggest bilateral donor: it supports the reform process in the country, providing it with approximately 250 million euro annually. The EU assists Ukraine in its struggle against corruption, reforming the judiciary and civil structures. Together with the Ukrainian authorities EU representatives are working to improve the investment and regulatory climate, which will benefit both business and consumers. By fostering investment in infrastructure and energy reform the EU helps Ukraine to use its numerous natural resources efficiently, thus achieving energy independence and strengthening economic development. Financial and technical assistance, various EU humanitarian programs are supporting displaced persons and people who have suffered due to the illegal annexation of the Crimea and the conflict in the East.
The head of the EU Delegation in Ukraine, Ambassador Mr. Hugues Mingarelli, thinks that to live and work in the Ukrainian state is the privilege for the the EU diplomat.
– Mr. Ambassador, how do you characterize the situation in Ukraine what concerns the society foreign policy aspirations? How did the EU authorities contribute to the implementation of the Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine, were there any obstacles on this way or maybe they remained?
– Ukraine is a self-transforming country. It goes through the integration processes in order to move to such a society that exists in Europe. An open and democratic society is based on a social and market economy in Ukraine.
Reforms that have been implemented over the past three years, since the Revolution of Dignity, are driving the country in this direction. We, the EU representatives, are working here to share our experience with Ukrainians to promote the modernization of economic and political life in Ukraine.
We are aware of the counteraction to these changes in the country. After all, certain people in Ukraine do not want any reforms at all. And this is understandable, because some people for more than 25 years used the opportunity that the state was corrupt, so they now want to leave Ukraine as it was from 1991 to 2014.
– Along with this, there are a lot of reformers in the Ukrainian parliament and in the government, as well as in a civil society, and our task is to support such movers of reforms.
– I know the ministers who are making efforts to modernize the country. There are a lot of reformers in Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine too; some of them head the parliamentary committees. Of course, we are committed to supporting civil society that pushes Ukraine to positive changes.
Ukraine is moving in the right direction, but there are some domestic obstacles and the additional obstacle facing it is Russia’s foreign aggression against Ukraine.
– In your opinion, what is the real prospect of the political dialogue between Ukraine and the EU?
– The purpose of the Association Agreement is the political association and economic integration between Ukraine and the EU. This suggests that politically we will be closer and closer. And besides the Ukrainian economy will be integrated into the common market of the European Union.
– As one of the authors of the Association Agreement would you please tell us – is it true that for each country that seeks to integrate into the EU, the text of the Agreement has its own peculiarities? What Ukrainian features, circumstances and nuances were taken into account by the authors of the Agreement?
– The main feature of this agreement is that it is one of the most complex agreements that the European Union has ever concluded with third countries – its partners. Ukraine has the largest number of assets. In particular, it is a highly educated population, long industrial traditions, the best agricultural soil in Europe; it is the biggest country in the European continent, a country that also has a large population of 42 million people. Thus, we see these assets, and they are much more compared to partner countries.
– Ambassadors of EU member states agreed to prolong the package of sanctions against the Russian Federation due to the annexation of the Crimea and the war on the Donbass for a period of six months. What is the nature of these actions – political, or perhaps more practical?
– Sanctions are a political act. The purpose is to show that the annexation of the Crimea is unacceptable to the world community. The Russian aggression on the Donbass is also unacceptable. This is a clear political message. But sanctions also have concrete consequences. The main thing – they influence the Russian economy.
– What advice can you give the authorities and the public on how successfully and, what is most important, painlessly to implement integration processes for both Ukraine and the EU?
– All political powers and society should focus on the implementation of the Association Agreement and the establishment of a comprehensive free trade area, which is the part of this Agreement. This is our absolute priority. A few years later Ukraine will be closer to the European Union and in a much better position, with modernized economy, which, accordingly, will mean a higher standard of living for the citizens of the state.
– Many foreign companies avoid economic cooperation with Ukraine, having in mind the high level of corruption in the country. Taking into account the deepening of relations with the European Union, in your opinion, is corruption in Ukraine is decreasing?
– Corruption remains a cancerous tumor of Ukraine. It affects all dimensions of life. Important steps have been taken in the past three years to overcome this disgraceful phenomenon. But we need to double our efforts in this struggle. Indeed, today the level of corruption remains high enough everywhere.
I am convinced that this can be achieved. After all, if you look at civil society, it is very active. Many young people want to live up to European values. Therefore, sooner or later these people will win. Of course, this will not happen tomorrow, but I do not see any reasons of why Ukraine should remain in today’s situation.
In fact this will be a difficult and fair struggle, but the younger generation will be able to change the situation for the better. It is important to know how much society will be aware of the anti-corruption processes that will take place. If people are more aware of what is being exposed, they will more actively participate in these processes.
– Due to the situation in the East of Ukraine, there was a problem of the resettlement of citizens from Donetsk and Lugansk oblasts. Tell us please, was there any kind of assistance provided by EU countries to this category of people?
– For three years of the conflict the European Union has provided about 60 million euros in humanitarian aid. Mostly these funds were directed to those citizens who suffered from the conflict, and in particular for their internal displacement. We have prepared a tool called a stability tool. This tool is designed to help the internal movement of citizens throughout Ukraine: to find a new place of residence and a new place of work for these people.
This year we are going to launch a new 50 million euros worth program in order to help the citizens of the conflict in different ways. This assistance will be provided in different areas. The EU is well aware that today 5 million Ukrainian citizens are suffering from Russian aggression, and therefore we will do our utmost to help people who are in misfortune.
I saw with my own eyes and communicated with the citizens who got our help. Not far from Kharkiv, in the city of Chuguev, people who have been displaced from the conflict zones due to the EU funds have successfully set up their own business and have their own bakery. I also saw houses that were restored or built for those settlers. Maybe the money provided by the European Union could be better used for its intended purpose. But I do not believe that help does not reach at all the citizens who need it.
At the EU Delegation’s web page in Ukraine, anyone can find information on how to apply for help and what documents to provide for obtaining it.
– You like to visit Ukraine. What places do you like most?
– Ukraine is a very beautiful country, and all the places where I’ve been, are charming. Kyiv is a beautiful, fantastic city. Miraculous are Kharkiv, Dnipro, Lviv is charming and Odessa is just a dream. Wherever I’m in Ukraine, I like every place, I feel good everywhere. I feel that for a diplomat to work in Ukraine is a real privilege.
Hugues Mingarelli started his career as a financial analyst in Paris (1979-1982), he worked as the director responsible for the structural funds of the European Court of Auditors auditing (1982-1984), was the Chief Administrator (in Nigeria) of the European Development Fund (1985-1987).
From 1987 to 1990 – he worked at the Directorate General for Development (DG DEV) of the European Commission.
From 1990 to 1999 – he worked at the General Directorate of External Relations (RELEX) as the head of the group for the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
From 2000 to 2002 – Director of the European Agency for Reconstruction (EU Office of Assistance in Kosovo, Serbia, Montenegro and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia – FYR Macedonia).
From 2002 to 2007 – Director for Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia.
In 2007 – Director for the Middle East and the Southern Mediterranean.
2007-2010 – Deputy Director-General for Eastern Europe, Caucasus, Central Asia, North Africa, Middle East for the European Neighborhood Policy
Since January 2011, he has been the first Managing Director for North Africa, the Middle East, the Arabian Peninsula, Iran and Iraq at the European External Action Service (OECD).
September 8, 2016 handed credentials to the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko.