Why the European Dream Is Still Attractive? A Talk with Svitlana Zalishchuk, MP

This week, the Oxford University Ukrainian Society invited Svitlana Zalishchuk, member of Parliament in Ukraine, to discuss the European integration. With Euroscepticism already on the rise, thousands of Ukrainians were filled with faith and ready to die for the European dream on Maidan Square in Kiev. Svitlana, the leader of Euro-optimists faction in the Ukrainian parliament, explained why.

Svitlana is Co-Chair of a Parliamentary Group on the United Kingdom, member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and Head of the Sub-Committee on European and Euro-Atlantic Relations. She started her talk with the words of Winston S. Churchill: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Here are few other important quotations from her speech.

Two battles Ukraine is fighting

“Military conflict with Russia is the toughest factor that slows our external and internal development. This bleeding wound is still the biggest problem of Ukraine. But we have two battles: one on the East, and another one in the middle of the country — between the old elites and the new generation. The biggest problem of Euromaidan movement is the fact that it was not institutionalised. Building institutions is the task for the young generation, which includes building parties strong enough to compete with the old system.”

The European dream

“A lot of things have been done, and the European dream was a very strong driver of our reforms. We took 144 decisions in order to meet the EU requirements of visa liberalisation. For Ukraine, European integration is still the main course. It keeps our civil society mobilized, often despite politician’s interests. Ukraine has never had such massive and progressive reforms in its [independent] history as in the last three years. It only became possible due to EU integration. No other idea enjoys such a level of support among Ukrainians as the European idea.”

Why optimism?

“Europe has never enjoyed such a scale and longitude of economic development as in the last thirty years. The integration process after the WWII have been triggered by understanding that the European community had to protect not just its values but actual people’s lives. We see the success of the countries that joined the EU only a decade ago. From our perspective, European integration is still the best transformative instrument available to the former Soviet republics. However, Kremlin won’t let them to be transformed so easily, and we don’t have to underestimate Russia’s destructive influence here in Europe — a lot of money is spent on media, social networks, analytical work.”

Dealing with Trump

“Obama was the only American president who never visited Ukraine during his term. Although even the first statements made by Trump sound bad, it is too early for any diagnosis. He is a businessman which means he is very pragmatic, so his policy towards Ukraine will depend on what Putin may offer him. Nevertheless, the deal is possible. Besides, I wouldn’t underestimate the strength of the US institutions. At the same time, historically, Republicans were more supportive of Ukraine than Democrats, and we have a lot a friends among them.”

The OUUS Committee is grateful to everyone who made this meeting happen, and especially to St Antony’s College for the venue.



May 16, 2017
Mikheil Saakashvili. National interests in the post-truth world

Date and time: 25 May 2017, 5:30 PM
Venue: Blavatnik School of Government
Admission free
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Mikheil Saakashvili was President of Georgia for two consecutive terms between 2004 and 2013. As a result of Saakashvili’s reforms in Georgia, the rate of corruption in the country was drastically reduced and the business environment was improved significantly. In 2015, Mr Saakahsvili became the governor of Ukraine's Odessa region, a post he held until November 2016.

The lecture will be introduced by Professor Ngaire Woods, Dean of the Blavatnik School of Government, and moderated by Yelyzaveta Yasko, current MPP student at the School and President of Oxford University Ukrainian Society.

The event is free and open to all. To attend, please register here.

May 9, 2017
Eurovision Party Fundraiser — London
Date and time: Saturday 13 May 2017, 18:30-0:30
Location: Ukrainian Cultural Centre, 154 Holland Park Avenue, London W11 4UH
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The Ukrainian Cultural Centre in London is inviting everyone for the live broadcast of the Eurovision Grand Final in Kyiv. This year’s theme is ‘Celebrate Diversity!’ It will be an unforgettable evening, full of music and dance as well as delicious authentic Ukrainian food. Additionally, there will be a chance to enjoy some beer and a BBQ in the garden. Each ticket includes a free drink and authentic Ukrainian snacks.

Places are limited and early booking is advisable. All proceeds from ticket sales will go towards British-Ukrainian Aid’s humanitarian projects.
Apr 25, 2017
Gennadiy Afanasiev on His Road to Freedom

Date and time: 26 Apr 2017, 4:00 PM
Venue: Merton College, the Mure Room
Admission free
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The Trinity term has begun, and this week we will have an outstanding opportunity to meet Gennadiy Afanasiev, a Ukrainian human rights activist of Crimean origin who spent over 400 days in Russian prison. One month after the annexation of Crimea, Mr Afanasiev was arrested on the charge of 'terrorist activities' after participating in pro-Ukrainian demonstrations and sentenced to 7 years of imprisonment in a Russian penal colony. As a result of a high-profile prisoner exchange, he was released in 2016. We are delighted to welcome him to Oxford to tell us about his struggles, captivity and ongoing activism.

Feb 21, 2017
Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors

Date and time: 23 Feb 2017, 8:30PM
Venue: Worcester College, Lecture Room B, OX1 2HB
Price: £1.50 (includes a glass of wine)
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International Film Society is showing one of Paradjanov’s masterpieces, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors.

Paradjanov, an Armenian director and one of the great cinematic geniuses of Soviet cinema, tells a simple Romeo-and-Juliette-like story set in the Ukrainian Carpathian mountains. In Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, the simple tale of the unrequited love of Ivan and Marichka serves to revolutionise the art of story-telling in cinema, showing astonishing originality through the use of music, cinematography and camerawork. The film is a hypnotising whirlwind of colour and sound set against a background of folklore and traditional tales, which seems to come to us from another world. 
Trailer: https://vimeo.com/7516458