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.


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