Rebecca Harms, co-chair of “The Greens-European Free Alliance” group in the European Parliament, is active participant of the Kyiv-Brussels relations, and actively follows the political process of Ukraine. Since the 2004 Maidan, she is one of the most faithful supporters of the European choice of Ukraine within the EU political beau monde. Last weekend, the MEP visited Kyiv in order to participate the “Yalta European Strategy” 12th annual meeting. 112.international had an opportunity to meet her on the “School of Kyiv” biennial, where Ms. Harms participated the panel discussion “What Europe Does Ukraine Need?” with Michał Boni, Vasyl Cherepanyn, and Yaroslav Hrytsak. In the interview, she stated her positions considering reforms process, EU-Ukraine relations, Minsk negotiations, and energy issues.
You visit Ukraine not for the first time. Have you noticed some changes here?
I arrived yesterday evening, and I was mainly in discussions since I arrived – on the meeting of the “YES” [Yalta European Strategy] foundation, during the Biennial of Kyiv, and I’m getting a bit confused. But this is good because we should from time to time refresh our approach and our view to what Ukraine is, and tape the changes which we see in Ukraine.
I have seen so many issues in discussions, and I liked that so difficult issues, like how to deal with the oncoming elections in the East, how to deal with the ideas of decentralization, these issues deserve a lot of attention. It’s normal, that people have different views on these issues. There will be a political decision made in Ukraine, but there is the hard moment, because such difficult decisions had to go back to a kind of battlefield. Ukrainian politicians and citizens shall agree in a good way, democratic way of solutions. I hope so.
For the recent days, several Western top-politicians expressed their positive feedbacks concerning actions of Ukrainian authorities. How do you estimate the progress made by Ukraine on the path of reforms?
I have seen good issues here. I think it is a good precondition to fight corruption that in Ukraine you created a corruption-fighting institution with support of the state, and there are good people in it. I see that they will work with the good results. I think there is a very good decision to restart the new police service, this continues across Ukraine. This part of the state police is crucial, but the whole civil service of Ukraine needs also to be revisited and reorganized. The core is people working in the state institutions, whether they are well-paid, they earn enough to have an appropriate living. Like with the new police, this is the main idea how we can fight corruption in the civil service.
I never expected that this fight against corruption would deliver immediately or in one year. I know, basing on your experience, this is a difficult process, and it will take some time. I rely very much on the citizens of Ukraine, that they will not allow the corrupted politicians or corrupted state institutions.
September 11, President Poroshenko has stated, that if the Minsk agreement are not fulfilled for the end of 2015, Ukraine will leave the Minsk process. Do you find negotiations in Minsk productive?
The problem is that we have not achieved more. Even if I am also sometimes disappointed, I suffered from the fact that many soldiers and civilians lost life after the second Minsk agreements, I think it’s good that we try to accomplish it. I have always said that the control of demarcation line and the control over the border between Ukraine and Russia is the precondition for the Minsk agreements to work. I was convinced from the very beginning that the OSCE mission does not really fit to achieve what they try to achieve, so the better control of the demarcation line is needed.
During your speech, you have made complimentary statements concerning Kanzlerin Merkel. So, how do you appreciate her role in settlement of Ukrainian crisis?
I think she is very powerful, as the Chancellor of Germany. This is the big industrial state with many interests. She is not always free in her decisions. But, I think, in the decisions on Ukraine she managed to escape following the interests of economy and industry of Germany, and also she managed to overcome very narrow relations between Russia and Germany. She brought a kind of responsible leadership and good backing for the Ukrainian interests into the EU. Today she is among the strongest people to protect the Ukrainian interests.
What determines the amount of financial support to Ukraine from the European institutions? And is it going to be changed in the nearest future?
Especially in times of very demanding interior reform process, social reforms, reforms of public sector etc, investment in economic development is urgently needed. But such investment must be accompanied by the reform process and fight against corruption. Because the money going to Ukraine should really serve the people of Ukraine, and not only those who usually make the profit of this. So, deregulation, for example, is very useful on this way.
You are well-known as a critic of nuclear energy. In Ukraine, you have announced visiting "Energoatom" policy meeting. What are your main theses on this issue?
I have to check, but I got information that the checks of security and visits of security personnel from nuclear authorities to the power plants in Ukraine have been changed. I have been told that, for example, visit of the authorities to a nuclear power plant normally takes place without announcement, and now it has to be announced. I think it’s wrong. I have also learned that the civil society activists are very critical and concerned about the security situation of Ukrainian power plants. They suffer from accusations from prosecutors. I would meet with those activists and clarify what is going on – whether it is justified or whether they need my active support. We are going to meet on Sunday, September 13.
What solutions of specific Ukrainian energy crisis (lack of gas and coal, outdated technologies, expensiveness of “green technologies”) do you offer?
So, these are not unique problems, there are other countries with similar problems, here is even more extreme. I am convinced that the key to the better situation in Ukraine is strong ambitious measures for energy saving and efficiency. During last winter, while visiting Eastern Ukraine, I saw that wasting energy continued. It would be responsible for Ukraine to put focus of national strategy on this issue.