112.international continues its series of interviews with activists and leaders of Ukrainian Diaspora regarding specific characteristics of countries of their residence. This time, our vis-à-vis is Alexander Shyian, Head of German-Ukrainian Information and Cultural Center in Dusseldorf. The Center has been founded in 1998, and focuses on cultural and educational projects for both Ukrainians in Germany and Germans themselves, mostly those living in the land of North Rhine-Westphalia.
How has the influx of refugees in the EU affected the level of cooperation between Ukrainians in Germany?
Public opinion in Germany and in other EU countries is formed by local media and social networks. Positive changes will happen if the Ukrainian society and government realize the importance of broadcasting abroad, providing foreign audience and Ukrainian Diaspora with objective, relevant and complete information on events in Ukraine. In Germany, unfortunately, but it's not to blame on the Germans, people quite often believe that Ukraine is a part of Russia.
The reforms take place, but very slowly and often controversially because Ukraine faces monstrous corruption, lack of qualified specialists in many important spheres, misunderstanding where to move, and absence of political consolidation.
The cooperation between Ukrainians in Germany depends directly on the level of organization of Ukrainian community in Germany and its ability to maintain a constructive dialogue with the authorities through their representatives (lobbyists) from the community.
Ukrainian community in the EU remains weak and fragmented. It lacks cohesive and efficient solidarity to create Ukrainian lobby at the civil society level.
What prospects do you see in the EU-Ukraine negotiations on visa-free regime? What position in this regard prevails in Germany?
Prospects always remain, but it is necessary for society to consolidate with the Ukrainian Government and determine the importance and feasibility of providing visa-free regime for Ukraine. Also, Ukrainian community abroad should support Ukraine in seeking for visa-free regime for the citizens of Ukraine.
What are the most common problems faced by Ukrainians abroad, what assistance do they usually need?
Those Ukrainians, who have German citizenship, are protected by the German law; citizens of Ukraine are protected by Ukrainian law. Germany has rather human and clear rules to regulate relations between foreigners and public bodies, and there are special agencies and NGOs which control its completion. But still our compatriots lack means to fulfill their cultural needs. Also, Ukrainian community is not united; it doesn’t have coordination council and public representative body in Germany. We failed to create our own Ukrainian lobby for solving our problems and meeting our needs in Germany. There is a lack of agreements between Ukraine and Germany regarding provision and security of Ukrainians in Germany.
I think that Ukraine should have its own national strategic program "State-Diaspora". Modern life encourages careful consideration of different linkages between countries, and migration begins to occupy one of the first places in policy of many countries and such structures as the UN, UNESCO, and EU. It is important to assess the role of Diaspora in foreign direct investment in Ukraine. More than 20 million Ukrainians permanently reside outside of Ukraine at the present time; this is a great opportunity not to be ignored.
Ukraine should adopt the position of Minister of Diaspora Affairs. Besides the Ministry, I am sure the next agencies must be established: National Coordination and Business Center "Ukraine-Diaspora" to support entrepreneurs and Ukrainian exporters of services and products to the country of residence of Ukrainian Diaspora; National Information and Travel Agency "Meet Ukraine" in order to promote Ukraine as a country with high tourist potential and European historical and spiritual heritage; National Agency for Culture and Art for promoting achievements of our ancestors abroad; the National program of repatriation Ukrainians to their Motherland "Come back to native home" in order to overcome the demographic crisis and conserve, restore, and develop spiritual, intellectual and physical resources of the nation.
And those Ukrainians, who live in Germany, how do they get engaged into your Center? How many people ask for help, and do they further continue to work with you?
In order to provide the opportunity for our compatriots to learn about our Center, we support our web site www.My-Ukraine.de and Facebook page. Also we have our public counseling office and hot line for consulting in issues, where we can help. Only in Dusseldorf, where our office is situated, live more than 3 thousand Ukrainians. Our Center holds long-term cooperation with such organizations as Caritas, Diakonie, People School, We are Europeans, and European Fellowship.