Interview with Deputy Prime Minister Vadim Pristayko: Russia’s Decision on annexation of Crimea and war in Donbas can be “turned off” back

A chance for peace in the Donbass remains, and the movement of Ukraine into the EU and NATO – all of us

In the midst of a scandal about the alleged ban of the Ukrainian seasonal workers travel abroad to work, the Vice Prime Minister on European and Euro-Atlantic integration Vadym Prystayko in an interview with “Today” said that about any ban on travel it is not, moreover, the charters for seasonal workers will be organized constantly. Details about the situation of migrant workers, the impact of coronavirus on our bezviz with the EU and about whether or not the Ukrainians to plan your summer vacation abroad, read the first part of an interview with Vadim Pristayko.

In the second part of an interview with “Today,” Vice Prime Minister on European and Euro-Atlantic integration told when and how will the summits Ukraine-EU and the Eastern partnershipand the implementation of the Association Agreement, which separates Ukraine from industrial bezveza with the EU and achievement of NATO standards, as well as about relations with Russia.

– Go back to the document now discusses Brussels for Eastern partnership countries. I understand that this report just in time for the summit of the Eastern partnership?

– Yes, it will be submitted to the summit.

When’s the summit? In what format? Because first came the news that it will take. But then the head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell denied it.

– Indeed, there are several options. Now each side is for himself defines, and the virus makes a permanent change. There is no conspiracy theory. Or to hold the summit in the form of a videoconference, which of course takes away the ability to communicate tete-a-tete, what we expect always when I come thousands of miles to meetings. Or indeed to move the summit to overcome the coronavirus without risking the health of leaders by sending them to meetings. But who can tell us, will it be enough to move the summit to October 1? Such ideas are also discussed.

– The decision is still pending?

– In our opinion, the decision will be made soon. Now it is in the formative stage.

What about summit EU-Ukraine? Last year’s took place in Kiev, there were already Zelensky. This year he has to pass in Brussels. So conduct or outsource?

– Yes, Zelensky it was one of the first meetings. Again, the virus makes changes to the schedule of the event, which was held in July. The summit is not cancelled. We have something to talk about. See, even certain technical mission delayed. For example, the technical mission that was supposed to come to assess our progress, as we call it, industrial bezveze. It would be interesting to discuss the next summit, but postponed for purely technical reasons related to the virus.

Vadim Pristayko / Photo: Igor Retz Today

– Suspended coronavirus whether our progress in EU? I mean the execution of the Association Agreement and negotiations on the revision of trade regulations?

– You know, the process is so in depth for many years, the process involved so many people that talk about the suspension is simply impossible. But the changes really are. I can say that even most of the workers in our Office, we were forced to convert to the organization and the coordination of assistance to combat coronavirus. People who had to deal with specific areas, are now more engaged in the coordination of this assistance, received humanitarian and technical assistance. As MPs. If earlier the Deputy corps and our government has produced more projects and ideas with whom we worked brought them in line with our promises and obligations, the members gather once every two to three weeks. There are objective reasons, but I do not see that it has turned into a political component. Our office works in a usual mode, we have not reduced our diplomatic presence, as well as the EU. My latest meeting with the EU Ambassador was half an hour ago (29 APR. – Ed.) pre – Friday. The same with NATO.

– Where are we now on the revision of trade provisions of the Association Agreement?

– Our economists are working on this. I want to say that the virus is not brought in their change work. Our traditional interest in agricultural products and other industries in General, according to all that we are interested in and concerned about, is always on the agenda. In the same way as, for example, digital sphere. Unity digital markets remains a top priority for Ukraine-EU.

– You mentioned the industrial bezveze. This is a fairly problematic issue.

– It’s hard work on harmonization of standards. I also want to remind both the European and NATO standards. There is a story. Of course, for objective reasons, the work is constrained. But I can’t say that we feel some changes in approaches. Two months quarantine will not distract us from this path.

– How many steps separate us from the industrial bezveza with the EU?

It is hard to say how much we steps. But all of our four main areas which we have set for ourselves to move, move. I don’t want to say that we are three steps, because then you will count and say that there are two. Given that this year we do not transfer our summit, there is a clear timeframe for the decisions that we have to prepare for this summit. I think we can do it.

– Can You not ask about the steps the defense Minister who drew criticism in civil society. Some even said it was the suspension of the transition to NATO standards. Talking about the termination of the decree on transformation of the management of the defence forces and military administration and liquidation of the Project office of reforms at the Ministry of defence.

– I think that really was some neocommunist from the new defence Minister and his team, which had just been sitting in their chairs and probably didn’t realize how important this is and how it is delicate and sensitive. Especially when he replaced the Minister who was really a reformer, well-known, he was a part of civil society and frankly it promoted. Of course, the new Ministerial team particularly closely watched all. And some messages were not clear. In particular, the decrees on the Office of reforms. I think you Minister of defense can become more to tell about it. But for sure assure you that there is no country in NATO, which have fully adopted all the standards of NATO.

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– Yes, a lot of them, they are constantly changing…

– Thousands of them. About it all constantly talk, but you don’t go into the details. We, as a country, never said that will take all the standards. We would like to. But there is a clearly defined list of areas of cooperation, and we implement these standards. Well, for example, we are not a party to the aviation programs, so today we don’t need to implement these standards. But there are standards to which Ukraine is a party. For the interaction of these armed units from NATO is in the first place. All the rest – when you get a chance.

– Also caused great concern the phrase of Andrei Taran that the achievement of NATO standards is “ambitious but unachievable goal.” Know then on the profile parliamentary Committee, the Minister justified that he was misunderstood. I, as a journalist, also can’t help but notice that the statements of the President, the former and the current Prime Minister was less mention of European and Euro-Atlantic integration. We have it written in the Constitution…

– We even have a Deputy Prime Minister for that.

– That is, its vector of movement in the EU and NATO, we do not turn?

– No, we do not turn from this path. And do this not only because it is written in the Constitution. It is very important that we openly talked with their citizens and allies that it (the move to the EU and NATO. – Ed.) – our all. If there is a feeling that the references became less, the rhetoric of change, then we need to adjust our communication messages. But, you know, the military is formulate with a certain military frankness.

– Very good information the reason could be the accession of Ukraine to the program of the advanced capabilities of NATO. Where are we here now? When we are able to declare that Ukraine joins the Program?

I think, this Program will not be affected by the pandemic. Revision of program participants, and today five of them, occurs every three years. This year, NATO has come to review the composition of program participants. Many years ago we stated that want to take part in it. The participants of this program are the closest NATO partners from all there is. Relatively speaking, at arm’s length from the Alliance. Of course, those who want to. But I want not all. For example, Australia and Jordan can not, for objective reasons. Sweden and Finland this is now not considered. Our goal is to become partners, we have said. As far as I remember, as Ambassador to NATO, the military part, and not civil, the political, had already said that they checked everything, they are satisfied, the APU is ready to become our closest military partner. The political decision over the capitals and political leaders. As I understand it, this consensus is being formed or is already formed. I hope that at the next meeting of the North Atlantic Council at the level of Ministers of defence of this decision can be made. We’d like to do it and ready to move in this direction.

– Hungary will not block?

– I’m sure it’s practical experience that, first of all, it is very interesting for NATO. Don’t forget that the main idea here is the ability of NATO to expand its cooperation with armed forces of other countries. So this is the same NATO’s interest as the interest of Ukraine.

But Hungary refused to lock our European and Euro-Atlantic integration. By the way, the EU is now their very criticizes that under the guise of coronavirus, the government of Orban tightens the screws. Can we somehow use this situation?

We spoke with Budapest to the coronavirus, said during the early stages, I’m afraid I’ll be forced to talk and after a coronavirus. When in Budapest said that they will block until Ukraine will fulfill all recommendations of the Venice Commission, this was the only formal basis and it was important for them to comment at that stage. As of last year we met all seven recommendations. They (The Hungary. – Ed.) want to challenge them, but all seven recommendations of the Venice Commission met. I sent a letter to the Secretary General of NATO and all allies, Recalling that Ukraine has completed the implementation and we expect allies unlock, knowing exactly what ally was going on. Decisions in NATO are taken by consensus, so here you have the solution to all. Ukraine expects to unlock. At the moment I have no reason to say that a solution is unlocked. This means that Hungary, despite its previous statements that they will remove the lock only when Ukraine will fulfill all the recommendations, did not.

– The new package of macro-financial assistance to Ukraine from the EU by 1.2 billion euros. Me, for example, was amazed that on the second place after Ukraine is Tunisia – 600 million euros. Depends on what new makrofin for Ukraine? How many trenches he will be defeated?

For part of the EU southern countries and the Mediterranean countries are very important…

– Yes, for France, for example…

– It’s no secret that to get this really big sum of money is necessary to continue cooperation with the IMF. We are moving in that direction. The EU never made any big secret that the decision of the international financial institutions for them is a major beacon. I am sure that we will complete negotiations with the IMF, the decision will be made. The breakdown into tranches, how many, what are additional conditions – I think we’ll soon find out from the EU.

– What is the deadline? The experience of the previous macroview we know that this support has a finite term. If the recipient country does not fulfill the conditions for getting to the deadline, help are simply burnt.

With the communications that we do, I would expect that aid will be divided at least into two parts. The first will come very quickly, and I don’t think there will be some conditions that we will not be able to perform. Whether the second part deals with the conditions and how they can in specific conditions of a pandemic coronavirus run view. At least the first major and significant unloading of funds for assistance to Ukraine will immediately after the decision of the IMF.

– Year of his presidency Zelensky. We, as journalists and experts summarize its achievements and failures, including in the diplomatic field. Hosted a virtual meeting of foreign Ministers “Channel four”. This is the first meeting of such level after the leaders ‘ summit in Paris on 9 December, where were You back in as foreign Minister. Recently Zelensky said that gives the “channel format” year. Do you believe that before the end of the year can achieve peace in the Donbass?

The optimist in me says that anything is possible. Russia is suffering from the pandemic coronavirus. I would advise them to focus more on domestic issues and to leave finally the Ukraine alone. Moreover, the sanctions they are around the world tell (which should be removed because of the coronavirus. – Ed.). But we see that the position is clear: sanctions are not connected with coronavirus, the sanctions associated with Russia’s behavior. I think that this RF signal is received. I’ve seen comments of his former colleagues Sergey Lavrov ahead of a meeting of Ministers “Norman format”. Nothing new I have not read. In all the years this rhetoric has not changed, which suggests that the decision is not within the competence of the ministries of foreign Affairs, diplomacy, and in one particular office in the Kremlin. So if there will be no solution, it will not. If the decision is, diplomacy will work. The decision of the leaders of the summit, it was recorded that the foreign Ministers should take certain measures. A month after the summit, I said that only one decision was made – the exchange of prisoners. All the rest, unfortunately, was not achieved. Then it was perceived as a lack of optimism. Today, I can’t say that this optimism I have more.

Some experts say that we still do not see all the consequences of a pandemic, the decline in oil prices and the economic recession, so perhaps this will be the impetus for Russia…

– Close project…

– Do you believe that Russia can go for it? For example, military experts say that the nose of the strategic military exercises “Caucasus-2020”, Russia prepared and tightens equipment and forces to the Ukrainian border, so what kind of concessions are we talking about?

There is always two opinions. First, they say that even to keep the Crimea and Donbass – it’s not so much the means by which Russia could not go, even if the decline in oil prices. Remember, the Soviet Union and today’s Russia, never bothered by such trifles as the welfare of the people. In principle, they can some time on the stock and ultra-nationalism to survive. Second, the decisions that were taken in Russia in the annexation and occupation of Crimea and war on Donbass, were very emotional, were political mistakes, decisions were made ad hoc. That is, they were emotionally and was specifically charged by one political decision. Therefore, I believe that these steps can be “turned off” back. As a participant in the negotiations on these notorious documents, which 16 hours were discussed (the Minsk agreement of February 12, 2015. – Ed.) I always remembered the decision (in Russia. – Ed.) can be adopted owing to personal reasons. Therefore, the chance for peace remains.