German member of parliament: Ukraine will be judged by democratic values

Kyiv Post: The Green Party is currently on the rise in Germany. How do you think your party will fare in the next Bundestag elections?

Viola von Cramon: It is hard to foretell the results of the Green Party in the next election. The Green movement in Germany is presently still growing, but whether this trend will last until the next federal elections in 2013 is something nobody can accurately predict.

The next steps towards more assuming responsibility in the national government are the upcoming municipal elections in Bremen and Berlin, where we have a good chance of becoming part of the government, and in Berlin perhaps even supplying the first Green mayor!

KP: What generally distinguishes the Green Party’s foreign policy and, in particular, its policy on Eastern Europe from other German parties?

VVC: The Green Party policy has always tried to follow the principle of sustainability. We are not looking only or primarily at economic interests. We always keep in mind the situation of human rights, of democratic freedoms, of the circumstances for women. With respect to our eastern neighbors, we very strongly support the Civil Society Forum of the European Union’s Eastern Partnership. Civil society must be strengthened throughout Eastern Europe. The academic education of students is important, too. We want to facilitate the conditions for students from Eastern Europe to spend part of their education in Germany and then going back to their home country to implement new ideas.

KP: What is the Green Party's attitude toward Ukraine?

VVC: We would like to see a democratic, pluralistic Ukraine. We regret the years that followed the [2004] Orange Revolution, in which [ex-] President [Viktor] Yushchenko failed to carry out sustainable reforms. For example, in five years, he didn’t manage to reform the constitution to a more sustainable one. He missed a lot of chances, he missed his whole potential. Well, he basically did nothing. You can name any sphere. It is a mess. We have strong contacts to human rights activists, to women organizations, to environmental groups and others. We are sure that the Ukrainian people have the potential and the will to enter into the European family.

KP: How does the Green Party evaluate the political development in Russia over the last 10 years?

VVC: A truly democratic Russia would open the door to a strategic partnership between Russia and the European Union. For this reason … we criticize the increasing shortfalls in democratic policies and frequent human-rights violations. Today, Russia and Germany are mutually dependent states. As much as we need Russian gas to heat our homes, Russia needs the income from selling us such energy products to support its economy. Nearly 50 percent of the Russian national budget comes from such sources. Russia also needs Western know-how to conduct urgently needed investments into their outdated equipment. Nevertheless, we do strive to generally reduce our dependency on fossil fuels and with that, on Russian gas too. We need to build up alternative transport routes for energy and expand renewable energy sources.KP: What would be your advice and what hopes do you have for the future of Ukraine-German relations?

VVC: I think that the German policy toward Eastern Europe should be reformed such that our bilateral relations with Ukraine are seen as separate from our relations to Russia. Ukraine is the second largest country in Europe, a direct and a strong neighbor of the EU. The negotiations concerning a comprehensive free trade agreement are ongoing; but we have to remind President Viktor Yanukovych and Prime Minister Mykola Azarov that sticking to democratic values is very important if you want to have closer connections with your Western neighbors.

KP: Do you believe Yanukovych will act responsibly in securing the closed Chornobyl nuclear power plant, site of the 1986 explosion?

VVC: I personally cannot completely understand the Ukrainian energy policy: The problem of the fourth reactor is not yet solved, but the government is still going ahead together with the Russians to plan even more nuclear power stations. That in my opinion is an absolutely irresponsible strategy. The government lets the international community pay, on the one hand, for the security of the population and, on the other hand, creates even more severe problems by planning new reactors! For the last 25 years, Ukraine has not done a lot to solve the existing problem around Chornobyl. Corruption is only one reason for this, the other being an absence of political willpower to do what is necessary.

KP: Germans are very environmentally friendly and like organic products. Will they buy those from Ukraine?

VVC: I am sure that Ukraine is able to produce organic food. The main thing is to stick to the EU regulation standards and then it should not be a problem to export those products to the European Union - first within the quota but later after the FTA also on a larger scale.

KP: Are Germans afraid that Ukrainian food is radioactive?

VVC: Radioactivity will always be a concern in foodstuffs, especially now with the new nuclear catastrophe in Japan.

Olena Tregub is a Kyiv Post freelance correspondent based in Washington, D.C.

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