Ukraine and Euro-Atlantic Security
The Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade (IFAT), in cooperation with the Embassy of Ukraine in Budapest, the Embassy of Canada in Budapest, the Embassy of the United Kingdom in Budapest and the Embassy of the United States in Budapest organised a public lecture with the title of "Ukraine and Euro-Atlantic Security" at IFAT on June 1. After the opening remarks of Ambassador Márton Schőberl, director of IFAT, Mr. Oleksii Makeiev, Director General for Policy and Communications of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine and Ambassador Roman Waschuk, Canadian Ambassador to Ukraine discussed the current situation and the future prospects of Ukraine. The event was moderated by Dr. László Póti, Senior Research Fellow of IFAT.
Ambassador Schőberl in his welcoming remarks introduced the Hungarian perspective towards the current situation in Ukraine. He highlighted that Ukraine has always been a special partner for Hungary, therefore, the Hungarian government is committed to support the development and reform attempts of Ukraine as part of its Eastern opening strategy and is devoted to support the country’s rapprochement to the European Union, which unfortunately is hindered by the annexation of Crimea and separatist movements. Energy security, infrastructure development, environmental protection and cultural exchange programs are the core areas of cooperation between the two countries, however, the issue of Hungarian minorities living within the territory of Ukraine is also a top priority for the Hungarian government.
Mr. Makeiev emphasised that while Ukraine is fighting now against aggression, it is making extensive reforms to ensure democratic and economic progress by implementing new approaches to fight corruption in order to regain the trust of people. He pointed out that in this regard, Hungary is one of the most devoted supporter of Ukraine. The ongoing aggression in this country is a major challenge for the post-world war order, which challenges the democracies of the Euro-Atlantic Region. He further asserted that currently 7.2 % of Ukrainian territory, which includes Crimea and the region of Donbass and where people suffer from major human rights violations, is occupied by the Russian Federation. More than 10 thousand people lost their life since the beginning of the hostilities and many soldiers were killed who protected the Ukrainian territory. In this year, around 300 soldiers were severely wounded, many partner states give assistance to gear soldiers or to assist children. He underscored that another important issue is the Russian disinformation and propaganda, what many governments fail to debunk. Not just Ukraine, but other states could experience Russian influence in the form of the financing of certain political parties, the arrangement of cyberattack against government infrastructures or meddling into elections. Mr. Makeiev, however, maintained that despite Ukraine fights a war, with the help of implemented reforms, economic decline was halted and the GDP growth was more than 2 %. Economic forecasts are good, major international ratings are now better, and it is easier for companies to operate since deregulation reforms took place. More than 60 post-soviet style regulations were abandoned in the recent years. According to Mr. Makeiev, a major progress was achieved regarding anti-corruption measures. Every civil servant has to declare their assets which is publicly available for the sake of a greater transparency. As part of his closing remarks, the director-general maintained that friends are key for Ukraine, it is important for the country and its people to know that they are supported by other European states because that makes them think that they belong to the European group.
Ambassador Roman Waschuk told the audience that Canada has been a firm supporter of Ukraine since 1991 as Canada was the first country which recognised the country’s independence. Canada has currently around 1.3 million Ukrainian people, is one of the biggest investors and supporter of reforms regarding its military system, police force and key ministries like the economic or finance ones. According to him, with the introduction of extreme transparency measures in terms of asset declaration, Ukraine has become one of the first countries which implemented such extensive changes. However, he emphasised that a lot shall be done in the field of the effectiveness of prosecutions, especially when it comes to reaction time because there is a huge public desire for justice.