SWEDISH UKRAINE AMBASSADOR: YANUKOVYCH HAS NOT LIVED UP TO EXPECTATIONS

Kyiv Post on May 24, 2012, published an interview with Sweden’s top diplomat in Ukraine, Stefan Gullgren. One of the nation’s strongest allies within the EU has been Sweden, a Scandinavian nation of around nine million people that has been represented in Ukraine for the last three years by Ambassador Stefan Gullgren.

Kyiv Post: How did Ukraine change since your arrival as the ambassador three years ago and during the first two years in power of President Viktor Yanukovych?

Stefan Gullgren: We did have expectations after President Yanukovych and his government came to power. They presented a very ambitious reform program. That raised expectations in particular among the business community that there would be radical reforms [and] improvements. It’s fair to say that we haven’t really seen that happen, at least not yet. That could be because of the extent of the problems, it takes time to change.

KP: How can Ukraine find a way to balance Russian interests in Ukraine and its aspirations to join the EU?

SG: I don’t think there is any necessary choice to be made for a country like Ukraine – either you become a member of European integration process or you have relations with countries which do not seek membership with the European Union. There will, of course, at some point have to be a choice made between either the European integration process or the integration process which is now in place in form of the [Russian-led] Customs Union, because a country cannot become a member of more than one customs union at a time.

KP: Some EU countries seem to be less supportive of Ukraine’s potential EU membership than others. Why is that?

SG: I don’t think that the difference is that big. We are bound by the European Union treaty which states that any European state has perspective, if it’s able and willing to become a member. I want to stress that this is not restricted to the economic area.

KP: Are you concerned about recent reports of physical abuse of imprisoned former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko?

SG: Of course we are. We are concerned about the reports about her health situation, but not only that. Our position is well known. We think that this and other trials have created the impression of selective justice in Ukraine.

KP: What feedback do you hear from Swedish businesses operating in Ukraine, since some businesses like furniture giant IKEA with Swedish roots failed to settle in Ukraine because of corruption here?

SG: Swedish companies have as a policy not to involve themselves with corruption. That’s a matter of principle. And they seem to be able to do that with some success, because we have a number of Swedish companies which are here, and I’ve seen most of them to be doing business well.

KP: What are your expectations from the upcoming Sweden-Ukraine football match during Euro 2012?

SG: We are expecting somewhere between 20,000 and 25,000 Swedes to come to Ukraine, specifically to Kyiv…I am likely to go. I am curious to see in which colors they are going to play, because both Sweden and Ukraine are blue and yellow, and that will have to be sorted out some way, but I hope they will be able to distinguish each other on the field.

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