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7 (2014)
Tunnelling Towards Hope


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28 February - 6 March 2014

Ukraine History

A Stronghold of Rulers and Rebels

With the recent death toll jumping to nearly 100 and 1,000 injured, Hrushevskoho Street, one of the strongholds of EuroMaidans three-month-long protests, made headlines around the globe. It was here, on 19 January the countrys stand against government corruption, abuse of power, and the violation of human rights turned from peaceful protest to all-out revolution. Having witnessed much over the years, Hrushevskoho is a street with a history, and not only care of recent days.

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Ukraine Today
Acelebrity using their status and intelligence to influence public views and opinion is rarely seen in modern society, even less so in Ukraine. Here, the majority of celebs use their time, effort, and money to enhance or further their career rather than put their name to something that can do good for others. However, as EuroMaidan intensifies, some are making themselves heard and they fall either side of the EuroMaidan divide.
It used to be that when rebellion and revolution occurred, the intellectual, creative, and spiritual elite would be front and centre.

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Ukrainian Culture

When Walls Can Talk

People have been writing on walls since the dawn of civilisation, we call it graffiti, and ranges from simple written words to elaborate wall paintings. Sometimes it is merely the creator wanting to leave his or her mark; sometimes there is an underlying social or political reason. And it is due to the latter that graffiti has exploded across Kyiv in recent months. Anti dictator messages aside, we peel back a few layers of paint to look at graffiti in the city in general.

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My Kyiv

All the Way from the End of the World

Many people associate Portugal with golf, Madeira wine, Jose Mourinho and the financial crisis. Whats On recently met with His Excellency the Ambassador of Portugal to Ukraine, Mario Jesus dos Santos, and found our perceptions changed. It turns out that what we should really associate it with is cement, medical fabric and liquid fuel containers

Whats OnAmbassador, can you give us a bit of background please. Where were you before Ukraine? 
Mario Jesus dos Santos Before this I was Portuguese ambassador in Bulgaria, Principe (an old Portuguese colony) and Gabon. I came to Kyiv two and a half years ago.

WOWhat were your first impressions of the city?
MS I was positively surprised! I must confess that I was a little worried before I came. I didnt know much about the country or the city, but its beautiful, especially in the spring and the summer. The people come outdoors, and I like the way there are people everywhere. Its a living town, with good restaurants and a good cultural life, so yes, Im very happy to be here.  

WOTell us about Portugals economic relationship with Ukraine. Is there a lot of Portuguese investment here?
MS No, not really, but the relationship is developing. During the last five to six years the Ukrainian community in Portugal has grown to be the second largest in the world. In the business sphere the two countries are a little far away from each other. Portugal is a small economy that is now oriented firmly towards Europe and the EU. Weve developed relations and have significant investments in EU countries, such as Poland. But investment here is limited. We have only three investments, the biggest of which is a cement factory in Odesa. Another is based in Rivne, producing medical fabrics. Finally, we have a factory in Kharkiv that makes containers for transporting liquid fuel.

WOYou mentioned the Ukrainian diaspora in Portugal. How has that come about? 
MS There was a natural movement of Ukrainians into Europe over the past few years. Many went to Spain. Others went further. Those who have settled in Portugal are happy there. Even in the last few years, when the financial crisis hit, they have wanted to stay, because they have a good life there. 

WOIs Portugal still happy to accept Ukrainians?
MS Yes, but the problem now is that the economy has little capacity to absorb them. People now find that they cant find jobs and they face difficulties. Unemployment is at more than 11% and the economy has slowed. It affects everybody. For now there are no social problems as a result of this. 

WOHow have Ukrainians arrived in such numbers over the past few years?
MS We tried to promote legal immigration, and tried to stop illegal immigration, but we cannot totally control this. Last year about 80,000 Ukrainians came to Portugal, of these just over 50,000 were legal. If people come to Portugal illegally they cannot expect to have the same rights. For example, some people apply for visas and say they are visiting family, but they do so expecting to stay. Last year we tried to implement a new project with the Ukrainian authorities. We tried to find Ukrainian migrants jobs for six months, after which they came back to Ukraine with the skills they had gained. It worked well, in fact the Ukrainians are talking to us about re-launching it, but we need money for this project to continue.

WOHas Portugal gone through the process of a shrinking population?
MS Throughout our history we have always had people migrating into Portugal. I think about 40% of our population are immigrants. We have always had a big African community, and a small Indian community. And in recent years weve had lots of Brazilians and Ukrainians.
 
WOHas the Portuguese policy on immigration changed with the crisis?
MS No, the policy hasnt changed, but the economic situation has. If there are no jobs, it affects immigration, because immigrants are like everybody they need to work. We have found some Brazilians are returning home, because Brazil has developed and there are many opportunities across the Atlantic for them. Another problem we have is that young people leaving university are finding difficulties getting their first job, so if there is an opportunity elsewhere in the EU, they will go where the opportunities are. 

WOPortugal has been hit hard by the crisis: what is your outlook for the future?
MS I have no crystal ball, but I believe Europe will find a solution. I think the current system is the best we have. To have so many countries living together in a community is a big achievement. Sure, the world is moving every day and we face problems, but trade within Europe remains important. Our economy depends on trade. We are not self-sufficient, so we depend on exports.

WOWhat does Portugal export?
MS Our biggest exports are wine, olive oil, cork, textiles, shoes and technology. We also build cars for large European car manufacturers, such as Volkswagen. We have invested in renewable energy, such as hydro-electric. But we now have to reduce our national debt considerably in the next two to three years, so exports will become even more important for us to pay off the loans and the interest. Its a concern because the recession has meant cuts, and we are in negative growth.

WOWill making cuts at home not hurt growth?
MS Its a balance, thats why its important to address the structural aspects of the economy too. If you cut internal demand at a time when external demand drops, what do you have? All of Europe has the same problem. The economies are fragile in that way. But we must have faith that we can solve the problem.

WOLooking at Ukraine, the IMF wants the government to remove gas subsidies, but many people cannot afford market rate. How do you think this helps?
MS Its a delicate situation. Technically speaking, this is one solution proposed, but we must be very careful about the social impact. My personal view is that a government must try to avoid imposing measures that hit the poorest, and they must try to distribute the impact of any cuts across society. As I said, its a balance. 

WOUkraine has a small number of exceptionally wealthy people, and the rest are very poor. But the IMF has not asked Ukraine to tax the wealthy. Can you understand that?
MS Its something for the Ukrainian government to manage and negotiate, but at home in Portugal we believe that the government must try to balance the sacrifices. The IMF will always look at the macroeconomic figures, such as the cost to the government of gas subsidies. But the government will need time to introduce something like this, and I think they are trying to find ways to compensate people. But this is a big country, with huge resources, so I think they will find a solution. 

WOWeve spoken about the EU. Whats Portugals view on Ukraines membership?
MS We believe Ukraine is a European country and we want to be part of the solution. We want to help where we can, but the country needs to live by the rule of law and abide by the standards of the European UNI0N first and foremost.

WODo you see a change in commitment since the new administration came into power?
MS The new administration says it is committed and they know it will take time. The free-trade agreement is a natural step, but there is still a long way to go after this. To integrate Ukrainian society into European society will take many little changes. But I do believe the current government is committed to joining the EU. 

WOHow do you think the current trials of opposition leaders will affect this?
MS They must be aware that the judiciary has to be independent, not selective. They need to demonstrate to Europe that the rule of law is healthy here, not only with words but actions. We must remember that Ukraine is still a very young country. Twenty years for a society is nothing. They must develop their society themselves Ukrainians must make Ukraine. If they look to Europe for help, we must be ready to help, but they must be ready to take action themselves. 

WOHow does Portugal view tourist visas for young people?
MS We abide by the rules of the Schengen Agreement. However, the refusal of visas is very rare, no more than 1-2%. If young people want to come, thats no problem. It is only when there is a risk of illegal immigration, for example when people have fake documents. 

WOWith the huge Ukrainian diaspora, are you developing Portugal as a holiday destination for Ukrainians?
MS Yes, this is something that we need to develop further. There are other destinations like Greece and Turkey that are nearer to Ukraine, so the travel costs will always be less. But we have the opportunity to develop the industry for Ukrainians who are able to travel to Portugal, especially the luxury end. 

WOAnd finally, what do you like to do in your free time, and where?
MS I take walks every day with my wife, its wonderful! In Lisbon its terrible because there are so many hills! But here its fine. Every weekend we like to get outside the city and enjoy the countryside and the restaurants. I like to play tennis too. I enjoy this quiet side of life. It gives a good balance to the busy social side of diplomatic life. 

Neil Campbell


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Comments (2)
You are not authorized! Only registered and authorized users can add their comments!
nyaudn | 01.05.2012 22:04

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mariana | 30.04.2012 12:55

Denys,Je trouve ton airtcle tre8s injuste et meame e0 la limite de la diffamation vis e0 vis de mon pays, permets moi de te le dire. Je te le dis d'autant plus que tu es (et restera) mon ami et qu'avec un ami on se dit les choses de manie8re naturelle et franche.Les relations franco-russes sont ce qu'elles sont et on ne va pas se plaindre que depuis plusieurs anne9es elles soient plus sereines. Je fais partie d'une ge9ne9ration qui a connue les tensions diplomatiques se9rieuses est-ouest et aujourd'hui, et bien oui et encore oui, je me re9jouis que le l'e9tat d'esprit soit plus intelligent, plus pacifique et plus collaboratif. Cela ne veut pas dire pour autant que les frane7ais se de9sinte9ressent totalement de ce qui se passe dans les pays limitrophes. Le conflit gazier par exemple a fait l'objet de toutes les unes des journaux ici.Je ne conside8re pas le manque d'information ge9o-politique de mes concitoyens comme une arrogance mais comme une ignorance, ce qui est bien diffe9rent.Comme dans chaque pays, le citoyen lambda s'inte9resse davantage e0 ses affaires inte9rieures plutf4t que ce qui se passe e0 l'exte9rieur. Et e7a, ce n'est pas valable qu'en France, il me semble Que dis tu alors des belges, des espagnols, des italiens, des autrichiens, et du reste du monde sur le sujet ? Sont-ils, eux aussi, aussi arrogants que nous ????En conclusion, e0 mon humble niveau, j'appre9cie d'abord les gens avant les syste8mes politiques et tu es bien place9 pour savoir que j'ai des amis (que j'appre9cie e9norme9ment et je pe8se since8rement mes mots) qu'ils habitent d'un cf4te9 ou de l'autre d'une frontie8re S.


 
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    Ukraine Truth
    Rights We Didnt Know We Had

    Throughout EuroMaidan much has been made of Ukrainians making a stand for their rights. What exactly those rights are were never clearly defined. Ukraine ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1952. The first article of the Declaration states all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, they are endowed with reason and conscience, and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. The ousted and overthrown Ukrainian government showed to the world they dont understand the meaning of these words.


    Kyiv Culture

    Pulling Strings
    Located on Hrushevskoho Street the epicentre of EuroMaidan violence, home to battles, blazes and barricades childrens favourite the Academic Puppet Theatre had to shut down in February. Nevertheless, it is getting ready to reopen this March with a renewed repertoire to bring some laughter back to a scene of tragedy. Operating (not manipulating) puppets is a subtle art that can make kids laugh and adults cry. Whats On meets Mykola Petrenko, art director of the Theatre, to learn more about those who pull the strings behind the show.

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