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Interview of Borys Tarasyuk, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister
Borys Tarasyuk, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, answers questions put to him by Mariya VLAD, editor of Welcome to Ukraine Magazine.
Recently, Kyiv was the venue of the 4th World Forum of Ukrainians. Could you, please, give your general comment about this event?
The 4th World Forum of Ukrainians, held in Kyiv in August 2006, brought together people of Ukrainian descent from 43 countries of the world — Russia, Canada, the USA, Australia, Uzbekistan, Brazil, Argentina and Baltic states among them. There were 450 delegates and 450 guests from foreign countries alone. About 400 people of Ukrainian descent from foreign countries took part in the art festival Ukrayinksy spiv u sviti (Ukrainian Singing in the World), which was held within the framework of the Forum.
About 3,500 people were present at the opening ceremony in which President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko, cabinet ministers and other officials took part.
The motto of the Forum was Ukrayina v nas yedyna (Ukraine is the Native Land for All of Us). The main goal of the Forum was to unite people of Ukrainian descent who live in so many countries of the world to rally around the idea of Ukrainian national revival and of creating a positive image of Ukraine around the world.
At separate meetings, workshops and seminars there were discussed such issues as the strategic goals of the Ukrainian nation in the 21st century, revival of the culture, language, religious unity of people of Ukrainian descent all over the world, legal protection of their rights in education and in obtaining information they need wherever they live or temporarily reside. At the end of the discussions, resolutions were adopted.
For the first time in the history of such forums, representatives of the so-called “fourth wave” of emigration — in other words of those Ukrainians, who emigrated from Ukraine in recent years — were present at the Forum.
Some of the Forum delegates had separate meetings with officials at the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. What was the purpose of these meetings?
The main purpose of these meetings was to continue a dialogue between the leaders and activists of Ukrainian public organizations abroad and Ukrainian officials. All kinds of issues and problems were discussed; support was expressed for the work of people of Ukrainian descent abroad in upholding Ukrainian traditions and disseminating information about Ukraine and Ukrainians, in maintaining the knowledge of the Ukrainian language and culture.
In my address to the meeting that was held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the first day, I emphasized the importance of fruitful cooperation with people of Ukrainian descent living abroad. Following the initiative of Ukraine’s President, such cooperation has become one of the priorities in Ukraine’s foreign policy. Some time ago, a special unit for matters dealing with Ukrainians abroad was set up at the Ministry. Thanks to the activities of this unit, the work of the Ministry in this sphere has become more purposeful.
Those present at the meeting were also informed about the State Programme of Coordinated Work with Ukrainians Abroad up to the Year 2010, about a National Concept of coordinated work with Ukrainians abroad that was submitted to the Forum, about the work of the National Commission for Matters Concerning Ukrainians Abroad which functions at the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, and about financing from the state budget of Ukraine to be provided for 500 projects to be carried out by Ukrainian organizations in 43 countries of the world.
Also, it was my pleasure to hand diplomas of honour to ten representatives of Ukrainians abroad, who had made worthy contributions to improving the international prestige of Ukraine, to making Ukraine’s achievements and culture better known in the world, and who had taken an active part in the work of Ukrainian communities abroad and promoted cooperation of Ukraine with the countries where they lived.
All in all, 116 representatives of Ukrainians abroad were awarded diplomas of honour; 73 of them were issued by the President of Ukraine, 30 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and 13 by the Cabinet of Ministers.
Within the framework of the Forum, round table discussions were held, one of which dealt with Holodomor (Famine) in Ukraine in 1932–1933 in which millions of people died. Do you have any comment on this subject?
It was the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine that initiated and then organized this round-table discussion which was called Holodomor v Ukrayini — trahediya svitovoho masshtabu (Famine in Ukraine in 1932–1933 – Tragedy of a World Scale). In this we were following the instructions of President Yushchenko that Ukrainian diplomats continue their work directed at having the Famine of 1932–1933 recognized as genocide against the Ukrainian people. This round-table discussion made possible to exchange information about measures that were taken or have to be taken in connection with marking of the 75th anniversary of the Famine in Ukraine in 2007–2008 and to coordinate our efforts with those taken by the Ukrainian communities abroad in order to achieve the desirable international reaction. We think that our goal was achieved.
What makes us think so? Firstly, because this round-table discussion generated a lot of interest among the participants of the Forum — about 150 people took part in the discussion. Secondly, because a number of prominent political and public figures of Ukraine and of foreign countries agreed to take part in it. Among them were Mykola Plav’yuk, Ivan Drach, Mykola Zhulynsky, Borys Oliynyk, Mykhailo Horyn, Ihor Yukhnovsky, Dmytro Pavlychko, Jacob Sundberg, professor of law at the University of Stockholm, Sweden (in 1988–1990 he headed the independent International Commission to study the famine in Ukraine in 1932–1933), and Morgan Williams, a US historian and expert in Ukraine’s history. Incidentally, it was Mr Williams who lent his private collection of paintings, etchings, posters and photographs that depicted the Famine of 1932–1933 in Ukraine to be exhibited at the Culture Centre Ukrayinsky Dim, the venue of the discussion.
Thirdly, the participants of the round-table discussion approved the Address to the International Community, Governments, Parliaments of Countries of the World, and to International Organizations which contains an appeal to recognize the Famine of 1932–1933 in Ukraine as an act of genocide against the Ukrainian people. The Address said in part, “We call upon the people of good will all over the world to disseminate the truth about the great tragedy of the Famine by all means available to them.” So, one can say that this round-table discussion was an important political event.
You mentioned earlier that among the participants of the Forum were representatives of the so-called “fourth wave” of emigration from Ukraine which included those Ukrainians who left Ukraine to go abroad in search of work in recent years. Could you provide some details, please?
Their presence was one of the distinctive features of the Forum. 70 delegates from 27 countries of the world represented the interests of Ukrainians who work abroad. According to the data made public at the Forum there are about 7 million Ukrainians who are currently living and working abroad. At the meeting delegates from Portugal, Spain, Romania, the USA, Poland, Canada, Italy and the Czech Republic held within the framework of the Forum, it was mentioned that the characteristic features of the “fourth wave” of emigration from Ukraine which differs it from the previous ones, was the economic rather than political motivations of emigration, and the fact that most of these Ukrainians retained their Ukrainian passports and planned to return back to Ukraine. The Ukrainians of “the fourth wave” of emigration maintain their spiritual, cultural and other links with Ukraine. A decision was taken to set up a new international non-governmental organization, Nova Khvylya (New Wave), which was to maintain contacts between the representatives of the “fourth wave” and non-governmental and governmental agencies of Ukraine, and also among organizations of Ukrainians abroad. Ukraine has already signed 13 bilateral international and inter-government agreements with other countries about providing job placements for Ukrainians who go abroad to find work, and about their legal and social protection. We continue negotiations with the governments of the countries concerned in order to help solve problems that Ukrainians who go abroad to work may face. The President of Ukraine, the government of Ukraine and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are fully aware of the importance of this issue.
Did the Presidium of the Ukrainian World Coordinating Council play any role in doing the preparatory work and in holding the Forum?
Yes, it did, and quite an active role too. Members of the Presidium worked jointly with other members of the Organizing Committee and with representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and other government and public organizations.
In fact, the Forum itself according to the Charter of the Council says should be regularly convened. Mykhailo Horyn, head of the Presidium, made a report in which he described the work done in the period from 2001 up to 2006. The report was discussed and proposals as to how to improve the work of the Presidium were expressed. A new presidium with 36 members was elected, and the new chairman of the Presidium became Dmytro Pavlychko, a poet, political and cultural figure. Incidentally, Mr Pavlychko served for some time as Ambassador of Ukraine to Slovakia and Poland.
I think it would be interesting for the readers of your magazine to read an interview with Mr Pavlychko himself, about his plans as chairman of the Presidium of the Ukrainian World Coordinating Council, and about contacts and relations with Ukrainians abroad.
Did the Forum live up to the expectations of its organizers among which your Ministry played a considerable role?
I think it did. It was an event that coincided with the marking of the fifteenth anniversary of Ukraine’s independence, and this in itself was an auspicious start. The Forum proved to be a vehicle for promoting information about the political, economic and social situation in Ukraine.
The Forum was an important political and cultural event in the life of Ukraine and in the life of Ukrainians abroad. I am sure that the decisions taken at the Forum will improve and expand contacts and cooperation with people of Ukrainian descent all over the world. Many problems and issues in cultural, language and other spheres will be dealt with, and the positive image of Ukraine in the world will be improved.
Photos have been provided by the press service
of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine
Borys Tarasyuk amidst college students
Borys Tarasyuk and Condoleezza Rice,
Borys Tarasyuk and Ian Boag, Head
Borys Tarasyuk with Mr. Ban Ki-moon
Borys Tarasyuk at the Ukrainian Museum