I have not yet met Olivier in person. We are friends on facebook and colleagues of Academic Center of Assembly of European Regions, Strasbourg, France. Last year he contaced me in order to invite to an event in Ukraine to make a presentation related to the Europeanization of public administration and administrative decentralization. I prepared a comparison between Romania and Poland, but because of the events of late last year, the event has not been held; the authorities were more concerned with internal events and the conflict in the eastern part of Ukraine than administrative reforms. Olivier Védrine is director of Continental University Business School of Kiev which promotes the Continental Europe in areas related to science, economic exchanges and mobility from Lisbon to Vladivostok. He is very active in political life and constantly promotes European Union values in the Ukrainian capital. Curious to see what a French is doing in Kiev I asked him some questions.
Hi Olivier. What is doing a french in Ukraine? Why and when you decide to establish-move-live in Ukraine?
I arrived in Ukraine, since more than two years ago, invited at the beginning by a cousin; because I have family in Ukraine and in Russia. I came in Kiev to build a business school with European standards with my partner Victor Petrovich Androuchenko, the Rector of the National Pedagogical Dragomanov University. The first year was not simple because of the bureaucracy of the ministry of education in Ukraine. The Revolution arrived and very quickly I joined my Ukrainian friends. I had already given several lectures on European Union in universities in Kiev before the beginning of Maidan. It is therefore natural that I became an activist! I spoke several times on the scene of Maidan, I have organized the visits on Maidan of my friend Henri Malosse, President of EESC – European Economic and Social Committee.
Why I did Maidan? I just saw from the beginning that my Ukrainian friends fought for the values in which I believe and I’ve seen next to the Ukrainian flag the flag of the European Union, my flag! I was the most part of the time at the Trade Unions House, I also went on the Independence Square, I discussed with the people on the barricades. I quickly understood that this revolution was at first a revolution for Ukraine to change the system, more and more this fight was not only to go to the European Union, nor to oppose to Russia but increasingly this fight was a fight for Ukraine, for a new Ukraine!
Tell us please about Continental University, about projects and future goals of the organization?
The purpose of the Continental University Business School is to promote an European education with double diplomas, French and Ukrainian diplomas. We will give BBA and MBA degrees.
What is the situation now in Ukraine? What happens at the political level?
As you know the situation in Ukraine is not very good. This country has a war in the East and a lot of difficulties in economy. At the political level, the government wants to go to the European Union.
Do you think that the conflict from East Ukraine can escalate into something more extensive, involving other states?
The European Union has to face an important and organized Putin’s propaganda. In this short cold war we have to face a war of communication efficient and strong. We can see that the Putin’s administration is using the same instruments of propaganda than during the Soviet Union. They are lying, manipulating, and using some “useful idiots” in foreign countries like they did during the Soviet Union with the Communist Parties in Europe and all around the world. But Russia is not the Soviet Union! Russia is not so powerful than the Soviet Union was! The Russian army is not the Red Army! The economy of Russia represents 2, 86% of the gross domestic product (GDP) of the whole world (figures 2013). And this economy is now collapsing because of the sanctions against the Putin’s policy in Ukraine and also because of the inefficiency of the economic system in Russia based on corruption and soviet culture of management.
If we want to compare; US plus EU plus Canada plus Australia represent around 46,25 % of the gross domestic product (GDP) of the whole world (figures 2013). And NATO is still and for a long time the most powerful military organization.
Then, can we be afraid? No, we must not be afraid about the economic power or the military power of Russia. But we have to take care about the war of communication made by Putin because the target of this war of communication is to divide the public opinions at first in the European Union because Ukraine choose to go to the European Union and secondly against USA because the United States of America support the choice of Ukraine. In western democracies the power of the public opinion is taken into consideration by the western politicians not like in Russia because of an authoritarian regime, and Putin knows that!
How do you see Russia’s foreign policy, in terms of Ukraine and how do you think Putin will move in the future?
War in the East of Ukraine, supported by a foreign country underline that the Ukrainian revolution is a choice to live in another system. This fratricidal war in the Donbass is the proof that Putin has understood that he could not let Ukraine go easily, that if he can no longer dominate then he has to weaken Ukraine and the war in the East weakens Ukraine. Putin understood that Maidan is a declaration of refusal of his system, more Ukraine will be develop rapidly more the system of power in Russia will be threatened and will be forced to do some reforms to avoid a Maidan in Moscow.
But Europe? How will the EU react about Ukraine situation in the future?
We have to win this political and military war in Ukraine, at first for Ukraine and its independence and secondly for Europe. This is a war between two systems, between the system of the European Union based on Democracy, Human Rights, Press Freedom against a system based on authoritarism and corruption and soviet way of thinking. We have to cut all the Continental Europe from the soviet heritage. We can only build a common space from Lisbon to Vladivostok under the values of democracy, human rights, press freedom, equality gender, solidarity, dialogue.
You said last year that civil society can help in solving the crisis in Ukraine. How? However, civil society is still at the beginning in Ukraine and not very strong.
Yes, the civil society is still at the beginning but this is a new period for Ukraine. This civil society is making some pressures on the government and on the Rada assembly to do the reforms and to cut with the soviet heritage. The politicians are now afraid about a new Maidan if they will not do their jobs. The Ukrainian people will never let the government and the politicians do the same governance than before Maidan.
You are promoting European values in Ukraine and try to approach Ukraine to the EU by the actions you take. How difficult will be the administrative reform in Ukraine and how long it will take for European principles as multi-level governance and subsidiarity to be functional in Ukraine?
Ukraine has to win two wars. The first war is in the East in the Donbass, to win this war Ukraine needs modern defensive weapons and more European and US sanctions against the Kremlin. Putin will continue to disturb Ukraine because a free and developed Ukraine is a danger for his power and system in Russia. The second war for Ukraine is against corruption, an internal war. At the same time Ukraine has to fight in the Donbass and against corruption. The more Ukraine will have success in the fight against corruption the more Ukraine will have success in the war in the Donbass. Corruption makes the state inefficient and to win the war in the East of Ukraine you need an efficient state! The victory against corruption will make at the same time the victory in the Donbass and build a new Ukraine! The administrative reforms in Ukraine are an instrument to fight against corruption, for example they must increase the income of the civil servants. But that will take time and need some “Shock therapy” as in Poland at the beginning of the 90’. I think that will take around 15 years to do all the reforms in Ukraine to be a EU member, nearly the same as we saw in Poland.
What do you think about decentralization? Do you think it will be possible administrative decentralization for a more efficient operation of the public administration?
Yes, definitely I think the decentralization will build a more efficient public administration! We cannot manage a country in the XXIst century as we did in the XXth century, the government has to be more close to the people and with the new technologies, this is possible. The decentralization is also a good reform to cut with the post-soviet system of governance to much centralized.
Where do you see Ukraine in the next years?
As I said before, Ukraine needs some “Shock therapy” as in Poland at the beginning of the 90’. I think that will take around 15 years to do all the reforms in Ukraine to be a EU member, nearly the same as we saw in Poland. I think the war in the East will end when Putin and his system will leave the power in Russia and for the annexion of Crimea we need to wait a new political system in Russia. Freedom and democracy in Russia mean peace and development in Ukraine!
A message for Romanians and Romania:
I love your country and your people I was in Bucharest in September 2011, I did a conference. I met and spoke with your former President of Romania, H.E. Mr. Ion Iliescu. I visited Bucharest with one of my Romanian friend from your Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I gave interviews. I am very happy that now Romania is a member state of the European Union, your Country and the Romanian people deserved to be in the European Union!
Olivier Vedrine is the President of the Continental University Business School in Kiev, Ukraine. Academic teacher, researcher, journalist, conference speaker – lecturer on behalf of the European Commission (in the experts’ network Team Europe France), journalist not only in European blogs but also he was Chief Editor of the Russian edition of the “Revue Défense Nationale“ (2010-2014), France. Associate researcher for the University of Québec in Montréal (UQAM), Canada. He is expert member of the National Union of the Political Scientists and member of the Editorial Advisory Board of “Questions of political science”, Russia. Since 2015, he is expert member of the Academic Center of the Assembly of European Regions, Strasbourg, France.
He was visiting lecturer in some universities in France, Ukraine, Russia, Germany, Poland, Canada, Taiwan, Italy, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Belgium, United Kingdom, Romania, Nederland, Georgia, Portugal.