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Responsibility for European Values. Ukrainian-German Discussion in the Verkhovna Rada

14 July 2017

On July 13, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine hosted an expert discussion on historical responsibility “Germany and Ukraine in Europe: responsibility for the past – responsibilities for the future”. The event was organized by the Kyiv Dialogue Project and the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs under support of the International Renaissance Foundation to give impetus to broad German-Ukrainian debates that began in May 2017 in the Bundestag. 

The Renaissance Foundation continues to support the initiatives that help to build mutual trust and understanding between the Ukrainian and international parliamentarians, government officials, experts and public figures. Yesterday’s event brought together the Ukrainian and German sides for dialogue to consolidate their pro-European position and unite the new generation of people who make political decisions and take responsibility for them.

After the EuroMaidan, the annexation of Crimea by Russia and the war against Ukraine in the Donbas, the country got in the sight of the Western European and German community. Owing to the Association Agreement and the introduction of a visa-free regime with the European Union, Ukraine drew substantially closer to the EU and Germany. At the same time, the most painful part of the common history of both countries is largely forgotten in the collective consciousness of the Germans. 

At the same time the historical responsibility for the crimes of the national-socialism before Russia is present in the collective consciousness of Germans. As a result of the erroneous identification of the people of the former USSR with the present day Russia, this responsibility is almost not directed at the countries of the Central and Eastern Europe. A lot of people in Germany hardly realize that the Ukrainian lands played a pivotal role in the struggle for domination in Europe in the twentieth century and became the place of the greatest crimes against humanity. In its pursuit of democratic development, the modern Ukraine undoubtedly needs solidarity with Germany. 

“Finally Germany begins to see Ukraine as a separate country – a separate political and cultural identity, an independent Eastern European nation. To achieve that it took 25 years of independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the events of the Euro-Maidan revolution, the war with separatists and the aggressor in the East, and the occupation of Crimea. However, what, in its turn, is the responsibility of Ukraine and before who? After all, it is only mutual responsibility for others that makes a country an independent nation. Maidan, the largest public association of Ukraine, inspired by the image of the New Ukraine built on the European values and the rule of law, responded well to this”, said Yevhen Bystrytsky, executive director of the International Renaissance Foundation. 

Yevhen Bystrytsky also emphasized: “We have assumed the responsibility before Europe for Western European values. And Russia has reacted to our choice by the armed aggression. Ukraine is now defending the imagined (but not imaginary) values: freedom, dignity, European democracy. Ukraine is now responsible before itself and before Europe for preservation and strengthening of these values. Our soldiers pay for this with their lives. Our eastern front has turned into the frontier of protecting Europe from the hybrid war which owing to the aggressor, Russia, is turning into the military actions against democracies. Therefore, by the way, we are now responsible for the reforms. And this is our responsibility not only before ourselves, but also before Europe. Should the reforms fail, it will be not only us who would lose, but also the democracies of our European partners, for which this threat seems far away, they would lose the first line of defense against the threat from the East”.

Marieluise Beck, a member of the German Bundestag, Speaker of the Bündnis 90/Die Grünen in the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, in her report referred to the publication by Timothy Snyder, Yale University Professor, titled “Bloody Land: Europe between Hitler and Stalin”. Mrs. Beck called this a new look at totalitarian crimes, that shows who suffered the greatest losses from two totalitarian regimes: the territories of Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Belarus and Ukraine. “We have to talk about it now, to explore every detail of history, because now, when the war is going on in Ukraine, Russia manipulates the history of the World War II. And the German people, not having enough facts, are often subjected to the Russian propaganda”, said Beck.

The participants of the event were Iryna Gerashchenko, Vice-Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine; Hanna Hopko, Chair of the Verkhovna Rada’s Committee on Foreign Affairs; Rostislav Pavlenko, Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration of Ukraine; Wilfried Jilge, German Society on Foreign Relations; Andreas Umland, Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation; Andriy Portnov, PRISMA UKRAЇNA, Transregional Studies Forum in Berlin; Natalia Zarudna, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine to the Federal Republic of Germany (2008-2011); Mykhailo Kirsenko, National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy; Yuri Shapoval, Institute of Political and Ethnic Studies of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine; Ralph Fücks, Head of the Center for Liberal Modernity. 

The Kyiv Dialogue project was created and initiated in 2005 on a voluntary basis by a steering group consisting of scholars, NGO representatives, journalists, representatives of foundations from Ukraine and Germany, to promote partnership and cooperation. The aim of the project is to disseminate knowledge about Ukraine in the EU and on the European processes and values in Ukraine, and thus contribute to the formation of a positive attitude to Europe and support the further democratization of the country. 

To learn more the Kyiv Dialogue Project activities, journalists may contact the Project Coordinator Tetyana Lopashchuk via e-mail


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