“You do not need to be afraid of us – Ukrainians”

Volodymyr  Yavorkyy, member of the board and former director of the Ukrainian Helsinki Union for Human Rights agreed to answer a few questions about the planned Dutch referendum on the Association Treaty between Ukraine and the EU.

‘It is interesting  and unique that a country will ask its people to think about this issue’, he said when asked him what was his first reaction about it. ‘It can disseminate a lot of positive information about Ukraine, foster new partnerships. Unfortunately the government does not have a long-term strategy to promote Ukraine, so this Referendum forces everybody think about this’.

But are there no risks for Ukrainians? ‘Yes, it provides a platform to Russia to use their propaganda methods and go on with their disinformation campaign, and they invest a lot and organize events where the underlying messages are that Europe has enough problems, and does not need new ones from Ukraine.  But since the  Russian military presence in eastern Ukraine and the annexation of the Crimea, people woke up and saw the true nature of Russia’.

So, there are anti-EU sentiments in Ukraine? ‘There are, but predominantly from people who would like to go on with corruption and criminal business. The Treaty forces Ukraine to adopt many democratic and legal norms, and it will make it much more difficult for those who make use of the  weak legal system now’.

Why is the Association Treaty with the EU good for Ukraine? ‘For us,  the EU sets good standards in different spheres. When we raise awareness on, for example,  how to regulate political parties, the work of the police, etc, we use the examples in the EU. For Ukraine, it is a dream. The AT has special norms, if it will be implemented it is quite a big step in fighting corruption and endorsing human rights. It transforms the country to democratic standards, changes many laws.

What will the different  outcomes of the Referendum mean  for the Ukrainian people? ‘In case of a “YES”, it will represent a psychological support, and strong backing to the Ukrainian pro-European politicians. If “NO”, the result will be used for propaganda, that the EU does not need you’.

What would you recommend to the Dutch people do vote, and why? ‘It is logical I recommend to vote YES, it is a good treaty for both countries. It will be especially useful for the Human Rights movement in Ukraine, which will have a direction for development to show.

What do you want to say to your Dutch friends? ‘You do not need to be afraid of us, millions of  Ukrainians who wanted, already travelled to the EU. We simply need support to transform .’

Matilda Nahabedian, oud medewerker van de Foundation Max van der Stoel, is actief betrokken bij  vraagstukken rond mensenrechten en veiligheid  in Europa en haar buurlanden.  

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