Ukraine had no ambassador to Hungary for two years, which harmed political, economic and diplomatic relations between the two neighboring countries. On May 30, 2016 President Petro Poroshenko appointed Lubov Nepop to become the new ambassador. This is the first female ambassador of Ukraine in Hungary. Mrs. Nepop is very familiar with Hungary because she served two terms at the Ukrainian embassy in Hungary.
The DIPLOMAT discussed with the newly appointed Ukrainian ambassador her main priorities as well as the development of Ukrainian-Hungarian relations.
AFTER the PRESENTATION OF YOUR CREDENTIALS, YOU AS AMBASSADOR OF UKRAINE TO HUNGARY HAVE MANY TASKS. WHICH ONES DO YOU CONSIDER TO BE A PRIORITY?
Relations with Hungary have always been important for Ukraine, primarily because it is a neighboring country. Furthermore, Hungary is a NATO and EU member, and an active member of the Vishegrad Four, which is important for Ukraine.
Accordingly, there are a lot of tasks dictated by our bilateral relations.
The number one task in the current conditions is definitely ensuring further support from Hungary to restore the territorial integrity of our country, the continuation of the EU policy on the non-recognition of the unlawful annexation of the Crimea by Russia, and political and sanctions pressure on Russia to implement the Minsk agreements.
Very important is revitalizing our trade and economic relations, taking into account that recently we have seen a decrease in bilateral trade turnover. In this context, special attention will be paid to enhancing our business contacts. I hope that in the nearest future the Minister of Agriculture of Hungary will accept our invitation to visit Ukraine.
With respect to European integration a great deal of attention should be given to taking advantage of the opportunities provided by the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU.
We expect continuing active support from Budapest on the issue of providing the visa free regime for Ukraine and in opposing the politically motivated construction of the North Stream-2 project.
Important for us will remain the support of Hungary in the course of our dialogue with NATO and particularly in the implementation of the comprehensive aid package to Ukraine from the Alliance.
We are also interested in Hungary’s active support of our cooperation within the format of V4 + Ukraine.
I can not ignore our cross-border teamwork, cooperation on the development of the border infrastructure.
And, of course, an important element of our bilateral relations will continue to be the strengthening role of ethnic minorities as a link between our two countries.
WHAT, IN YOUR OPINION, COULD HUNGARY DO TO HELP IN OBTAINING A VISA FREE REGIME FOR UKRAINIANS?
Hungary is among the most active lobbyists of the visa free regime for Ukrainian citizens. We highly appreciate it and expect Hungary’s voice in support of accelerating the decision to be heard and to be persistent. As for specific measures, we expect the MEPs from Hungary to support the European Parliament approval of the corresponding decision and for Budapest’s support in adopting the decision at the member-state level. For us it is also important that Hungary should continue to insist on the importance of accelerating the corresponding decision-making process through its contacts with other European Union member countries.
THERE WAS NO AMBASSADOR FROM UKRAINE TO BUDAPEST FOR TWO YEARS. HAS IT INFLUENCED UKRAINIAN-HUNGARIAN RELATIONS?
Ukrainian-Hungarian relations have always been active. I, for my part, will make every effort to ensure that we not only fully use all available means, but also look for new opportunities to deepen the bilateral cooperation that meets the interests of our two countries and peoples.
UKRAINE IS CURRENTLY COLLECTING NATURAL GAS FOR STORAGE FOR THE COMING WINTER. LAST YEAR HUNGARY TOOK AN ACTIVE PART IN THIS PROCESS. WILL BUDAPEST AGAIN HELP UKRAINE TO ACHIEVE ENERGY INDEPENDENCE FROM RUSSIA, TAKING INTO ACCOUNT THAT HUNGARY IS A KEY ENERGY TRANSIT STATE FOR MANY EUROPEAN COUNTRIES?
The reversal issue remains important in terms of ensuring our energy security and in this regard we will continue to rely on the support of our European partners, including Hungary. Currently there are no problems with deliveries through Hungary. From January 1 to August 8, 2016 Ukraine received 250 million cubic m. of natural gas through Hungary. Existing capabilities allow Ukraine to import 1.7 billion cubic m. of gas annually, but according to experts, these amounts can be increased to 10bn cubic m. We expect this route will continue to operate smoothly.
YOU HAVE ALREADY HAD EXPERIENCE WORKING IN HUNGARY. DOES IT HELP YOU IN THIS NEW POSITION IN BUDAPEST? HAVE YOU ALREADY MET YOUR HUNGARIAN FRIENDS?
Yes, my knowledge about the country and my previous experience help me in my work; meetings with old friends are an additional bonus that you get when you come back to the country in which you already worked. But even during this brief period in Budapest as the new Ambassador I have already met some new friends. I think that’s very important. After all, efforts aimed at intensifying Ukrainian-Hungarian relations will only be successful if we work together to achieve our goals.
YOU ARE A PROFESSIONAL LINGUIST AND YOU SPEAK SEVERAL LANGUAGES. IS IT NECESSARY, IN YOUR OPINION, TO CREATE SPECIAL CONDITIONS FOR UKRAINIANS TO STUDY THE HUNGARIAN LANGUAGE AS A LANGUAGE OF A FRIENDLY NEIGHBOR, WHICH IS PART OF THE UNITED EUROPEAN FAMILY?
I believe that knowledge of foreign languages is a requirement in the modern world, and knowledge of the languages of neighboring countries is important for the development of bilateral relations. By supporting the teaching of the Hungarian language in Ukraine, the same as Ukrainian in Hungary, provides an important element through which we have the opportunity to show each other the richness of our cultures and create conditions for deepening our trade and economic, academic and other ties.
IT IS GENERALLY FELT THAT THE HUNGARIAN LANGUAGE IS FAIRLY DIFFICULT. THEREFORE, TO FEEL THE SOUL OF HUNGARY AND HUNGARIANS YOU NEED TO FALL IN LOVE WITH THIS COUNTRY...
Yes, you are right – the Hungarian language belongs to the most difficult languages in the world. Similarly, I can agree that language skills help to feel the soul of the people, to know their culture. And do you know what’s interesting? Having studied the language I came to Hungary and discovered that in fact Ukrainians and Hungarians are very similar to each other. Except for Hungarian cuisine, which is much spicier. And about loving the country, the Ambassador should not just be a patriot of his own country, but also has to love the country in which he works. The Ambassador should help to build bridges between the two countries and two nations. It is extremely difficult to do that without a positive attitude and understanding. It is difficult without this to find a way out of difficult or sensitive situations that may arise even between the friendliest of countries.
WOMEN WORLDWIDE HAVE BEEN ENTRUSTED WITH SENIOR POSITIONS. FOR EXAMPLE, THE PRIME MINISTER OF GREAT BRITAIN AND THE MAYOR OF TOKYO currently ARE WOMEN. THIS TREND IS SUPPORTED IN UKRAINE TOO. WHAT DOES IT ILLUSTRATE?
I think this is an indicator of gender equality rules being applied in selecting candidates; the most important are professionalism and readiness to perform the responsibilities of the position. In Ukraine it is possibly an illustration of the further increase in women’s activity, a positive factor that demonstrates our European worldview. People have strengths and weaknesses regardless of their gender. The main thing is to use our positive features and believe in ourselves. Then we can achieve all of our goals.