The first part of the interview was published earlier:
On Ukrainian Parliament Speaker dismissal
Dmytro Razumkov was dismissed from the post of Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian Parliament) a few weeks ago by the decision of 284 MPs. According to members of the ruling Servant of the People party, they and Razumkov can no longer work together because the now-former Speaker wants to be an independent politician.
Some political experts tend to say that Razumkov’s resignation was initiated from the Office of the President. Allegedly, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wants to consolidate power and have unequivocal supporters on his side.
We asked Ambassador Simmons whether she shares the concerns of Ukrainians about the excessive growth of the role of the President and the Presidential Office in the decision-making process in the country.
The Ambassador expressed her admiration due to how attentive Ukrainians are to the political situation in the country and how much they think and feel about it. The reason for that lies in the social demand for a balance of decision-making power between Parliament and the President that is quite delicate. As to the newly appointed Speaker at the Verkhovna Rada – Ruslan Stefanchuk – the Ambassador said,
[quote]”The G7 group always had a very good working relationship with Speaker Razumkov. We expect to have good working relations with Speaker Stefanchuk. And I believe that anybody who’s put in the new job should be given the benefits of the doubt in terms of “let’s wait and see how this places itself out.”[/quote]
The Ambassador emphasized that the most important thing is that under the terms of the Ukrainian Constitution, Ukrainians are the ones who get to decide. They exercise the right to determine when it comes to voting for parliamentarians and President.
“So, let’s see, for you, in coming weeks how this balance continues as Stefanchuk goes upon his job,” said Ms. Simmons.
On post-Brexit Ukraine-UK relations
One hour before the New Year-2021, the United Kingdom ceased to be a member of the European Union — four and a half years after the referendum in which the majority of citizens voted to leave the EU.
There was a popular opinion that this significant change in the geopolitical situation in Europe would affect Britain’s relations with partner countries. We asked Ms. Ambassador whether Brexit really affected today’s relations with Ukraine:
“There was never going to be any change,” emphasized Ms Simmons.
The Ambassador said that Great Britain left the EU because most Brits had decided that their future was best determined outside the European Union, not Europe, then inside it. However, Great Britain is still very supportive of its allies’ decision to join the EU. That’s why Ms. Simmons speaks so consistently in favor of Ukraine’s European and Euro-Atlantic integration.
According to the Ambassador, now, when the UK is outside the EU, we can set our own terms and have higher levels of ambition.
“Ukraine is a huge agricultural country with huge potential for that production among other sectors. And it’s one of the things that outside the EU we can negotiate for a stronger relationship,” said Ms Simmons.
On the perception of Ukraine in Great Britain
The Ambassador believes that there is very little that Ukraine can do about the perceptions that both investors and people generally have of Ukraine.
“A high number of people in the UK tend not to realize that Ukraine is no longer part of the Soviet Union. There are still people who think Ukraine is part of Russia,” said the Ambassador. And the other ones think of Ukraine through a prism of corruption and war.
- Read also: 55% of polled EU citizens support Ukraine’s EU membership, but negative perceptions still prevail
In Ambassador’s opinion, Ukraine shouldn’t pay this much attention to negative things people tend to think of Ukraine because it’s essentially a waste of time. The better way is to highlight positive events. According to Ms. Simmons, the Ukrainian Ministry for Foreign Affairs has done some innovative work to show the beauty and diversity of the country and where Ukraine is doing really well.
Ms. Simmons highlighted that visual representation is significant. For example, even the sporting achievements of Ukrainians, and especially Paralympians, can be a sound basis for improving Ukraine’s image in the international arena. Ms. Ambassador also mentioned that one of the best ways to promote Ukraine was when Ukrainian female referees conducted a football match between England and Andorra.
In the field of investment, if we get beyond the people thinking that Ukraine is the country you can think about building a relationship with, we come back to the same issues.
“There is not a business person alive who hasn’t said to me: Ukraine has fantastic potential, and it doesn’t matter in what the sector. But I’m not investing until I know that the rule of law has my back. It really just comes down to these things,” said the Ambassador.
Ms. Simmons emphasized that investors can actually live with a certain degree of bureaucracy, uncertainty, and mess. But the rule of law is essential.
“Judicial reform has to happen, from the top down to the bottom. And when investors see real signs of that, that is when they will begin to come to this country,” highlighted the Ambassador.
On green energy
The UK has set that by 2035 it would switch entirely to “green” energy. According to the Ambassador, the UK will be looking to partner with countries like Ukraine, which is a huge potential place.
“Everybody thinks that Ukraine is one of the potential destination countries for green hydrogen, cleanly produced hydrogen,” stated the Ambassador.
Currently, the UK is hosting the COP26 – United Nations 2021 Climate Change Conference, so there are a lot of talks about Ukraine playing a proper role there.
“I know that there has been a keen conversation here between energy, environment, finance ministers, and the Office of the President. So, I’m optimistic actually,” said Ms. Simmons commenting on the Ukrainian part in green energy cooperation.
On gender inequality
At the end of the interview, we wanted to talk to Ms. Ambassador about gender biases. It is known that Ukraine has approximately 8% of female ambassadors abroad, and the UK has around 30%. So, had Ms. Ambassador faced gender bias in her career?
“Yes, I always have. My entire career” answered Ms. Simmons.
She emphasized that the response was often to ignore it and do things that everyone else does, create the network, and build contacts. Because 95% of a battle is on the individual level, it’s about confidence not to let other people’s messaging make you feel less worthy.
The things that need to happen, according to the Ambassador, are constant general messaging, modeling, and mentoring.
“It’s the quite obvious common sense that an economy grows faster, peace process succeeds more, governance is more successful and your democracy flourishes when 100% of your country has access to it,” stated Ms. Simmons.
Polina Boichuk is an associate partner at TRUMAN, co-founder and co-host of KYIV NOT Kiev.
Victoria Dubiv is a Project Manager at TRUMAN Agency, Editor of KYIV NOT KIEV
More on UK-Ukraine relations:
- With Crimea Platform, sanctions can become even smarter — UK Ambassador’s interview, part 1
- Ukrainian-UK defense cooperation: Will London have Kyiv’s back? (2020)
- Russian disinformation shadows Ukrainian-British-US Joint Endeavor 2020 exercise
- “Black Sea mosquito fleet”: how the UK will help Ukraine regain its naval footing
- Ukraine signs Memorandum to modernize its Navy, new partnership and trade agreement with the UK (2020)
- Ukrainian cadets complete officer training program in UK, saluted by Prince Charles
- UK-Ukrainian satellite launch vehicle developer Skyrora to test its first rocket in 2018
Watch other interviews with diplomats:
- Brazil always supported Ukraine’s territorial integrity despite abstaining on key resolutions, Brazilian Ambassador says
- “We don’t ask if you are a Ukrainian Brazilian, we all come from different origins” – Brazil’s Ambassador to Ukraine
- German Ambassador Anka Feldhusen: Crimean Platform good for getting more countries to support Ukraine & sanctions
- Israel and Ukraine will always be friends, Israeli Ambassador says
- “Your heroes are our nightmare”: Israeli Ambassador on Ukraine relations and Holodomor recognition
- Ukraine and Türkiye in “final stage” of Free Trade Agreement negotiations: Turkish Ambassador
- “A friend in need is a friend indeed” – Ambassador of Türkiye to Ukraine
- Ukraine needs to focus on reforming the most crucial spheres: Head of NATO Representation to Ukraine
- Ukraine should focus on getting ready for membership – Head of NATO Representation
- “So many Swedish investors opened start-ups in Ukraine” – Sweden’s ambassador on business climate and reforms
- This really is armed aggression and Ukrainian soldiers are dying – Sweden’s ambassador to Ukraine