Ukrainian top officials prepare for visiting southern Germany as economic and culture ties between the two states become stronger.
Germans’ interest to Ukraine has significantly increased over the last years. Ukraine is more and more often perceived not as a part of Russia but as a separate nation with own culture and history. Bavaria is one of German federal states providing the biggest humanitarian support to Ukraine. Bavaria and Ukraine actively cooperate in economy and culture, said Vadym Kostyuk, Consul General of Ukraine in Munich, at a press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center in the framework of UCMC and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine project “Diplomacy without borders”.
Two official visits are planned for 2017. The first one is the visit of Bavarian Minister-President to Ukraine, the second is the visit of Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Pavlo Klimkin to Germany. During the first visit the sides will discuss issues of economic, humanitarian and cultural cooperation. In the course of Ukraine’s Foreign Minister’s visit a wide range of matters will address mostly related to international and regional cooperation. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko will arrive to Munich in February to participate in Munich Security Conference.
Vadym Kostiuk estimates that the upcoming elections in Germany will not influence bilateral relations and German government as well as the Bavarian government will continue supporting Ukraine. “Germany is a democratic state. No matter what government will come to power, it will support democratic, humanistic values. […] The West has a clear understanding what is going on in Ukraine, they see the Russian aggression and their support will continue until this aggression stops,” he emphasized.
Trade between Ukraine and Bavaria has reached half a billion euros over the nine months of 2016. “It has grown by 27 percent comparing to 2015,” Vadym Kostiuk noted. Export from Ukraine has grown by seven percent, import – by 41 percent. Several companies expanded their work in Ukraine. For instance, “Leoni” company has opened its second plant in Kolomyia, Ivano-Frankivsk region. According to the regional authorities, this is the biggest investment in region’s history.
According to Vadym Kostiuk, “among German federal states Bavaria is perhaps the most powerful supporter of Ukraine in providing humanitarian help”. In most cases humanitarian help is collected and delivered to Ukraine by common efforts of German and Ukraine-based NGOs. The “Volunteers Hundred in Munich” sends ambulance vehicles to Ukraine almost every month. The priest Father Pushkar from Bamberg has sent to Ukraine over 50 trucks with humanitarian help since the end of 2014. Humanitarian Union of Munich Airport (Flughafenverein München e.V.) delivers humanitarian aid in coordination with the Consulate and directly to Ukraine. They get in touch with Ukrainian hospitals and ask what they need. This help includes a wide range of medicines, from bandages to MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) equipment.
A group of wounded Maidan activists and Ukrainian soldiers underwent treatment and rehabilitation in Bavaria. “Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg hosted over 150 Ukrainian children in 2014 and over 120 in 2015. We expect to host over one hundred during this year,” said Mr. Kostiuk.
The Consulate currently participates in organizing a contest for young artists, 12-16 years old IDPs and children whose parents died in the East of Ukraine. “First they will spend two weeks in Podillya (historical name of the Central-Western part of Ukraine – transl. note), with en plein air practice and other activities. Then they will travel to Bavaria where they will have opportunity to communicate with Bavarian teenagers, to receive psychological support and to participate in workshops of Ukrainian artists who live there,” elaborated Vadym Kostiuk.
Ukraine in German media and in public opinion
Ukraine is rather often mentioned in the federal press, however, the image of the country is not always positive. Most of this information is objective, but Russian propaganda is present as well. According to Vadym Kostiuk, its success depends on education of the person and one’s will to get a deep understanding of the nature and reasons of current state of things in Ukrainian-Russian relations.
Before, many Germans knew Ukraine as “a former part of Russia and of the USSR”. Now the interest to Ukraine grows in the society, among political actors and journalists. “This year we are going to organize an event dedicated to the history of Ukraine and Ukrainians as a nation, in cooperation with the Landtag (the Bavarian Parliament) and the Bavarian broadcasting service Bayerischer Rundfunk. […] This event is aimed at providing Germans with information on Ukrainians: history of our land, nation and state,” explained Vadym Kostiuk. Famous German historians, specialists in the history of the Eastern Europe will participate in this event.
Films, exhibitions, performances and books presentations are powerful tools to show the country to German public. “It is very important to organize cultural events. They help understand that Ukrainian culture is not a part of Russian culture, that Ukraine is a separate nation with its own language, its own culture and traditions,” Mr. Kostiuk stressed. Last year a Ukrainian play “Solodka Darusya” was performed in Munich, 250 spectators came to see it. The first concert of a newly created chamber orchestra directed by Ms. Oksana Lyniv, a talented Ukrainian music conductor currently working at the Bavarian State Opera, took place in Munich.
In 2017 Days of Kyiv in Munich and Days of Ukrainian culture in Bavaria will be held. In addition, the Consulate is going to invite several Ukrainian troops to perform a number of plays in Munich in spring or in summer 2017.
Ukrainian diaspora in Bavaria
There are nearly 10 Ukrainian organizations in Munich, each of them has their own fields of activity. There is also Free Ukrainian University in Munich and the degrees it offers are recognized in Western Europe.