HROMADA Skhid newspaper appeared and exists with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Germany. So, last year Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany Anka Feldhusen presented our publication to the people from Donetsk region. For new readers of Luhansk region, Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany in Donetsk currently based in Dnipro, Dr. Stefan KEIL, answers our questions.
– Germany today is one of the most important allies of Ukraine, effective and systemic allies. Without this help, Ukraine would certainly not have survived the war. What is Ukraine for your country? Why is Germany helping?
– Firstly, Germany bears historical responsibility to Ukraine, which suffered the greatest losses in Second World War as part of the Soviet Union. My personal history connects me with Dnipro and Eastern Ukraine. My father was a Wehrmacht soldier and a part of the Nazi military machine when the Nazi army based in Dnipropetrovsk in 1942-43. For me, this story of my family is a commitment, an incentive and a task to contribute to the more intensive development of Germany-Ukraine relations.
Secondly, Germany is generally interested in peace and stability in the neighboring countries. Thus, a stable and economically strong Ukraine that shares European and Western values and standards is important for Germany.
For this reason, Germany is on the side of Ukraine as well as in the issue of events taking place in Donbass and is trying, for example, within the Normandy format to contribute to the resolution of the conflict.
– How do you assess the potential of projects supported by the German government in the East? In particular, the potential of HROMADA Skhid newspaper for residents of villages along the demarcation line?
– The conflict in Donbass – is not only 13.000 deaths and thousands of wounded, but also the suffering and poverty of millions of people on both sides of the contact line and, first of all, in the gray zone. The international community and Germany, as the largest bilateral donor of humanitarian aid, are doing much to facilitate the living conditions of the conflict-affected population. Despite this, the need still remains quite high.
HROMADA Skhid newspaper realizes an important mission. The Kremlin is known for its disinformation campaigns in general and about Donbass in particular. That is why it is important that something opposes this Russian disinformation. HROMADA Skhid makes an important contribution to providing the population of Donbass and the occupied territories with knowledge-based facts.
– What story about our war would you like to tell your compatriots?
– To begin with, I would like to remind my compatriots that this war is still going on. Against the background of many other conflicts in the world and, not least because of the pandemic of coronavirus infection, the Ukrainian issue risks being forgotten. But ceasefire is broken every day here, there are reports of dead and wounded every day. In the window of my office at the Consulate General, I still watch how wounded in war actions in eastern Ukraine are taken to the Mechnikov Hospital.
Next, I would like to talk about the suffering of the population of frontline settlements and the problems facing the cities near the contact line. These cities and their communities had to integrate and have to integrate hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons. For example, the number of migrants in Sievierodonetsk is almost 50 percent of the population. This shows how difficult challenges the Eastern frontline communities must overcome.
– Perhaps the most important reform introduced in Ukraine is the decentralization reform. However, people do not always understand its necessity for the state and its usefulness for themselves. How does it work in Germany, where people in small towns and villages manage their lives?
– Along with judicial reform, decentralization reform is currently the most important in Ukraine. Strong cities and affluent communities, where citizens can participate effectively in political processes, are the key to a democratic state. In implementing this reform, it is important that cities and communities gain more competencies, rather than simply formally uniting or increasing the size of their community. In Germany, cities and communities are very important, they can even impose their own taxes – their right to self-government is so developed.
– Our countries have a similar history in terms of understanding the dramatic pages of the twentieth century. The more important for us is the experience of your country in the denazification and unification of Germany. How do Germans deal with the traumatic memory of Nazi and Soviet totalitarianism? Is there nostalgia for “good old socialism” in East Germany? Is there tension between the West and East Germans? How is this overcome and how is it changing?
– After the Second World War, it took Germany several years to realize responsibility for its history. The country was completely destroyed and its priority was to rebuild the country. The Nuremberg trials and the denazification process took place. Since the 1960s, Germany has rethought this horrific chapter in its history and is historically responsible for it, especially for the murder of six million of Jews. My generation, born after the end of the Second World War, also understands this historical responsibility of Germany. It includes a commitment to working to ensure that a war with so many casualties never happens again. We all have to fight for world peace every day.
The unification of Germany was a happy historical event. We are very grateful to our partners and friends for making this reunion possible and peaceful. In particular, the citizens of the now non-existent GDR played an important role in the so-called peaceful revolution that led to the unification of Germany.
Indeed, some East Germans have a certain nostalgia for the non-existent GDR state. This is reflected, for example, in the election results in East Germany, where the successor party to the former East German Communist Party still receives many votes. Or in the popularity of some products since the GDR. Of course, there are differences in mentality, but there are also differences between Germans living in the south and north of the country. In general, we can say that the formation of the internal unity of Germany succeeded. This is best evidenced by the fact that the representative of East Germany, Federal Chancellery Angela Merkel, has ruled Germany for 15 years in a row. Until recently, our state was headed by Federal President Gauck, also a native of East Germany.
Dr. Stefan KEIL, Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany in Donetsk (currently based in Dnipro):
– What can Ukraine become in the next 5-10-15 years? All countries in the world are currently going through very difficult times due to the crisis caused by the spread of coronavirus infection. The social and economic consequences of the pandemic are affecting and will continue to have a serious impact on Ukraine, even while taking into account that the country dealt relatively good with virus in health care. Ukraine has a great potential, especially it concerns Ukrainians with good education and qualification. It is important to learn to use this potential. To do this, it is necessary to actively implement the ongoing reforms, overcome the cancer of corruption, resolve the conflict in Donbass and return Crimea. Ukraine has to make efforts and finally implement the Minsk agreements. Then, 15 years later, I see a legal, democratic and economically prosperous Ukraine as an integral part of Europe, whose values it shares.
Yevhen TARAN/Gromada Skhid 13(22) 2020