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Joining NATO and the EU are high priorities for Bosnia: Emir Poljo Ambassador to Norway

Editor in Chief of The Oslo Times Mr. Hatef Mokhtar with the Ambassador of Bosnia – Herzegovina at the Embassy in Oslo, Norway.

Exclusive Interview with the Honorable Ambassador of Bosnia–Herzegovina to Norway, Mr Emir Poljo
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First of all, The Oslo Times (TOT) is honored and privileged to be able to have this session with you. We really appreciate you for managing time amidst your busy schedule for us and our readers worldwide, who would be reading this interview as we publish it on our website.

Our first question to you is:

TOT: Bosnia–Herzegovina has come a long way from its tumultuous beginning after the dissolution of Yugoslavia followed by the bloody Bosnian War. Shedding its communist past, it started a journey on the path of democracy and set its sights on greater involvement with the international community adopting policies and agendas accordingly. How far do you think the country has been successful in acting within the democratic political framework? Going a little back, was this transition from communism to democracy in the best interest of the common people, and if so, how?

Ambassador: First I would like to thank you for this opportunity to speak for this prestigious media. I would like to congratulate for your efforts to promote the universal values of freedom, peace and democracy, through your media. Now let me answer to your question.
Fall of the Berlin Wall in autumn 1989 signaled the end of the ideology of single-mindedness at the world political scene and awakened the hope of many people who have been victims of political mindedness which we recognize as communism. It was a historical process of world-wide politics and my country did not, nor  it was able to influence the development of these events. My country was naturally affected by these changes. Freedom and democracy are awaited with enthusiasm among the people of my country. Bosnia and Herzegovina just like other countries, in these new circumstances demanded its place on political scene. Unfortunately, as is well known, Bosnia paid the highes price of change. Today, we can say that the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina like majority of people in the world is enjoying fruits of freedom that they have voted for. Price was expensive and infinitely costly, but between slavery and freedom we have chosen freedom, and today we are proud of it. Peace, freedom and democratic values that is heritage of our society for 17 years now are the greatest benefit enjoyed by the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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TOT: What are the major challenges that politicians of Bosnia–Herzegovina had faced, and are still facing, in their bid to make the country more democratically vibrant and adopt pro-people policies befitting a sovereign nation?
Ambassador: Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country in transition. This process of transition undergone by many countries of the Eastern bloc in the case of my country takes place more slowly. The reason for this is that the consequences of the war brought with it many material as well as spiritual harm. Consistent implementation of the peace agreement (Dayton Peace Accord), dealing with the consequences of the war, the preservation of peace and reconciliation among the nations, the transition from the state and public property to private owned properties and the setup of a market economy are some of the most pressing challenges that leadership of my country is facing. In addition to all those elements mentioned above the biggest challenge is also how to overcome the consequences of the global economic crises that is affecting my country as well.
TOT: Bosnia–Herzegovina is a potential candidate for the membership of the European Union and has been a candidate for NATO membership since April 2010. In your opinion, what are the major areas of development in which the country has made significant strides bolstering its confidence to apply for the memberships?
Ambassador: BiH is today recognized as a modern European country that is trying to meet as soon as possible all the necessary requirements for become a member of two respectable global alliances such as NATO and the EU. We are half way gone in achiving those goals. The same proces are undergoing the other states of Former Yugoslavija, and Croatia will this summer become a member of EU. In a case of my country the greatest success of all this effort lies in the fact that there is full political consensus of all the political actors regarding our way to EU and NATO. This is very important in the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina having in mind its demographic structure of the population. Joining NATO and the EU are the main priorities of our foreign policy.

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TOT: How far do you think the country has been on the track after becoming a member-state of the Council of Europe in 2002 and consecutively the founding member of the Mediterranean Union in 2008?

Ambassador: Our membership in these organizations will confirm the commitment of my country to be equal and active member of the European Union and the Mediterranean Union, since geopolitically we belong to both. It will also confirm that we are ready to share the same European democratic values with the other member states of EU. Membership in the Mediterranean Union is part of our commitment to develop regional cooperation and thus contribute to improving the overall bilateral relations between the countries of the region.

TOT: Bosnia–Herzegovina has come a long way since its independence in 1992 and is now being looked at as one of the strategically important countries in the region, paving the way for forming and deepening strategic cooperation with various power blocs including NATO.
a.) After NATO’s recognition of Bosnia as a potential candidate for its membership, how does the country plan to carry forward relations with the western military alliance and what benefits can it achieve in the process?
b.) If Bosnia becomes a full-fledged NATO member, will it have any effect on the relations with Russia and other erstwhile countries of the Soviet bloc?

Ambassador: Well you’ve noticed it correctly. Bosnia is one of the strategically most important countries in the Western Balkans. As result of this we are putting all our efforts in our primer political interest and priority of the first category and that is peace. Peace is needed for every citizen of Bosnia, of the Western Balkans, of Europe and the World. Because of the known historical circumstances this part of the world deserves the establishment of such political relationships and alliances that will guarantee the long-term, stable and lasting peace. This is not only important for Bosnia but for the region as a whole. NATO is not only military but also political alliance because most of the countries of the European Union are also member states of the NATO alliance. Interests and goals are identical, and they are to provide a sustainable, long-lasting and stable peace. Given the fact that this region geopolitically belongs to Europe, it is understandable why we are moving towards European integration. In addition to all this, I have to be honest with you and to let you know that my country in order to achieve this goal needs support and help of international community. It is important to underline the fact that we want to build a partnership with NATO, because we believe that we can contribute to the peace in the world together with other member states. The fact that our troops are already participating in peacekeeping missions around the world, proves our willingness to contribute. Also, I’m quite sure that this will not affect our very good relations with Russia and other former Eastern bloc countries. We do not want to compromise our good relationship with East but to further develop good relationship with West as well as with East. In addition to all this, I wonder who would not want peace in Bosnia and in the Balkans, the peace that brings every kind of prosperity and well-being?!?

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TOT: Bosnia–Herzegovina has successfully resolved nearly all its territorial disputes with the neighboring countries, but there are still deep-seated ethnic tensions with Croatia, Slovenia, and Serbia, particularly with Serbia, with whom its diplomatic relations are still sensitive.
a.) So what are the reservations that Bosnia–Herzegovina seeks for its ethnicities in these countries to dial down the tensions?
b.) How much progress has been made in establishing diplomatic relations with these countries which were once parts of a greater conglomeration called Yugoslavia?
Ambassador: Unfortunately, it is not possible to objectively answer this question in a few sentences. I would like to emphasize that the establishment of long-term stable and good bilateral relations with our neighboring countries, particularly Croatia and Serbia, is as important priority, as it is our effort to join the EU and NATO. Simply there is future without resolving all outstanding issues with Croatia and especially with Serbia. I think that there is no need to elaborate all this. These goals we are trying to achieve both bilaterally and multilaterally through various forms of regional cooperation. We have achieved a lot until today and we can be happy with that. For almost two decades we have resolved the issue of communication, where we have a free flow of people, goods and capital.  All this is a prerequisite for our good relations. We have also signed many bilateral agreements which resolved many fundamental political and economic issues of our bilateral relations. Every day these relations are getting better.
It’s hard to build a future when the past keeps reminding you. Our main difficulties are related to our recent and unfortunate past. There are still a lot of prejudices about what has happened, what is true and what is not. However, we try to rely on a single phrase which reads:” If we can not agree about our past, we have to agree about our future”.  To conclude all this, when it is up to our relations with Croatia and Serbia, my country always gives priority to political dialogue that contributes to peace and reconciliation between our people, based of equality among states. Having in mind all sacrifice that people in Bosnia and Herzegovina went through, and in particular the Bosniac nation in Bosnia, we are particularly sensitive when someone in any way is questioning our sacrifice. We will never allow anyone to question the price of peace and freedom that  our citizens have paid with their lives, and which we now enjoy in Bosnia.

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TOT: Bosnia–Herzegovina has growing bilateral relations with Norway. What are the areas of interests in which the country seeks cooperation from Norway?
Ambassador: Our bilateral relations with Norway, especially political relationship, are on a very high level. There are no outstanding issues between our two countries. In particular we are grateful for all support and effort that they are providing us with in order for us to join NATO as soon as possible. As an important member of NATO, Norway’s contribution is of particular importance for us.
The concrete support of Norway during the war reflected the great humanitarian assistance, and after war period Norway helped us in reconstruction of country’s infrastructure, and even today they are helping us in various forms of establishing democratic institutions and in reform of local government.
On the other hand, we must not forget 15 000 BiH citizens who are living in Norway today. They are all on daily bases through their work contributing to our friendly relationship with Norway, since they are loyal to Norway and they are obeying lows of this country. Today, both sides work hard to improve our economic relationship and there are many opportunities, especially in the field of tourism, energy sector, wood and metal industries.

TOT: After the collapse of Yugoslavia, Bosnia–Herzegovina suffered one of the bloodiest armed conflicts in the human history that saw thousands of innocent people killed and nearly a million displaced. With this background in perspective, how do you think the Bosnians see the developments taking place in Syria, Congo, Mali and Afghanistan where thousands of people are being killed and millions being displaced within their own homelands?

Ambassador: I wish that my country never had the experience that you mentioned. My country and its people understand very well the tragedy through which the people of those countries in a war that you are mentioning are going through. Unfortunately, the list of countries where are brutally violated basic human rights is much longer. We as individuals unfortunately can not do much but to sympathize with them. Of course, through our multilateral diplomatic activity we are trying to contribute to the establishment of peace in all the countries where it is needed. Today, small and weak states are not the key factor in establishing peace in the world. Throughout history and even today, it was always a privilege of the great powers. Today, as it was the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina, it is a lack of political will of those big powers to resolve these conflicts, where civilians are the one suffering the most. I will never understand people who do not learn from the past, especially the tragic past. Apparently they are forgetting the universal ethical rule that happiness of one can never be build on the misfortune of other. But it’s not the first time that politics and morality have little in common.

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TOT: Your country practices a unique system of presidential democracy in which each of the three ethnic communities gets an eight-month term to represent and govern the country.
a.) How far do you think this unique model of power-sharing has been successful in maintaining peace and harmony in the country?
b.) What are the other steps that the government of Bosnia has taken to improve the democratic ambience in the country and ensure further representation of the communities in policymaking?
Ambassador: I must remind you that the entire political, constitutional, legal, administrative and electoral system of Bosnia and Herzegovina is product of the Peace Agreement which was signed in November 1995. years in the U.S. military airport base the Right-Paterson at Dayton, Ohio and which is today known as the “Dayton Peace Agreement”. Since the day it was signed until today, during those 17 years it succeeded to establish and maintain peace in Bosnia. This was the biggest result but not the only one. We have built democratic institutions to guarantee respect for fundamental human rights and democratic values in the country. We have to admit that Bosnia has unique constitution in the world. Today, many people in the country and also in the international community believe that this agreement gave its maximum, and that it now in some ways prevents faster integration of country into the global political and economic trends. The biggest problem with Dayton Agreement is huge bureaucratic apparatus that could not be handled by many even more developed countries in the world. Besides being a big burden on the economic development of the country, it also makes states institutions dysfunctional.  We are currently looking for solutions to this situation. Having in mind the sensitivity of the problem, in order to solve this, it will be necessary to provide full political consensus of all parties signatory to the Dayton Peace Agreement.
TOT: The country is divided into two entities including the Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, with the former enjoying a near sovereign structural framework of governance and diplomacy.
a.) What are the areas where the national government plans for more integration of the two entities?
b.) And does the presence of this unmanned/unarmed boundary line called IEBL (Inter-Entity Boundary Line) has still any relevance or importance in the lives of general people of the country?
Ambassador: For the integration of the two entities the state government (Council of Ministers ) is in charge. Council of Ministers is consisting of nine ministries, out of which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Security, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Justice are the most important. Of course, in addition to all this we also have cooperation on lower level of power, between the entity governments, that are correct and very successful. Boarder between the two entities has no effect on the life of the common man and it only has the administrative importance. These relationship between entities confirms that there is a will to build a better future of Bosnia and Herzegovina, state of two entities and one District, state of three constituent people, Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats.
TOT: a.) The European Union is going through its worst economic downturn at the moment. How far has the crisis, which affected almost all major regional economies, affected Bosnia–Herzegovina which has the aspiration to become a part of the economic bloc?
b.) What are the challenges being faced by the country at the moment?
c.) How does Bosnia–Herzegovina see the future of the EU, with the downturn casting a shadow of doubt on its very practicability? Why does the country still wish to be a part of it in spite of the odds?
Ambassador: Undoubtedly the poor economic conditions in the euro area had a strong negative impact on the economic development of countries in the region therefore in Bosnia as well. The biggest challenges that today the governments of the Western Balkans are facing is the economic crisis. It reflects the slower overall economic growth, in increasing poverty and unemployment rates, it reduced foreign investments and of course it affected the repayment of the total external debt that grows each year. My Government at the moment is taking all necessary measures in order to some extent alleviated the consequences of this economic crisis. Those measures are mainly reflected in the reduction of costs in the public sector, the regular payment of taxes, public works through the opening of foreign direct investment and the creation of a better business environment for the creation of small and medium-sized enterprises.
Regardless of all deficiency, we see no alternative to the EU Integrations. Although the European Union is facing a lot of problems, we continue to believe that the value offered by the European model is far greater than the disadvantages that this community is facing nowadays, and we strongly believe that EU will overcome all those problems.

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TOT: The freedom of press has over the years become the major focus of many international organizations and some of them have raised their concerns about the situation in the Balkan countries as well. How will you rate the condition of press freedom in Bosnia–Herzegovina?

Ambassador: When it comes to freedom of the press and media in Bosnia and Herzegovina, we can be proud that the establishment of a multi political party system brought freedom of media to high level. However it is different question whether these media or press is independent and whether they are professional in your work? It is a question that applies to each country. I believe that the countries that are extremely burdened by the economic crisis are also facing an unprofessional and dependent media. Given that the “media” also have to live out of something, meaning that they need some kind of income, often in times of crisis they must comply with certain political or economic lobbies, and therefore they work against the basic principles and codes of free journalism. In this circumstances they are even more contributing to crises. Reports of these media are generally accompanied by personal rather than general interests of society. Unfortunately, in my country the situation is not much better. But I am convinced that the online media revolution will change this attitude and encourage positive competition. Your example is the best proof of it, where with few resources one can defend universal values of journalism and create trust among readers. Once again I congratulate you on that.
TOT: Bosnia is a country created and divided on ethnic lines and is currently being run from two capitals by two distinct ethnic governments. Add to these the recently formed multiethnic, decentralized enclave of Brčko District.
Do you think that the two capital cities of Sarajevo and Banja Luka with the recent addition of the third one, with varying types and degrees of representation, are any hindrance in the way of development and policy reformation of the country?
Ambassador: Allow me to correct you here. Bosnia and Herzegovina is an internationally recognized and sovereign state and as such there is only one capital city, and that is Sarajevo. Therefore there is no single reason for the rivalry between Sarajevo and Banja Luka, and Brcko frame embedded in the Dayton Peace Agreement. However, within the country we have two ongoing  interconnected parallel processes of integration. One occurs in the internal (local) level, which is reflected in the cooperation of state and entity institutions that establish coordination mechanisms for negotiations with European partners and the other for the Euro-Atlantic integration, which are reflected in the fulfillment of all the conditions that result from these negotiations. This process, although it is sometimes slow, unstoppable is going toward his goal.

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TOT: The human rights situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina has been a constant concern for the international community and major regional groupings and progressive alliances. Can you please enlighten us on the existing HR situations in your country? And also, what steps did the government take to improve the condition of human rights and ensure individual freedom for all the citizens?
Ambassador: When we want to talk about this important issue, we must always bear in mind the historical facts of the recent past that faced my country. The problem with this part of the world was, and still is, a problem of democracy. In the last hundred years the Balkans had no luck with democracy, or should we say that democracy had no luck with Balkans. Just a little more than two decades ago people in Bosnia and Herzegovina have experienced the roughest way of violations of human rights. In the past war in Bosnia human life worth very little. Tragedy struck wide areas of the former Yugoslavia, and Bosnia was the epicenter of this earthquake. The massive violations of human rights occurred in Bosnia. Even so, today I want to point out that Bosnia and Herzegovina as a signatory to all international and European conventions and declarations, that interpret the human rights principle reaffirms its strong commitment to obey the rule of law in regard of Human rights, not only in theory but also in practice. So far we have built almost all the democratic institutions that deal with the issue of human rights. In addition, one of the basic conditions for the integration of Bosnia into European and international associations is meeting all standards, which include respect for human rights. We have only one verdict made by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to implement. Once we do this we will automatically become a candidate for the European Union. It is the matter of date when will this issue be resolved. In a country that has a unique legal and political system, which is in the process of transition, burdened at the same time by wartime past as it was in Bosnia, highly affected by the economic crisis it is hard to expect that the human rights would be at  high level. Human rights are of universal significance, and as such can and should be the subject of constant public criticism. The state of human rights in my country is not at the level where we would like it to be, but it is not behind the neighboring countries in the region eather. All the basic human rights are guaranteed by our constitution. In particular we are very satisfied when it comes to respect for basic political and economic rights and freedom of media. Unfortunately, I think that economic crisis, poverty and high unemployment rate in Bosnia are the main reason that the social rights are not at the level where it should be. There is still a large room for the improvement of each of these rights, and it is a daily task of law enforcement officials in BiH.
TOT: The Republika Srpska practices a “regulatory guillotine” which means that it takes only a few days to register a business there, whereas in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina it often takes several months to do so.
Why this difference when both entities are being run in the light of a common policy framework?

Ambassador: One of the main prerequisites for a quick economic recovery is a common and unified economic space within BiH. The differences that you’ve noticed must be deleted. This is all the result of the current situation in the country, and  not the orientation of the policies implemented by the Council of Ministers.

TOT: What is the message you would like to give to the global readership of The Oslo Times as a reprehensive of your country?
My country today is more and more attractive for tourists from all over the world and therefore I would like to call upon your readers to visit my country and to get first hand experience about Bosnia. Bosnia is particularly rich with historical and cultural heritage; it has a beautiful nature and friendly people well known for their hospitality. When we talk about Bosnia and Herzegovina, it means that we are talking about two worlds – the East and the West. It is a country that for centuries is located at the crossroad of civilizations. Many say that Sarajevo is European Jerusalem in miniature. In the old part of city of Sarajevo,  in a small area, just within 200 meters for five centuries stands old temples of four well known monotheistic religions: the Mosque, the Cathedral, an Orthodox church and a Synagogue. Today there are more and more of those who see Bosnia and Herzegovina as a modern democratic state, that is marching towards a better European future, and putting its recent tragic past behind. Welcome to Bosnia and Herzegovina!
Thank you for sharing your views with ‘The Oslo Times’. We wish you and your country all the best in the days to come!

The Oslo Times – All Rights Reserved.

Assistant Chief of Jewish community in Kazakhstan met with Editor in Chief of The Oslo Times for Exclusive Interview Session

 

 

 

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In the image above: (L) Asst; Chief Rabbi of Kazakhstan’s Jews community with (R) Editor in Chief of The Oslo Times Hatef Mokhtar in an exclusive interview session in Almaty.

Almaty, Kazakhstan, December 12 2012 – The honorable Mr Rabbi Bezalel Lifshitz met with the editor in chief hatef mokhtar for an exclusive interview that will be published in a couple of weeks. They spoke about religious freedom, Judaism and the Jewish community in Almaty KZ.
There are approximately 12,000 to 30,000Jews in Kazakhstan, less than 0.2% of the population.

Most Kazakh Jews are Ashkenazi and speak Russian.There are synagogues and large Jewish communities in Almaty where there are 10,000 Jews. According to the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, “Anti-Semitism is not prevalent in Kazakhstan and rare incidents are reported in the press,” contrary to incorrect perceptions in popular culture caused by the country’s portrayal in the 2006 film Borat as a “hot-bed of anti-Semitism.

Rabbi mentioned the 7 commandments for humanity.

In ancient times, these 7 commandments were called “The Noachide Laws.”   They were preached by Noah which all people of the new world were required to follow. (Hebrew)

1 – Do not murder (Shefichat damim).
2 – Do not steal or kidnap (Gezel).
3 – Do not worship false gods (Avodah zarah).
4 – Do not be sexually immoral (engage in incest, sodomy, bestiality, castration and adultery) (Gilui arayot).
5 – Do not utter GOD’s name in vain, curse GOD, or pursue the occult(Birkat Hashem).
6 – Set up righteous and honest courts, and apply fair justice in judging offenders, and uphold the principles of the last five (Dinim).
7 – Do not eat the limb of an animal before it is killed (Ever Min HaChai).

 

TOT News Agency / The Oslo Times

Democracy has no chance in a poor society – says Nurlan Mussin Chargé d’affaires a.i. Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the Kingdom of Norway

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(L) Nurlan Mussin Chargé d’affaires a.i. Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the Kingdom of Norway with (R) Hatef Mokhtar Editor in Chief of The Oslo Times

Honorable Charge de Affair of Kazakhstan to Norway, ‘The Oslo Times’ welcomes you to an exclusive interview with its Editor in Chief and Editorial Board panel. It is indeed a privilege to be with you and exchange views with you on a range of important global issues…

TOT: Since its independence in 1991, Kazakhstan has remained one of the star economies of the CIS, and of Central Asian region. So, what has been the basic formula behind this success? Please elaborate…

Charge de Affair: First of all, I would like to thank Oslo Times and you personally for your interest towards our country.
Kazakhstan has been hidden from the eyes of those in Europe for quite a while.

It’s been only 20 years since we joined the international community as an independent nation and we still have a lot to do to educate the world about us.

Therefore, our Embassy appreciates very much this opportunity to tell to the readers of The Oslo Times about our young nation.

In 1991, when Soviet Union virtually ceased to exist, the situation in this former empire was very tense. Political elites in many parts of the former Soviet Union pursued policies based on emotions and lacked vision and wisdom much needed by their long suffering people.

People throughout Soviet Union wanted freedom, dignity and prosperity. What they had at that time was hunger, poverty, lack of security and unknown future.

As it happened many times in the history of humankind, irresponsible politicians turned to populism and the search for scapegoats. “Blame the “other” slogan used by them had led to bloody conflicts in Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Russia and Tajikistan. In many other places the situation was equally tense.

It was an environment of mutual distrust and anger that could lead to major military conflicts the types of which the world had witnessed in Yugoslavia.

This was not a scenario people and political leadership of Kazakhstan wanted. So, our President decided that something had to be done and invited the leaders of all the republics to come to Kazakhstan to discuss how to move further after the de-facto end of the Soviet Union.

In 1991 on a cold December day in Almaty these leaders gathered to adopt the document called “Almaty Declaration” which paved the way to peaceful and civilized break-up of the biggest empire on the face of the Earth and ushered in the new era of independence for these nations.

This document and this decision by our President laid the foundation of peaceful and stable development of the Kazakh nation. After centuries of colonialism the dream of our forefathers had been fulfilled – Kazakhstan became independent.

And it happened without a single shot or any loss of life. This, however, does not mean that we appreciate our independence any less because of that fact.

As soon as Kazakhstan became independent, we faced enormous challenges in all areas of a nation’s life – security, foreign relations, unsettled borders, poverty, crumbling industries, shortage of food, no money in the system. Western experts at that time had also mentioned multiethnic nature of our society as the biggest threat to the country’s future existence.

Bold reforms and steadfast policies were required to deal with all these challenges. Moreover, the country needed visionary leadership and sincere unity of people.

Thank God, we had both of these prerequisites.
Throughout the 1990’s we had been simultaneously implementing market reforms and privatization of the economy, securing our borders, establishing diplomatic service, creating armed forces, building national financial system, launching national currency, replacing Soviet laws with the new democratic, free market legislation.

Our people proved many outsiders who doubted the future of multiethnic Kazakhstan that they were wrong. We turned the diversity of our population into our strength providing a vivid example to the world that tolerance and multiculturalism work if they are based on sincere mutual respect, sincere love and sincere appreciation of each other’s culture.

In 10 years – by 2001 – Kazakhstan was a functional state with all the attributes of a sovereign nation with the growing economy and a rapidly developing middle class and civil society. The country has enjoyed an average 10% GDP growth in the following years.

Kazakhstan is the most successful economy in the post-Soviet space. In 2003 we were the first among them to receive the “free market economy” status and the first to repay all our debt to international financial institutions – ahead of the schedule.

Kazakhstan has made significant progress toward developing a socially-oriented market economy. GDP per capita has grown almost ten times – from USD 1,200 to around USD 11,300.

Kazakhstan is blessed with natural resources. But, as you very well know, this can also be a curse. Having mineral resources is not enough for success. There are plenty of examples of the opposite in the world.

If a nation wants to ensure sustainable development and continued economic growth, if it wants to continue raising standards of living, it needs to work hard by developing its society and economy in all their aspects.

Kazakhstan continues with the reforms that are currently aimed at diversification of the economy and raising living standards – from healthcare to education.

So coming back to your question – What has been the basic formula behind Kazakhstan’s success? – I would say that it was the combination of three things – people’s unity, their hard work and responsible and visionary policies of the country’s leadership.

A few examples of that.

According to the most recent World Bank report, Kazakhstan is placed among the top 20 countries which are most attractive for foreign investment (FDI). In the post-Soviet space we are number one in attracting FDI.

In the last 15 years our country has attracted more than USD 150 billion of foreign direct investments. This is the highest FDI per capita rate in our part of the world.

Foreign investments are now received not only by the country’s traditional extractive industries. More and more of our foreign partners are looking to contribute to other sectors of the economy.

And we have examples of successful investors such as General Electric (production of railroad locomotives), Tele2 and Telia Sonera (mobile communications), Arcelor Mittal (steel production), Euro Chem (fertilizers) and many others.

Kazakhstan continues to do a lot in terms of creating most comfortable environment for business – both local and foreign. According to the latest World Bank’s Doing Business report, Kazakhstan has moved 15 positions up in the rankings in just one year showing strong progress in protecting investors, paying taxes.

We have now entered the world’s best 50 economies for doing business. In 2011 the World Bank named Kazakhstan the world’s #1 business regulation reformer.

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TOT: Having played a host and an active member of OSCE which has outshined the diplomatic achievements, and success of Kazakhstan at large and which is also a level of prestige to the country. What would you have to say on this and how this had become possible for a newly independent country which is still progressing, and needs to enhance its ties in other parts of the globe?

Charge de Affair: Kazakhstan has been one of the most active member-states of the OSCE since the creation of the Organization.
Many experts believe that OSCE had failed to turn itself into an effective organization able to solve many problems that exist in the area from Vancouver to Vladivostok.

They point out to the fact that the OSCE had failed to convene its Summits since 1999 when Norway chaired the Organization. Indeed, there are significant differences in views, positions and approaches between its members.

And these differences can be attributed to the fact that OSCE members could not even gather their leaders during these 11 years. The OSCE members have also not been able to adopt its Charter – a founding document any international organization is supposed to have in order to function properly!

Kazakhstan, however, continues to believe that OSCE has a significant potential to contribute and promote security and cooperation. After all, the OSCE stands for Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

That is why we decided to exercise our right as an OSCE member and assume the Presidency of the Organization.

In 2010 all members of OSCE unanimously decided to elect Kazakhstan as their next chair, making it the first Asian nation with predominantly Muslim population to chair this Euro-Atlantic organization.

It is worth mentioning that Kazakhstan was also the first post-Soviet state to receive unanimous backing of all members of the OSCE.

Kazakh chairmanship aimed at helping the Organization to deal with its major shortcomings –dominance of the ideological rhetoric and distrust that exists between some of its members.

Within a short period of time we had tried to build bridges and raise confidence level between various members. Kazakhstan had tried to generate much needed political will to make the lives of people populating the OSCE area more secure and just.

We did manage to convene the Summit of the Organization – first in 11 years. It was an important and unique opportunity for the members to try to solve many existing problems.

At this Summit all leaders unanimously adopted Astana Declaration “Towards a Security Community” expressing their will to start addressing some of the pressing issues.

It is of course a very time-consuming effort to tackle numerous problems that have been piling up for decades in the OSCE area. These problems range from environmental and social challenges to “frozen” conflicts and transnational crime.

That’s why we have also put on tracks initiatives and plans that have been passed on to the Presidencies that followed us in 2011 and 2012. After all, this Organization unites 56 nations and it requires support of all of them to move forward any issue – small or big.

OSCE Presidency was an important milestone and a useful experience for Kazakhstan and its diplomatic service. We hope it also served OSCE in terms of making it more aware of the security, economic and environmental challenges that exist in our part of the world, such as Aral Sea catastrophe and lack of transit infrastructure that would effectively connect Europe with Asia.

And I would agree with you – the Presidency also helped us to enhance ties with other member-states. A good example: first ever official visit by Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister to Norway happened in 2010 in his capacity as the OSCE Chairman-in-Office.

kazakh flag

TOT: With Kazakhstan being a part of OSCE and in other various kinds of engagements with the European Union, how you will define the strategic role and the part which Kazakhstan has played till now to enhance its ties and strategic partnerships with Norway?

Charge de Affair: Indeed, Kazakhstan has been actively cooperating with individual countries in Europe, with the European Union, as well as within various regional groupings.

We are an active NATO partner and work together with its members in many areas such as maintaining our capabilities to participate in the UN-led peacekeeping missions and holding joint military exercises. Kazakhstan also provides support to NATO mission in Afghanistan.

We also have a solid dialog with the Council of Europe and last October this dialog was furthered as a result of the CE Secretary General Torbjørn Jagland’s visit to Astana. Following the visit Kazakhstan joined the European Commission for Democracy through Law (so-called Venice Commission).

Before that we joined the Bologna Process which opened for Kazakhstan the way to European educational standards. We have also expressed our interest in joining other mechanisms under the auspices of the Council of Europe.

When it comes to our cooperation with the European Union – there is really an extensive and deep partnership in virtually all areas.

Suffice to say that Kazakhstan and EU have concluded as early as in 1995 a very important document – Agreement on partnership and cooperation. Kazakhstan and EU hold annual meetings on various levels.

To reflect the growing and strengthening ties between us we are now discussing conclusion of the new Agreement on Extended Partnership and Cooperation which will cover foreign affairs, security, justice, political development, trade, investments, energy, environment, and transport.

We are ready to expand and deepen our partnership with Europe in all these areas and hope that our European partners will act reciprocally.
European Union is the number one trade partner for Kazakhstan and the volume of trade keeps growing very fast: in 2010 – USD 38 bln., in 2011 – USD 50 bln.

Norway not being a member of the European Union is, nevertheless, a very special partner for Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan considers Norway as the best model in managing natural resources – whether it is environmental standards or social and macroeconomic aspects.

Our main priority is to learn from the Norwegian experience, like we did, for example, with our National Fund which is based on the Norwegian model – Pension Fund “Global”.

The two countries are indeed very similar in many ways. The similarities between us are not limited to energy or financial sector. There are many similar features in the character of our people, geography and demographics.

We also have similar outlooks on the pressing global issues – from energy security to environment. One of them is also our shared vision of the world free from nuclear weapons.

In all these areas we closely cooperate trying to make a positive difference for our two nations and the rest of the world. We have no doubt that our Norwegian friends and partners are committed to the partnership the same way we are.
We can witness this from growing cooperation and strengthening of bilateral mechanisms between our two nations, especially in the last 2-3 years.

Our Embassy in Oslo since its establishment in 2004 remained Kazakhstan’s only diplomatic mission in Scandinavia, while Norway’s only diplomatic representation in the vast Central Asia is its Embassy in Astana. This is also a practical testament to how our two nations see and regard each other.

We can see that investment cooperation is developing; we see that volumes of our traditional exports (Norwegian fish and Kazakh grain) are growing. We are registering record numbers of Norwegians travelling to Kazakhstan during last two years. We have more and more frequent bilateral contacts and visits on various levels – from Royal family members and Cabinet ministers to sportsmen, artists and just tourists.

We are quite satisfied with the dynamics and direction of our bilateral partnership and we are determined to maintain this good pace.

kazakhstannorwayud

TOT: Since both the countries are producers and suppliers of hydrocarbons so how you look the relations of Norway and Kazakhstan can be strengthen in terms of energy cooperation in the long run?

Charge de Affair: As I said before, Norway is a model for Kazakhstan in the way it had developed its energy industries, protects the environment and keeps expanding and strengthening its capacity in this area. We want to learn and Norway is ready to share this good knowledge.

To that end Kazakhstan and Norway established in 2007 the Bilateral Working Group on Energy Cooperation. We have successfully held four annual meetings since then, last of which happen recently – on October 2nd of this year. The dialogue within this bilateral mechanism covers issues spanning from technical education to environment and local content in addition to traditional cooperation in the oil/gas sector.

We are very interested in having more Norwegian companies in the oil/gas sector of Kazakhstan. We are confident they will bring along higher environmental, labor and technological standards, as well as useful Norwegian experience of increasing local content in the industry.

Norwegian service and engineering companies, such as Statoil, Aker Solutions, Kvaerner, Aibel, Kaefer and others know that opportunities in Kazakhstan are abundant.

In 2010, our two national companies «KazMunaiGaz» and «Statoil» decided to establish strategic partnership to work together on the shelf of the Caspian Sea.

Currently, the two sides are in the final stages of negotiations and hopefully their partnership will serve as a locomotive for other Kazakh and Norwegian companies to establish joint businesses in this or other sectors.

Kazakhstan is now bidding for the right to host professional exhibition EXPO-2017 in Astana which will be held under the topic “Energy of the Future”. Kazakhstan with this EXPO wants to contribute to the global discussion of our planet’s energy future.

This forum will also provide a wonderful opportunity for Norway to highlight and advance its role in this discussion, as well as showcase its prominent energy industry.

We are glad to see that both Kazakhstan and Norway work tirelessly to strengthen and expand our bilateral energy cooperation.

kazakh meeting

TOT: What are the key strategic areas where Kazakhstan seeks cooperation with Norway to gain expertise and economic cooperation in near future?

Charge de Affair: Traditionally, energy sector, specifically – oil and gas, has been the primary area for our cooperation. But there are several areas where I believe we could have mutually beneficial cooperation as well.

Kazakhstan is a large agricultural producer playing significant role in providing global food security. We are in the Top 5 exporters of wheat and the world’s #1 exporter of wheat flour for 6 years in a row now –since 2006. Our farmers supply with grain all of Central Asia, Caucasus, countries of Northern Africa and the Middle East. Our wheat exports to Norway have risen from 3,000 tons in 2009 to 43,000 in 2011.

There is an enormous potential in production of milk, meat and poultry in Kazakhstan. These industries are now in the development stage which creates unique opportunities for Norwegian food producing companies to establish themselves in Kazakhstan and benefit from comfortable business environment while having direct access and close proximity to the enormous markets of China, Russia, Central and South Asia – with total population approaching 3 billion people.

This is just one example but we would welcome Norwegian businesses in all other industries – mining, electricity, telecommunications, machine-building, metallurgy, etc.

astana meeting

TOT: As per the foreign policy goals set by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Yerzhan Kazykhanov  for establishing a UN Secretariat in the country while making Astana a regional hub for diplomacy. So how far you see the progress in this direction has been made by Kazakhstan?

Charge de Affair: First, it is important to stress that there is no such foreign policy goal set by us as to establish a UN Secretariat in Astana.
Indeed, our President and later former Foreign Minister Mr. Kazykhanov have put forward an idea to establish in Almaty a regional center for UN regional activities.

There are already 16 sub-regional offices of various UN agencies which have been working successfully in Almaty for quite a while. These offices deal with the host of issues of regional and global significance. In our view we have come to a point when all these activities would benefit from coordinated approach and leadership.

Our region represents a significant part of the world by its sheer territory and size of its population. A number of nations in our part of the world require long-term assistance from the international community.

One of them is Afghanistan. Stability and progress in this country is a priority for the region and for the world. Having an effective regional office of the United Nations in the center of the region – Kazakhstan – will serve that goal.

The idea is there for discussion by the UN and its members. We look forward to participate in this discussion.

TOT: Being a Oil & Gas producer and exporter, is this justified to sell oil and gas artificially at lower price to Russia when Kazakhstan can provide the same at existing market prices? Will this not be the loss to the exchequer of Kazakhstan’s Federal Reserve’s and un-rewarding exploitation of its natural resources?

Charge de Affair: Let me first start by explaining the break-down of the oil production in Kazakhstan. Around 75% of all oil extracted in Kazakhstan is produced by foreign companies: British Gas, Chevron, ENI, ExxonMobil, Lukoil, CNPC and others. The rest is produced by our national oil and gas company “KazMunaiGaz” and smaller local companies. All these companies, including KazMunaiGaz are responsible to their shareholders for generating as much profit as possible.

Our Government is too very much interested in having as much income from the oil/gas sector as possible, whether it comes in the form of taxes, royalties, direct profit, etc.

So, to answer your question directly: it is not justified for these companies to sell their products artificially at lower prices to Russia or anyone else. That is why these companies do not do it. Otherwise there is no reason for them to engage in this business.

As far as I know, most of the oil produced in Kazakhstan is sold to EU countries, and now increasingly to China. I have not heard of significant sales of oil to Russia, which, as you know, is one of the biggest producers of oil and natural gas in the world.

TOT: The relations of your country with Russia has always remained volatile and on a mode of fluctuations where former oppose the unlimited use of Baikonur Cosmodrome whereas later objects the cooperation with the US over ‘War on Terror’ whose influence is also growing in the region?

Charge de Affair: To answer your question I would have to start with correcting its introductory clause.
Our relations with Russia have always been stable and are characterized by high level of trust and dynamic cooperation in all areas. Russia is our biggest neighbor, major trading and economic partner, and a close friend and ally. We have recently formed Customs Union to make it easier for local and foreign businesses to operate in our countries.

When we face a complex issue that requires more attention and effort to be resolved, we deal with it as good neighbors and friends do – in an amicable and mutually beneficial way. Baikonur Cosmodrome is no exception.

Our governments and respective agencies work closely together to make it effective and environmentally safe, so this unique space complex could continue to be beneficial for our two countries and for the whole world.

Never have we received any objections from our Russian friends regarding our cooperation with the United States, including on the joint efforts against international terrorism. Moreover, Russia and the US are themselves close partners and cooperate successfully on these issues.

To my knowledge, Russia provides various types of assistance to US and NATO forces including providing its territory and airspace for the completion of the mission in Afghanistan. Our countries do many things together in a multilateral framework, as well.

Kazakhstan, Russia and the USA are not the only nations cooperating in combating international terrorism. We are joined by virtually all of the international community and we believe this is the right approach when dealing with such global threat as international terrorism.

One good example is GINCT. In 2006 Russia and United States jointly created Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GINCT) and asked Kazakhstan to join it. During these past 6 years 82 more nations have joined GINCT to strengthen global capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to nuclear terrorism.

We do not see relations between Russia, United States, China or European Union as competition, when it comes to their cooperation with Kazakhstan or other nations in the region.

As far as Kazakhstan is concerned, we welcome cooperation with all of them and the rest of the world. For our landlocked nation this is the only way to proceed – by interacting and cooperating with everyone around us. This is the basis of our foreign policy concept.

cooperation map

TOT: Being an active member of Shanghai CO-Operation how would you define the role and success of this organization have achieved in the establishing peace and security in the member countries as well as in the region which is still being one of the most volatile and unexplored regions of the world?

Charge de Affair: The Shanghai Cooperation Organization was initially formed by newly independent states bordering China as a mechanism to resolve border issues that used to exist between USSR and People’s Republic of China. Success of that mechanism and its positive experience led to the decision by the involved parties to establish in 2001 the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

Since then the SCO has become a functional multilateral institution recognized by the world community for its active assistance in maintaining peace and security, dealing with modern threats and challenges, as well as stimulating economic, cultural and humanitarian cooperation in the SCO area.

The SCO is now a good example to the rest of the world of how nations of different economic, political, industrial and geographic “size” can still cooperate in a friendly, good-neighborly and equal partnership.

Currently, the agenda of the SCO includes security, economic and humanitarian “baskets”. Kazakhstan believes in parallel and balanced development of these three baskets.

There are also particular areas where we believe SCO can play an important role, such as energy and transit infrastructure. Dynamic cooperation between the SCO members in all these areas will have a positive effect on a broader region.

TOT: “The boundary disputes of almost all the nations of CIS has almost been resolved with their neighbours, however; the Caspian sea boundary is still governed by the international law and remained unsettled which now with growing international thirst for Caspian oil and its exploitation has becoming a frequently arising issue in day to day regional politics”. How will you elaborate the point of dispute where it lies and has now become a bone of serious contention among the Caspian nations which Kazakhstan too shares its waters?

Charge de Affair: Determination of the legal status of the Caspian Sea is of very high importance for Kazakhstan. We believe that this unique water body should serve the best interests of the Caspian states and that it should be treated by them in a responsible manner.

Kazakhstan stands for demilitarization of the Caspian and for freedom of transit by all means of transport as well as for the access to other seas and the World Ocean, as stipulated in several universal international agreements.

All five Caspian states (Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia) are currently discussing the draft Convention on legal status of the Caspian Sea. There is a Special Working Group that is working on the text of the Convention.
There have been three Summits of the Presidents.

At the last Summit in 2010 the Presidents signed the Agreement on Security Cooperation in the Caspian Sea.
At Kazakhstan’s initiative, the five leaders have also agreed to start working on a mechanism to put in place a 5-year moratorium on sturgeon fishing in the Caspian Sea. Currently, the parties are working out a text of the relative Agreement.

Kazakhstan was quite satisfied with the outcome of the Summit since our partners have also agreed there to adopt an approach that had been advocated by Kazakhstan from the very beginning of multilateral consultations on the legal status of the Caspian.

This approach is to follow provisions of the UN Convention on Sea Law by establishing for each state its territorial sea, fishing zone and designating the remaining as common waters.

As you can see, Kazakhstan and its Caspian partners have made some progress in this regard given the very different positions they had at the beginning.

Therefore, we are quite optimistic about the prospects of settling this issue. All five Caspian nations appreciate the fact that this process has been developing in a calm and constructive atmosphere, as it should be between partners and neighbors.

caspian sea

TOT: With its withdrawal by Uzbekistan from the member states of Commonwealth of Independent States Peacekeeping forces second time, will this means that CIS operations and its existence is now becoming less important in the diplomatic and regional cooperation as well in the bilateral / regional relations of the member states, of which Kazakhstan too is a member?

Charge de Affair: I would have to start by explaining what Commonwealth of Independent States (or CIS) is. I think it is important for Oslo Times readers to know how it works and it will make it easier for me to try to answer your question.

CIS is an organization where most of the former Soviet republics are members. Membership in CIS is voluntary, as is members’ participation in different areas of cooperation within the Commonwealth.

CIS members selectively participate in various areas of multilateral cooperation depending on the interests and wishes of each member-state. Therefore, decisions of CIS bodies apply only to those members that decide to participate in a particular issue. For example, there are 66 areas of cooperation, stemming from trade and social issues to transport and law enforcement. Not all members participate in each area.

CIS has proven to be the most optimal form of multilateral cooperation since its members differ from each other quite considerably.

There are, however, forms of cooperation where all members participate. These are so-called “charter bodies”, such as Council of Heads of State, Council of Heads of Government, Inter-Parliamentary Assembly, Foreign Ministers’ Council, etc. There is also a permanent institution, called CIS Executive Committee that deals with day-to-day work.

In my answer to your first question I mentioned the historic meeting convened in our former capital Almaty in December of 1991 when the leaders of the republics of former USSR agreed to civilized and peaceful dissolution of the Soviet Union.

At that meeting the Almaty Declaration was adopted which effectively laid down the basis for establishment of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

The vitality of CIS can be explained by certain important principles upon which it is based. First and foremost, it is voluntary membership, respect of sovereignty and the right to choose the form, depth and degree of participation for each member-state.

CIS is now more than 20 years old and it continues to prove its important historic mission in many political and economic processes both regionally and globally. By the way, in 2008 Afghan officials approached CIS with the request to join the organization.

Today Afghanistan has an observer status at the CIS IPA.
Uzbekistan has been and remains to be a founding member of the CIS which, by the way, does not have peacekeeping forces in it. Hence, there have been no CIS operations in this regard.

Now, there is another international entity called Collective Security Treaty Organization (or CSTO).
CSTO is not CIS but a completely different organization with different membership.

Kazakhstan views CSTO as a consultative body with a security and defense cooperation orientation and which is open to cooperation with other international organizations on security issues.

As in CIS, there are no peacekeeping forces within the CSTO, as well.
Currently, CSTO has several elements of cooperation. One of them is the development of the Collective Rapid Reaction Force. The force was established back in 2009 to repulse external military aggression, conduct anti-terrorist operations, fight transnational crime and drug trafficking, and neutralize the effects of natural disasters.

CSTO has never participated in a combat mission.
When it comes to Uzbekistan’s cooperation with CSTO, it is important to know the history of CSTO.
The membership in the CSTO is voluntary and at different periods it varied between 6 and 9 nations.

Between 1992 and 2003 cooperation on security issues was conducted with in an agreement on collective security which was signed by 9 nations. Uzbekistan was among those nations that signed this document. In 1999 Uzbekistan withdrew from it because it joined another organization, called GUUAM.
In 2003 the CSTO was established as an organization. In 2005 Uzbekistan withdrew from GUUAM and joined CSTO in 2006.

In June of 2012 Uzbekistan suspended its membership in the CSTO. The Charter of the organization allows for that and clearly says that “Any state may become a member…” and “Any Member State may withdraw from the Organization…”
Uzbekistan is a sovereign nation that is free to choose forms and scope of its cooperation with other partners both bilaterally and multilaterally.

To my knowledge, Uzbekistan continues its cooperation with countries in the region, including on combating threats of terrorism and transnational crime. There are good mechanism for that within both CIS and SCO, which Uzbekistan is a member of.

TOT: How will you define the role being played by Kazakhstan in the cooperation with US and in Afghanistan over ‘War on Terror’? And how you see the bilateral relations of your country with Afghanistan at present and in years to come when International forces would leave Afghanistan?

Charge de Affair: This is a very good question which has three elements in it: global cooperation against international terrorism, our cooperation with the United States in this regard, as well as Kazakhstan’s bilateral cooperation with Afghanistan.

These issues are somewhat interconnected and sometimes overlap but they are nevertheless are very distinct.

I explained in my answer to one of your previous questions Kazakhstan’s anti-terrorism efforts both bilaterally and within different multilateral frameworks with other countries, including the United States.

But in fact, our relations with US are far wider in scope than one issue. We have a 20-year long history of dynamically developing cooperation with the United States in virtually all areas – trade, investments, global security, political dialogue, etc.
Similarly, our cooperation with Afghanistan is not limited to anti-terrorism efforts. Kazakh-Afghan cooperation includes many different areas and I would like to briefly go through some of them.

First of all, Kazakhstan supports and is very much interested in stable and sustainable development of Afghanistan. Economic and social development is the number one requirement for Afghanistan to deal with threats like terrorism, drug trafficking and religious radicalism.
These are threats that the region and the bigger international community suffer from.

Kazakhstan believes that the international community under the coordination of the UN, therefore, should contribute and assist Afghanistan working hand in hand with the Afghan Government.

Kazakhstan supports efforts of the Government of Afghanistan to unite the Afghan society and build a stable democratic nation. We believe the government has all essential institutions in place: legislature, executive, courts, military and law enforcement forces, etc.

However, external assistance is still needed. Kazakhstan participates in various international mechanisms which try to coordinate the efforts of the international community to lay the basis for sustainable economic development of Afghanistan.

We also support Afghanistan’s involvement in the regional processes which are aimed at better cooperation, integration and confidence-building.

On the bilateral level we continue to provide technical and humanitarian assistance supplying Afghanistan annually with thousands of tons of foodstuff, fuel and equipment. Kazakhstan has financed the construction of the Kundus-Talukan asphalt road, a hospital in Bamian province, and a school in Samangan province, along with other smaller projects.

This year Kazakh Government decided to finance an infrastructure project on the Aibak River in the Samangan province, as well as to support law enforcement in the country.

As you probably know, our President pays special attention to education which he believes is the necessary prerequisite for a prosperous and democratic society. Only a prosperous and educated society can build a sustainable democracy.

In 2010, at the instructions of the President, our government has launched an education program for Afghan students and allocated for that purpose USD 50 million. Up to 1 thousand Afghans will be provided with higher education in Kazakhstan.

They will receive medical, engineering, agricultural education, as well as training in law enforcement and border guard schools. First 152 Afghan students have begun their studies in 2010. Last year another 182 students have arrived to study in Kazakh universities. This program will last until 2020.

Kazakhstan also seeks to boost the activities of the Kazak-Afghan intergovernmental commission which should help expand and deepen ties between our countries and coordinate existing areas of cooperation such as the educational program I mentioned before.

We firmly believe that prosperous and stable Afghanistan will become a positive force in the region and Kazakhstan is determined to assist our brothers and neighbors in every way we can.

oic

TOT: Kazakhstan being an important member of Organization of Islamic Countries has remained vigilant and cooperative in terms for providing assistance to many Muslim countries and where community holds a strong ground but till now there is nothing which any media has heard from the leaderships of Kazakhstan for Rohingya Muslims who are being massacred in Myanmar?

Charge de Affair: As you mentioned in your question, Kazakhstan is a member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Since July 2011 we are chairing this organization. One of the stated goals of our Chairmanship is to increase the effectiveness of this Organization and move it from discussions to work.

I need to mention here that the first thing we did when we assumed Chairmanship last year was to change the name of the organization from “Organization of Islamic Conference” to “Organization of Islamic Cooperation”. By doing this we wanted to change the mentality around OIC and create a working and pragmatic environment.

It is perhaps unrealistic to see the effects immediately but we hope that our efforts during the Chairmanship will not be in vain. Our chairmanship in the OIC will end in November of this year in Djibouti, at the 39th OIC ministerial.
Now, regarding the issue of Rohingya minority, the lack of media coverage of this issue and Kazakhstan’s position on it.

I think you are directing your question to wrong people. Kazakhstan cannot be held responsible for international media’s editorial policies. Media or those who own them decide how and what issues and news to cover.

Kazakhstan’s representatives have called for appropriate international attention to the situation with the Rohingya community in Myanmar.

As recently as in August our foreign minister said to his colleagues in the OIC: “… the Organization has to assist Muslim minorities and communities outside the Member States…” and that “…Kazakhstan expresses grave concern over numerous reports of violence against Rohingya Muslim minorities in Arakan province and other parts of Myanmar…”

At this meeting chaired by Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister the OIC adopted a document where this issue was addressed directly. Specifically, a fact-finding committee was established which already in September was dispatched in Myanmar for a 10-day investigation.

There, an OIC Humanitarian Affairs Office was established. Two weeks later in New York the OIC members met again and established a Joint contact group which will work directly with all relevant parties, including the Myanmar Government, international and regional organizations and bodies.

Kazakhstan believes and supports the involvement of the whole international community in this issue. This is not just a Muslim problem.
We are all human beings and it is very painful to see when human suffering in one case is treated by the media differently than similar suffering in another case.

chinakazak

TOT: Being a Turkic nation and an important member of SCO, what are the steps the Kazak government has taken so far in raising the issue of Uyghur in China with whom your country shares its borders and has good ties on a regional level?

Charge de Affair: We do not see that there is an issue in China that requires and would benefit from Kazakhstan’s involvement.
As far as the issue of territorial integrity is concerned, Kazakhstan believes that this sacred principle of international law should be upheld everywhere not just in China.

At the same time Kazakhstan supports and encourages the development of the vibrant cultural life and preservation of traditions and languages of many different ethnic groups in China, including Uyghurs and Kazakhs. We believe that China only benefits from providing its multiethnic society with opportunities and conditions to thrive and celebrate its diversity.

TOT: “Kazakhstan being an example of efficient leadership and economic progress that too got independent along with other 14 republics from USSR”. So, according to you what are reasons behind the turmoil and collapse in the system of the other neighboring republics like Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan where these nations in this present world are being regarded as some of the major violators of human rights and citizens’ freedom and liberty within their own borders?

Charge de Affair: First of all, thank you very much for your kind evaluation of Kazakhstan’s progress during its independence.
As you correctly pointed out, there were 15 republics in the USSR.

During the years of independence each country pursued its own path of development. So, I think it is wrong to lump them all together and brush them in negative colors. I would certainly disagree with your general assessment of the situation in the countries you mentioned as experiencing “turmoil and collapse”.

All of them are very distinct in terms of culture, history, level of economic or political development. It had been so even during Soviet period. Some republics were more industrially and scientifically oriented, others specialized on agriculture, etc.

Some had democratic traditions even before they were incorporated in the Soviet Union, namely Baltic States, while most others had remained colonies of the Russian Empire and then parts of the Soviet Union for centuries – without any exposure to democracy.

Despite many problems these countries might have (and most of these problems require generations to overcome!), their overall development throughout the last years has been stable and peaceful.

Kazakhstan certainly hopes that peace and stability will remain there, as they provide essential conditions for further growth and development, including democratic development and advancement of human rights.

TOT: How can you define the role and the progress of Kazakhstan in the areas of promoting human rights and freedom of speech on regional and global level?

Charge de Affair: As I have mentioned before, Kazakhstan believes in the rule of law, both nationally and internationally. One of the most important principles of international law is sovereignty. There are also obligations which each nation takes upon itself and is obliged to adhere to.

So in this dilemma of how to promote human rights and not end up violating other cultures and sovereignty, Kazakhstan follows this golden rule – “lead by example”.

Parents have success raising their kids not when they yell at them or criticize them constantly but when they show good example, when they are engaged in certain activities together with their kids.

The same way more advanced societies can help promote human rights in less established societies by cooperating not by isolating. Certainly, promotion of human right stands no chance if a society’s economic development is constrained by limiting its trade potential or preventing private investments from going in it.

Democracy has no chance in a poor society. Only a strong middle class can ensure human rights –economic, political and social –all of them, including freedom of speech.

Kazakhstan is a developing nation, so we are still in the learning mode rather than teaching. In areas where we are successful, for example, interethnic harmony and religious tolerance, we try to share this positive experience with the world.

But we will never impose it on others, recognizing that our experience is unique and it can be applied not everywhere.

A good example of our external activities in this regard might be the Congress of World’s Religions which was initiated by our President and takes place triennially in Astana. This is the only place and mechanism for leaders of the world’s religions to gather in their efforts to promote peace and mutual respect globally.

Sincere mutual respect is what the world needs these days. This is the number one prerequisite for ensuring human rights domestically and globally.

TOT: What kind of role Kazakhstan have played so far on national, regional and international for the promotion of democracy?

Charge de Affair: We do not consider that true democracy can exist or be promoted without ensuring human rights. We believe that human rights can be protected only through dialogue and genuine cooperation.

As I said in my answer to your previous question, the best promotion of democracy is leading by example. As Kazakhstan progresses in the development of its own civil society and rule of law, it will be in a better position to further promote democracy in the region and elsewhere simply by projecting its positive experience and success.

TOT: How would you define the role and existence of Media and the kind of press freedom it enjoys in your country?

Charge de Affair: We in Kazakhstan believe that media is an important part of our life, an important element of the civil society and should serve in its entirety the interests of the whole society.

It should be recognized that quite often media advances interests of certain groups or individuals within the society, usually because of the financial support or ownership.

Sometimes this benefits the whole society but many times it happens at the expense of the majority of people. It is therefore important for any society to ensure plurality of opinion – to let opposing view or alternative position to be heard.

It is very dangerous when public discussion is hijacked by one group, which is simply more active, has a louder voice, better financed and uses more innovative approach.

The only way to ensure plurality and sense of objectiveness without infringing on press freedom is to have public media, which is tasked with reporting facts, and will not engage in opinionated agenda-driven journalism.

While overwhelming majority of media In Kazakhstan is privately owned and their number is growing every year, there are still public TV and newspapers outlets supported from the national budget. Currently people have access to all kinds of information and have an access to a variety of opinion, even quite unscrupulous ones.

We believe that only in severe cases, such as when media actions led to loss of human life, the government has to step in and act.

Media in Kazakhstan, as any other institution or a group of organizations, is still young and in the development stage. It is a long process, sometimes very painful.

But at the end of the day, it would be up to the society and the media itself to develop a set of principles and values to adhere to. Not everything can be regulated by laws and regulations. Honesty, responsibility and good conscience cannot be legislated.

But people nowadays are increasingly expecting exactly these things from their journalists.

Thank you respected Charge de Affair. We think that this session has indeed been informative and beneficial for The Oslo Times and its readers. Thanks yet again!

©The Oslo Times – All Rights Reserved.

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The Red Wrath on Ask David

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Yuliya Tymoshenko is serving the sentence for the abuse of power while in office: Yurii ONISCHENKO

TOT: How does Ukraine see the strengthening of its ties with Norway and what are the areas where a better cooperation can be established between the two nations?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: Over the 20 years of diplomatic relations with Norway, our countries signed 25 international treaties, including interstate, intergovernmental and interdepartmental agreements and memorandums. Regular exchange of visits of foreign ministers, defense ministers, parliamentarians prove the partner character of the political dialogue. This autumn we expect the first official visit of the Ukrainian Prime Minister to Norway, which will mark another important milestone in bilateral relations. The two countries have close cooperation within international and regional organizations. Ukraine highly appreciates Norwegian support in financing a number of important initiatives, including the Chornobyl Shelter Fund projects in Ukraine.
Despite the many examples of successful cooperation, the potential of our bilateral ties has not been fully revealed so far. The most promising areas for further development of trade and investment is shipbuilding, agriculture, oil and gas exploration, information technology, fish trade and processing.

We hope that another push for vivid trade cooperation will be given by a visit of Norwegian Trade and Industry Minister Trond Giske to Ukraine, as well as by the opening of the representative office of the Norwegian-Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce (nucc.no) in Ukraine later this year.
Research and development is another important area for further development of cooperation. A number of Norwegian research and academic institutions, like SIVA, NGU, NIVA, SINTEF, University of Nordland, University of Ås, University of Telemark have established strong ties with their Ukrainian counterparts. The strong academic traditions in Ukraine are major prerequisites for other joint initiatives in basic and applied research.
Also cultural ties possess a deep potential for vigorous development. For example, Maihaugen Museum in Lillehammer enjoys fruitful cooperation with the Open Air Museum in Lviv under the support of the Norwegian Directorate of Cultural Heritage. I believe, that we should utilize the historical ties between our peoples dating back to the Medieval times, when Norwegian konungs sought kinship with rulers of Kyiv Rus’, and promote stronger ties between the Ukrainian and Norwegian nations.

TOT: After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Ukraine has always remained in serious political turmoil, inside or outside its border. Could you shed some light on this situation?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: After the collapse of the Soviet Union the new country with its unique geographical position, rich natural resources, industrial and scientific strength as well as highly qualified human capital started to search for its own niche in the global world. At the same time, during the first years after the proclamation of independence, Ukraine had to shape a new system of state administration, national legislation, establish or re-establish economic ties with the neighbouring countries and the rest of the world.

It is obvious that such transformations cannot be accomplished overnight, and are often accompanied by political turmoil. Since 1991 Ukraine has done significant progress in democracy building and development of a market economy. Unlike in most of the former Soviet Union countries, all conflict situations in Ukraine have been resolved in a peaceful and democratic way.

The country is now implementing deep structural reforms, which have been long overdue. We have headed for the European integration as a transformational process addressing a number of the key issues, such as strengthening of national security, economic development, consolidation of democracy, and respect for human rights.

TOT: The Euro Cup tournament recently hosted and organized by the Ukraine has been criticized as the most scandal hit event in Europe. What would your take be on these allegations made by various factions and countries in Europe?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: Let me disagree with your statement. According to UEFA, EURO 2012 turned out to become a unique event with the best legacy that UEFA could have ever produced. The decision to bring the final round of EURO 2012 to the East was a historic one both for Ukraine and for Poland. Yes, it was a challenge in terms of economy and infrastructure. But we succeeded. Before the tournament there were a lot of speculations about the failure of the future Championship, rumours and unfounded allegations prevailed in media.

During the first days of the tournament all the allegations vanished. And I am really proud of the high level organization of this fantastic tournament by Ukraine and Poland. The Polish and Ukrainian peoples have shown their enthusiasm, tolerance, hospitality traditions and have set a high bar for the future tournaments that will be difficult to match.

The Ukrainian government delivered on all of its commitments to demonstrate that we can host major international events as a part of the common European family.

TOT: Prior to the Euro Cup the EU and its members particularly Germany, the UK had tried to boycott the tournament in support of ex- Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, who is serving a jail sentence in Kharkiv region, where she was on a hunger strike from the 20th of April to the 9th of May 2012. Please explain a bit about their stand and their contentions? Was this stand an act of discrimination against Ukraine?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: Attempts to politicize the European Football Championship EURO 2012 were destructive, and its boycott would undermine the image of the Championship itself. Moreover, sport events have since the ancient times played an important role in the process of establishing interstate understanding and unity. After winning the right to host the European football championship in 2012, Ukrainian and Polish peoples have taken great efforts and have done tremendous work to secure a top level organization of the tournament.

Boycott of EURO 2012 would practically harm the feelings of millions of ordinary Ukrainian citizens as well as European fans who vote for different parties or are not interested in politics at all. Reformation of the Ukrainian judicial system, strengthening of democratic institutions and the rule of law – all these issues belong objectively to the field other than a football festival, which is in its essence beyond politics and cannot be used to address political and judicial issues.

TOT: Yulia Tymoshenko, who led the Orange Revolution in Ukraine against the Kuchma government, is behind bars which the European Union and other international organizations have criticised by saying that “the conviction is seen as “justice being applied selectively under political motivation”.  What do you have to say on this?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: Yuliya Tymoshenko is serving the sentence for the abuse of power while in office and not for her political activity. She was sentenced by the court in the result of the criminal investigation. This was the court’s decision which is to be respected — both domestically and internationally. The only way to challenge it is to appeal to a higher court of law.
I would like to point out, that Ukraine is now paying an enormous price for the Russian natural gas, the price we are obliged to pay according to Tymoshenko’s notorious gas deal with Russia in 2009. It is ridiculous, but it is cheaper for Ukraine now to import the Russian gas from Germany than from Russia itself.
Another issue to mention here is, of course, the system of justice in Ukraine, which definitely requires further reformation. Our government and parliament are now carrying out reforms of the judicial system in general and, in particular, in the part of criminal investigation.

In April 2012 the new Code of Criminal Procedure was approved by the Parliament of Ukraine. The main purpose of the reform is to create equal opportunities for each of the parties in criminal process and to secure a real implementation of the adversarial principle.

TOT: Ukraine is looking forward to its acceptance in the European Union as a full fledged member. So what are the steps the Government of Ukraine has taken so far in that direction so as to meet the required EU standards?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: The EU-Ukraine relations officially started from the signing of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) in 1994. Many Ukrainian experts regret that Ukraine did not sign an association agreement in the 1990s like other Eastern European states, referring to this as a “missed time and opportunity”, because the PCA only deals with cooperation and not integration.

However much progress has been made since 2007, when Ukraine and the EU decided to elaborate a new type of agreement based on political association and economic integration. Political association means harmonization of our policies, including foreign policy and deeper cooperation in different spheres. It’s also about values, so the future Association agreement will be based on the same values as the Lisbon treaty.

While economic integration is about our integration into the Single market with the extension of all the four EU’s freedoms to Ukraine. This process is very difficult primarily because the free movement of people is a highly debated issue in the EU member states.
The association agreement is a unique framework for further reforms in Ukraine and is a real toolbox that will bring Ukraine closer to the EU. Last year we successfully completed negotiations with the EU on the Association agreement. This year the text was initialled, concluding the five years of negotiations. Now the 600 page document has to be translated into 23 languages, signed, ratified and finally implemented.
The process of visa liberalisation, which is another extremely important issue for Ukrainians, is also progressing very well. The European Commission has recently published a positive report of Ukraine’s implementation of the Visa Liberalisation Action Plan and Ukraine hopes to launch the second phase of this Action Plan soon.
Finally, I want to say that relations with the EU are very important for Ukraine. Support of European integration is the issue that unites almost all Ukrainians. The country’s European perspective enjoys over 70% support in all parts of the country, so it is a crucial priority of Ukraine’s foreing policy. The interesting point is that the high level of support is not about the financial benefits that European integration would bring.

Enlargement of the EU to the East of Europe is about reunification of the space of common history and common mentality. For Ukraine, integration with the EU is a civilisational choice.

TOT: How do you see the progress from the European Union while considering the candidature of Ukraine as its member country and how long will Ukraine take to arrive at a decision on the same?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: The Comprehensive association agreement will bring benefits to both of the parties – Ukraine and EU. I already mentioned the overwhelming popular support of the EU membership in Ukraine. At the same time, we understand that further progress will depend of the results of the reforms in our country.
Now we feel the real interest from both sides. For example, the representatives of European business circles are more and more actively calling for abolition of visas for Ukrainians to the EU. We are also working hard to deliver on our part. I am sure, this two-way drift will give positive and prompt results.
We are very optimistic. And Europe is steadily growing ready to embrace Ukraine. According to the last survey of the GfK, almost half of the European guests, who visited Ukraine during EURO 2012, stated that Ukraine deserved to enter the EU in the near future. The survey results revealed that EU citizens generally support Ukraine’s European aspirations and believe that Ukraine deserves the visa-free regime as a component of European integration.

According to the same survey, 52.4% of European fans would like to cancel the visa regime between their countries and Ukraine already today, while only 4.8% did not support the visa-free initiative. 42.56% of the respondents wanted Ukraine to become a member of the 27 nation block in a short term, while 30.92% believed that Ukraine could join the EU in the medium term under the condition that the political and economic situation in the country improves. Notably, only 2.77% of the surveyed EU citizens said they did not want to see Ukraine as a part of the Union.

TOT: Russia has been a major gas supplier to Europe and Ukraine has played a transit point to its gas supplies. But time to time the dispute has remained alive between Ukraine and Russia where at some point Ukraine has always warned Russia of stopping its gas supplies to Europe. This has resulted in Russia considering another transit route through Turkey via the European Union?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: The South Stream is economically disadvantageous both for Ukraine and for Russia. Ukrainian gas transit system is the most secure and prospective for the Russian gas deliveries to Europe.

Its modernization would cost for us and the international partners almost 50 times less, than construction of the South Stream, while the Ukrainian GTS is able to deliver 100% of the Europe’s demand in Russian gas.
Referring to the second part of your question, Ukraine has never used its gas transit system as a political or geopolitical instrument and has never stopped or warned of stopping deliveries of the Russian gas to the EU.

We are a loyal partner that maintains its international agreements and obligations. Above all, we want to maintain good relations with Russia as well as strengthen cooperation with the EU.

TOT: In the context of the previous question is the next one: How will you describe this situation and the rift which has caused Europe a crucial shortage in its gas supplies?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: Secure gas transit to Europe has always been a priority for Ukraine, sometimes even at the expense of our own benefits. The gas negotiations of 2009 were carried out in the extreme international pressure, and in that crisis situation Ukraine stood firm to deliver on its obligations before Russia and the European countries.

Moreover, I already commented on the economic consequences of the gas contracts signed by the former Prime Minister without the due governmental appraisal. Now the Ukrainian economy has to cope with the dramatic prices on the natural gas, on top of the consequences of the global financial crisis.

TOT: Recently the Venice Commission advised Ukraine not to reconsider its mixed election system for its upcoming elections in October this year. Has Ukraine done something in accepting this new draft proposed by the Venice Commission? If so, then what are the steps which have been taken in this direction?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: As you justly noted, Ukraine is now approaching parliamentary elections. The President and the Government of Ukraine have publicly stated their commitment to secure free and fair elections in accordance with our election law of 2011, drafted according to the European standards.

The law was endorsed by both coalition and most opposition parties, and reaching a consensus decision was namely one of the main recommendations of the Venice Commission. We believe that the mixed system will better serve the interests of the Ukrainian people, providing for increased accountability of the MPs. According to many Ukrainian experts, closer ties with respective constituency results in a higher awareness of local needs and challenges.
Now the Ukrainian government strives to make the election process as transparent as possible. According to recent regulations, the voting process will be broadcast via web cameras online at the corresponding web-site. Video surveillance system will be recording the whole process after voting and up until the signing of protocols by election committees.
Ukraine has also sent early invitations to the international observers to monitor the election process. In this context we are working closely with many countries and with the international organizations, in particular, OSCE, the Council of Europe, NATO and others. We hope that Norway will send own observers as well.

TOT: In April, Ukraine was hit by a series of blasts in its industrial city of Dnipropetrovsk, which claimed many lives of hundreds of innocent people. How will you comment on this act of terrorism and who in your view is to be blamed or held accountable?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: The tragedy in Dnipropetrovsk on April 27th of this year left 29 people injured. The criminal case was opened according to part 2 of the Article 258 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (the act of terrorism). Until the final examination is carried out, it is not possible to state if the explosions were an act of terrorism, whether it was  a homemade bomb or a military explosive.
The President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych has called on the to the Prosecutor General, Chairman of the Security Service of Ukraine, and Interior Minister to take comprehensive measures and carry out an investigation of the explosions in order to establish those involved in the bombings in Dnipropetrovsk city.
Unfortunately, terrorism is a global challenge which requires a better cooperation between security services of different countries to prevent sufferings of innocent people.

TOT: How you will describe the situation of human rights in Ukraine?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: We recognize that further political transformations in Ukraine and the reforms are required to strengthen the system of the protection of human rights. Respect of human rights is one of the priorities of the President and the Government. We appreciate the attention and desire of the international community to promote the legal and democratic institutions in our country.

In this context, all the recommendations of the international community or non-governmental organizations are studied and analyzed in order to implement them in Ukraine.
There is still much to improve in Ukraine’s judicial system and procedures, but it needs to be done consistently. Such work has already started and we welcome the initiatives aimed at bringing the legislation in this area in line with the international standards.

TOT: Does the press and the electronic/Internet media enjoy freedom in your country or does it still face the state control over the press and media activities just like it used to be at the time the Soviet Union existed?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: I don’t even want to compare the present freedom of media in Ukraine with the Soviet time. There are both public and private mass media now in Ukraine. The share of non-public television and radio broadcasting stands at over 96%.

With the development of information technologies and the advance of the Internet, many independent Internet media have emerged. Of course, there are challenges we face but the state makes every effort to secure freedom of media in Ukraine.
According to the World Press Freedom Index 2011/2012 of the Reporters without borders, Ukraine is rated at the 116 level which is a 15-point better position compared to last year. Basic principles, standards and provisions of the existing Ukrainian laws today correspond to the international legal standards and the international conventions of human rights.
At the same time the existence of modern legislation is not enough to guarantee the rights of the society to free and unbiased information. We have to continue our work to ensure that the laws are practiced in full, and the real protection of the rights of journalists and mass media is secured.

The President of Ukraine has repeatedly issued strong demands to the law enforcement agencies for a greater protection of the rights of journalists and freedom of media. The Head of State is convinced that it is one of the main duties of the authorities to create all the necessary conditions for free and independent journalistic activities in Ukraine.

TOT: How will you rate the progress which your country has made after achieving its independence?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: Despite the challenges we are still facing, Ukraine has achieved a lot indeed. Back in 1991 we inherited a ruined economic system, acute social tensions and political vacuum, not to mention the bitter burdens of the Soviet legacy. Now Ukraine may boast of a growing middle class, emerging but manifold civil society, strong business community and large-scale investment projects.
In 1994 Ukraine joined the Non-Proliferation treaty refusing its nuclear arsenal, the third largest in the world. It was the first precedent in history for a nation to voluntarily give up its strategic weapon. We managed to reach a high level of dialogue and cooperation with international organizations as well as deep comprehensive relations with many foreign states developing the strategic partnership with the key players on international arena.
Since the declaration of its independence in August 1991, Ukraine determined membership in the United Nations as one of its foreign policy priorities. In 1997 Hennadiy Udovenko, then Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine was elected President of the 52nd UN General Assembly session.

Ukraine’s election as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the term 2000-2001 became an acknowledgment of our state’s authority and role on the international arena as well as of its consistent and unbiased foreign policy. Ukraine was elected also to the UN Economic and Social Council for five times. Representatives of Ukraine served as chairmen of a number of main committees of the UN General Assembly sessions.
Ukraine became a productive member of the Council of Europe and the last year we held a successful presidency in the Committee of Ministers of this important European institution. In 2013 Ukraine will chair the OSCE. After all, we have successfully co-hosted the EURO 2012 tournaments this year, showing our utmost hospitality to the world. This August we celebrate yet another anniversary of  freedom. All in all, we have achieved much over the 21 years of independence, but have to look ahead and work hard for further achievements.

TOT: What kind of role has Ukraine played so far in promoting democracy and freedom of the human individual in the fullest sense of the term, in the region as well as on the global stage of the present day?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: Ukraine enjoys a unique geopolitical position at the crossing of the main transport corridors between the East and the West, the North and the South. Ukraine is the key to strengthening democracy, freedom and security in the Balto-Black Sea-Caspian region. Our country plays the key role in this geopolitical space, which largely defines the structure of European security.
Committed to promoting democracy and freedom in the region Ukraine co-founded the Organization for Democracy and Economic Development – GUAM, now uniting Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova. With the headquarters in Kyiv, this international organization primarily works to promote democratic values in the region, ensure the rule of law and respect for human rights, support sustainable development and strengthen international and regional security and stability.
Ukraine’s future Chairmanship in OSCE in 2013 will focus on promotion of democracy in the OSCE area, settlement of protracted conflicts, including the Transnistrian conflict, as well as in the improvement of the Organization’s effectiveness in response to new challenges and threats.
We believe that efficient functioning of the organizations such as the OSCE, EU and NATO does not only promise security for their member states, but also development and prosperity, compliance with the fundamental human rights, freedoms and the rule of law. Ukraine develops close and active cooperation with these organizations in the context.
Speaking globally, I would like to mention that Ukraine was one of the ardent supporters of the establishment of the Human Rights Council. In 2006 Ukraine was elected one of the first members of the Council and in 2008 it was re-elected to this leading UN body for the period up until 2011 with a strong international support.
Ukraine’s membership in the HRC is a contribution to strengthening of the international stability and security, spreading of the democratic standards worldwide, increased international cooperation on important international projects on human rights, as well as active involvement in elaboration of balanced approaches to the solving of crisis situations. It has also opened for promotion of Ukrainian initiatives in the field. Recently in June 2010, the HRC adopted the resolution “On the role of prevention in the promotion and protection of human rights” initiated by Ukraine and co-supported by about 30 countries.
Now Ukraine is a party to the majority of the international human rights instruments, including the seven core UN human rights conventions and the optional protocols thereto, first of all: the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention on Rights of Person with Disabilities.

…Thank you Reverend Ambassador. We are sure that The Oslo Times worldwide readership will benefit immensely from the interview.
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While fully committed to serious and objective nuclear talks, Iran calls upon 5+1 to reciprocally manifest their commitment

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Exclusive Interview with the Honorable Ambassador of Iran to Norway –

Seyed Hossein Rezvani

First of all we would like to thank you on behalf of The Oslo Times for accepting our invitation to share your candid views on the present situation of Iran’s position on nuclear programme and on the events arising in relation to it.

It is indeed a privilege to have you on The Oslo Times panel of exclusive interviews and we feel truly proud in welcoming you here.


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TOT: Recently the talks between Iran and P5+1 took place in Moscow. Is the outcome of talks was satisfactory to Iran and its interests? 

In the name of God, the Companion-ate, the Merciful

Iran’s Envoy: While fully committed to serious and objective nuclear talks, Iran calls upon 5+1 to reciprocally manifest their commitment.In recent talks between Iran and 5+1 (five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany) in Moscow, both sides agreed that a technical group should discuss in detail the proposals by each side and hammer out a framework or a road map for the continuation of the talks. So a technical group is going to have a new round of talks on Tuesday in Istanbul.
It is clear that some members of 5+1 for whatever reasons apparently political ones, are not forthcoming and serious enough for finding a solution. If the talks do not proceed as it should be, another standoff in the talks can be expected. Therefore, this could be considered as a critical point in Iran’s talks with some members of 5+1.

TOT: With worsening Iran’s nuclear case with the international community, especially; with the West and the constant failures of the series of talks has resulted into more energy insecurities in the world. How Iran view these recent developments and escalations in the nuclear policy debate?


Iran’s Envoy:
The USA and certain Europeans have said that they are going to increase their pressure and sanctions against Iran and this by itself indicates that they are not willing to engage with Tehran in a meaningful dialogue.
It is to be reiterated that , oil embargo against Iran leads to further disruptions and insecurities of world energy market and consequently adds up to financial crisis in Europe . The 1+5 non-compliance with guiding principles of nuclear talks established during Istanbul II talks and absence of cooperative approach on their side is the primary cause for unsuccessful Baghdad and Moscow negotiations. Therefore it is necessary to address this issue and shed lights on the latest developments and to analyze the issue from the view point of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

What are the major obstacles or issues faced by Iran during talks with P5+1 group countries?
The main obstacle in Moscow talks as well as in Iran’s previous talks with 5+1 in Baghdad was the issue of Iran’s right to enrich uranium. This right stems from International law and Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). According to NPT developing, research, production and use of nuclear energy and having full national nuclear fuel cycle and enrichment of uranium for peaceful purposes are among the inherent and inalienable rights of each sovereign member state.

One major issue during discussions with 5+1 in recent rounds of talks was an attempt to work out a framework for a comprehensive and targeted dialogue. Iran strongly believes that talks should not be for the sake of talks. Rather they should be conducted on good will, mutual respect and in a spirit of cooperation which can lead to tangible results. Therefore attitude and actions that go contrary to good will, spirit of cooperation and mutual respect are counterproductive and should be avoided.
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TOT: How Iran views the consideration or inclusion of NPT in the talks? And the kind of advantages which it brings with it for Iran?

Iran’s Envoy: NPT should also be considered as the benchmark for talks and all parties have to commit themselves to the rights and obligations specified in the NPT. Iran is strongly opposed to any preconditions particularly when they are outside the framework of NPT. Genuine commitment and cooperative approach are essential tools to enable both sides to successfully embark upon a new process of fruitful talks, which are comprehensive, sustainable and constructive. Iran is willing to have a mutually agreed long term solution. This could only come through tangible actions and on the basis of step by step approach, based upon principle of reciprocity. Iran is of the opinion that the legitimate rights as well as concerns of both parties should be fully recognized and addressed in an objective and comprehensive manner.

The main Iranian objective in the negotiations as well as cooperation with the IAEA is removal of any misunderstanding regarding its peaceful, transparent and legal nuclear activities within the framework of NPT. The Fatwa of the Supreme Leader is indeed supporting these facts. Iran believes that confidence building is a two-way street. In this regard Iran wants to normalize its nuclear file at the Board of Governors of IAEA by total termination of politicized and illegitimate Security Council as well as unilateral sanctions.

Iran is entitled to full enjoyment of its inalienable rights to peaceful nuclear technology as stipulated in the NPT and in compliance with regulations of the IAEA. While looking forward to achieve a sustainable nuclear cooperation and transfer of advanced technologies,  Iran also wishes to conclude a comprehensive agreement on collective commitments in the areas of economic, political, security and international cooperation.
Is there any proposal that has been submitted by Iran in the recently conducted talks?
In recent talks, the 5+1 presented a proposal as a road map to bridge differences and fined a diplomatic solution for Iran’s nuclear issue, but they said proposal is suffering from some shortcomings both in context and in the substance. The said deficiencies would be elaborated in following paragraphs.

Iran in turn proposal  “a framework for comprehensive and targeted dialogue for long term cooperation among 7 countries”  which consists of guiding principles, objectives, issues ,  structure of the process and reciprocal steps that would be explained. Furthermore, there will be a review of the right to enrichment in various international treaties and conferences such as NPT, the Special Session of General Assembly devoted to Disarmament in 1978, the Review Conferences of the NPT in 1975 and 2010 and the statement of the Non-aligned Foreign Ministers Meeting in May 2012 in Egypt.

TOT: What are the facts that have remained unheard or which the people are unaware about ‘Iran’s Nuclear Program’ and its policies towards it? 

Iran’s Envoy:               Some Facts on Iran’s Peaceful Nuclear Issue

•The Fatwa of Iran’s Supreme leader on nuclear weapons, 19 February, 2012:
“The Iranian nation has never pursued and will never pursue nuclear weapons. There is no doubt that the decision makers in the countries opposing us know well that Iran is not after nuclear weapons, because the Islamic Republic, logically, religiously and theoretically, considers the possession of nuclear weapons a grave sin and believes the proliferation of such weapons is senseless, destructive and dangerous.”
•Under International Law, “to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy, to have full national nuclear fuel cycle, and to enrich Uranium for peaceful purposes” is an inherent and inalienable right of each sovereign State.
•Taking into account the importance of diverse portfolio of energy sources, each State also has the “sovereign right to define its national energy policies, including fuel-cycle policies, without external pressure or interference.”
•These rights are based on the principle of “sovereignty of States” and also have been reaffirmed in particular by the NPT.
•Neither the NPT nor the IAEA Statute or Safeguards agreements and even the Additional Protocol, prohibit enrichment.
•In exercising these rights, NPT Parties have legal “obligation” “to prevent diversion of nuclear energy from peaceful uses to nuclear weapons.”
•Iran is firmly determined to exercise its inherent rights in all areas of peaceful uses of nuclear energy and fully committed to its obligations.
•Iran’s cooperation with the IAEA and the Agency’s inspections in Iran are unprecedented in the history of the IAEA.
•Continuous inspections in the most robust and intrusive manner, more than 4000 man-day routine inspections, and over 100 intrusive inspections are only some examples of Iran’s cooperation with the IAEA.
•To date, no single evidence of diversion to military purposes has been found.
•Latest IAEA report corroborates Iran’s cooperation with Agency and peaceful nature of its nuclear activities. It states: “the Agency continues to conduct verification activities under Iran’s Safeguards Agreement” and “continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material at the nuclear facilities and Locations outside facilities declared by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement.”
•According to the report, despite sanctions, Iran’s nuclear activities, in particular in the area of enrichment and enrichment related technology are progressing.
•The said report states as well that Iran is not implementing Additional Protocol. The answer is clear: Additional Protocol is voluntary in nature and Iran has no obligation to implement it.
•To accept the Agency’s request to visit Parchin military complex does not fall within Iran’s legal obligations with respect to the NPT.
•Despite this, according to the IAEA’s November 2011 report, “the Agency was permitted to visit the site twice in 2005 and did not uncover anything of relevance.”
•As a confidence-building measure, Iran stands ready to provide access to Parchin, only when the agreement on modality is reached with the IAEA.
•Iran’s Natanz and Fordow facilities have been declared to the IAEA well in advance of the due date and in accordance with the Iranian obligations under IAEA Safeguards Agreement. Their activities continue to be under the IAEA constant monitoring.
•Earlier this year, the IAEA Deputy Director General for Safeguards visited Natanz and Fordow as well as other Iranian nuclear sites, including Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant, Reactor and Heavy Water Production Plant at Arak, and the conversion and fuel fabrication facilities at Esfahan.
•Iran also provided the IAEA Deputy Director General access to an installation where Research & Development on advanced centrifuges was taking place, which is beyond Iranian obligations and also unprecedented in the history of IAEA inspections.
•In spite of the fact that the IAEA did not fulfill its obligations including delivery to Iran of the documents on the “Alleged Studies”, Iran did submit to the Agency its assessment in a 117-page document.
•As during recent talks with P5+1in Moscow demonstrated, Iran is determined to a faithful negotiations on interested issues to both parties based on mutual respect and a win-win solution.
•Iran proposed a road-map for negotiations which includes guiding principles, structure, issues and steps, according to that any step by one party should be responded by a homogeneous and simultaneous step by the other party.
•Iran made it clear that ambiguous and unrealistic proposals are counterproductive and may lead to more uncertainty between the parties.


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Islamophobia is a big problem in Europe. says Swedish MP Carl Fredrik Malm

WHILE IN A MEETING WITH HIM I FOUND HIM A VERY DETERMINED AND CLEAR PERSON. A PERSON WHO UNDERSTANDS THE VALUES OF HUMANITY AND WHO WORKS FOR THE SAME ON PRACTICAL GROUNDS. IN AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH THE OSLO TIMES THIS IS WHAT HE HAS TO SAY ABOUT HIS GOALS AND THE CAUSE WHICH HE FIGHTS FOR.

TOT: So, what are the challenges which you have faced in endorsing these causes and the hindrances which are still needed to be overcome by you?

 

 

 

Carl Fredrik Malm: A lot, but above all, I feel that there is grooving support for a more active and value driven foreign policy. Of course, states and non-state actors often make considerations based on real politik and economic interests, but, nonetheless, there has to be room for a much stronger critique against extensive abuse and clearer red lines against the oppressors of the world.

TOT: “Being a member of parliament in Sweden and a supporter of democracy” – What are the steps are being taken by the Swedish Government to promote democracy in other countries?

Carl Fredrik Malm: Sweden has a strong and extensive focus on democracy in the foreign aid policy. We give 1 percent of our GDP in foreign aid. From our point of view, a larger proportion of this amount should go to supporting democracy and human rights around the world. Sweden has also taken a lead role in supporting the access to and training in information technology for dissidents, to name a few examples.

 

TOT: How you can describe the struggle of Kurdistan?

 

Carl Fredrik Malm: The Kurds are the largest ethnic group in the world without an own nation. The Turkish state has for 70 years denied the very existence of the Kurdish people. In Iraq, the Kurds was attacked with chemical weapons. It is not particularly surprising, then, that the Kurds decide to go their own way.

 

 

TOT: Is there any progress till date which you have got in independence movement of Kurdistan?

 


Carl Fredrik Malm: For the Kurds, the most important question is to have the right to determine their everyday life and their own future. This must also apply to non-Kurds in Kurdistan, such as Armenians and Assyrians. However, self-determination in Kurdistan is not a question for the Swedish Parliament to decide, whether it be independence, autonomy or federalism.

 

 

TOT: What are the future prospects you have for Kurdistan independence movement?

 


Carl Fredrik Malm: The support for Kurdish independence will be large as long as the wide spread oppression continues in Kurdistan, albeit to a varied extension in different regions. Kurdish nationalism is a young phenomenon and to a big part a reaction to oppression from Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. However, this does not necessarily imply that if and when these countries become more democratic that the demands for Kurdish independence will lose its strength. Rather, increased openness might lead to a situation where Kurds are freer to speak their mind, allowing Kurdish identity and culture to flourish, and thereby increasing the impact of the political struggle. This is problematic, not at least for Turkey. If Turkey decide to implement democratic reforms for the benefit of the Kurds, this does not necessarily mean that the Kurds will be more loyal to the government in Ankara, but rather that the Kurds will gain new possibilities, tools and channels to promote their cause.

 

TOT: What does your project Cuba Free Library stands for?

 


Carl Fredrik Malm: The Cuba Free Library is a project that I started with a friend in the late 1990’s. The purpose with the project was to gather books and magazines in Spanish and then bring them to Cuba in order to break, or undermine, the monopoly on information that the state currently have. We also supported independent libraries on Cuba. I personally visited Cuba at three occasions in order to support the libraries and follow up projects.

 

 

TOT: What are the main proposed objectives which you have set for your project Cuba Free Library?

 


Carl Fredrik Malm: The main objective is to contribute to break the information monopoly on Cuba. But after the mass arrests of political opponents in the spring of 2003 we shifted focus from supporting the independent libraries to instead focus on helping political prisoners and their families. This was carried out within the framework of the Swedish International Liberal Centre (SILC), which is the Swedish Liberal Party’s international aid organization.

 

 

TOT: What kind of role you want to play in promoting your democratic concept in Iran?

 


Carl Fredrik Malm: I try to shape public opinion and give support to Iranians who work to promote democracy, because, it takes democrats to build a proper democracy. The government in Tehran has no interests in forming a democratic Iranian society, why the only possibility to build democracy in Iran is when the current government is removed from power.

 

 

TOT: What is your outlook on Communism and how you will define its role in 21st century?

 

 

Carl Fredrik Malm: Communism no longer plays a major role on the global international scene, even though there still are some armed groups and political parties that call themselves communists. The way I see it is that those who call themselves communists today are not so often the bearers of the communist ideology as once formulated by Marx and Lenin. I am however very concerned about the political heritage of oppression and control that continue to characterize the political life in many post-Soviet states. There is therefore an unfortunate, and dark, communist legacy which has been transferred to new authoritarian regimes in former Soviet republics such as Belarus, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan.

 

 

TOT: According to your belief what are the democratic measures which Iran should execute for the sake of democracy in country?


Carl Fredrik Malm: It’s not about Iran, it’s about the Iranians. It’s the population that needs the political and moral support in order for them to be able to contribute to political and social progress in the country.

 

 

TOT: According to Amnesty International report Muslims around the world are being discriminated and particularly in Europe. So, what are the measures you and your party have taken so far to abolish the discriminatory issues faced by the Muslims?

 


Carl Fredrik Malm: Islamophobia is a big problem in Europe. There is also a risk that xenophobic political parties will grow stronger now that Europe is going through hard times economically and financially. The Swedish Liberal party has a strong agenda and works extensively to counter all forms of hatred and extremism. We also believe that the EU must make it easier for immigrants from outside the EU to enter the union. Furthermore, it is important to show that Islam is not about to conquer Europe – on the contrary, many Muslims are excluded from society in many European states and face discrimination as they try to enter these societies. It is clear that radical Islamism must be opposed, but I consider these movements more as groups driven by ideology rather than religion, even if they promote and conduct their ideology and struggle on the basis of Islamic religious teachings and to a wide extent on the Islamic arena and in Muslim countries.

 

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