What does Eurovision mean for Ukraine?

Ukraine is hosting the Eurovision Song Contest for the second time after Jamala won the competition last year in Stockholm, Sweden. What does hosting the contest mean to Ukrainians?

Rehearsals are underway in Kyiv ahead of the live broadcasts of the Eurovision Song Contest. This is Ukraine’s second time that it has hosted the competition and the country is taking this as a serious opportunity to promote itself on the world stage.

Investing in the future

UA:PBC, the Host Broadcaster of the 2017 contest is proud to host one of the largest TV shows in the world and the team have worked around the clock to ensure that everything from the crew catering to the press centre is ready on time.

Viktoriia Sydorenko, International PR Manager for the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest shared her thoughts on the contest: “For me, personally Eurovision is a chance to showcase Ukraine in a completely different light, to show that the country celebrates and shares its values, history and heritage. It’s an opportunity to send a positive wave of energy to the entire world and to put the country on the map, so that everyone will recognise it,” she said.

Ukraine has been in the news in recent years and the challenges of hosting the competition have been well-documented however for many in the country, staging the contest is an opportunity to invest in Ukraine’s future. Viktoriia explained that the young democracy is still developing and making its way on the world stage. “The contest is a huge investment into the image of Ukraine as it draws much attention and interest towards our country as well as develops tourism industry,” she added.

Made in Ukraine

The Eurovision Song Contest differs every year and 2017 is no exception. “This year the contest will incorporate modernity and Ukrainian features, starting from presenters’ costumes tailored by Ukrainian designers and ending with the outstanding artists who will perform,” said Green Room Host Timur Miroshnychenko.

For many Ukrainians the contest also offers an opportunity to showcase the country’s hospitality as well as culture. “Hospitality and generosity run in our blood. We strive to show that we are tolerant, modern and always ready to move forward,” added Timur.

A journey of self-discovery

Hosting the Eurovision Song Contest also serves as a reminder for many in Ukraine as to how far the country has come since independence in 1991. “Ukraine is hosting this competition at the highest possible level, we want to make our people proud,” said Timur (pictured below, left)

Victoriia with the hosts of the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest

Viktoriia Sydorenko explained that Ukrainians often lack confidence in themselves and the Eurovision is an opportunity to change this. “We are hosting one of the largest TV events in the world, the eyes of the world will be in our country, we should be proud,” she said.

On Sunday evening the Red Carpet and Opening Ceremony of the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest will take place which marks the start of the event week leading up to the Grand Final on Saturday 13th May.

Author: Yullia Kryvinchuk

Source: eurovision.tv

EU Parliament approves Ukraine visa waiver

Ukrainian citizens will be exempted from EU short-stay visa requirements, after EU Parliament endorsed an informal deal with the Council on Thursday.

Under the new law, Ukrainians who hold a biometric passport will be able to enter the EU without a visa for 90 days in any 180-day period, for tourism, to visit relatives or friends, or for business purposes, but not to work. The exemption applies to all EU countries, except Ireland and the UK, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

“Ukraine has achieved all the benchmarks, so the visa requirement should be lifted”, noted rapporteur for the proposal Mariya Gabriel (EPP, BG), adding that the visa waiver will be “another very strong message that Ukraine is a key partner for the European Union in the Eastern Partnership”.

The legislation, approved by 521 votes to 75 with 36 abstentions, still needs to be formally adopted by the Council of Ministers. It is likely to enter into force in June, 20 days after it is published in the EU Official Journal.

Before exempting Ukrainians from visa requirements, the EU strengthened the visa waiver suspension mechanism, to allow visas to be reintroduced more easily in exceptional cases.

Source: europarl.europa.eu

Ukrainian agricultural boom: Why it matters to Irish farmers

Ukraine has officially reported yet another record grain harvest for 2016, exceeding 66m tonnes in the process.

Of this, wheat accounted for 26.8m tonnes, maize came in at 28m tonnes and the barley harvest amounted to 9.9m tonnes. Aside, 4.3m tonnes of soy bean were also harvested.

Agriculture-related products are now the largest exports from Ukraine, accounting for €14.6 billion, or 42.5% of total Ukrainian exports in 2016 (by value).

The impact of Ukraine’s agricultural export-led growth can already be seen in Ireland.

Ukraine has been the leading overseas supplier of maize into Ireland over the past three years, exporting 284,908t to Ireland last year.

This figure was 298,016t in 2015 and 235,509t in 2014. In contrast, just 26,000t of Ireland’s maize imports originated from Ukraine in 2011.

The opportunity for further bilateral trade opportunities with Ukraine needs to be further explored.

For example, as a key global fertiliser exporter, Ireland could easily turn to Ukraine for supply of this key input.

At the same time, Ukraine has a deficit in quality bovine stock and genetics. It also imports a lot of its farm machinery needs.

These are areas that Ireland could capitalise on – from an export point of view.

Sugar Beet Industry

Ukraine has the capability to double its agricultural output; there’s enough capacity to feed 500m people. It has the capability to easily capitalise on post-Brexit agri-food trade opportunities.

Similarly, those with notions of resurrecting Ireland’s sugar beet industry should cast a wary eye on the Eastern European country.

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  • The 2016 sugar beet harvest in the Ukraine amounted to 13.7m tonnes, with an average yield less than 50t/ha. Ukraine also exported 465,900t of sugar in 2016 – a new record.

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Keep in mind, Ukraine planted 2.75 times more land area under sugar beet in 2006. Also, Ukrainian sugar beet yields are just two-thirds of EU average yields.

It could easily up the ante in the market, with further growth.

Ukrainian Agriculture

Ukraine has 41m hectares of farmland; that’s ten times Ireland’s 4.1m hectares. Over half of this land is farmed by 48,000 commercial farmers.

Out of these 48,000 commercial farmers:

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  • The top-100 farming companies, known as ‘Agri-Holdings’, collectively farm 6.4m hectares (15.8m acres). These holdings range in size from 14,000ha (34,600ac), to the largest farming corporation in the country with 654,000ha (1.6m acres).
  • Below this there are 5,400 farms managing, on average, farms sizes of 1,950ha (4,815ac).
  • Rounding off the commercial farming sector are 42,700 farmers farming, on average, 108ha each (267ac).

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Long known as the ‘bread-basket of Europe’, Ukraine boasts 33% of the world’s fertile chernozem soils (a fertile black soil – rich in humus).

The country claims the following distinctions in the global agricultural league table:

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  • Top producer of sunflower seeds and sunflower oil.
  • Second highest exporter of grains.
  • Third highest producer of barley.
  • Fourth highest exporter of barley.
  • Fifth highest producer of corn.
  • Sixth highest exporter of wheat.
  • Seventh highest exporter of flour.
  • Eighth highest producer of soy bean.
  • Ninth highest producer of wheat.

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Looking forward to 2017 Bohdan Chomiak, of consulting agency Ukragroconsult, is confident of another good year for Ukraine’s agriculture sector.

“We expect continued growth in output, as deregulation and reforms have made it simpler for Ukrainian producers to access international best technologies.

“As producers learn to effectively use these technologies this will lead to further growth,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ukragroconsult is also running its annual grain conference at the beginning of next month. One of the largest grain conferences in Europe, the event is expected to bring together over 700 executive delegates from 500 companies – representing 50 countries.

The popularity of this event further demonstrates Ukraine’s growing influence in the agricultural sector – within and outside its own borders.

Author: Tom O’Callaghan

Source: agriland.ie

Ukraine’s IT boom could speed up EU integration

Ukraine has a literacy rate of 99.7 percent, which is higher than most EU states

June 2017 will mark the three-year anniversary of the association agreement between the European Union and Ukraine, and while the Eastern European state has taken major steps towards European integration, its progress has been slow.

With the signing of the EU agreement in 2014, it seemed as if Ukraine’s dream of Western integration would finally become a reality. This feeling materialised in 2015 as Ukraine took significant steps in its fight against corruption.

Last year, however, presented new challenges.

The failure to remove various corrupt government officials undermined progress. Furthermore, as anti-corruption efforts stalled, Odesa governor Mikheil Saakashvili, among others, resigned in frustration.

Events within the EU further stymied Ukraine’s progress towards European integration.

In April 2016, the Dutch overwhelmingly rejected closer EU ties with Ukraine. Matters became worse in June when the United Kingdom, one of Ukraine’s staunchest advocates in the EU, voted to leave the bloc.

Implementation of the agreement allowing visa-free travel to the EU has also been delayed. Given these developments, Ukrainian enthusiasm for Europe is slowly waning as many Ukrainians believe the EU may not deliver on its promises.

Critics of Ukraine argue that it is far from ready to join the EU, citing corruption as its major hurdle.

Furthermore, some EU members are concerned that Ukraine’s economy would be a drain on European resources.

This comes at a time when the EU faces the loss of the UK, one of its biggest financial contributors. Some critics argue that it will take at least 20-25 years for Ukraine to be admitted into the organization.

Ukraine continues to face these problems in 2017. It was ranked 131st in the world on the Corruption Perceptions Index, and the war in Donbas has escalated.

New case

While Ukraine’s future may seem bleak, the eastern European state has a new case to present to the EU.

Its educated populace and the IT sector may accelerate the membership process and boost national morale during this difficult period in its history.

Ukraine has a literacy rate of 99.7 percent, which is higher than most EU states. This statistic demonstrates that it can be a vital member of the international community.

The well-educated populace has also led to a booming IT sector, with venture investments in Ukrainian start-ups jumping 237 percent from 2014-2015.

There are currently over 100,000 skilled IT professionals in Ukraine, and the training and knowledge of Ukrainian software developers are on par with those of Silicon Valley. The IT sector accounted for 3 percent of Ukraine’s annual GDP, and has generated billions of dollars in exports.

The work of these Ukrainian developers has not gone unnoticed. Corporations such as Snapchat and Uber have performed well in Ukraine.

Moreover, GitLab co-founder Dmitriy Zaporozhets was listed in Forbes 30 Under 30 as one of the most successful people in the world in the enterprise technology sector.

In addition, international companies are outsourcing to numerous Ukrainian tech start-ups.

Firms such as Ecois.me and Petiole have gained international acclaim and were recognized for their contributions to the Ukrainian market.

Given their expertise, Ukrainian developers would be a valuable asset to the European community as they have demonstrated that they are very motivated, well-trained, and capable.

The recent rise in Ukraine’s tech industry has had a major impact on foreign investment. The tax burden in Ukraine is one of the lowest in Europe, and many investors have capitalised on this opportunity.

Investors

Private sector technology firms from Sweden have invested millions of dollars into the tech industry.

The strong performance of IT companies such as Sigma Software and Beetroot have encouraged others, like Danish company Clio Online, to enter the market.

As the IT sector continues to expand it is likely that private tech companies from other EU members will conduct business in Ukraine. This partnership could strengthen international cooperation between the EU and Ukraine.

The IT sector in Ukraine could also help reduce corruption. During the early 2000s Estonia invested heavily in the tech industry, even choosing to develop electronic services to oversee transactions online between government and citizens.

These programs established greater transparency and facilitated good governance. In the words of former Estonian president Toomas Hendrik Ilves, “you can’t bribe a computer.”

Thanks largely to the effect of technology, the Baltic state is now ranked 23rd in the world on the Corruption Perceptions Index.

Using Estonia as a model, Ukraine’s IT sector could play a critical role in fighting corruption, thereby building confidence in Ukraine and easing the concerns of critics in the EU.

With demonstrated strength in the growing IT sector, Ukraine is showing that it can compete with the tech industries of any Western state, and data processing solutions can contribute to greater efficiency and investments across both the private and public sectors.

This suggests that Ukraine is not as far behind as critics suggest, and that skeptics in the EU should not be so hasty in dismissing a potential engine of growth on the continent.

Author: Mark Temnycky is a Ukrainian-American pursuing a masters in public administration and international relations at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs in Syracuse University, New York, in the US

Source: Euobserver

Council of the European Union confirms agreement on visa liberalisation for Ukrainians

On 2 March 2017, EU ambassadors confirmed, on behalf of the Council, the informal agreement reached on 28 February 2017 between the Maltese Presidency and the European Parliament on visa liberalisation for Ukrainians.

The agreement provides for visa-free travel for Ukrainian citizens when travelling to the EU for a period of stay of 90 days in any 180-day period.

We have demonstrated our strong commitment to visa-free travel for Ukranian citizens, now that Ukraine has met the necessary conditions for a visa free regime. The reform of the suspension mechanism adopted on 27 February enabled us to finalise this agreement.

Carmelo Abela, Maltese Minister for Home Affairs and National Security 

Next steps

Now that the agreement has been confirmed by EU ambassadors, on behalf of the Council, the regulation will be submitted to the European Parliament for a vote at first reading, and subsequently to the Council for adoption.

Background

In December 2015 the Commission found that Ukraine had met all the benchmarks of the visa liberalisation plan and was therefore ready for the exemption of the visa requirement. On 20 April 2016 the Commission published the proposal for visa liberalisation for holders of Ukrainian passports.

Once the new visa regime for Ukraine is formally adopted, it will  move the country from Annex I of Regulation 539/2001 (countries whose nationals need a visa to enter the Schengen area) to Annex II of the same regulation (visa free countries).

In the context of the current migratory and security situation in the European Union, and taking into account its proposals on visa liberalisation for Georgia, Ukraine, Turkey and Kosovo, the Commission decided in May 2016 to present a proposal for a regulation revising the current suspension mechanism. The revised suspension mechanism allows, in specific circumstances, for the suspension of the visa waiver for the nationals of a specific country.

In its negotiating position on visa liberalisation for Ukrainian citizens, agreed on 17 November 2016, Coreper took the view that the instrument should not enter into force before the entry into force of the revised suspension mechanism. The Council adopted the regulation on the suspension mechanism on 27 February 2017.

Ireland and the United Kingdom will not be subject to the application of these measures, in accordance with the protocols annexed to the EU treaties. The visa regime of these member states remains subject to their national legislation.

consilium.europa.eu