February 18, 2011

Alexander Feldman, “If “Manezh Square” takes place in Ukraine, we’ll become a European scarecrow”

Politician and philanthropist, head of Ukrainian-Israeli interparliamentary relations group, founder of the “Institute of human rights and prevention of extremism and xenophobia” has told about consequences that the Middle Eastern crisis will turn into for Ukraine and if the terrorism threat waylays Ukraine. 

- Mr. Feldman, the agreement about a visa free regime between Ukraine and Israel has come into effect. We know that you have made a lot of efforts to solve this question. What positive changes do you expect now in the relations between these two countries?

- I even don’t want to talk about quantitative figures: about increase in tourist flows from Ukraine to Israel and from Israel to Ukraine, about the fact how much tourist money will be received. Estimates in this regard are impressive. For religious people trips to Israel will become less costly. Thousands of tourists from Israel will come to Ukraine as well – to go on vacation to the Crimea, to visit the graves of Jewish saints in the city of Uman, Gadyach, and Medzhibozh. Many Israeli fans will come to watch football matches within Euro 2012. But the most important effect is that a free visa regime is a sort of international rating of the country.

- It is known that many countries in Middle East are experiencing political crises today. What do you think the consequences of these crises can be for the world in general and for Ukraine in particular?

- Crises in the Middle East have always led to large transformations worldwide: oil prices increase, disturbances in the world economy. More than likely that now it will be like this as well. But Ukraine also has positive perspectives. First of all, we will have to create an effective system of migration policy and deal with illegal aliens, including the ones from the Middle East. Secondly, growing prices for oil will lead to the reinforcement of work in terms of energy saving. Thirdly, a large volume of investments can leave the Middle Eastern region and go to other countries, inclusive of Ukraine.

- You have registered a draft decree of the Ukrainian parliament to give a hearing to the information of security officials about their readiness to deal with extremism and terrorism displays in Ukraine. To your opinion, is Ukraine and its special services ready for the confrontation against terrorist threads?

- I think that Ukraine is not ready yet. Our country as yet doesn’t work well even when some standard situations happen: there are natural disaster every winder and we need to deal with fires every summer. Thanks God we have not had any experience of work under the conditions of emergency situations since the time of Chernobyl. But I’m an optimist and I think that the country which during two years only has managed to build the infrastructure for Euro 2012 is able to create a modern security system.

- Many people say that the fomenting of terrorist threat plays into the government’s hands…

- This is unadulterated nonsense. First of all, the main slogan of Viktor Yanukovich is stability. He says about this from all tribunes. Any terrorism and extremism display is a personal challenge to the president and his course. And, secondly, it is a global phenomenon which has only now reached Ukraine. 

- During the last months a wave of “monument” vandalism has swept across different regions of Ukraine. What does it evidence and will such incidents become grounds for the future increase of pressure in the Ukrainian society?

- Such incidents are an evidence of insufficient work of local law-enforcement authorities. To my mind, it doesn’t matter who exactly the memorial is dedicated to, if it was erected we need to take care of it. To my opinion, there is nothing worse than creation of idols in honor of ambiguous historical personalities, but the desecration over them.

- The “Institute of human rights and prevention of extremism and xenophobia”, founded by you, conducts researches about the level of extremist attitudes among the Ukrainian society. Is “Manezh Square” possible in Ukraine?

- Unfortunately, it’s possible. Our researches demonstrate that about 10% of people have extremist attitudes. 4% out of these 10% directly approve these attitudes. But do you know what the fundamental difference between Ukraine and Russia is? Russia possesses resources which the world economy needs. Ukraine doesn’t have these resources, and if the instability arises, then the investments not only will not come, but will be withdrawn. Furthermore, the majority of European politicians don’t feel anxiety to open the boundaries for Ukrainians. If the incidents on the national ground take place here, the country will become a European scarecrow.

Oleg Andreyev, “Komsomolskaya Pravda Ukraine”