Anton Krawez is 27 years old. He lives in Berlin and works as a freelance IT counsellor. He is Ukrainian. He was born in Kiev in 1986 and came to Germany in 1992 at the age of six.
Anton, do you feel European?
I have spent most of my life in Germany, grew up here and studied here. The question of nationality was never really that important to me. When I thought about who I was, then I always saw myself as European. Having grown up here, of course German as well. I also really liked Ukraine and went there often to visit my family.
What do you associate to this term “Europe”, also in connection with the EU?
For me the EU and Europe are first of all a mutual cultural space, a political space where many different identities, peoples, ethnicities and languages have managed to form political units. Somehow we managed to see what connects us and not what separates us. We realised “actually, we can go together”. I think this has left its mark on many people in Europe and is happening today on a bigger scale. I think this is a great process and of course, I support it!
You are part of the Euromaidan movement here in Berlin, how did that all start?
It started in February, just when the toughest riots took place in Goschewski street in Kiev. Via the facebook group “Ukrainians in Berlin” we then decided spontaneously we had to do something. We never really formed a formal organisation. We are more of a network of activists. Most of us are people like me who aren’t necessarily connected to politics professionally. People from different backgrounds and also different age groups, reaching from students to pensioners. What connected us was the worry about the events in Ukraine and we wanted to support the people in Ukraine in these difficult times.
Here in Germany this divide is often made between Eastern and Western Ukraine, orienting towards Russia or Europe. So are those that are active in the Euromaidan movement mostly from the western part?
We are from all over Ukraine. Also this differentiation between European Ukraine and let’s say Russian Ukraine is very misleading. We always try to fight against this “principle” and try to convey that these two identities are different than it is often shown.
How do you do that?
First the topic of the language. Russian and Ukrainian are two different languages. Somehow similar, but yet different. But almost every Ukrainian is bilingual. We understand each other very well and it is not viewed as a difference. This is a little peculiarity of Ukraine.
The political unrests in Ukraine have been ongoing for a long time now. Can you explain to me what is actually happening?
In a way it is a revolution. Not only a violent one, but also sort of a cultural revolution and a time of great political change. If we would have to look for a historical comparison, I would compare it to 1989 in the GDR or the other formerly communist states of Europe.
How do you mean?
The way governments function was mostly reformed there. The understanding of the relationship between the state and its people has changed. Like with every radical change the way is difficult and paved with dangers and traps. This is the way Ukraine is currently going. But there is a difference there: The way for the Eastern European states was very clear. There was no real counter model to “we are part of Europe and we want to be as Western Europe”. Unfortunately in Ukraine there is this opposite pole, or this other way which creates more tension.
A few months ago, Petro Poroshenko was elected. Will he manage to lead Ukraine out of the financial crisis of the last years?
It is very difficult to look into the future, but I think Poroshenko has important prerequisites for it. He is well connected and he is known in Ukrainian politics. He represents the reformers, but is no revolutionary power. So he is no man form the streets that has seized power. I think this election is pretty ideal. On the one hand because there is no radical break and on the other because he is pointing towards a target that most of the Ukrainians support. So I think he has the power and abilities to lead Ukraine out of the crisis.
How does he fare so far? Especially regarding the situation with the rebels in Eastern Ukraine?
After the elections, Poroshenko started out with the promise to provide freedom in Eastern Ukraine within a short time span. For that he was elected with a – for Ukrainian circumstances – high majority from both Eastern and Western Ukraine. How he would do that, he left wilfully in the unclear. Instead he always understood himself to represent a compromise solution between the two currents. So on the one hand he continued harsh military action, but on the other hand, he gave way to the concessions of the rebels. I think this is him trying to go a middle way in a very difficult situation. In my opinion exactly what Ukraine needs. Of course it is possible that he will be crushed between the two camps. So it remains to be seen what will happen.
The association agreement was recently signed and is coming into force soon. Poroshenko said it is the most important day for Ukraine since its independence. He said this will give a completely new perspective to the Ukrainians. What do you think?
Yes, in my opinion this is absolutely true. Why? Because the Ukrainians expect their country to become a “normal” country. That it will become a democratic entity with a functioning division of power, independence of the courts, with an executive that does not abuse its power, and so on.
Just like in Western Europe.
Well, this is not entirely true. Of course, prosperity is an aspect, but it is more about political reforms becoming compulsory, since the association agreement inhibits this political component. The reformers in Ukraine have gained a stronger stand point through it and everyone hopes that this will be their breakthrough, after all the failed reforms of the past years.
Where do you see the EU in all of that?
I have to sing praises of the EU. She managed to make possible that Ukraine is going this way. In my view with the exactly correct measures. So without putting pressure on anyone. If someone claims the EU has pressured anyone it is absolutely not true, there was no pressure anywhere. There was just this offer, this outstretched hand. It made the Ukrainians aware that it was up to them to decide. This is a very positive development for Ukraine. The country is much more united that it used to be.
Anton, where do you see the EU in 20 years?
That is very difficult to say. The internal dynamic of the EU, especially in the past years, has become a lot less clear – unclear where the EU is headed. There will be some form of integration, but it is not clear to what extent. Will there be federal states or a federation of states? For me both solutions would be ok. The most important thing is just that the cooperation between the states that has been brought by the EU, is assessed positively. How close this cooperation will be can be debated, but that we cooperate and that we work together in a supranational union is without exception positive. The EU will continue to exist and she will make a positive contribution, whatever it will look like.
Thank you, Anton.