We're wrapping up 2018 with a discussion on the year's biggest topics of concern for Europe (Eastern Europe in particular) and the United States.
To do that, we are joined by Polish journalists Michał Karnowski (W Sieci) and Agnieszka Lichnerowicz (Tok FM), German journalist Natascha Freundel (NDR, freelance) and American freelance journalist based in Germany Paul Hockenos.
Together, we discuss the decline of liberal values and the changing political landscapes in Europe. In particular, we take a look at how right-wing and populist tendencies are on the rise in some of Ukraine’s most important neighbor and ally countries – Poland and Germany. We also look and try to find solutions to other problems that arise in Europe, including those in society and media.
This discussion was made in cooperation with the Foundation for Polish-German cooperation, implemented by the n-ost (Netzwerk für Osteuropa-Berichterstattung) network for reporting on Eastern Europe.
Nataliya Gumenyuk, Hromadske (NG): The reasons for the decline in liberal values in Europe are very different in each country, but, for some reason, we feel as though there is something going on. How would you explain this?
Michał Karnowski (MK): At first, I'm sorry, I don't want to destroy your program, but I am opposed to the statement that we are in the process of undermining democracy in Poland because I think this huge change in 2015 was fully democratic and, of course, we have huge political struggle. But, you know, this picture is not real, I would say. Poles wanted to change the course of the country and it happened. Of course, it is described by liberal of leftist as a process of undermining democracy, but, in my opinion, this is not true.
NG: Agnieszka, would you share that view as a fellow Pole?
Agnieszka Lichnerowicz (AL): We can state for you the internal discussion we are having in Poland. Obviously, they were democratic elections but, as Michał said, obviously, as in many nations, there's an internal conflict – I think we can say that. You can't say Poles did that. Part of the society chose that government, part of the society is strongly against, for the reasons more-or-less you mentioned... The reasons for this political turmoils or changes, whatever you call them, we are having, more-or-less, in many countries they are similar, whether they are national or regional specifics. So in this globalized world we can see the reasons why people fear that there is no future... For democracy to survive, people need to have hope and believe that the system will help that have a better future for them and for their children.
And it was our own local Polish reasons, I guess, for a long time in history we've been having these discussions about our identity, about our independence for tens or hundreds of years, especially with this huge transformation in 1989, which, on the one hand, you can say was spectacular, it was peaceful, but, of course, there are many wounds, and there are many businesses that were not settled.
MK: Just one sentence from our perspective. The main question is the liberal, the harder liberal parties, leftist parties, the only power who has the right to win the election? Because this is the same discussion in Poland, like in the U.S., in my opinion.
NG: So it's time to move to the U.S...
Paul Hockenos (PH): I left the US in 1985. One of the reasons that I felt that the United States had already, I sensed, illiberal and right-wing, alt-conservative currents that existed then. Since then, they've been pushed ever more to the right, basically by the Republican party, which has become more and more radical. In my day, I can still remember Richard Nixon being the boogeyman of the left and liberals. I mean, today, he would probably fit in the Democratic Party. We never thought any president would come to the power more right-wing than Ronald Reagan. Then comes George Bush II, and now Donald Trump. So we're seeing things moving swiftly and vastly to the right and I think it's been pushed by the Republican. At the same time, there's a real lack of imagination inside of the Democratic party. You saw it, in particular, with the Clintons... I see now, democracy is kind of being reinvigorated by people like Bernie Sanders and some of the new women and other people who have come into the Congress in the most recent election. So I see some hope there. I think that the Trump phenomenon is an aberration. I don't think he represents the United States, he represents a very small portion of mostly white, mostly male Americans, who have had an inordinate say because of the way the electoral system is set up and because of gerrymandering, and other attributes in the system. I certainly hope that's going to be corrected. In Europe, we are seeing a drift to the right, we are seeing an embrace of liberal values, and a type of conservatism in Poland, for example, and in Hungary and elsewhere, which I feel is very different from the kind of conservatism that came to be in West Germany and Germany. And I think it deviates from some of the fundamental values of the European Union, which, in part, I think the European Union is also responsible for because its lack of imagination, its structural weaknesses, and so, I think, really, in Europe, I think the key is to get the European Union back on its feet and for it to be able to offer a future with hope and a narrative that had sustained it since the 1950s, the peace and prosperity, which now, people don't believe it.
NG: Before we discuss the narrative. What is the German say on that?
Natascha Freundel (NF): I have to say that you were asking for explanations about the new rise of neo-right wing positions, politicians, movements, and, if I had the answer, I could sit here very relaxed and I'm not. I have to agree with the things that Agnieszka said about a perspective for the future that is perhaps -- as also Paul said -- that is lacking in the liberal, pro-European parties inside and outside Germany, I agree to that, and I also think that, perhaps, in the last 20-25 years, since the downfall of the wall, of the Soviet block, there hasn't been enough attention paid to the stories of those people who lived and impregnated by socialist lifestyle, ideas – their stories really haven't been told... In a broader sense, we are still not aware of the changes that happening in 1989-1990.
I wouldn't say that liberalism is really threatened big-time, I think it's just we face a new polarization, which has international and national reasons... And you see a rise of pro-European movements, especially in Germany as well, but also outside. Elections show, and especially the latest elections within Germany, show that, for instance, the Green Party gained a lot of votes, so it's not the so-called Alternative for Germany that is gaining.
NG: In our discussion you mentioned, of course, German politics, you mentioned Republicans and what the Democrats are doing or not doing, something which is happening inside Poland. But still, we see some of the trends. It's easier for our audience to explain as right-wing or left-wing, but really there are some authoritarian moves. People are ready to have a stronger power. So what is this vision? It just feels as though everybody lacks vision for the future, apart from the authoritarian people or the nationalists. What could this vision be? You mentioned the Greens coming onto the scene, but still, what else is there? Because we are also a bit tired of discussing what's going wrong.
AL: I think it's a big change going on with globalization and geopolitical re-shaping of things, technology, but also, I think that also, somehow, the socio-political models we had in the states somehow need some renewal – firstly because globalization is a challenge for the systems. I mean, you can't democratically control these financial processes that easily anymore. And we also see, especially in the West, you can discuss how it is in Poland, that you see economical polarization... I would also, first, especially look for answers in our own countries, so what are the needs and dreams of people to somehow look for solutions that may bring the future back. But I also believe in a European project, as such, so I think the work there also needs to be done, both in our national states and over there. And I would look for the European Union that would maybe concentrate more on people and their social needs. It was very much concentrated on economics, somehow believing that if you integrate economically, you would also bring other integrations, and we see in the Eurozone that it's not fully working, that this famous banking rescue took place... There's no one vision, there's no one answer with new ideology, a new -ism or whatever it is, that will bring the future back.
NG: Michał, do you believe in the European project?
MK: Of course, I keep my fingers crossed for Europe, but of course, as far as I understand, you ask my dream. My dream is that Europe should come back to the fathers of Europe's idea. And I see the the EU as a federation of free, independent countries, not an artificial organ, whose goals are to change people, to re-educate them. It's horrible, in my opinion.
NG: What exactly is horrible?
MK: That, so often, Europeans feel like pupils at European school being taught by clerks, by officials, who weren't elected to any organism, to any administration, to any parliament. this is the reason why so many feel that this Europe is not for them.
NG: Natasha, do you feel like a pupil...?
MK: No, Germans are the teachers...
AL: I don't feel...
NF: I was waiting for that sentence by Michał because this is the logic, this is the narrative. I would agree with the fact that the structures in European Union elections are not as transparent as they should be. I do agree with that Paul said that there had been mistakes, that the European Union as a political structure and democratic starter has to be developed, but I think it should be stronger. It should be stronger in a democratic sense with democratic rules for voting.
NG: You currently have a president in the US who is really critical of the European Union as a whole. Donald Trump really doesn't like it. Where does this fit into the whole discussion? I've was in Poland during Donald Trump's first visit, where there was union between the government and Donald Trump. It's pretty impressive.
PH: In general, Americans don't understand the European Union. It's really an anathema to them to think of them as sharing sovereignty and power in the way that the European Union does. I even think that President Obama, it took him about eight years to finally give his famous speech in Athens, where he said that he thought the European Union was the pinnacle of the development of democracy in the West. But I agree with the colleagues that I think that, as for the causes, you have the erosion of the social welfare state in Europe and in the United States, which never had it; you have a greater discrepancy between rich and poor – it's been growing and growing and growing – even in Germany, although you've had the social democrats in power since 1988...
There has to be a relaunching of the European Union, it has to be more democratic, it has to be more transparent. I think Germany is playing these days in contrast to the past when Helmut Kohl and West Germany was the motor, kind of a selfless motor, of the European. It's changed with Gerhard Schröder as Chancellor, then with Merkel, to much more "Germany first," Germany-orientated, what's best for Germany. Merkel, I felt, never really had a vision, or really a good understanding of how important the European Union was and is for Germany.
I would go back to what Natasha said also, I mean, the Greens are extraordinarily impressive in Germany right now, and they do have a vision – a vision that look ahead and answers some of the questions of how our societies are going to change with climate change, and it’s the party that launched the Energiewende in Germany, the clean energy transition, which is changing Germany in very many ways.
NG: You were nodding when Paul was speaking about Merkel putting Germany first, as Poles, what would say about that?
AL: I mean, we have been having that discussion inside, and it's also a topic we disagree on, but I think there are two issues that are to be debated and people have many have different opinions on that. One is the issue of sovereignty; what is contemporary sovereignty? Are individuals, let's say, in Poland, and society, a nation of Poland, as such, stronger if we decide to be sovereign in this classical way – so, independent from any institutions... More or less. Or, if you at look at what are the challenges for people in the state contemporary, global threats to freedoms of people, economic freedoms of prosperity, if you look at this global corporate interests, global imperial interests of some countries, whether we as people and a nation and a state, are stronger within stronger European structures?
And the second issue, which we also have in Poland, and it's a very black-and-white discussion, whether it's really selfless, whether Germany was every really selfless, and whether it's only really egoism. And I think in Poland, what we have, many people believe that the European Union is only really egoist... where all the nations are egotistically looking only at their own businesses, but only pretending to have this common European interest.
MK: We shouldn't focus only on the European Union as an institution. We should discuss the democracy as well, so have a look at the whole picture. We have Germany, who are perfect pupils in this European school, but what about Hungary? Bad pupil! What about Italy? Ah, not good. Poland? The worst pupil!
NG: You have the U.K...
MK: U.K. leaves Europe. So my question is: is it a perfect machine? Does it work so well, as you describe? What was wrong? Who made this mistake? And these nations are patronized as voting for bad solutions, for bad parties and, in my opinion, the EU leaders should consider this, that so many countries, so many groups have huge problems with the Union, have the impression that it doesn't work, so they are wrong. We can't just punish people, we can't just patronize them.
PH: I think, on the one hand, the European Union does have a lot of problems, and they have to be addressed, and there has to be input from everybody, including conservatives from Poland and other countries as well. I don't think that the right-wing and the alt-conservative forces are the only ones. And I think that the European Union, I mean, it is a collection of democracy, there are democratic standards, and Poland and Hungary, they have been violating them, and they have been breaching the independence of the judiciary and the media.
MK: No, no, you haven't got any proof that democracy was violated in Poland... We had an election, a local election, and in big cities, the opposition took power, took to office, took the [heads] of the cities. And is that democracy or not? Does it work or not?
PH: There is an alternative version, or vision, for the EU by many right-wing and alt-conservative forces of a Europe of nations. And I think this is exactly the wrong way, this is what we learn from the past..
PH: ...that a Europe of nations, a collection of nations, is not what Europe is all about, that Europe is a civic structure, and that it's based on the rights of citizens, and not on the rights of nations. And this is where our whole idea of human rights come from and division of powers etc.
NF: ...You were saying the situation is bad. I'm not sure of that. I mean, the situation on social levels, I agree to that totally, but, for me, the European Union is a project of peace. And, I think in respect to that, and you were speaking about the founding fathers of the European Union, that was exactly the idea of the European Union: to unite the...
MK: Nations, nations, which are free and independent...
NF: ...the enemies, nations, enemy nations that were most of the time at war, and suddenly we have a long, long, long period of peace – that I am very grateful for, I've never experience wartime, I'm very, very grateful, contrary to this country, by the way, that we are in now...
NG: And that's where I would like to jump in because Ukraine also had never experienced a war or conflict before 2014, as well. It's not as though society is used to conflict. You all mentioned the problems with the welfare state and other things, and I've been to the US and I've seen extreme poverty, I mean homelessness, not having access to healthcare. However, when we talk about migration and the refugee crisis, as it's named, Ukraine is a country at war, with foreign aggression, where we had up to 1.5, or even two million internally displaced people, who had moved from one region to another, who had moved because of the war in a very urgent way. And Ukraine is definitely a poor state, one of the poorest in Europe, incomparable to Poland, Germany, the US. However, we have digested our IDPs, there is no major, they, in fact, didn't leave Ukraine – maybe a few thousand, but very few people went to Poland. However, for instance, I remember, I was in Poland on a day where there were demonstrations against refugees and the refugees were not there. I remember being in Germany during the first discussions about the refugee crisis, in particular those coming from Syria, and you think, well that's a crisis, the country can't do that, but you feel like, why can't they? Especially when people talk about migrants in the US, you say: sorry, you have a rich country, so it's all doable. I think that, sometimes, Europeans and Americans are in panic mode when they shouldn't be, because worse things are doable in the cases with way worse economic situations, like Ukraine. So I would be very curious to hear you reaction to that, that sometimes it's hard for us to understand – I understand the threats, but why are Europeans and Americans moaning, when there is no real reason to do that and you are capable of sorting out the issues.
PH: This brings us right back to your first question, which is the rise of illiberal, often racist, political parties and forces. I mean, there isn't really migration... At the moment, there's not migration crisis in Germany or Europe, there are a very few number of refugees coming in and, even at the height of the so-called refugee crisis of 2015, 1.2 million refugees in one year in the European Union of 520 million people is a very small number. Germany was ill-prepared for it and that was true. But, I mean, we're also talking about fundamental rights here, the right of political asylum for politically prosecuted people, we can't forget that either. The big mistake that was made in Europe – I live in Germany – and made by Merkel; she was right to say not to put up a border, or whatever, it hasn't been border between Austria and Germany for years, so it wasn't like she was welcoming or opening any borders, the borders were open, she didn't put up a border and put troops on it to stop them. What she was right, it was one of the greatest things that I think modern Germany's done. I was incredibly proud of Merkel for doing this, but I've been disappointed with her since then for backtracking on it, for taking and using the language of the far right, of the AFD, and my embracing that, she has strengthened the right-wing parties, and I see that across Europe.
NF: I don't think she was actually putting up the language of the AFD, I wouldn't agree to that, but I am sure that the so-called crisis wasn't mediated well enough and that there wasn't enough discussion about the consequences. I mean, I think that the central and left-wing parties still have to learn how to discuss problems that are there. It's migration from different culture in many aspects that we have to see the full picture: who is coming?
So they are are also problems with people coming in, but, to paint the picture black and white is always problematic, to paint the picture as a wave, when all the narratives, the concepts, the whole movements were described and are very problematic, like a "wave" of people coming in, as if Germany is drowning under a wave of migration – this, of course, is stupid.
NG: I would just also mention that we are discussing, if we talk about Germany, for instance, there are refugees coming from the Muslim culture, that is totally new, and this multiculturalism is really a difficult thing. However, we need to remember that in the US for instance, most of the migrants, and not all, but also refugees, they are coming from Latin America, Catholics. So you have the same issue but in different countries. Coming back to Poland. There are almost one million Ukrainians, but they are not refugees, as a Polish politician once mentioned. They are students, they working. It's different. These are not the people who escaped from the war in Ukraine... People who left Donbas, they mainly move to the nearby territories, and they have mainly moved to the capital or other areas like Kharkiv... My question to Polish journalists, as a Ukrainian, do we agree that there are always issues, social issues, there are people from Poland moving to Ireland, everything. However, if you look to level of life, sometimes, Ukrainians would probably ask why they are complaining that things are so wrong...
MK: That's true... I think in Poles' perspective, their level of life is quite good, but, of course, people are always looking for a better life, it's obvious. If you earn 2,000 zloty in Poland, which is 8,000 dollars per year, and you have chance to earn twice more in Britain, or even more, you usually take this chance. But, this is worth emphasizing, that we have even more because the research [says] that we have two million Ukrainians in Poland and there's bad things, and they quarrel and they argue. They are inside us, inside our society, and it works very well, so why then is Muslim migration seen in a different way?
NG: But there is not much, as I understand, in Poland?
AL: What I wanted to say, first: I really respect your society and country for being able to take care of the IDPs, and I think we have to remember that, in Bangladesh, which is a really poor country, they have had about 800,000 people coming Myanmar in recent months, if you look at Uganda, which is also another rich country, they managed to also take care of hundreds of thousands of people. So I think migration, especially if it comes in group, is always a challenge, and they are really, I agree, pragmatic questions that you have to answer and be prepared, and especially take care of the people that are weakest and poorest in you society because they sometimes are really in our interest and are threatened. But I think the discussion about migration is also a discussion about us, actually. Some questions were raised when people started coming.
Unfortunately, in Poland, we could talk for hours about why there was such a shift, change, in Poles and people's support for the refugees. If you look into the polls, a couple of years ago, between 2015, Poles were not so threatened and against people coming into Poland. You could look for answers in security, you could look for answers about our identity discussions, but, there was also, unfortunately, political interest. The elections came at that time, and they were really hot, and the competition was really strong, and, unfortunately, this issue, also became a political issue, just a political instrument, and a question. And all that, because we hardly have any experience migration, especially from Muslim, what we know, we know especially from the media. This is the media's responsibility also. So how do people shape their point of view? What do people think about it? Many people have not had personal experience with that. Everything they understand about it and they know, is because they learn about it from the media, politicians, from their friends in other countries.
NG: My next question is about the media. We are all journalists here. There is a general trend, and a lot of journalists even accept that it's not a question of whether they are right or wrong, about this idea of the liberal media being elitist. But what I anyway feel, it doesn't matter how you label that – liberal, not liberal – it's true that there is less trust in the media. And we know the cases where the German media were doing a great job and they were accuse of being too politically correct, sometimes they didn't report things, so there are reasons for that. There is also an issue in Poland, that it feels today that they are very polarized, and there a lot of people who feel that this media are portraying them in the wrong way...
You have that in the US. In fact, I'm also concerned that you shouldn't be teaching the people, you can't be arrogant, and sometimes it feels like the journalists are arrogant in the way that they are discussing those people and that those people don't understand us, they don't understand this well. Even in Ukraine, the Hromadske initiative, we come from the ground, the station was set up by journalists, we were with the people, we are not rich station, we are really are a very humble and modest media operation. But still, we feel that when we speak about the issues going on in Kyiv, people feel alienated. My question is about the answers. What, as journalists, do we do with that? It's still the reality. Sometimes we don't do a good job, but sometimes the good job we are doing is criticized for either being too arrogant or elitist.
NF: I have to say that I totally agree with your description, and I have to say it is a complicated situation. Sometimes, I wonder why we get the reactions that we get on the streets -- reporters on the streets get attacked by demonstrators etc. So this is something, the mistrust towards, especially the public radio and TV sphere in Germany is growing in a frightening way... The only thing that we can do is keep on going and being aware, of course, of the criticism, being aware of, maybe, a lack of consciousness towards the normal people, I would people, not the simple people, but the normal people, as I said, all the stories that haven't been told, especially in East Germany... It's like a balance between opening up with all the social media developments that we have, and trying just to work better to prove to the public that it's important to have a free media.
AL: I believe, I still believe, that democracy and the way it plays different interests, is the best solution. Although, sometimes it may be frustrating; although, sometimes you feel threatened that the democratic system may not be strong enough to protect itself from more authoritarian things. So I believe that we have to understand what mistakes, we, individuals, or our media, might have done and learn the lessons, and, I agree, keep on doing what we are doing – this patronizing, there was and still is among journalists and politicians, especially in these times, where we have more democracy, thanks to social media – that's not a sin, as we say, but it's just a very grave mistake – and, as journalists, keep up doing the job that we are doing, and try to, within the democratic system, do what we can do. Sometimes it's this frustrating process, where you cover something and you have the impression that it doesn't change anything, that there are stronger forces in society, as far as propaganda is concerned, as far as political interest in concerned, as far as money is concerned, that you feel that doing your everyday job, you have no influence. But, I think in the end, it has to work like that because otherwise there's no democracy.
MK: Yeah, we are a group of journalists from different media, different societies and we are real-life proof that the discussion is possible... I think that, generally, the traditional media are undermined by social media...
I have an impression that everybody wants to destroy traditional media from the social media. It doesn't matter – from the left from the right, this is my common goal, this is my impression because it's not important what you put on the cover, you are always undermined: stupid, crazy, this is fake news. I think that we have to be with people, we have to remember that we are to serve the people. And the history of my company is very similar to you, I would say, because my company was established by a group of conservative journalists, because we had the impression that we have something which is ours, which can't be undermined, which can't be influenced by others, by money, by politicians. And it was successful, and I think this is a good way. And the last thing, we have to remember in Europe, as a journalist, that we can't be a part of European institutions. I have an impression that the majority of official media, of this traditional media, have this feeling that they are a part of the EU, they are responsible for this. And it doesn't work. It won't work.
AL: But I have to say, also, that, as journalists, there's this temptation... I mean, it's a big question in Poland as well. How much are you an independent journalist and how much are you representing your country or government?
PH: The whole media landscape and what is media has changed so completely from when I decided to be a journalist, which was considered the golden days of journalism, when reporters from the Washington Post and the New York Times could actually report on the wrongdoing of a president and bring him down... Nixon's infractions were just a small, tiny fraction of the wrongdoings and the lies, and the illegalities, that happened during the Trump administration. But, I think that it's the role of the media today, looking ahead, and I think that, actually, the German media does a good job of looking at the way the transition to renewable energy and climate change is changing society... It's going to change democracy and media, and business models, it already has, education, etc.
NG: In the end, we are here in Kyiv, in Ukraine, these months we are remembering that it's already five years since the revolution on Maidan. That's quite a lot of time. Our audience know very well that we are the media that has been very critical of the media and different political forces, and keep them accountable, so they're not searching for excuses. I'm curious, talking to a group of European journalists, that there is some luck in Ukraine regarding the whole situation, that you don't feel this apathy in society. Although Ukrainian speak about that. A lot of people said that all this crisis connected to Brexit, to the migration, to Trump are also because a lot of people feel apathetic, they don't come to the elections, they don't participate politically participate. We can't complain about that. Ukrainian are really into politics, people are trying to be very active, they've joined institutions. Of course, there is a level of disappointment, bu my general question would be more about your impression and your questions on what you've seen in Ukraine. Particularly, I would mention that usually, five years after every revolution, every revolution, journalists come and say how it didn't happen properly... And I think you have some experience also working in the Balkans, you said that some things failed in Balkans, although they somehow have peace, we should also remember that. There are also things that the Kremlin does to portray Ukraine as a failed, which is in conflict, the economy is collapsing, what is your feeling about that? How do you see Ukraine in this discussion on democracy? Some of you have been reporting on Ukraine over the last years.
AL: First, I have to say that I think, maybe in Poland especially, but in many European countries, this apathy is in the process of being gone. I mean, the society in Poland is now really active, sometimes we fear too active as far as conflict in concerned. But as far as Ukraine is concerned, I've been traveling here for many years now and I've spent many weeks on Maidan, I've been in Crimea and I've travelled a bit to Donbas. And I'm interested in transformation, as such, I've observed it many countries, and I look at it as a process. It's a journalistic saying, it's over simplification, but I like the saying that it's a little bit of evolution by revolution. So the Ukrainian state creation, identity creation, is a process for many years or decades now. So the Orange Revolution was not a failure, it was not a win as well, it was a step in the process of becoming an independent state, and also defining what your nation, what your society means, what are the values, what keeps you together, what does it mean to be Ukrainian. And I think Maidan was probably, hopefully, maybe, one of the last steps in that process, although it was very radical. And for me, as a Pole, as a human being and as a journalist, it was one of the most important experiences of my life, especially in Donbas – the generation, the people that are fighting there, are my generation. And I feel culturally very close to Ukraine, so somehow I perceive it as my experience, from that point that I could imagine something like that happening also to me. So, what I'm trying to say, I really respect all the things that society has done here... But I can't define it and give it an ending tamp whether it's a failure or a success. It's just a transformation.
NG: Michał, I would also ask you to comment maybe in the context o Ukrainian-Polish relations. There were clearly times when Ukraine... And Ukraine and Poland are close countries, and Ukraine has always seen Poland as an ally, but as well as a country which is moving Ukraine to Europe and the EU.
MK: I think it is your impression that something has changed is due to the war because, if you have a war, it's natural that you are looking for a strong ally, a real power, and Germany, of course, are stronger than Poland, and Germany may offer you much more than our country. So, in my opinion, it's natural that the Ukrainian policy as changed, and Poland is not as important as it was before. But, let me say that, I remember the Maidan time and I saw my friends collecting money for supporting Maidan. I remember my friends sending some military equipment to help people here. And I think this support is a constant figure in our society and in our policy. As far as I know, every Polish politician tried to remind the European leaders, the president of the USA about the war which is on Europe's border in Ukraine. In my opinion, there are some problems associated with history. The fact of the Volyn massacre is really difficult problem for us and we have an impression it is not seen by Ukrainian historians. We have an impression that you don't want to discuss this issue anymore, any time, it didn't exist. But it existed. This is the main problem, in my opinion, this problem from the past, which influences on our politics strongly.
NG: Paul, you've reported a lot on conflicts as well, and you follow what's going on here in this part of Europe now, as well. What's your perspective on Maidan and what happened after? Also the fact that the country has been mentioned in the U.S. media a lot because of Russia...
PH: As for the United States' policy towards Ukraine right now, it has all to do with Donald Trump's changing, schizophrenic position on the Russian relationship with Putin. So it's really hard to really much at all. I began my career as a journalist in 1989, following the collapse of communism, I lived in Budapest, travelled all throughout Central Europe and that inspiring moment, and I still feel here, today, eventually... There were very high expectations everywhere in Central Europe and in eastern Germany at the time as well, and there were disappointments then as well. I don't know, I still feel here the strength of civil society. I think that Ukraine has made incredible advances in its democracy. We've been talking about the anti-corruption laws and some of the institutions that have been set up, and the incredible work of NGOs on the ground, and I find it all really quite inspiring and impressive. And I hope and think it can go on. I think that there is a danger that, in the west, that Ukraine is being looked at, or could be looked at as a hopeless case, or as a failed state, and what is clear to me from this visit is that is not the case, and that international efforts and international mediation have to continue. I noticed that I don't think that they're as strong as what was happening in the early nineties in the Balkans, where you had the European Union, and you had all kinds of different things, a real intense engagement. It seems that, even recently, some of the international interest has kind of petered out, and I'd like to see that come back again. Ultimately, the solution to the situation in Donbas lies in Moscow, so it's absolutely critical that the sanctions be maintained, and I would even like to see them strengthened. I mean, I think it would be the right move on the side of the Germans to cancel the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, to put more pressure on Putin. That's where the chance is going to come. He has to be put under pressure to involve himself more honestly and sincerely in the peace process. Ultimately, what's going to have to happen is there's going to have to be a peacekeeping force, like what happened in Bosnia, and happened in Kosovo. I served on both peacekeeping missions -- I was two years in Bosnia and two years in Kosovo -- working for the OSCE and then the UN. It did work. It was very important that there was military structure and there was a civilian structure, which I was part of, reforming the media in Bosnia. And it worked, it's very important that they get the mandate right at the very beginning. In Bosnia, we now have peace and there are elections, and all kinds of works have been done on human rights, but it's basically a frozen as a paralyzed peace, and that's because the mandate itself – Dayton – was inadequate. So I wouldn't want t see that same mistake made in the Donbas.
NG: Natasha, you have also reported on the region. Besides that, what is your impression, what should we also expect from Germany?
NF: I see the vividness and the activeness of the civil society, many activities on the ground, despite also many hindrances, blockades, people who are active, people who are fighting corruption, people who are dying – there's a threat to life if you are active in Ukraine, which is not comparable to any situation, for instance, in Germany. What I have to say about German-Ukrainian relationships is that I'm a bit worried about a new negligence of the Ukrainian issue – I think both in German media and that, of course, reflects German politics as well. I'm really sure the German politicians know what's going on in Ukraine, know what's going on in the Donbas, but, if you look at the society, their awareness of the war, for instance, and of the needs of Ukraine... I'm a bit afraid that it's out of the focus – of course, with many other problems that happened in the last five years with the migrants discussion etc. But, coming back to the European Union, to the European project as a project of peace and knowing that, in Europe, even though Ukraine is not part of the Union, but still, I consider as a European country, there is a war going on, is something that we shouldn't forget. So it's our duty not to leave Ukraine, with its problem, alone and I'm afraid that we have a situation where we look at Ukraine and the Donbas war actually as a frozen conflict in our awareness as well. And this is the wrong way, and I agree that we should be sensitive about sanctions against Russia, not to leave that trick, for sure.
MK: Last year, we visited Moscow and I think that our general impression was that Russia is weaker than we thought. And now, my impression is that Ukraine is stronger than we thought. This is the general impression.