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Interview with the Ambassador Ole Egberg Mikkelsen

12.01.2021  13:21

Ambassador Ole Egberg Mikkelsen was interviewed by the Danish web portal Ukrainenu.dk about current Danish-Ukrainian relations and the work of the Embassy.

The interview was originally conducted in Danish, the translation into English is provided by the Embassy. The original version can be found here.

You became Denmark's ambassador to Ukraine this year. How has it been to get to Kyiv in that office?

It has been great for me to come to Ukraine. I can not imagine a more exciting place to be a Danish ambassador in these years. After all, Ukraine's security is also our security, and we have a strong interest in the success of Ukraine's reform process. I am really happy to have had the opportunity to work with the Danish-Ukrainian relationship and build on the good work that my predecessors and the team at the embassy have done. 

But it is not only us at the embassy who are responsible for the Danish-Ukrainian relations. 

There are also close economic relations with almost 300 Danish companies in Ukraine and many people-to-people relations. There are almost 15,000 Ukrainians in Denmark and a number of Danish NGOs in Ukraine. This include the Danish Refugee Council and the Danish Red Cross who are doing a strong humanitarian effort down here. 

And Denmark is an important partner in Ukraine's reform process. Denmark is the implementing partner of the EU's anti-corruption initiative, EUACI. We also support the strengthening of the Ukrainian municipalities and regions via the U-LEAD program, where Guldborgsund Municipality e.g. contributes with Danish experiences in the municipal area. Danish military instructors are involved in the reorganization of Ukraine's defense and Danish police officers and other security experts are part of the EU Assistance Mission, which supports the reforms of Ukraine's police and security authorities. 

And then Kyiv is great place to stay, with a rich cultural offer, good food and great hospitality. And then there is lovely green nature around the Dnipro river which is also an excellent water to navigate. I have actually brought my sailing dinghy, which I have greatly enjoyed this summer, where I have seen the city from the seaside. It can really be recommended.

What are you looking the most forward to in the cooperation between Denmark and Ukraine next year? 

A lot will happen in the Danish-Ukrainian relationship in the coming year. 

We are embarking on the next phase of both the Danish Neighborhood Program and the Peace and Stabilization Program. And the Danish Cultural Institute is working to open a Danish-Ukrainian youth center in Kyiv. 

Denmark also has an important energy program with Ukraine, which the Danish Energy Agency is responsible for. In addition to benefiting Ukraine's green transition, it also opens up great opportunities for Danish companies. 

The land reform in Ukraine will provide new opportunities for Danish-Ukrainian cooperation in the field of agriculture and food. Among the Ukrainians Denmark, there is for example many working in the agricultural sector. Some of them will probably consider returning to Ukraine and bring knowledge and experience from Danish agriculture. And a number of Danish players in Ukrainian agriculture are ready to take part in the new phase that Ukraine is entering in the field of agriculture.

There is also a room for more Danish IT companies down here. Ukraine has a strong tradition of technical and scientific educations and has really skilled software engineers and programmers. 

At the Embassy, we are ready to assist Danish companies who want to investigate the possibilities further and we are also in contact with many of the Danish companies that already are on the market who we assist in various ways when the need arises. 

I, like everyone else, am also looking forward to it being possible to travel again. I want to do what I can to stimulate the interest among Danes to visit Ukraine, which is only a two-hour flight from Denmark, but which for many Danes appears to be very distant and foreign. I also hope I can help break down prejudices about Ukraine by communicating about the country and about what we are doing at the Embassy to strengthen relations. That is why the embassy is active on social media, so you can follow what we do. 

Then 2021 will also be the run-up to the celebration in February 2022 of the 30th anniversary of the Danish-Ukrainian diplomatic relations. We are working on a celebration that reflects the close partnership and the breadth of the Danish-Ukrainian relations, both politically, economically and popularly. 

Finally, I look forward to visiting the Danish companies and NGOs in Ukraine. Due to the Corona situation I have only been able to travel around the country to a very limited extent in recent months. Instead, I have met with the Danish stakeholders virtually, but it is of course not quite the same.

What should the Danes keep an eye on in relation to Ukraine during 2021? 

If you run a business, it is of course important to keep an eye on the economic development which is obviously affected by the Corona crisis. Of course, this also affects Danish exports. The good news, however, is that figures that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Analysis Unit has just presented for Danish exports during the Corona crisis show that exports to Ukraine were already on the growth track from the third quarter of 2020. I hope, of course, that this will continue. 

When it comes to political developments, it is important to keep an eye on the course of reform. There have been some setbacks recently, including in the area of anti-corruption. But the government and president have shown strong will to bring anti-corruption efforts back on track. This is something we from the Danish side have a special interest in, not least due to our role as an implementing partner for the anti-corruption program. 

Of course, one must also keep an eye on foreign policy developments. What is happening on Donbas and how is it going to go with the new Crimean initiative launched by the Ukrainian government. 

There is thus enough to keep an eye on in 2021. At the embassy, we will do what we can to keep our finger on the pulse and be in close contact with the Danish stakeholders, whether it is companies, NGOs or Danes living down here, so we together can strengthen the Danish-Ukrainian relations.