A French political scientist, academic, journalist, President of the Continental European Union Club (Think Tank) in Kiev, auditor of the Institute of National Higher Defence Studies (IHEDN) in France, expert member of different boards, former speaker of the European Commission (Team Europe), Professor (h.c.) Olivier VÉDRINE wears many hats and is continuously leading new projects for his European activities. Olivier VÉDRINE lives in Kiev since 2012 where he hosts now an English-language news TV show on Ukrainian television Oboz.TV “The Western Voice with Olivier VÉDRINE”. Before he hosted two other TV shows in English on UA.TV, “Weekly with Olivier VÉDRINE” and “UA Tea Time” on the First National TV Channel.

The Frenchman with Russian roots was on Euromaidan in 2013- 2014 and since then, is on a mission for Ukraine, which he considers as one of the front lines in the fight for democracy, he supports also the Russian opposition.

We were eager to meet an individual who dedicated his life for the construction of a democratic Europe, from Lisbon to Vladivostok, an idea dear to Olivier VÉDRINE.

Mr VÉDRINE, you recently said that “the future of European democracy would be decided in Ukraine”. Can you explain that?

Ukraine is the key because this country is in the middle of the European continent, Europe simply cannot afford to let Ukraine fail, and Russia cannot be a truly global power without Ukraine. So all roads lead to Kyiv. If you want to control the European continent you have to control Ukraine, the winner of this battle will take the power on the European continent.

Taking from your last show “The Western Voice with Olivier VÉDRINE”, how can a French citizen become the “Ukrainian voice” to the European audiences?

First, this is not my first TV show, before I hosted two other TV shows in English on UA.TV, “Weekly with Olivier VÉDRINE” and “UA Tea Time” on the First National TV Channel, I did more than 150 TV shows in English to support Ukraine during those three last years. Secondly, I was very active during the Euromaidan in 2013-2014, I gave a lot of interviews and press conferences for western TV and newspapers, I did a lot of lectures to introduce the UE to Ukrainian Universities and Ukrainian NGOs. Then logically, I was invited to introduce Ukraine to the European audiences in my different TV shows.

What are the aims of your TV show? Is it a state or private initiative ?

My first aim is to build a strong bridge between Ukraine and the rest of the European countries my second aim is to present the real Ukraine with a real information against disinformation and Russian propaganda.

This is a private initiative.

Can you talk about your guests and your audience?

My program is in English with a translation in Ukrainian, we are broadcasted by satellite and on cable therefore my audience is both in Ukraine and abroad. My guests are Ukrainians and foreigners, this is why I am using also Skype to invite my guests from foreign countries.

Your next big project is the opening of the Kiev School of Policy and Governance for MPA (Master of Public Administration) degrees. Can you say more about this ?

The Master of Public Administration is a professional graduate degree in public administration, similar to the Master of Business Administration but with an emphasis on the issues of governance. Our students will come mainly from the public sector, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), local administrations, national administrations and international institutions. This is a private institution with private funding. Our professors will come from Ukraine and from abroad. Our models are Sciences-Po Paris and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. For the admission criteria, mainly of our students will be professional with years of professional experience.

How could the project and the future graduates have influence on the Ukrainian politics?

I believe that a good education is the key to build a strong and prosperous Ukraine.

What are the reactions among the political sphere with this project? Do they support you?

This is a private initiative.

You started a business school project in 2012 who unfortunately failed because of corruption. What is the chance for success in 2018 for this new institute? Did things improve regarding the corruption in the country?

I have more chance for success in 2018 for this new institute because I am more prepared than I was in 2012, I know the Ukrainian society better than in 2012 and I have more serious and more professional partners. The fight against corruption in Ukraine is more efficient now than during the period before Euromaidan.

How could you prevent the brain drain (a big concern in Ukraine and other countries) of your students once graduated? Wouldn’t they be tempted to apply in the other European countries?

During the admission process and during the courses and conferences we will take care about some criteria of patriotism, ethic and sense of duty. For MPA in US and EU universities, more and more students are coming from Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), they are coming from the civil society. The representatives of the civil society in Ukraine are the ones who made Euromaidan and who are working now to change Ukraine, they are here to stay to build a new Ukraine in accordance with the Euromaidan goals.

You are politically engaged in Ukraine, supporting the Russian opposition in exile. What does it mean concretely? Would a role in politics be one of your next projects in Ukraine?

Yes, I am politically engaged in Ukraine, that means I am supporting the Ukraine choice to be independent and to join the EU. I support the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

I am supporting also the Russian opposition in exile. I am engaged in round tables and conferences, I invite for my TV shows well known figures of the Russian opposition in exile. I am Chief Editor of « Russian Monitor » an online newspaper of the Russian opposition; we have more than one million views per month: https://rusmonitor.com/. No, a role in politics will not be one of my next projects in Ukraine, now I am thinking about some political projects in the European Union or/and with the European Union.

What is your interest in the CREER and what do you think a Swiss think tank dedicated to Russia and Eastern European countries can bring to those regions and to the Western Europe?

My interest in the CREER is because you are active in my field of interest. This is a great idea to open a Swiss think tank dedicated to Russia and Eastern European countries because Switzerland is the country where a lot of international institutions heads are, a place to be! You can be an efficient bridge between those regions and Switzerland and between those regions and the international institutions working from Switzerland.

Interview by Carole Grimaud Potter, July 2018