In July 2015 European Pravda announced the results of scandalous investigation. That is when we decided to check whether the embassies of Ukraine support exports’ promotion – this problem has long been considered as one of the key priorities of Ukrainian diplomacy.
The results of 2015 are quite pathetic, if not shocking. Our experiment shows that only one third of the embassies were ready to promptly assist the exporter, who appealed to them without government “protection”. Most diplomatic missions considered this appeal unnecessary, which should be dealt with quickly, while some of them never responded to the appeal.
Finally, basing on the results of our experiment foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin promised to reverse the situation. Then we were told that some employees of the embassies were getting disciplinary actions.
One and a half years have passed. Now it is the time to check whether the promises became a reality.
There is all the more reason for this, as we promised to continue the investigation in summer 2015.
However, we understood that holding the experiment for the second time and seeing the same problems would be more difficult. First of all, because diplomats are already aware of the possible investigation.
It is interesting to note that the embassies of Ukraine began to receive strange appeals supposedly from exporters after our article had been published. Some of them were later found in European Pravda from the familiar diplomats with the note “Is that you again?”.
The most striking was the appeal from a company that was supposedly going to export “frozen bull semen” to the EU. This appeal came from Lviv company that works … in the construction industry. Identifying themselves as “sperm sellers”, they copied the template of the appeal from European Pravda investigation. They also wanted the embassy to find a business partner among French cosmetologists for them.
We do not know the outcomes of “bull exports” and whether the Foreign Ministry continued communication with the author of this letter.
However, we do know that some diplomats were planning to send fake e-mails “to themselves” in order to carry the situation to the point of absurdity and cancel the government orders relating to work with exporters. In particular, that was recognized by the diplomat who worked in Eastern Europe during an emotional communication with European Pravda.
We also know that loud promises to punish anti-heroes of our investigation were eventually failed. Poland case is most resonant: the diplomat Dmytro Isachenko ignored the government orders to talk to the exporter twice. After the investigation had been published, he falsified his answer trying to play the advantages over the editors’ office and ambassador. The ambassador Andrij Deshchytsia was outraged by the actions of his subordinate, the Foreign Ministry even discussed his recall from Poland …
But was he really punished? No, indeed …
At the beginning of 2017 Isachenko is still working at the embassy, holding the previous position.
The embassies outsiders are in no way different. For instance, the ambassador of the Czech Republic Zaichuk who disgraced Ukraine, was fired only after a big scandal. The diplomatic administration is displeased to have to reduce the staff …
Let us get back to the new rules of work with exporters, which were to be introduced by the Foreign Ministry. It should be emphasized that resistance was not all-out, as many of our communicators in the Ministry supported the need of changes and even thanked for our investigation.
They promised to introduce a communication code, forcing the Embassy to provide first response within the shortest possible time, making exporters feel needed. We could only welcome that.
Taking into account experience of the first investigation, the diplomats decided to accept appeals only from the companies, which indicate all their details. That might be right, as it will filter out all the fake appeals like “bull exports.”
Accordingly, European Pravda has agreed upon the appeal from the real company, which manufactures socks and tights.
First of all, the company is really planning to enter the EU markets, so the tips from the embassies will be quite useful. Secondly, the promotion of this product is natural for the markets of all the EU countries.
Writing the appeals to the embassies of Ukraine in the EU, we were interested in terms of certification, product safety specification, trade exhibitions and major retail chains. These are exporter’s basic issues of concern before entering the new market.
So, what are the outcomes of the second experiment?
Unfortunately, there is only one obvious conclusion:
Exporters’ system support remained a dream and the promises of a new approach exist only on paper.
After the fuss over our first investigation, a number of embassies have returned to usual work. If that could be called work.
Communication code? Do not be ridiculous! Only four diplomatic missions responded over the first two days. Another four over four days. We had to send numerous letters again, because the vast majority of the embassies did not even answer them. We hope the Foreign Ministry will explain why that happened.
So, our first letter, sent in November, was answered by 10 of the 26 embassies in EU member states (eight embassies were included into the white list one and a half years ago). Both of our appeals – initial one and its continuation – were ignored by four embassies (eight embassies one and a half years ago).
Of course, we can talk about some progress, but it can hardly be considered sufficient.
However, – this should be emphasized – we did notice sustainability in the embassies, the situation has changed radically in many of them.
Several diplomatic missions, which were outsiders one and a half years ago, now find themselves among the leaders. Unfortunately, there are examples of reverse changes.
So much about the bad things – now about the good ones.
Even if the diplomats still do not answer promptly, however, the answer became much more qualified.
The vast majority of the embassies of the EU member states eventually, after reminders however, sent us full and detailed responses, which can really help exporters.
The white list
So, we have two leaders among the embassies, which continue helping Ukrainian business.
Just as one and a half years ago, the embassy in Latvia was one of the first to answer, having provided us with timely and complete information. The embassy in Finland is still among the leaders. It promptly responded to our letter in full compliance with the MFA rules of communication, adopted after our first investigation. Employee of the embassy sent us several letters with clarifying questions and then she provided a very detailed answer.
Therefore, it is necessary to thank the ambassadors Perebyjnis and Olefirov publicly. They are in charge of these diplomatic missions. Experience shows that ambassador takes on enormous importance.
The embassy in Bulgaria has become friendlier to exporters. Last time its employee provided an answer only for the second letter. Whereas this time they responded immediately, giving detailed answers and advice.
Positive changes – the embassies in the UK were first to provide quick and complete answer, they were followed by the Czech Republic and Greece. This is important because during our first experiment these embassies were among the worst, as provided no answer.
Another change for the better relates to the Embassy in Austria. The embassy sent us a formal answer one and a half years ago; while this time we received a prompt and full answer.
We also want to specially focus on our embassy in Hungary. They responded only to the second letter. Nevertheless, they gave a detailed answer and repeatedly offered to discuss the possibility of entering the EU market, offering us to call embassy employee directly by phone or Skype. This is the approach Ukrainian exporters really need.
In the editors’ office we could not reach the consensus including the Netherlands and Estonia to the white list. They responded quickly, albeit briefly. However, speed is important for business, and the letters included all necessary information. The editors’ office decided to include Spain to the grey list, although it was one of the first to respond.
The black list
Now about the outsiders. As we already mentioned, we received no response from three embassies, two embassies did not provide substantive answers. It does not seem much.
However, the trouble is that the problem embassies represent Ukraine in the strongest EU economies: Germany and France.
This is the second time the infamous embassy of Slovakia has been included to the black list.
Last time instead of answering us, they recommended to apply to the commercial agent and gave his details. This time, the embassy decided to leave the appeal unanswered. This is not surprising, because the diplomat, who responded previously on the verge of corruption not only was not fired, but more than that, she got a promotion.
It will be very sad if the Foreign Ministry is going to ignore that.
The embassy in Portugal responded to our second letter on December 13, having promised to write to us afterwards. However, during the month the article was being prepared, they never did that. It is too bad, as we had a good working relationship with Portugal last time, but the responsible officer was suddenly fired after that.
Finally, another peculiarity – now embassies can redirect business appeals to the Council of Exporters and Investors at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. That is why the embassy in Cyprus did not answer our questions, having advised us to apply to a new agency.
However, other embassies recommending to apply to the Council of Exporters, did not refuse to respond us. After all, businesses need real help from a particular country, not a formal reply from Kyiv.
Updated: initially we included the embassy in Italy (and Malta concurrently) into the “black list” without a reasonable basis. The editors’ office presents apologies to the embassy’s staff because of this sad mistake, this diplomatic mission was supposed to be in the next section.
The grey list
All in all, our experiment has demonstrated that the embassies of Ukraine began to work better, but, as always, in addition to leaders and outsiders there are also those who responded only after the second business appeal.
After all, the majority of embassies provided complete and informative answers to our questions. This might be the most positive news of our investigation.
We already mentioned the embassy in Hungary, which impressed us with the desire to help exporters. Other Ukrainian embassies, which eventually provided substantive responses, are diplomatic missions in Denmark, Ireland, Lithuania (the diplomats of Lithuania apologized for late answers), Romania and Croatia.
The embassy in Sweden prepared a qualitative response – they were pretty close to the white list.
Finally, the embassy in Poland, one of the outsiders of the previous investigation, redressed itself by giving full answers.
Special prominence should be given to the embassy in Italy, which also represents the interests of Ukraine in Malta, therefore we sent two appeals. We received no answer after the first one and a reminding letter was mistakenly sent by European Pravda in regard to the Maltese market and received a qualified and complete response. Thuswise, diplomatic mission in Italy deserves being included into the “grey list.” The editors’ office presents apologies to the embassy’s staff for mistakenly including them to “outsiders” in the first wording.
It should be also added that according to the results of previous experiment in 2015, this embassy provided one of the best answers.
And finally, we will speak about Spain. A representative of this embassy did not answer any of the questions, but sent a letter during the first investigation, which is also important.
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All the things we have informed, give reasons to say:
Although the commitments of the foreign minister were not implemented in full, we can already see the progress of the embassies’ work.
However, this progress cannot be called sufficient. Most worrisome is the fact that the publicly given commitments – including the new communication rules and response to the actions of some individuals – were never implemented.
We hope that story will serve as a lesson to Ukrainian diplomats.
European Pravda may yet come back to this issue.
Article was prepared by “European Pravda” within the framework of “Stronger Together!” information campaign.