On October 20-27 Studrespublika’s activists from Ukraine visited Vienna during a week. The group of young Ukrainian specialists were visiting various meetings where had an opportunity to socialize with the Austrian experts of various areas and to understand the reasons why Austria is considered the highly-developed country of the world.
The intensive Austrian program was organized by Studrespublikawithin the framework project of Bohdan Hawrylyshyn Charitable Foundation "Young generation will change Ukraine".
The activists Julia Bobyr, Pavlo Bohachyk, Maryna Gusakova, Olha Kovalenko, Oles Luchnyi, Bohdana Makaova, Olena Removska and Kateryna Bekrenova, a press secretary from Bohdan Hawrylyshyn Foundation, took part in a working trip.
Participants of the program visited office of the Austrian broadcasting company ORF, met the Ambassador of Ukraine in Austria, the expert on investments, member of Board of Directors of CJSC “SREI Leasing” company, representatives of OSCE and the Austrian people’s party, visited building of Parliament and the world famous museum "Albertina". The meeting with Dr. Leopold Specht, LI.M., S.J.D. (Harvard), Attorney at Law and very good Studrespublika’s friend was also very pleasant.
The first day Dr. Roland Adrowitzer, Chief reporter, Correspondent of ORF and one of influential "veterans" of the corporation kindly agreed on a meeting with the group. ORF (other name – "The Austrian Telebroadcasting Corporation") unites 4 TV and 12 radio channels. It is a successful example of the public broadcasting embodied with participation of the country authorities. When asked how objective and independent from the government is ORF (when the government approves the Board of Directors in the corporation), Dr. Adrowitzer told (with irony) that the government is "always dissatisfied" with criticism on the air of any political party, but they can do nothing". He explained that even though sometimes (the emphasis is on the word "sometimes"), some politicians try to influence the editorial policy through the Board of Directors, these attempts are blocked whether by copy-editor or by heads of press centre – the main responsible for submission of information on the air. In general, according to Dr. Adrowitzer, it’s very seldom when pressure occurs, since politicians realize that their actions can instantly go public.
Dr. Adrowitzer and his colleagues’ interest to the situation in Ukraine were deeply pleasant for participants. They honestly admitted that two main issues known about Ukraine are Tymoshenko’s case and also "Femen" movement. The journalists also asked what expectations Ukrainians have before the November summit of "East partnership" in Vilnius where the Ukrainian side, probably, will manage to agree on association with EU. Therefore, as a result of the trip, the participants of the Bohdan Hawrylyshyn Foundation program not only learned features of mass media system in Austria, a political system (the next parliamentary elections in the country – one of discussion subjects during a meeting on October 21st), but also told about actual events happening in Ukraine.
At the end of the first day during dinner the group of young Ukrainian specialists met Olha Olefirova, the girl who has already been studying and working in Vienna for several years. Conversation was very interesting as firstly was of not very official nature and secondly, all information was received from "the first source".
Student’s life in Austria is very intense. Our compatriots receive knowledge at Vienna universities where curricula, quantity of subjects are chosen independently. Training at the higher school is rather difficult, considering the fact that only 30% have the higher education; however, the diploma gives big prospects in Austria for any young person (even a foreigner).
The fact of interest for participants was that in Austria the solution of a housing question is thought over very well, as the state sets the price limits possible for rent, and all contractual rent relations are officially made. The people who arrived on a constant residence to Austria are under control of authorities as well. According to the established rules, such people have the right to leave the country on a short period only. Earlier, foreigners couldn’t work in Austria officially, and only two years ago Austrian government has introduced the changes allowing foreign students to work, thus receiving a salary in 350 euros. To make the official work possible for foreigners in Austria, they need to receive a salary in the amount up to 2200 euros.
Next day the meeting with the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine in the Republic of Austria Andriy Bereznyy took place. He told that the majority of the Ukrainian citizens living in Austria are people who work hard to earn the living and are mostly concentrated on work. The embassy completely assumes the organization and financing of some actions for Diaspora, for example, in 2012 there was supported a celebration of 20 years of Austrian-Ukrainian society establishment…although the help from Ukrainian most often isn’t expected. "We work with all: both with the youth and with many youth organizations. However, all of them are so small that if there are 10 people, it is very good", – the Ukrainian ambassador notes.
When the leader of the group, Olha Kovalenko told that Studrespublika works over questions of organizational and design presence at Vienna and asked about possible participation of the Austrian students in organizational activity in Austria, the ambassador gave very full answer: "In Vienna many students, among which about 600 are Ukrainians, receive high education level in the directions of economy, law, political sciences, computer sciences, etc. Austria is a networking country, practically when a person is 25-30 years old; he or she enters at least 10 associations. In other words, all free time is spent on activity in various associations. Each person, if normal one, understands it. Certainly, there are people who drop out of social life. For example, in Vienna 10 000 people are without a constant residence. But that’s a kind of people, who choose life aside of public work in general. Also each Austrian surely goes in for sports".
The second day followed the meeting with theExpert on investments, Member of the Board of Directors CJSC “SREI Leasing” Rostyslav Futalo. Mr. Futalo graduated from Construction Faculty at Lviv Polytechnic University, and in 1990s participated in the training program in the USA.
According to Mr. Futalo, European investors are encouraged to invest in development of the European countries. Many Europeans have no big desire to invest in Ukraine through the opaque legislation, not always the correct work of judicial and tax systems, violation of structural regulations and also because each European country directs the activity the way to remain in the country. "What cafe will you want to go: to very dirty place where waiters spill drinks not having managed to get them to a table or where you will be served well, will be given tasty dishes and still will be welcomed with a smile?" That exactly gives the feeling why the European investors don’t want to invest in Ukraine.
According to Mr. Futalo, Ukraine is rather perspective in the aerospace industry, IT, agriculture, which annually tends to increase in production. The fact that Ukraine can extract slate gas in the near future makes this project is rather interesting as well. Increasing of support programs from the foreign companies is perspective for Ukrainian citizens; however the government has to develop a similar prototype providing stability of workforce potential in the country and suspend labor migration of ingenious, high quality experts abroad.
The third day began with the meeting with Dr.Andriy Rikhter, the director of Office of the Representative on Freedom of the Media OSCE, who agreed to give an opened lection in Kyiv for Studrespublika.
Organization of Security and Co-operation in Europe is a powerful organization that includes 56 countries-participants. However, unfortunately, the organization has not got any common documentary base.
Activity of the organization is regulated by the Helsinki Accords (or Helsinki Declaration). Also the organization includes not only European countries but the U.S., Canada, Mongolia. Thailand may become 57 member of the OSCE next year. Russia, USA, Poland, etc. are the main participants of which are quite strong influence on its politics.
One of the most important tasks of the organization is to ensure peace. Quite often in places of conflict of representatives hold talks with the government, President, simple citizens, political leaders in order to eliminate the conflict. Also one of the most important tasks at present is to eliminate weapons of "hot spots".
During 2008-2010 OSCE actively assisted Afghanistan, rehabilitation exercises in Albania – rehabilitation institutions, police, assisting patients.
Next meeting was at head-office center-right political party, one of the largest in Austria – The Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP)with its representatives – Patrick Voller, Director, European & International Affairs, and Monika Reiner, Deputy Director, European & International Affairs.
During the meeting participants talked about how autumn party elections held in the country, the bitter struggle and results. It was interesting to learn about the operation inside the party apparatus, the Austrian party system comparable to ours.
In between meetings at the "populists" office we were visiting the house of the Austrian parliament; Deputy Director of the Austrian parliament Mag.Alexis Wintoniak organized for us the VIP tour. But seriously, thanks to a more or less informal meeting we had the opportunity to talk informally with Mr. Alexis on the post-election political situation in Austria, the process of forming a coalition and "pitfalls" that often arise in politics.
After that we had frank conversation with a young and perspective Stefan Schnöll, International secretary of the youth wing ÖVP, through which the group members have learned how YEPP helped the party in the electoral process, about the volunteer movement and the hard work and fiery energy of young leaders.
As in previous days, the work was completed dinner, where activists summed up and planned the next day.
The next day, the participants visited the building OeAD (Austrian Agency for International Cooperation in Education & Research) and talked with representatives of the Austrian Agency for International Mobility and Cooperation in the field of education, science and research. OeAD advises supports and promotes international cooperation in education, science and research, supports the strategic development and maintenance of educational measures and analyzes the international developments in this area and develop appropriate recommendations. When it went on the opportunity to study abroad participants delighted, because among 8 Ukrainians were 5 students!
The perfect end of the business day was a meeting with representatives of the Austrian Economic Chamber (WKO), which represents the interests of Austrian companies and contributes to enhance their global competitiveness. Employees WKO told us that when young entrepreneurs start their own business in Austria, they become a member of the Chamber, where they receive a lot of support services. Interestingly, in Austria are very few large companies.
Very interesting, but at the same time difficult is the process of submitting and passing laws. WKO represents the interests of companies and if they do not coincide with the decision of the legislature, the House of Representatives begin to align interests. For Ukrainian guests it was hard to believe because the adoption Ukrainian procedures are absolutely different.
The second part of conversation was about the education system in Austria. Great interest and a number of substantive issues caused dual system of education. The dual education system (often used the term "sandwich program") involves a combination of training in school with training inside companies. The company provides conditions for the practical training and shall bear all related costs, including possible monthly remuneration for the students (in the first year – from 206 to 841 euros in the third year – from 231 to 1086 euros). Educational institutions cooperate closely with companies where students start their practical training already at the age of 15 years.
Such a busy day ended with a story about Foreign Trade Promotion Organization which offers support Austrian companies interested in exporting. When it comes to marketing products and services, networking with international partners, Advantage Austria provides a necessary in order to gain a foothold in global markets.
The last day, the participants visited the St. Barbara’s Church. Priest in this church is Dr. Taras Chagala.
Incidentally, this meeting was a chance cause during the meeting with Mr. Bereznyy and Mr. Futalo, both men advised us to take the opportunity while staying in Vienna and meet with the priest, and Mr. Rostislav helped us to arrange everything. Fr. Taras and his wife are the citizens of Ukraine and do not plan to change it, despite the fact that they left Ukraine more than 14 years ago. The whole life of the Ukrainian community (Diaspora) goes around the church. Each Saturday Ukrainians gathered each Saturday in spite of the fact that it isa Greek Catholic one. "But the main feeling is that you are Ukrainian.
And the Orthodox are there, and I go there. There we meet and talk" – said during the meeting Mr. Bereznyy. The church is about 30-40 activists backbone of the Ukrainian Diaspora, unfortunately, it’s mostly older people.
The meeting with Fr. Taras was so warm that he proposed us spontaneous walk, which turned into an interesting tour of the old Vienna while we had free time in our busy schedule of events.
The culmination of the trip was a meeting with a friend of Studrespublika, a world-renowned lawyer, Dr. Leopold Specht, who helped us organize meetings with Barbara Blaha, an activist involved in trying to organize a new political force in Austria, and Dr.Rene Schindler, Executive Secretary of the Trade Union Federation, responsible for social policy.
It was intellectually intense meeting at the office of Dr. Specht. When was asked the question about the possibility of EU membership for Ukraine, response came to an interesting point: "Before you look for new challenges, you must first settle old". That is, according to Mr. Leopold, Ukraine in many ways is not ready to join the EU, however, it is likely that this can happen after a while. The correct way to Ukraine, said the professor, is "the protection and strengthening of the position of all effective (profitable) and rejection of the ineffective". Interesting information proved to private enterprises in Austria: the bulk (99.6%) in the country are SMEs, which provide a significant inflow of funds to the state budget. Therefore, Ukraine recommended small business development as a means to improve the economy. In the end of communication with Dr. Specht Studrespublika’s activists invited him to re-visit Ukraine and participate in one of the current debate Studrespublika’s discussions.
Interesting was the position expressed by the Executive Secretary for Social and Labour Laws of Federation of Trade Unions: "We ask a local minimum level in all areas of life and work, and then gradually increase it". Thus, according to Dr. René Schindler, you can achieve gradual sustained economic growth and living standards.
Thus, a group of young Ukrainian activists received invaluable amount of experience of Austrians who believe that Ukraine will find power for serious changes. We can only hope that Ukraine will believe in itself and Studrespublika will not give up!