France’s Olivier Vedrine takes to TV with ‘Western Voice’

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He’s a French political scientist with an English-language news show on Ukrainian television. It’s called the “Western Voice with Olivier Vedrine” on Obozrevatel TV station, or oboz.TV.

Vedrine, 49, is already into his 10th episode of the current affairs talk show. It’s not his first one in Ukraine. He used to host “This Week with Olivier Vedrine” on UA.TV and, before that, “Tea Time” on First National Channel with Sergiy Velichansky.

Vedrine has made his home in Ukraine for the last five years, finding life more exciting here than in his native France. The aim of his current program is much the same as the previous two incarnations — he wants Ukraine to fully integrate with the West in values, democracy and in its economy.

The Kyiv Post sat down with him on April 12 for a blitz interview.

Kyiv Post: It’s been almost a year since Emmanuel Macron, who you supported, was elected as president of France. Are you happy with his performance?

Olivier Vedrine: I am satisfied because it’s a new generation of politicians. It’s my generation. He’s really pro-European. He wants to confront Russian President Vladimir Putin’s policy in Syria. That’s good. He promised some reforms during his campaign. We’re waiting for those to happen.

KP: What’s behind the railway workers strike in France?

OV: France is a very difficult country to reform. France needs to decrease the public sector. It costs a lot and the efficiency is not very good. It’s like the Soviet Union. We need to decrease the number of civil servants. We need to invest in new technology. The communist trade union (including railway workers) represents only 1 percent of civil servants. They can retire at 50 years old. They receive a lot of privileges.  Nobody wants to touch them because they will block railway transport. Politicians were afraid of them.

We cannot allow privilege like that if we want to build a new society for the 21st century. I am a social liberal. But the railways are dinosaurs. The difference between now and before is that now the French citizen knows we have to do something.

KP: France still has a deep interest in what’s happening with Syria. Will Macron get tough on Bashar al-Assad and Putin?

OV: The time to bomb was in 2013. But U. S. President Barack Obama said no. At that time, there were secular groups for democracy. Now, because we didn’t bomb, (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) got stronger.

We have to support secular parties in Syria. We have to be against Bashar al-Assad, who is killing his people with chemical weapons.

KP: What’s the aim of ‘Western Voice’?

OV: This is a bridge between Ukraine and the West — to explain Ukraine to the West, and explain the West to Ukraine.

KP: Will you stay in Ukraine?

OV: I don’t know yet. I am here because of my European way of thinking. It’s boring being a professor in France. Enlightenment, freedom, liberty — we need a revival of those values, which are now in danger with U. S. President Donald J. Trump in America, Putinism in Russia and populism in Europe. It gives me a sense to fight. We need a new Winston Churchill, a new Charles de Gaulle, a new Thomas Jefferson. Ukraine is one of the front lines in the fight for democracy.

KP: What are the best and worst things going on in Ukraine?

OV: In Brussels and in Paris, we are very disappointed about this lack of will to fight against corruption. I am very positive about the new generation. The young generation wants to live like in Europe and the United States. Part of them are going abroad because they want to live with Western values. One day they will win. This corrupt system will collapse. Maybe it will take 10–15 years, not more because they will come into power, this new generation.

This Komsomol old generation knows this is the end. That’s why they are doing everything to stop reforms. But they are losing because of pressure from the International Monetary Fund, the United States, Europe.

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