Am­bas­sador: Nor­way will boost en­ergy as­sis­tance

Kyiv Post - - Business - BY BRIAN BONNER [email protected]

This year will bring a sea change in the lineup of for­eign diplo­mats sta­tioned in Kyiv. Be­sides the re­cently de­parted am­bas­sadors from Turkey and Ja­pan, oth­ers re­port­edly slated for re­as­sign­ment this year in­clude the en­voys from Amer­ica, France, United King­dom, and per­haps Switzer­land, Swe­den, Canada and more.

But Ole T. Hor­pes­tad, the am­bas­sador from Nor­way who ar­rived on Sept. 1, 2016, ex­pects to stay through the sum­mer of 2020.

In his time in Kyiv, the Nordic coun­try he rep­re­sents con­tin­ues to dis­tin­guish it­self as one of Ukraine’s best al­lies, with a con­sis­tent aid pack­age of at least $23 mil­lion an­nu­ally that is set to go higher with more as­sis­tance in Ukraine’s en­ergy sec­tor.

The amount also in­cludes an an­nual small-grants pro­gram of roughly $454,000 that fo­cuses on projects in four ar­eas: good gov­er­nance/rule of law; hu­man rights; free me­dia and speech; and strength­en­ing democ­racy. The com­pe­ti­tion is fierce, with only six projects get­ting funded in 2018 out of 160 ap­pli­ca­tions.

Nor­we­gian di­rect for­eign in­vest­ment is at least $12 mil­lion and climb­ing, fu­eled by re­new­able en­ergy projects in so­lar (ScaTec), wind (NBT) and hy­dropower, thanks to Ukraine’s high “green tar­iffs,” which give in­vestors a chance to be­come prof­itable more quickly.

About 60 Nor­we­gian com­pa­nies are do­ing busi­ness in Ukraine. Bi­lat­eral trade was es­ti­mated at $248 mil­lion in 2018, dom­i­nated by Nor­way's seafood ex­ports to Ukraine. Ukraine, in turn, sent agri­cul­tural prod­ucts — in­clud­ing fish food — and con­sumer items such as Fis­cher skis, among other goods. Some 2,000 Ukraini­ans are em­ployed in Nor­we­gian in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies in Ukraine.

Ad­di­tion­ally, Nor­way’s $1 tril­lion Gov­ern­ment Pen­sion Fund Global, one of the largest sov­er­eign wealth funds in the world thanks to the na­tion's abun­dance of oil, also has three eq­uity in­vest­ments — in My­ronivskyi Kh­li­bo­pro­dukt, Mriya Agro­hold­ing and Ovostar Union — in Ukraine worth $63.4 mil­lion as of Dec. 31, 2017. The fund is so large that its value amounts to $190,000 per Nor­we­gian.

Jan. 28 Oslo con­fer­ence

But the big news is yet to come.

Hor­pes­tad was in­ter­viewed on Jan. 21 in the Royal Nor­we­gian Em­bassy in Kyiv as he geared up for the Nor­we­gian-Ukrainian Busi­ness Fo­rum in Oslo. More than 325 par­tic­i­pants, al­most evenly split from both na­tions, are ex­pected to at­tend.

The event takes place on Jan. 28 and has top-level po­lit­i­cal par­tic­i­pa­tion. Nor­we­gian Prime Min­is­ter Erna Sol­berg and Ukrainian Prime Min­is­ter Volodymyr Groys­man will speak. Kyiv Mayor Vi­tali Kl­itschko will also take part.

At the con­fer­ence, Hor­pes­tad said, his coun­try will make a wel­come an­nounce­ment. "Nor­way has de­cided to step up sub­stan­tially our en­ergy co­op­er­a­tion with Ukraine this year in four ar­eas,” he said. While the amount hasn't been an­nounced yet, the in­crease is ex­pected to reach tens of mil­lions of dol­lars over a pe­riod of years in four ar­eas with the aim of help­ing Ukraine be­come more en­ergy in­de­pen­dent.

The four ar­eas are:

1. An en­ergy ef­fi­ciency ini­tia­tive in pub­lic build­ings, in­clud­ing schools, city halls and hos­pi­tals, with the Nordic En­vi­ron­ment Fi­nance Cor­po­ra­tion, or NEFCO.

2. Cor­po­rate gov­er­nance re­form of Naftogaz and other state-owned en­ter­prises in con­junc­tion with the Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment, or OECD:

3. Greater par­tic­i­pa­tion in the multi-donor ac­count with the Eu­ro­pean Bank for Re­con­struc­tion and De­vel­op­ment in fi­nanc­ing en­ergy sec­tor re­forms and the fund­ing of such in­sti­tu­tions as the Busi­ness Om­buds­man.

4. Help with boost­ing Ukraine's hy­dropower poen­tial.

Build­ing on past events

The Jan. 28 con­fer­ence, or­ga­nized by the 104-mem­ber Nor­we­gianUkrain­ian Cham­ber of Com­merce, con­tin­ues a suc­ces­sion of events and vis­its keep a bright glow over bi­lat­eral ties.

In 2015, Sol­berg came to a Kyiv busi­ness fo­rum where she spoke with then-Prime Min­is­ter Arseniy Yat­senyuk. In 2016, Poroshenko ap­peared at an Oslo fo­rum with Sol­berg. In 2018, yet an­other busi­ness con­fer­ence took place in Kyiv, along with vis­its to Ukraine by Nor­way’s for­eign min­is­ter, ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter and pres­i­dent of par­lia­ment.

Be­sides en­ergy, Nor­we­gian as­sis­tance is geared to­ward im­prov­ing rule of law, help­ing Ukraine adapt to Eu­ro­pean trade stan­dards, and hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance.

NATO mem­ber Nor­way has never wa­vered in sup­port­ing Ukraine’s sovereignt­y and ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity with eco­nomic sanc­tions against Rus­sia, whose five-year-old war has dis­mem­bered Ukraine and killed 13,000 peo­ple so far.

"All in all, the visit to Oslo will be an im­por­tant one on the back­drop of pos­i­tive eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal re­la­tions," the am­bas­sador said.

Ukrainian-speak­ing, well-trav­eled

On a per­sonal level, Hor­pes­tad — the mar­ried fa­ther of one adult son — wins high marks with his abil­ity to mas­ter Ukrainian (aided, he said, by his prior knowl­edge of Rus­sian and Pol­ish), since his ar­rival in 2016.

He has a love of sports and out­doors that comes through on his Face­book page. He is also noted for his calm tem­per­a­ment and his will­ing­ness to travel fre­quently to all cor­ners of Ukraine, also chron­i­cled in his Face­book posts.

The trav­els have given him in­sight about the state of in­fra­struc­ture and the mood in the re­gions.

“I go by plane, train and car, de­pend­ing on the des­ti­na­tion,” Hor­pes­tad said. “My ex­pe­ri­ence with the In­terCity trains is good. They are


Main eco­nomic sec­tors:

Food pro­cess­ing, ship­build­ing, ship­ping, fish­ing farm­ing, chem­i­cals, pa­per prod­ucts, met­als, tim­ber and tex­tiles Source: The World Bank, Cen­tral In­tel­li­gence Agency, In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund, State Sta­tis­tics Ser­vice of Ukraine

com­fort­able and usu­ally stick to the time sched­ule. When it comes to driv­ing, I would say that the main roads con­nect­ing the big­ger cities have im­proved a lot and are gen­er­ally good. How­ever, there is still a job to do to lift the stan­dards of re­gional and lo­cal roads. Some of the re­gional air­ports are also in need of up­grad­ing and mod­ern­iza­tion. De­cen­tral­iza­tion re­forms are help­ful, and a lot is hap­pen­ing now in the re­gions. In­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment is es­sen­tial for de­vel­op­ing the econ­omy and tourism across the coun­try.”

Chal­lenges re­main

Nor­way will keep a close watch on Ukraine's pres­i­den­tial and par­lia­men­tary elec­tions this year with the ex­pec­ta­tion of free and fair con­tests.

An­other chal­lenge for Ukraine, Hor­pes­tad said, is to “cre­ate a pre­dictable and sta­ble" busi­ness cli­mate that ap­peals to in­vestors.

Specif­i­cally, he said, this "means fight­ing cor­rup­tion, cre­at­ing an in­de­pen­dent and re­li­able court sys­tem that fol­lows Eu­ro­pean and in­ter­na­tional stan­dards. That is the ba­sic is­sue that busi­nesses point to when it comes to chal­lenges and how to move the busi­ness cli­mate for­ward."

Nor­way also looks to "the cre­ation of an in­de­pen­dent and ef­fi­cient anti-cor­rup­tion court, hope­fully now in June.” Ukraine has not pros­e­cuted or con­victed any­one for high-level cor­rup­tion since its in­de­pen­dence as a na­tion in 1991.

He said the cre­ation of UkraineIn­vest to pro­mote in­vest­ment and the Ukrainian busi­ness om­buds­man, to help in­vestors re­solve dis­putes, have been help­ful. Nor­we­gian in­vestors re­port progress, he said, but also the need for Ukraine "to keep up the pace of the struc­tural re­forms, which are nec­es­sary to move Ukraine for­ward to the goal of Eu­ro­pean in­te­gra­tion."

2019 goals



still no di­rect Kyiv-Oslo flight, lim­it­ing po­ten­tial growth in tourism between both na­tions. The most com­mon op­tions in­clude lay­overs in Latvia, Poland and Swe­den.

This year, Nor­way opens up an honorary con­sulate in Odesa. The Ukrainian cit­i­zen will rep­re­sent the Nor­we­gian gov­ern­ment in the south­ern oblasts of Odesa, Myko­laiv and Kher­son, lo­ca­tions of key Nor­we­gian busi­nesses.

In Fe­bru­ary in Ivano-Frankivsk, a Nor­we­gian film fes­ti­val will be staged with pos­si­ble stops around the coun­try, es­pe­cially Lviv, where the Univer­sity of Lviv teaches the Nor­we­gian lan­guage. Hor­pes­tad be­stowed an honor on one of the univer­sity's pro­fes­sors last year who trans­lated 50 Nor­we­gian-lan­guage books into the Ukrainian langue.

Both na­tions are also ex­plor­ing joint film projects with the his­toric Odesa Film Stu­dio.

Nor­way will also con­tinue its "Democ­racy in Schools" project in many schools na­tion­wide, in­clud­ing three in Kyiv, with cur­ricu­lum geared to­wards an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of demo­cratic val­ues as well as help with teacher train­ing.

Other pro­grams also work with Ukraine's pro­ba­tion­ary ser­vices to help ex-in­mates rein­te­grate more suc­cess­fully af­ter serv­ing prison sen­tences.

Nor­we­gian Am­bas­sador to Ukraine Ole T. Hor­pes­tad speaks with the Kyiv Post at the Nor­we­gian Em­bassy in Kyiv on Jan. 21. The Nor­we­gian-Ukrainian Busi­ness Fo­rum will take place on Jan. 28 in Oslo, Nor­way, with 325 par­tic­i­pants. Nor­we­gian Prime Min­is­ter Erna Sol­berg and Ukrainian Prime Min­is­ter Volodymyr Groys­man will speak. (Volodymyr Petrov)

Gov­ern­ment type:

North­ern Lights are pic­tured on March 9, 2018, in Utak­leiv, Nor­way, near the Lo­foten Is­lands within the Arc­tic Cir­cle. (AFP)

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