“Open communication with people in the street, who did not have to be invited and were just passing by was a brilliant idea.” With these words the Ambassador of the United Kingdom to Ukraine Simon SMITH evaluated the campaign “Street Eurouniversity,” launched by the Institute of World Policy.
On October 29, the IWP summarized the results of a six-month campaign, which consisted of holding lectures in the open about European integration and a themed exhibition of cartoons.
The Ambassador of the United Kingdom Simon Smith, the Ambassador of the Czech Republic Ivan Pocuch, the Ambassador of France Alain Remy, the Ambassador of the European Union Jan Tombinski, diplomats from other embassies, Ukrainian experts and political scientists toured the Ukrainian cities along with the IWP staff. During the presentation of the project’s results, organizers awarded diplomas to lecturers and mass media. In particular, Den was awarded an honorary diploma for active informational support of the “Street Eurouniversity” project.
A total of 35,000 Ukrainians visited the events of the Institute of World Policy. The IWP team traveled over 9,000 kilometers (the distance from Kyiv to Jakarta or Cape Town), visiting 13 Ukrainian oblasts and the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea.
“We faced a problem: before holding an information campaign on European integration with ordinary people, we first had to hold an enlightening campaign among Ukrainian officials,” said the chairman of the IWP Supervisory Board Viktor Shlinchak. In particular, sometimes there were difficulties with obtaining permission from the city authorities. For example, the IWP lectures were prohibited in Kharkiv. At first, they refused to give permission in Zaporizhia, but eventually they did grant it. And in Kirovohrad the authorities stepped to the side, as if saying ‘you can organize your action, but we are not giving you support, or protection, or anything else.’ And of course, we cannot forget Kyiv, where during the celebration of Europe Day, city authorities prohibited the IWP to display its cartoon exhibit “There Is a Better Side of Europe!” near the European camp. Instead, the cartoons were exhibited in Mykhailivska Square.”
The IWP director Aliona Hetmanchuk and her deputy Serhii Solodky say that Nizhyn, Kryvy Rih, and Sumy are the three pro-European cities. When deputy ambassador of the United Kingdom Martin Day arrived to Nizhyn, city residents were astonished that such prominent diplomat would visit their city and wondered where his bodyguards were. Nizhyn deputy mayor Oleh Barankov even said that after the IWP’s action, a number of the EU flags were purchased, which would be hanged out during all sorts of celebrations.
Deputy Ambassador of Sweden Morten ENBERG became a record holder among the diplomats, since he lectured in four cities: Cherkasy, Zhytomyr, Mykolaiv, and Kherson. In his commentary to Den, Enberg said that he was impressed by the numbers of people who visited the action. “Ukrainians came to not only look at the cartoons, but they also asked good specific questions about the details of the Association Agreement,” Enberg shared with Den.
In his turn, the IWP deputy director Solodky noted: it turned out during the campaign that Ukrainians have a demand for such events. “They lack communication with people who make decisions. Unfortunately, our policy-makers appear only during election campaigns, and they speak only from podium. We wanted to destroy this barrier and build bridges between ordinary people and officials. Besides, we felt that there is demand for this information and we were trying to meet it,” Solodky said.
By the way, according to Hetmanchuk, organizations in Bulgaria, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Serbia, and Macedonia became interested in the IWP’s experience in organizing Street Eurouniversity. “People also wonder, what next? We will ‘clone’ Street Eurouniversities: we are creating copies of cartoons, which we will send to centers of European information in many Ukrainian cities and which will be displayed at universities and libraries,” Hetmanchuk added.
Meanwhile, the Institute of World Policy recently had to deal with the Ukrainian Choice’s attempt to picket the IWP office. Hetmanchuk commented on this action in the following way: “I can agree with Valerii Piatnytsky, who said at our media club that everything the Ukrainian Choice makes is spam. I see them as spammers, who are very dangerous for Ukrainians that are incapable of critical analysis of a situation. For people who will at least make an attempt at critical thinking, analyze what is going on, and receive information from multiple sources, such spammers are harmless. It is very easy and simple to organize an information campaign if you have an opportunity to hang your manipulative messages on billboards all across the country instead of reaching out to people, talking to them, proving and providing arguments for your standpoint, like we do in our case of the EU information campaign.”