The theme chosen this year, curiously for a country at war, was happiness. The Ukrainian billionaire Viktor Pinchuk, organizer of the YES conference (Yalta European Strategy) for sixteen years, who had to migrate from Yalta to Kiev after the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014, defended itself from all naivety. After all, he said, is not the European anthem the Ode to joy ?
The pale and grave face of the first speaker, Friday, September 13, was not exactly that of happiness. Just released on a prisoner exchange with Russia, filmmaker Oleg Sentsov recounted how he had "struggled for his dignity" during his five-year detention, including 145 days of hunger strike, brandishing the pot of tea he had decorated in the colors of the Ukrainian flag and which he kept with him, from prison to prison, as a challenge to his jailers. Originally from Crimea, the filmmaker was sentenced by Moscow to twenty years of detention for "terrorism" .Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Between war and poverty, Ukraine is empty
But "happiness" does not scare President Volodymyr Zelensky, 41, elected in April at the head of Ukraine with his only acting talent as luggage. "Am I happy to be president? " He asked. Not sure. But I am happy to be the President of Ukraine. For his speech, he went looking for inspiration "on Facebook" , dabbled on Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Desperate Housewives , and ended up concluding that happiness, "it's a happy family at the dinner table » .
Absent from dinner
Unfortunately, he continued, at the dinner table of a Ukrainian family, there are empty chairs. That, first, of those who died in combat in Donbass. Then, that of emigrant workers; their mandates are certainly welcome, but "when poverty drives PhDs away to pick apples" , it's a drag on happiness. Too many people around this table want to leave, judge the president: grandparents with miserable pensions and young people who want to study elsewhere. And then there is the nephew who set up a small business but does not pay his taxes, "to the Ukrainian" .Article reserved for our subscribers Read also In Eastern Europe, demographic anxiety
Three things are therefore "fundamental" for the happiness of the Ukrainians, summed up President Zelensky: "recover our territories", "bring back our emigrants" and "defeat corruption" . For the first objective, he is counting on diplomacy, but it was good to remind, to the many foreigners present, that the sanctions against Russia remained "the most powerful weapon" : "you lose money but we are losing people . " It is "sure" that a quadripartite summit with Vladimir Putin, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel will be held at the end of September in Paris; he claims to have "several ideas" to recover the Crimea, but "it is too early to talk about it" . For the other two goals, he launches a battery of beating reforms.Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Kiev and Moscow want to see in the exchange of their prisoners a step towards peace
The contrast with his predecessor Petro Poroshenko is striking, in the style and choice of subjects mentioned, such as that of millions of emigrants. No one dares to bet on the chances of success of this president like no other. But for now, according to polls, it's as popular as the television series that made it famous, Servant of the People .
Sylvie Kauffmann (Kiev, Special Envoy)