Kiev mayor and former heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko spoke to Courtney Fingar at March's Mipim event about the city's appeal to Western investors, and how he is hoping to set a template for the rest of Ukraine to follow.

Q: There are elections coming up in Ukraine. What do you expect will happen and how does it impact you at a city level?

A: I expect that whoever is the president of Ukraine will not change the direction of development of Ukraine: that is, a European direction, and as a democratic European country. 

We want to be part of the European family. It is very important for Ukraine to be able to defend our country [because the current situation has worked very badly for Ukraine]. We have a war in the east of Ukraine and the Crimean [annexation]. It means that countries that signed the Budapest memorandum, who guarantee independence and territorial unity of Ukraine, [are obligated] to care about that. Right now, the Budapest memorandum doesn’t work for some reason, that is why NATO is very important for us [and] for our future. That is why the direction of the development of our country will not change. 

[NB: Presidential elections were held March 31, 2019, after this interview took place. Volodymyr Zelensky won the first round with 30.24% of the vote. As no candidate received an absolute majority, a second round will be held on April 21.] 

Q: What about in Kiev? What can we expect to see in the city? How are the anti-corruption measures and streamlining of procedures and processes going?

A. Ukraine depends a lot on Kiev. It is the capital, the main city in Ukraine and right now we are enjoying very good results. We [set] a good example for the whole country. We are making all processes in our city transparent and understandable, for everyone, for every investor, and that is why I am very happy to present these numbers: 60% of the investment in Ukraine was into the capital. This is a good signal for investors, and a good signal for everybody. 

We have started negotiations with IKEA [which plans to enter the Ukrainian market with its first stores in Kiev in 2019]. H&M is also opening shops in Kiev, and many Western companies are coming to the city, because there is money, and because Kiev has huge potential. But we have to do everything we can to reach this potential. 

As mayor of Kiev, I understand that my political future depends on investors, because they bring not just the knowhow and money to the city, but also jobs, taxes for our budget and they also [affect] the development of our city and, of course, our country, because we are very strongly connected.

Q: What can we expect of your political future? Are you tempted to run for president at some point? Can we expect that next time around?

A: I have promised so much to Kiev’s citizens. Many people ask me: ‘Why don’t you run for president?’ but this would not be right from my side, from promising policies and then jumping from one position to another without [implementing] everything that I promised. 

It is my goal to set a great example for Ukraine. If I am successful, then my city will be successful. One day, I want to be able to say to every small town and every small village [that there is] exactly the same standard of living that there is in Kiev. 

It is a long-term strategy, and recently we have built 800 new homes in our city, 29 pre-schools, 12 schools and 200 new parks. People see how the city has changed, and foreign visitors to Kiev don't want to leave. Kiev is unique. As mayor I have to present my city not just in Ukraine, but around the world. That is why I am at Mipim.

This article is sourced from fDi Magazine
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