BRAMA, Sep 29, 2005, 1:00 am ET|
Address of H.E. Mr. Borys Tarasyuk, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine at Columbia University
Ukraine in the world after the Orange Revolution
New York, 21 September 2005
Foreign Minister of Ukraine
These days during the United Nations Summit, New York really became the "capital of the whole world".
And I felt that without our meeting here at Columbia University, my mission in New York and in the United States would be incomplete.
I'm very grateful to you for this honor [inaudible] to speak about Ukraine and to discuss about Ukraine.
Before coming to the main points of my [inaudible] into the past, present and future of Ukraine, let me thank all participants of the Ukrainian Studies Program and personally you, Mark [Professor Mark von Hagen, Director of the International Studies] for your outstanding activity, for your dedicated work.
Your role in promoting interest for Ukraine and Ukrainian scholarship among international intellectual elite can hardly be overestimated.
I would like to express my special gratitude to all those at Columbia who demonstrated solidarity with the Ukrainian people last November and December.
I was deeply moved by statements made by the members of the Bureau of the International Association of Ukrainian Studies in support of democracy in Ukraine.
Indeed, during those historic days a major frontline in the international struggle for democracy ran through Ukraine, where citizens stood up to defend freedom of expression and elections.
Cornerstones of democracy, public activity, and academic life.
Since my last lecture at your University we have witnessed significant developments across the globe and even more dramatic changes in Ukraine.
Today I would like to share with you my reflections on Ukraine in the world after the Orange Revolution.
I count on an open discussion, a thought-provoking discussion afterwards.
When President Victor Yushchenko and myself visited the United States last March and April, the echo of the Orange revolution was still reverberating across the Atlantic wielding enchantment and applause all around the world.
Today, some people in Ukraine and beyond claim that its color is fading out especially with the recent resignation of the government.
Allow me to disagree with this opinion.
In order to give you an integral picture of how the things are moving on in Ukraine, let me describe it by tracking down the ontology of three basic prerequisites for mature governance and a vibrant civil society.
Those are democracy, stability and development.
When we look back at the Soviet system, only one of the mentioned elements was fully in place or rather omnipresent.
That is, stability.
Stability of the totalitarian regime inside the country and stability of geopolitical balance in global affairs.
The only outlet of human emotions used to be kitchen whispers and political anecdotes.
The paradox and incongruity of Soviet life was in having one of the most democratic constitutions on paper and political prisoners in Gulag.
Under such stringent circumstances it was no wonder that perestroika led to chaos in the streets and in the minds of the people.
Sudden change of the rules of the game had taken people by surprise.
Abundant exercise of the freedom of speech lived next to increased violence, bitter disillusionment and extreme pauperization.
As people used to joke, the leash was made three meters longer, but their plate of soup was removed five meters further away.
The first couple of years of independence Ukrainians enjoyed most of the democratic rights and freedoms.
Regretfully, they were not accompanied by effective economic reforms and a stable financial system.
Civil society was still in the bud reacting only sporadically to frequent injustices of the authorities.
Later on, even little victories of democracy in Ukraine were beginning to lose the ground.
Year after year the fundamental rights and freedoms were being curbed and framed.
In the last decade Ukraine and until now in some of the post-Soviet countries a shameful phenomenon has been flourishing, which is named the so called guided, controlled or manageable democracy.
This subtle form of total control is no less abhorrent, because it is usually exercised with a very democratic rhetoric.
That was the time of notorious temniki or prescriptions to journalists by the authorities how to cover or ignore important public events.
The problem was not so much with those little pieces of advice.
Problems came to those courageous few who refused to follow that advice.
Losing job was not the worst option, as we learned from the stories of killed journalists like Georgiy Gongadze.
Professional journalism was discredited.
On the eve of the last year presidential elections the highest ever level of people`s mistrust was registered towards anything they read in papers or saw on TV.
Things went even worse with members of the opposition who used to suffer tremendous pressure and obstruction of activities.
As former member of the opposition I speak of my own experience.
FM Borys Tarasyuk answers questions. Photo left, Consul General Serhiy Pohoreltsev.
That policy of intolerance, brutality and omnipresent "guidance" flourished against the background of loud, hollow declarations about European integration of Ukraine.
During the former regime there was a convenient concept invented by its henchmen that democracy and stability cannot be married.
People were made scared by apocalyptic images of chaos and violence that would sweep the country if they only dared to protest or even express their alternative opinion.
The words peace and stability [inaudible] were reiterated by the authorities as a magic formula to shield themselves from the society.
The people and especially a younger generation knew well the true value of those messages.
They used to call that kind of peace and stability as a cemetery.
Now, after the Orange Revolution, democracy and especially its basic ingredient, freedom of expression and assembly, has become the undeniable asset of all Ukrainians.
The media has probably an unprecedented carte blanche in covering whatever they like and about whoever they like.
Maybe even more so than in other European countries and here in the United States.
Nobody tells them how to do their job.
Political opposition appears on the air on an every day basis commenting all the steps of the new authorities.
NGOs are no longer called the loan eaters and spies of the West, but develop and increase their activity.
The rule of law is another cornerstone of the present policy in Ukraine.
Any allegations of corruption or abuse of power have to go through investigation, if need be prosecution, and to court.
A wise though not popular decision was to significantly increase salaries for judges and civil servants as a whole as a prevention measure against corruption.
What is more important, people themselves have become much more active and keen not only in general, but also in local politics.
They would no longer tolerate of inaction of local bureaucracy or brutality of the police.
In fact, many of the civil servants who used to take advantage of the people are now afraid to shout at people or to refuse considering an application.
Because they know that in a few hours they could be encircled by several hundreds of people and ultimately be sacked.
This is what happens, for example, in the case of building new apartments in the city of Kyiv.
There is a real construction boom currently in our capital, and many such projects emerge without proper substantiation or even legal permits.
After weeks of protesting by the local population some of these projects had to be stopped.
I consider these little examples of local democracy as no less important than the colossal effect of the revolutionary Maidan.
Because they mean emergence of a long lasting and genuine civil society.
Now, let us take a look at the stability issue in new Ukraine.
We had a very fresh example of what happened in national economy after the resignation of the government two weeks ago.
In fact, nothing happened.
All the TV channels and papers cried out wild about acute political crisis, split of the Orange team, high treason and betrayal of the ideals of the Orange Revolution and what not.
And this is normal.
Free media is part of a genuine democracy.
But economy, the fiscal and monetary systems and the stock exchange don't mind these events and continue to run smoothly.
In the meantime the national currency went cheaper by 5 kopiykas against dollar, or by 1 cent.
And experts are not even sure whether this ridiculous depreciation was or was not the result of the government leave.
Economy in general has rather slowed down in Europe and in Ukraine.
In particular, due to unfavourable export environment and still insufficient influx of foreign investment.
Another difficulty is posed by embezzlement and warped statistics performed by the old government.
Personally, I sometimes despair to try comparing economic statistics over the last couple of years, because different sources give totally different figures.
Anyway, current stability in the country is far from the infamous cemetery stability of the past.
It is based on the belief of many of my compatriots that there will not be and can not be any return to the old days.
No matter how many governments, parliaments or presidents will change in Ukraine, no matter what the actual personalities will be, any current and future post holders will have to live up to the people and their legitimate demands.
Finally, when speaking of internal politics, I wish to highlight the issue of development in today's Ukraine, by which I mean optimism of the people, and their own direct investment into the future.
The first point having direct relevance to development is the draft budget for the year 2006.
As you may have heard, the budget for the current year is overloaded with miscellaneous social programs, which hang heavily on the expenditures.
The government could not have done otherwise than to support the least protected strata of the population.
It was a compelling decision also bearing in mind the pre-election promises and tricks of the old government.
Now, the President is fully conscious that this kind of socialist budget and protection was needed in the time of high post-election expectations, but it is totally ineffective in the long-term policies.
Therefore, the priorities for the years to come will be development, more emphasis on small and medium-size enterprises, further liberalization of markets.
More incentives for the economy by fiscal and monetary means will certainly pay off in the form of general growth and bigger tax revenues.
More importantly, there are evident signs of optimism in people's minds as well.
For the first time in the entire 14 years we have had increase of birth rate in the 9 months of this year compared to the same period of last year.
The surplus is modest, so far 40 thousand, but it is rather indicative.
If this baby boom trend prevails, in a few years of time we may change the current negative ratio of births versus deaths and thus reverse the decline of the population in Ukraine.
In the last couple of months, the streets of Kyiv have been decorated by ingenious big boards telling the onlookers the following text.
And I quote, "Ukraine is short of Nobel prize winners, of soccer players, or astronauts.
So people, get together and make love!" [inaudible] to give birth to the new generation of talented Ukrainians.
Another example of the feeling of stability and perspective in the society is a wide spread practice of many companies to sell their commercial items with payments obligations stretching over 12 or even more months and with zero interest rates.
That means that the companies do not fear any significant inflation in the coming years.
I have endeavored to give you a picture of Ukraine as it can be perceived by any inquisitive intellectual living inside the country.
This picture is increasingly reflected also in international media describing my homeland to the world after the Orange Revolution.
My story would be incomplete, should I miss a few key points in Ukraine's foreign policy.
Let me follow the same pattern of democracy, stability and development.
I will begin with the second element.
With the change of the administration in Ukraine many had wondered about the difference in our foreign policy priorities.
Looking at the face of it, nothing has changed.
Membership in the European Union and NATO, developing friendly relations with Russia and other neighbors, and an active regional policy have been and continue to stand out at the frontline.
That is the sign of stability and consistency of the foreign policy of Ukraine.
On the other hand, a major difference is that we mean what we say.
It is called credibility in politics.
The former authorities swore in Washington and Brussels that they see Ukraine in the European and Euro-Atlantic community of democratic nations.
At the same time, Moscow knew better penetrating Ukraine and buying out the strategic property all around Ukraine upon tacit approval of the previous discredited regime.
Today, we reaffirm in Moscow that our strategic goal is EU and NATO membership, and hear in reply that it is the sovereign right of Ukraine.
On the other hand, we reiterate in Western capitals that we genuinely wish to maintain friendly and mutually beneficial relations with the Russian Federation, free of too much politicizing and filled with real economic substance.
Another picture of stability in Ukraine's foreign policy.
For its foreign policy, Ukraine is a net contributor to the peace, security, and stability, not only in Europe but in many other parts of the world by participating actively in peacekeeping operations.
Being number one contributor in terms of number of forces to the peacekeeping operations among all European nations.
As for democracy as a new element in Ukraine's foreign policy, I have repeatedly elucidated this point on many occasions.
After the Maidan it would be only too natural to make a special emphasis on the issues, which are present regularly on the U.S.
State Department or the European Union agenda.
I mean human rights, the rule of law, protection and promotion of democracy at least in our immediate neighbourhood.
We have changed our voting in the UN Commission on Human Rights, for the first time since independence aligning ourselves with the position of the acknowledged democracies.
Since last May Ukraine aligned itself to almost a hundred EU statements including those relevant to democracy.
In this respect there was a typical reaction from some quarters raising heck about the position of Ukraine.
It was not so much the language that bothered one of the countries in question, but a simple fact that these democracy statements came from Ukraine.
Finally, I will briefly touch upon the development component in Ukraine`s foreign policy.
It is a well known fact and usual practice that many of Central and Eastern European states when preparing for the EU and NATO membership received financial and technical assistance from those organizations.
Or many development countries received loans from International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to help reform their economies.
Ukraine continues its cooperation with leading international financial institutions.
However, we decided against the old borrowings.
Instead, Ukraine launched cooperation with the European Investment Bank.
We have its proposal for 250 million Euros under very small interest rates, in fact the lowest possible.
But what is most important, and that is the main point I wish to deliver, is that Ukraine for the first time contemplates extending financial and technical assistance to other countries by establishing Agency for Technical Assistance.
By the way, yesterday, Ukrainian heavy lift aircraft Antonov-124 or Ruslan has delivered a humanitarian cargo to Little Rock in Arkansas.
And this was done at the expense of Ukrainian government and Ukrainian people.
Of course, the envisaged resources will be rather modest.
However, the very fact of transformation from a recipient into a donor country may have a significant positive impact on our foreign policy objectives in a more distant future.
I have come to the end of my presentation, and I wish to leave more time for our dialogue.
Allow me to make just one last conclusion about my country and my people.
Despite recent turmoil in internal political life, it will not set us back.
After all, there are some European countries where governments change every year.
After standing in the Maidan for 17 days, I have full confidence in my people.
We have come beyond the point of no return.
There will be no return to the old times.
The people gradually learned to raise their voice not only during the elections, but also in between.
Their resolve and experience is the best guarantee of a prosperous, stable and democratic development of Ukraine.
I thank you for your attention.
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