BRAMA, Mar 10, 2006, 9:30 am ET|
“Ukraine’s Foreign Policy: from the Orange revolution through the parliamentary elections and beyond”
Remarks by Ukraine's Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk
(Washington D.C., 9 March 2006)
Borys Tarasyuk (File)
Ladies and gentlemen,
I’m honored to be invited to address such a distinguish audience where so many familiar faces can be seen.
During my visits to Washington both as Foreign Minister and an opposition deputy who chaired the parliament’s European Integration Committee the subject of the European and Euro-Atlantic integration of Ukraine was a topical issue in my discussions. Noticeably, even in most challenging moments of Ukraine’s modern history, my country’s European and Euro-Atlantic prospect has never been questioned but incited a sincere interest and backing among the US political elite and American political analysts alike.
Since the dramatic events branded as the Orange Revolution Viktor Yushchenko, then the presidential candidate and now the President of Ukraine, has repeatedly stressed that the Ukrainian people, by standing up for their civil rights and freedoms in November 2004, proved to be Europeans and as Europeans deserve their place in the united Europe.
It’s commonly known that the notion of European and Euro-Atlantic integration has been a landmark of the Ukrainian foreign policy and politics for a decade. But the frank assessment of the real progress on Ukraine’s move towards NATO and EU membership made by the end of Kuchma’s tenure unmistakably leads to a blue conclusion that any mentioning of Ukraine’s European integration sparkled nothing but irritation and “fatigue syndrome” among the European politicians.
Let me briefly remind you that at the edge of the democratic breakthrough of 2004 Ukraine’s image abroad was tainted by a discredited and corrupt political leadership incapable of getting rid of foreign policy ambiguity and securing any consistency in the implementation of the strategic tasks.
Moreover the undemocratic nature of the regime and de-facto international isolation of Ukraine kept at bay any prospect of joining Western institutions.
With the Orange Revolution unleashed by the widespread electoral fraud, the pro-democracy forces were able to seize the popular mood and formulate the mainstream civilization choice of the Ukrainian people to live in a democratic, law-abiding and fair society homogenous with other European countries.
Instead of incessantly speaking about the European and Euro-Atlantic prospective that found little response from the European and NATO counterparts in the previous decade primarily due to the democratic incompatibility, the new democratic authorities articulated ambitious still clear-cut foreign policy priorities and backed them up with a trustworthy agenda and actions.
Although one year is a small period of time to draw a profound conclusions by all accounts Ukraine has made a great progress towards Euro-Atlantic and European integration.
First of all, by actively engaging into the implementation the Ukraine-EU Action Plan we were able to melt down major fences between Ukraine and the rest of Europe. This Action Plan was instrumental in helping Ukraine to push economic and democratic reforms forward. As a result Ukraine was graduated to a market economy status and is fully committed to building on this success.
Our expectations are to kick start in the nearest future the negotiations with the EU on association agreement as well as on Free Trade Area. Pending the assessment of the implementation of the Ukraine-EU Action Plan, the Government of Ukraine is making its mind as to submission of the EU membership application.
As far as joining the NATO is concerned, launching and successfully implementing the Intensified Dialogue on Membership is not a lesser achievement. The Intensified Dialogue on membership and reforms issues brought us into the formal stream of preparation to NATO membership.
We are pleased to note that each of the Alliance members recognizes the legitimacy of Ukraine’s NATO aspirations. We believe that the goal of getting the invitation to NATO at the 2008 Summit is within the reach.
At this point I am aware of the need to address the widespread concerns in the West over implications that the electoral outcomes of Ukraine’s parliamentary campaign could have on the coherent foreign policy against the backdrop of the Constitutional reform.
Although the ongoing parliamentary campaign is heavily charged with the foreign policy component, primarily with NATO accession, as was the last presidential campaign, it is clearly a point of no return in the heated debate over national strategic priorities.
One should not be tricked by the fact that some political forces and especially the out-of-mainstream parties, which enjoy a tiny public backing, gamble on NATO and Russia-related issues as they lack any trustworthy vision of the foreign policy priorities.
By abusing the remnants of the existing phobias and ignorance that root back into the Soviet-era indoctrination and brain-washing practice, these political players aim at winning the constituency support while not giving up the efforts to torpedo the democratic choice of the Ukrainian people. By the way, to address this challenge the Government of Ukraine appropriated in 2006, for the first time ever since the NATO membership clause was inserted into the national military doctrine, funds to run a NATO awareness targeted campaign.
On the other hand there is no ground to deny that the freedom of speech is flourishing in Ukraine. The opposition leaders and the harshest critics of the democratic government are the first to grasp these new opportunities to assail the media space and the constituency with the ideas which sometimes are lethal for democracy. The media themselves are no longer the target of influence by the government or political forces supportive of it. This level of freedom of speech wasn’t dreamed of just a year ago.
We have a transparent and fair political competition as no political force or opposition leader is harassed or persecuted by either law-enforcement or any other governmental agency on the basis of their political affiliations or ideologies. No wonder Ukraine was upgraded by renowned Freedom House in its annually Freedom in the World 2006 report from “partly free” to “free” country since both political right and civil liberties ratings improved significantly.
The President and the Government of Ukraine are aware that the upcoming parliamentary elections will be a test for Ukraine’s democratic compatibility with the united Europe and the Euro-Atlantic community, and its integration ambitions will be assessed by the democratic world through the ability to secure transparent, free and fair campaign.
We are confident that the pro-democracy forces will gain a clear majority in the future parliament.
Despite the fragmentation between the pro-democracy political parties their combined approval rating has even slightly grown. There should be no doubts that the pro-democracy parties are capable of bridging their differences and restoring the Orange coalition.
With the elections to be held in two-week time the consensus on the key principles and priorities of the future government have already been worked out and agreed upon by the pro-democracy parties that will have a legislative representation.
Besides let it be no place for argument that with the Constitutional changes taking effect upon new Cabinet formation the President still keeps exclusive powers to articulate the foreign policy and secure the consistency of its implementation. The President will remain an active player in the Cabinet-forming process as the nominees for the posts of Foreign and Defense Ministers are submitted at his discretion.
In my already not-so-brief speech there is an obvious necessity that an assessment of the current Ukrainian-Russian relations be given as they will have repercussions on Ukraine’s European and Euro-Atlantic strategy and integration pace.
Still the bilateral relations are not problem free shifting the dialogue into the dimension of equal relations should be considered a milestone achievement. On the other hand two countries managed to return to the process of seeking genuine solutions to long-awaiting problems of the Black Sea Fleet stationing in the territory of Ukraine, delimitation of the Azov and Black seas etc. A significant progress has been made on loosening the procedures of crossing the border by the Ukrainian and Russian nationals.
When speaking on the Ukrainian-Russian relations one cannot avoid touching upon acute questions. The energy dispute with Russia has made international and domestic headlines for a couple of months. Although the agreement hammered on January 4 might not be the better option for Ukraine and is not of our choice it still reflects to some extend the balance of interests. Ukraine’s economy got an acceptable gas prices that allow to mitigate the negative impact on its performance.
With Ukraine securing tariffs on transit and its reliability we expect that Russia provide in exchange guarantees that the gas price and the volumes of gas that is pumped through the Ukrainian transit system will remain unchangeable for the agreed period of time.
The scheme of energy supply is far from transparent by the Western standards. Still with all economic and political factors taken into account there was no other option or choice but to abolish previous barter schemes that fed the corruption both in Ukraine and Russia and set up new mechanisms which better suit market economy transformations. Although Ukraine’s approach was legally strong and we have no little doubt our country would have won the lawsuit in Stockholm court in practical terms the Ukrainian economy would be hit severely as would be to some extent the European economies. As a reliable partner Ukraine decided that it would be wise to hammer a compromise that benefits both our country and Europe.
We are very optimistic about the prospect of further enhancing our relations with the United States, that have never been better than as of today.
Eager to rediscover the meaning of the genuine strategic partnership, the new Ukrainian authorities and the United States have been able just in one year to get rid of the bulk of problems that have been blemishing our relationship for ages. The frank discussion and true political will to find solutions to long-awaiting domestic, bilateral and international issues are back to the Ukrainian-American dialogue. The democratic Government of Ukraine has proved to do what it says and says exactly what it means not leaving any room for ambiguity or misinterpretation.
I’m happy to say that Ukraine has strictly lived up to its commitments under Yuschenko-Bush Joint Statement of April 2005 as has the United States. Ukraine’s steadily improving economic performance and the robust market transformations were recognized by the United States by upgrading Ukraine to the market economy status. My country is one step closer to achieving the WTO membership after Ukraine and the United States successfully completed negotiations on market access on March 6, 2006. As recently as yesterday the Congress abolished the Cold War relic of the Jackson-Vanik amendment, a measure that grants normal trade relations treatment to Ukraine.
As Ukraine is seen as an outpost of democracy in the post-Soviet space and beyond it we stand firmly for freedom, human rights and liberties. With that said let it be no doubt that Ukraine will remain a committed partner to the United States in promoting these shared values.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As the Orange Revolution created pre-requisites to develop the nation and society, Ukraine is going through the historic moment in its development. We have the unique chance to make true this historic dream of generations of Ukrainians to re-integrate our country into the Euro-Atlantic family of democratic nations.
I thank you.
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