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Parliamentary Assembly Session: 26 to 30 April 2010

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Address by Viktor YANUKOVYCH, President of Ukraine

(Extract of the verbatim records)

27 April 2010

Mr YANUKOVYCH (President of Ukraine) said that it had been three years since he had last visited Strasbourg, during which time there had been many changes in Europe and in Ukraine. Despite this, European values had not changed as they were protected by the Council of Europe. The Council of Europe was the conscience of Europe and, while it was not always agreeable to listen to your conscience, it was useful.

The Council of Europe had been tasked with overcoming the worst crisis in human history, the Second World War, as a reaction to the unprecedented atrocities committed in this war. The work of the Council of Europe to ensure democracy, the rule of law and human rights had, since the war, had provided the foundations for a new Europe.

The unity achieved by the Council of Europe through its common values and standards was important. For this reason, it was hard to overestimate the importance of the role of the Council of Europe. The first 60 years of the existence of the Council of Europe had been a success story, but he believed it was capable of finding solutions to current and future problems. To this end, the report on the future of the Council of Europe aimed to continue to ensure the ambitions of the role were balanced by political will and financial resources.

Ukraine would comply with its commitments as part of the Council of Europe before it undertook the presidency in May 2011. Ukraine was conscious that its co-operation with the Council of Europe had ensured that the international community had considered the result of the 2010 election fair.

It was unclear whether the election in Ukraine in 2010 would usher in a new phase of its history or continue the previous political déjà vu. Previous administrations had made progress in terms of freedom of citizens, but had not considered the responsibility this freedom conferred on governments. Governments had been hampered by internal disputes and the lack of a strong coalition for reform.

The 2010 Ukrainian election heralded a point of departure for the country. The primary objective following the election was to strengthen democracy in Ukraine. The pluralistic nature of democracy in Ukraine had been shown by the opposition winning the previous three elections; democratic values were deeply engrained. Further progress was, however, necessary. To this end, freedom of the media should be ensured to promote access to information for all and discussion. The freedom of the media would be guaranteed and intrusions on this freedom would be investigated in the correct manner. He would ensure this was done.

On equal opportunities, no compromise could be allowed as this needed more work. Women, for example, were poorly represented in the parliament and government. This situation was improving and the number of examples of good practice could be expected to grow.

Visa free travel within the European Union for Ukrainian citizens was a key issue.

For the first time in the Ukraine it had been possible to form a responsible executive. The government, the coalition in parliament and the President were able to work together effectively. This provided the conditions necessary for internal reform, including reform of the judicial system and the removal of corruption. The judicial system would be reformed to bring it in line with the standards of the Council of Europe, and the presidential initiative had been used to put forward an urgent package of reform to this end. Further legislation would be brought forward on reform of electoral processes and on an overhaul of public administration.

Many in Ukraine, in Europe and in the Chamber itself would doubt his intention to carry out these reforms but he had been elected President to act, not to dream, and would act on his promises. It was in the national interest to move public spending away from unrealistic ideas, to restoring the reputation of Ukraine and to make progress on free trade and freedom of movement.

There was no blanket policy of mistrust in the relationship with Russia. There had been an outcry when an agreement was signed on 21 April, but the Ukrainian Parliament had ratified the agreement, and the outcry had died down. The issue was sometimes stirred up by certain political forces, but pragmatic policies would win out. The relationship with Russia was not about a return to old risks, but about new opportunities. Co-operation between the Ukraine and Russia was in everyone’s interest.

The price in the shared gas agreements for Ukraine did not mean the end of Ukrainian enterprise. Europe faced high prices, but Ukraine wanted to restore relations and negotiate the correct the price for Ukraine. Ukraine had finalised agreements with Russia.

The International Monetary Fund would not let a new agreement on lending be signed for two or three years because of the economic situation inherited from the previous government; Ukraine’s budget deficit today was higher than that of Greece. Ukraine would seek partners it could work with in an open and transparent way.

If relations continued within defined parameters, as in Brussels and Moscow, Ukraine would restore balance in its relationships. A stable and solid partnership with the European Union, Russia and the United States would be provided to broaden democracy in Ukraine in every area. Reform of the economy, the judicial system and the constitution would help to attract financial investment and restore relations with other countries. A strong Ukraine would be beneficial for the world and for the well being of Ukrainians.