Dear Mr. Secretary General!
Dear Members of the Assembly!
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have a really great honor to address the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe for the second time. Three years have passed since I first visited Strasbourg.
Over the years a lot has changed in Ukraine, Europe and the world. However, European values, which the Council of Europe and its Parliamentary Assembly - the political conscience of Europe - profess and defend, remain unchanged. As you know, communicating with consciences is not always easy and pleasant, but always very necessary and useful.
It would not be exaggeration to say that it is impossible to fully feel the modern spirit high humanistic traditions of Europe without visiting the Council of Europe and its Parliamentary Assembly.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Soon we will celebrate 65 years since the end of World War II. The Council of Europe from the beginning its existence has been the institution aimed at overcoming the consequences of - without exaggeration - the worst crisis of civilization in human history. The development of modern system of international human rights protection was the reaction to the unprecedented violence of that war. Democracy and rule of law, human rights and suppression of hostility between peoples and nations have become reliable foundation for building a new Europe largely due to efforts of the Council of Europe.
Achieving greater unity among countries of the continent and counteraction to the emergence of new dividing lines remain relevant tasks today. Common goals, common values and generally accepted standards are the main prerequisite for ensuring stability on the continent. In this context it is difficult to overestimate the role of the Council of Europe and its Parliamentary Assembly in shaping common European humanitarian space and creating coherent set of standards in protection of human rights.
Thus, the first 60 years of your institutions are the indisputable history of success. Will we be able to maintain and develop this success in the future? To defend the unique European identity in the globalized world?
I am convinced that preventing violation of human rights has become one of the key strategic priorities of the XXI century at national, regional and global level.
These and other issues were covered in detail in the interesting and informative report on the future of the Council of Europe, prepared by the Political Committee connection with the 60th anniversary of the organization. I like to briefly focus your attention on the 63rd paragraph of the report, which warns against attempts to use the high authority of the Assembly in attempts to achieve narrow party or national political purposes, pressure on a state, government, parliament or political party.
In general, it is very important that high and justified ambitions regarding the role and place of the Council of Europe and the Parliamentary Assembly in the future architecture of Europe were properly backed up by political will of the member states and appropriate financial resources.
Let us be honest – it is far easier to participate in the general discussion of problems. Yet, it is much harder to stand up for high European ideals and fulfill obligations on the daily basis.
As for Ukraine, I would like to emphasize from this high rostrum that we will finally fulfill our obligations before the Council of Europe before the beginning of our presidency over the organization in May 2011. The new political team will be personally taking part in the activities of the Council of Europe and bear personal responsibility for the implementation of scheduled activities.
In general, there is a consensus between Ukrainian political parties regarding the need for fruitful interaction with the Council of Europe - something extremely rare and therefore very valuable.
It is a significant result of our collaboration that presidential election of 2010 was recognized democratic and fair by the international community.
The main question, I am sure all are interested in learning the answer to – has Ukraine entered a new phase or will the political deja-vu, we are all tired of, continue.
When much was said about strengthening the rights, but responsibility was forgotten.
When significant progress in strengthening freedoms was made, but nobody thought of the liabilities.
As the result we could see a unique Ukrainian political phenomenon: the authorities were in opposition to themselves.
Similar processes were going on in the Verkhovna Rada, where the vast majority of effective voting was possible only with participation of the real opposition, i.e. the Party of Regions.
I am telling you this not to criticize my predecessors, but for you to have the opportunity to better understand the point where we have started.
How to correct this situation and what has been done? First, we must further strengthen the democracy. This will be my absolute priority.
There is no doubt that pluralistic democracy has already established in Ukraine. This, in particular, is evidenced by the fact that in the last three election campaigns the opposition won. I would like to add with pleasure that it was the political force led by me.
Whoever wins in the following elections, either the government or the opposition, it is important that the victory was won in a fair and open competition, based on the power of ideas and cogency of the results, rather than on the administrative pressure or questionable machinations.
I very much hope for the media assistance. It is free, independent media, who must ensure unimpeded access of the society to information, promote genuine discussion on the development of the country and carefully supervise actions of the government.
Unfortunately, obstruction of journalists, attempts of their intimidation and physical pressure on them still happen in our country. This is absolutely unacceptable. As President, I will guarantee freedom of the media and appropriate investigation of any facts of their oppression. More specifically, I have already given appropriate strict instructions to law enforcement officers regarding the investigation of each of the unfortunate situations that had occurred.
Strict observance of fundamental rights and freedoms will remains constantly under my personal supervision, in order to ensure equal opportunities for all. Regardless of gender, nationality or religion. There can be no compromise. We must self-critically acknowledge that we yet have things to work on. We cannot stay satisfied, in particular, with the representation of women on leading positions in the state.
Personally, I am surprised with this situation. In key areas of activity of my administration we have slightly corrected this situation and women are working on these responsible positions. They are competent professionals, experienced managers and real personalities. I am confident that this positive tendency will soon spread. I will be promoting this.
I hope for fruitful cooperation and your support in these and other issues. Specifically, in the issue of Ukrainian citizens’ free travel in Europe.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Implementation of major reforms and further strengthening of democracy in Ukraine is impossible without political stability. Finally, after all the years of independence we have managed for a short time to build a responsible and controllable chain of executive power. I can confidently say that current government team in Ukraine - the President, the Government and the Parliamentary Coalition – work consistently and effectively. Thus, we have created basic preconditions necessary for conducting domestic reforms aimed at reaching European standards in all areas of life.
First of all, it is guaranteeing the rule of law. That is not possible without eradicating corruption or implementing a comprehensive judicial reform.
The situation sometimes reaches absurd. I recently cited a flashy example, when one of the judges has held her birthday party with expensive fireworks and inviting foreign rock stars, easily spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for that.
Therefore, our ambitious goal is to elevate the justice system in Ukraine to the norms and standards of the Council of Europe. Both in terms of form and content. Important beacons here are the conclusions of the Venice Commission, in particular, on strengthening the judicial self-government.
We will positively eliminate the practice of pressure upon judicial institutions and interference into their work by all branches of government. To this end, I soon will use my right for legislative initiative and submit to the Parliament as urgent, the corresponding package of bills.
Another important step is to intensify the fight against corruption. The National Anti-Corruption Committee under my chairmanship has worked out a package of anticorruption bills that will be made active immediately upon receiving the conclusions of the Venice Commission and GRECO experts.
Establishment of the rule of law in Ukraine will undoubtedly be reinforced by improvement of the electoral legislation, which we will be doing not in the middle of an election campaign, but already now, when the election is over.
Finally, we are now at the final stage of developing program documents on reforming public administration and increasing the role of local governments.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is possible that some in this hall and probably in Ukraine are not sure whether I am really committed to major reforms, or just saying "the right" things to win people.
I would like to say the following. I was elected President to act, not to dream. So I certainly will act. I carefully think through everything that I promise, and if promise something, I always do it.
And another fundamentally important thing. I have already spoken on this subject and would like to repeat: I resist double standards. There is no position for export, and another for domestic consumption. There is only one truth, just like there is only one language that we speak in capitals of the world – the language of Ukrainian national interests.
How I see these national interests in foreign policy?
First of all, it is pragmatic understanding of the existing realities; abandoning the ideological and reality-irrelevant schemes and unnecessary confrontation; focusing to the maximum on practical results.
Finally, restoring the reputation of Ukraine as a reliable and predictable partner.
Therefore, while maintaining the value orientations, we will make certain adjustments to our foreign policy.
At the same time, in the area of security, we proceed from the notion that the non-aligned policy meets both our national interests and strengthens international confidence the best.
As to relations with Russia. I am often asked this question.
Are the distrust and suspicion that occasionally arise within the country and abroad about n Russian-Ukrainian relations justified? In particular, the heat of emotions about the signing of Kharkiv agreements on April 21?
You know that today the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine has ratified this agreement and there are no tensions about this in Ukraine; there have never been any in the society. They are warmed up by some political forces. These are implications of the five-year political war in Ukraine. But I am sure that pragmatism will win. And it won today. Meanwhile, the budget was adopted and Ukraine.
So I would like to emphasize: the relations with Russia we see as new opportunities, rather than old risks. They have value for us in themselves, but cannot determine the nature and depth of our relationship with others.
My principled stance is well known. I stand for comprehensive strategic development of mutually beneficial cooperation with Russia in all areas. The cooperation, from which will benefit the peoples of Ukraine and Russia, but also both Europe and the world. And this cooperation by definition cannot be directed against others.
This is the idea we were guided by when looking for complicated compromises on the most pressing issues for both sides.
I will not make extensive comments on the gas situation. I would just like to say one thing: the price, which had been negotiated by the Tymoshenko’s Cabinet to be active for next 10 years, was unacceptable for Ukraine. It meant death to Ukrainian companies, and they were becoming uncompetitive. This price was the highest in Europe. So we just wanted to renegotiate fair, I would say, correct prices for Ukraine. And we found this opportunity in our joint decision with Russia.
We are now at the final stage of negotiations with the International Monetary Fund, and hope that in May, the new 2-2,5-year agreement will be signed. This will of course be no easy period for us, because Ukraine inherited the ruined economy from the past government. The GDP has fallen 15%, the industrial production decreased 22%. And the budget deficit in Ukraine is no less than that in Greece.
So we certainly must look for different solutions, and I well understand that these decisions should be looked for, above all, inside Ukraine itself. But our search for partners and their support is always transparent and so it will be in the future.
If our relations with strategic partners continue to follow the scenario that we have identified during our first talks in Brussels, Moscow, and Washington, I believe we will achieve that balance of relations Ukraine is searching for in this triangle.
At the end of my speech I would like to repeat that my firm intention is to ensure the continued, strong partnership with the European Union, Russia and the United States. We will broaden the scope of democracy in Ukraine in all areas of cooperation in various fields.
By reforming the economy, judicial system and the Constitution we will prove our commitment to European values, favor investment and establishment of mutually beneficial cooperation with European partners. We will be doing this simultaneously with restoring our relations with other countries.
These objectives do not contradict each other. Strong Ukraine is beneficial for all: Europe, Russia, and the world. Democratic Ukraine means good for the world. And most importantly, it will serve the welfare of the people of Ukraine.
Dear Mr. President, all present!
I hope that trying to talk out, I did not run out of your patience. I thank you and am ready to answer your questions.