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27.4.2004 Volodymyr Lytvyn, Ukrainan parlamentin puhemies: European way of Ukraine

Volodymyr Lytvyn, Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine
April 27, 2004
European way of Ukraine

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen!

I truly consider the invitation to deliver a speech at the Foreign Policy Association "The Paasikivi Society", who are rightfully reputed to be an elite society of the Finnish intellectuals, as a token of respect toward Ukraine, its culture, history and the present-day role in the All-European house.

The incontestable public and international prestige, unchangeable in the course of years, of Juho Kusti Paasikivi - the prominent statesman and politician, twice Prime Minister and former President of Finland, impels the present-day politicians and intellectuals to be highly responsible for their deeds and responses to challenges and threats of the XXI century. The life long motto of Juho Paasikivi - Machiavelli's phrase "the wisdom originates from the acknowledgement of facts" - has been acquiring a growing importance today stressing the need for an overwhelming honesty in assessment of internal political processes and tendencies for the development of the globalized world community.

I assume that sincere and heart-felt mutual respect and confidence, that where characteristic of the historical dialogue between Ukraine and Finland along the past centuries, understanding of each other's role to be played on the geopolitical scene, especially at the crucial periods of the national history account for the emergence of a fundamental, but little known to the contemporaries, appraisal of the Ukrainian-Finnish relations: "Only then I perceived the ethnographical and historical reasons of the Ukrainians' strife for independence and understood how this must be important for Finland. The upholders of Ukraine's independence were our obvious and natural allies. If this large and wealthy country had become independent it (...) would have prompted liberation of Finland and preserved its freedom". These words belong to Herman Hummeruse who in 1918 was the first Finnish Ambassador to the Ukrainian state.

It was as far back as VII-VIII centuries when the famous trade way "from Varangians to Greeks" was established connecting Northland with Byzantium. That route, fraught with danger and difficulties, ran through the Kiev Rus - the progenitor of contemporary Ukraine. At the same time it was the way that led to mutual penetration of cultures and establishment of trade relations. Our ancient capital Kyiv is located on the crossroads of the Eastern Europe, connecting the North of the continent with the South, and the Western Europe - with the Eurasian expanses.

Ten centuries of turbulent and bloody European history have brought little changes to the original geopolitical arrangement according to which Ukraine one of the largest European nations with considerable industrial, scientific, educational and cultural potentials - is to be a connecting link among countries, peoples and civilizations.

The West-Christian (the Catholic and the Protestant), the Moslem and the Orthodox religions coexist within the confines of Ukraine. The Western part of Ukraine keeps up the memories of the Dual Monarchy with its liberal European traditions. Central and Eastern Ukraine was developed under the tyranny of the Russian Empire that have resulted in the loss of such democratic features peculiar to the Cossack Republic of XVII-XVIII centuries as institutions of selfgovernment and state autonomy.

I guess that today most of the young people in Ukraine and Finland would be surprised to learn about a historical fact that along the XIX - early XX centuries both our nations were parts of the same Empire - Russian.

Only the difference lies in the fact that from 1809 till 1917 Finland was an autonomous state within Russia having its institutions of power and strengthened national unity, while Ukraine at the same time lost the remains of its independence and was turned into a powerless province of the Tsarist Empire.

After the period of 1917-1920s the ways of our nations parted for a long time Finland established an independent national state and the Ukrainian People's Republic was crushed by the Communist regime. Only after the collapse of "the iron curtain" Ukraine and Finland drew closer in their desire to build a new Europe as the sovereign European states.

I attribute special significance to today's meeting because the EU Common Strategy on Ukraine was approved here in Helsinki in 1999. The provision of the strategy on "the opened doors of the European Union for Ukraine provided that it will meet the criteria of the EU membership that are defined by the Copenhagen Summit held in June of 1993", has become for us an imperative which for the last five years has been defining the essence, priorities and dynamics of domestic political transformations as well as Ukraine's readiness to compromise in its relations with international partners.

Having proclaimed the European strategy and European direction of its economic, military and political integration Ukraine demonstrates its growing adherence to economic, political and democratic criteria of the European Union and the Council of Europe, more decisively avoids inconsistency in its foreign policy and situational use of the Euro-integration slogans. The recent years' developments strongly testify that Ukraine has good prospects to fully meet its commitments stipulated by the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with the EU and to get a recognition by the European Union as the market economy. There is an ever-increasing understanding among politicians and ordinary people of the objective need for the European choice in order to ensure the national interests and the strategy for democratic development.

While estimating our own perspectives we proceed from the precise meaning of the primary notion of the word "integration" which is "restoring of the whole". Since the adoption of Christianity Ukraine has always been and will remain an integral part of the European space. History confirms that a significant part of Europe has ceased to be the source of military conflicts solely thanks to the integration processes in the post-war period. We have to do the same with all the European space. We consider the restoring of the European integrity with Ukraine as an integral part of the Europe politics, first and foremost, as a perspective for peaceful development of peoples and states on the continent. According to such a humanistic logic Ukraine is simply bound to become one of the next subjects of the enlargement strategy.

Among a wide range of challenges faced by Ukraine as an independent state there were two issues which were especially complex:

how to restore the European identity of Ukraine - not in geographical sense, what is obvious for everybody, but in legal, political, security and psychological aspects;

how to release from the powerful influence and international "clout" of Russia maintaining at the same time friendly and equitable relations between the two sovereign nations. I guess this problem is well known to you taking into account Finland's multi-century experience of being a part of other states.

Notwithstanding the fact that our almost thirteen years history of building an independent state was extremely difficult and ran through deep economic and psychological crises, demographic losses and political storms, today we have the right to say that Ukraine has asserted itself as an influential independent entity of international security, as a successor to the ancient state of Kiev Rus, and has proclaimed its strategic goal to accede NATO and the European Union.

To express our goal in a concise formula, we would like to see Ukraine as a part of the common Euro-Atlantic space, a prosperous democratic state living in peace, security and friendship with neighboring countries, and an influential regional actor on the European arena.

If you wish, this is our "Ukrainian dream". But on our way to this ambitious goal we have faced unprecedented difficulties which could be called the development shortcomings: here is a fierce strife of oligarchic clans for material, financial and political resources; plaguing corruption, weakness of state mechanisms, popular apathy and heavy burden of totalitarian heritage and bureaucratic practices of the past lying on the senior generation of managerial officers and impeding transformation into the European model of state.

Unfortunately, these temporary difficulties, understandable to anyone who feels knowledgeable in the state transformation processes, were turned into immanent features of Ukraine by efforts of some political circles and certain mass media: from certain time Ukraine has become "a bad news" and consequently - "a whipping boy" and an object for lecturing at some European reception-rooms.

But Ukraine is a state which is dynamically developing, learning lessons on its own mistakes and rapidly self-improving. And it is obvious that to picture the modern life of the Ukrainian society using only a black color is not enough.

I would like to share with you good news about Ukraine.

The GDP has been growing for several recent years in succession which testifies that Ukraine is being relieved from the grip of economic crisis. Starting from 2000 annual growth of the GDP constituted from 5,2 to 9,3%; in 2003 the GDP increased by 32% compared to 1999. The volume of industrial output during that period increased by 60,3%. Ukrainian exports increased almost by 70% and became the highest in Europe.

There are gradual improvements in social sector. Thus, for the last four years the wages have increased 1,6 times. In 2003 the total number of unemployed has been decreased more than by 10,4%.

For the recent years we have practically achieved a non-deficit state budget and the stability of hryvna - the national monitory unit.

One may state that the Ukrainian economy has experienced a fundamental market transformation and what is most important - there are physiological changes of the people who have renounced the post-soviet paternalistic illusions and accepted the rules of the market economy.

During the years of the state independence we have succeeded in achieving stability of the political system, in overcoming acute political confrontation between the branches of power, in affirming the legitimate opportunities to hold free and fair elections. Attention of the Verkhovna Rada, the supreme legislative body of Ukraine, is focused nowadays on the issues of making transparent the process of political decision-making, legislative provision of opposition activities, prevention of pressure upon the mass media, strengthening of civil control of the activities of public authorities, primarily - the law-enforcement bodies and armed forces. We are well aware that only systemic transformations of our domestic policies may become a clear indicator of genuine readiness of Ukraine to integrate to the European and Euro-Atlantic structures.

We strongly believe that the process of political, economic and social transformations, carried out in Ukraine to meet the Copenhagen criteria of the EU membership, will result in high democratic and social standards of life of our compatriots. From a wide range of the mentioned criteria the most significant for Ukraine are: stability of institutions safeguarding democracy; the rule of law; honoring of human rights; respect and protection of minonities' rights.

These are the major motivation of our European aspirations as well as legitimate expectations to succeed. At the same time, we are firmly convinced that both the list of the EU membership criteria as well as the standards for European integration and modernization are short of complying with the present day demands.

I believe that the Finnish politicians and intellectuals also share this view, at least they are aware of the profound nature of problems Ukraine has to deal with.

That is why, when estimating the democratic potential of Ukraine it is not right to look at our country through the glasses of Euro-scepticism and Euro-disbelief.

To halt the enlargement process of the United Europe at the Ukraine border would be hardly productive. It would have been a gross geopolitical mistake of the leaders of modem Europe and at the same time - a severe injustice to the Ukrainian people.

We perceive constructively the objective criticism being expressed by the European Council and the European Union on our behalf, and endeavor to eliminate the existing defects and to improve the democratic standards in our country. Moreover, we do not appreciate the policy of double standards being applied to Ukraine quite often.

Meanwhile, if we mention the unique experience of Ukraine, which enriched the mankind with its positive content, I would like to remind you about our decision to voluntary renounce the nuclear weapons, located on our territory. Nowadays, this unprecedented Ukraine's gesture of good will is remembered quite rarely and reluctantly. But, having eliminated the nuclear weapons on its territory, Ukraine actually removed the threat of spreading the weapons of mass destruction in Europe, in particular in the countries of the Central European region.

Therefore, making legitimate the European status of our state, that is the stage by stage accession of Ukraine to the European integration structures greatly enhances, on the one hand, the Europeans' ability to realise the cherished dream of the best humanists on the continent, in particular, the famous philosopher I.Kant, to establish an eternal peace and, on the other hand, overcoming once and for all the split of Europeans into 'friends' and 'foes' which is destructive for peace.

As you are well aware, during the April days 18 years ago a global man-caused disaster - the explosion and fire of the reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant occurred.

A radioactive Chernobyl cloud has left its deleterious marks in dozens of countries on all continents including Finland.

Probably, for the first time ever the Chernobyl has shown to the mankind - how small in size the Earth is and how illusive are the borders among the States. The Chernobyl has symbolized a reverse negative side of the globalization, the irresistible process that forcefully unifies the people via information and other networks, strengthens the interdependency of countries and economics.

We are fully aware that the globalization is an objective process giving birth to new civilization of the XXI century and it would not be serious to deny its existence or declare "Holy war" to globalization.

Nevertheless, we have to separate seeds from darnel, good from evil, constructive part of globalization opening the great perspectives for the mankind from destructive challenges working for self-destruction of our planet.

We are happy that Finland traditionally belongs to the leading nations of the World as a country, which contributes to shaping and guiding the processes of globalization.

Ukraine's participation in the processes of globalization, rated twenty fourth in Europe and forty fifth in the World, underline our potential for improvements in this sphere - and we would be delighted to adopt the Finnish experience in introducing the globalization principles and technologies into economy, policy, science and culture.

There is one more thing which is of great interest in Ukraine. This is the participation of Finland in the World Commission on the social dimension of globalization. It is symbolic that the co-chairperson of this authoritative Commission is Mrs. Tarya Halonen - the President of Finland. We share and understand the objectives of the Commission among which are the pursuit of such ways of globalization, which promote the reduction of poverty in the World, increase of economic indicators and population employment, improvement of social standards, establishment of the equity principles.

To impart the globalization with "the human face" - is there more noble purpose for politicians and public organizations, who shape a modem type of the World?

In fact, the tectonic changes in the world that followed the terrorist explosions in New York in September 2001 and in Madrid in March this year have mercilessly highlighted the planetary ills and again have reopened the old sores of fanaticism, intolerance, bloodthirstiness and violence, which seemed to have been overcome as long ago as the middle ages.

Ukraine has resolutely opposed a wave of cruelty and sufferings, resulted in terrorist attacks and threats in Europe and the USA, and therefore supports new initiatives of the European Union on strengthening the security, in particular, the mobilization of all forces to fight terrorism and prevent its manifestations. We believe that the Declaration on fighting terrorism, Strategic purposes of the European Union in fighting terrorism and the Declaration on solidarity in fighting terrorism approved by the European Council in Brussels, 25-26 March, 2004 not only improve political and legal response of the European Union to threats but also lay the basis for development of mechanisms for fighting terrorism on the continent.

We consider the idea of introducing the post of the EU coordinator on fighting terrorism as well as the separate program of EU on strengthening relations with "the third countries" in order to enhance the efforts of the EU Member States and their neighbors in fighting the common enemies as well-timed.

The contribution of Ukraine into the reinforcement of security in Balkans, the Middle East, Asia, Africa is quite significant. I mean the peacemaking contingents manned by the citizens of our country (more than 15 thousand persons) who at the risk of their life and health have acted and continue to operate in conflict areas.

Both our countries - each in its own way - are interested in strengthening the security in Iraq - the soft point of the Middle East. We hope that the decision of Finland to provide about 200 professional military men to participate in anticrisis operations including the special forces and eventual participation of your country in the creation of rapid deployment forces together with other states will promote peace, order and democratic form of government in Iraq. Efforts of Ukraine in this sphere are well known: our contribution into international coalition on fighting terrorism comprises political, diplomatic, military and humanitarian elements.

Substantial legislative and organizational work in the sphere of fighting terrorism has been currently carried out in Ukraine, in particular, the Law of Ukraine "On Fighting Terrorisin" and a special Program on Fighting Terrorism are adopted, and an Anti-Terrorist Center has been established. Since January, 2003 our state has become a party to all 12 universal anti-terrorist international legal instruments.

In this connection Ukraine expresses its high willingness to enhance the cooperation with the European Union in the field of justice and internal affairs, regulation of migration processes, including the framework of Wider Europe and New Neighborhood.

European and Trans-Atlantic security can not be limited today solely by the cooperation between the USA and EU. Moreover, speaking about the security dimension of such cooperation we should take into account the countries of the Central and Eastern Europe not belonging to NATO. Then, the problem of the full-fledged membership of Ukraine as the largest state of this European subregion inevitably emerges. In fact, democracy-oriented politicians and the public solving today's problems in conditions of globalization must bear in mind the guaranteed security for the generations to come. In this sense there is no alternative to the principle of mandatory decisions affecting common interests.

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

Ukraine welcomes the accession of new NATO members - the seven European states - which took place on April 2, 2004. We deem this fact to be one of the key moments of the All-European integration process, enlargement of the stability and security zone, establishment of the acknowledged human rights and democracy values, building of the unified European home without dividing lines. We attach great importance to the Alliance's consistent policy in implementing the open door policy which makes it possible for the other democratic European states to acquire the NATO membership, whose desire and capabilities to undertake responsibility and obligations provided for by this membership may not be ignored.

Meanwhile, we consider the 2004 Ukraine-NATO Target Plan to be a landmark. It covers the most important spheres of the state activity and includes the issues of politics, economy, security, defense, information and law, and also provides strict implementation mechanisms. Measures to be implemented by Ukraine to adapt itself to modern standards, are to be aimed at strengthening the democratic institutions and the development of civil society, ensuring the stable economic growth, reforming of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. This document is the first instrument to fix the final target of cooperation between our state and North Atlantic Alliance - to become a full-fledged member of this international structure.

The same interest leads Ukraine towards the reinforcement of the neighborhood with EU, which is clearly formulated in the Ukraine-EU Action Plan. We hope for the decision on implementation of this document to be made at the Ukraine EU Summit which is to take place at the beginning of July in the Hague and is to be headed by Netherlands. Its application will inevitably be followed by a great headway in Ukraine-EU relationship. The main point of this Plan for Ukraine is that it is to be based not on the unilateral, but on the common actions, so that it can stand as a peculiar "road-map" for Ukraine towards the Free Trade Area Agreement and subsequently - towards the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement.

Over the recent past years of its activity the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine (the Parliament) has acquired distinctive features and significance of a genuine nation-wide center of democracy and pluralism, at all times finding legal opportunities to reach consensus in conditions of acute confrontation among political parties and groups. For the first time a centrist political majority has been formed in parliament who participated in forming the coalition government. Powerful opposition forces are available on both - the left and the right wings.

A political (constitutional) reform aimed at restricting the Presidential powers, giving more powers to the Cabinet of Ministers and enhancing the role of Parliament, has evoked heated discussions in the country. This process was supposed to transform the Presidential model of republic into the Parliamentary one. Despite the desperate political strife the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine - who acted in strict compliance with its rules of procedure - fell short of supporting presently the amendments to the Constitution.

Most of the Ukrainian parliamentarians, in general, are ready to act in accordance with the EU and NATO standards. In approximating to these structures and in avowed accession to them we consistently comply with basic ideological and political criteria inherent to a European civilization. The national interest of Ukraine and its society on the thirteenth year of its independence in this respect is seen to be unchanged: forming a civil society and consolidated political nation, contributing to public awareness of irrefutability of direct dependence between the public influence on the politicians and statesmen and the economic progress.

Such view has gained an understanding and support in Ukraine in the run-up to the North Atlantic Alliance's Istanbul Summit on the part of Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the NATO Secretary General who visited Kiyv on April 19, 2004.

Dear Friends!

The Finnish proverb says "All good has its constraints". In this concise and at the same time rich common wisdom which historically happened to be the original language of culture, we see the origins of moral consciousness and figurative guiding principle for any life circumstances. Such wording is close and understandable for the Ukrainian intellectual and political elite whose representatives in the course of centuries have been strengthening the all-European cultural, religious and identity background. Thus, it is hardly correct today to edify Ukraine with regard to "the grammar of political or economic language" currently spoken in Europe. Ignoring Ukraine's contribution into the working out of both rules and laws of such grammar is fraught with the potential threat of renewal of artificial borders and "iron curtains".

I am convinced that it is in Finland, whose outstanding moments of historical development are deeply intertwined with the history of Ukraine, where the meaning of the above said is well understood. Interweaving of our destinies, one of which took place around 1120-1125, when the Prince of Kyiv Vsevolod, the grandson of legendary Volodymyr the Monomakh undertook a campaign to Finland, was also observed during the times of being part of the single Empire with the typical political oppressions and national, cultural and language-related prohibitions, and during the new turn of history - in the years 1917-1918.

At that time the policies of state independence of Finland and Ukraine was destined to be pursued by the former brother-officers - regent of Finland Karl Gustaf Mannerheim and the Ukrainian Hetman Pavlo Skoropadsky. The dynastic line of the latter, by the way, could be traced back as far as the princes' period of the Kyiv Rus.

It is highly indicative that both lieutenant-generals of the tsarist army, Knights of the Officer's Honor, Valor and Fortitude (Karl Mannerheirn favorite words "For fair deed - with pure arms" can be also fully addressed to Pavlo Skoropadsky) who were in summer 1917 in command of corps at the neighboring Romanian and South-Western fronts, were perceived by their compatriots rather controversially and even suspiciously.

Nevertheless, the Mannerheim activity era will remain forever in the history of Finland, in particular, the defensive "Mannerheim line" called after him which, after the words of field-marshal himself, was first of all "the line of Finnish soldiers".

Hetman Pavlo Skoropadsky also succeeded in creating not less memorable line in the history of the newest Ukraine - a whole range of national professional culture outposts - the Academy, University, Library, Archive, Theatre, Museum - which have outlived all political regimes and successfully performed their main historic assignment: to integrate Ukraine into the all-European religious and cultural space.

It is appropriate to mention here more recent "Paasikivi-Kekkonen line" as a wise line of conducting foreign policy between East and West which was crowned with good neighborhood with the former global power of the USSR, and above all it has managed to preserve the state independence and provided the economic prosperity to Finland.

Let these lines as symbols of national integrity and patriotism retain their significance in the course of current and future interstate relations between Ukraine and Finland. And I would like to wish the young generation of Ukrainian and Finnish intellectuals inspiration and achievements in their work in the name of the new united democratic Europe free of any dividing lines.

Thank you.