Last Friday Ukraine held the luncheon-conference “Where Ukraine is Heading” in Davos, within the World Economic Forum’s framework. It was the third such conference organized by Viktor Pinchuk’s Foundation and Interpipe Corporation. The Ukrainian luncheon was aimed at promoting Ukraine and help a dialogue, exchanges, and understanding between Ukraine and the world leaders. After three years this luncheon has become traditional and is getting increasingly topical. Whereas the first luncheon gathered 35 guests, this time the number was ten times that. Viktor Pinchuk, as a host, saw to it that the guests could treat themselves to traditional Ukrainian dishes like borsch and cherry dumplings.
Ukraine was represented by Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and Arsenii Yatseniuk, First Deputy Chairman of the Presidential Secretariat. Among the EU guests were Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, European Union’s Enlargement Commissioner Oli Rehn, Polish ex-President Alexander Kwasniewski, who is also a member of the Yalta European Strategy Board, former French Economy and Finance Minister Dominique Toscana. Russia was represented by Vneshtorgbank CEO Andrei Kostin; the United States, by George Soros, and ex-President Bill Clinton was present on the Internet. The luncheon also presented the Yalta European Strategy survey “Europeans & Ukraine’s Membership of the European Union” done by TNS at the end of December.
How do Ukrainian and world leaders see Ukraine’s future? What tasks the Ukrainian leadership is setting itself?
Viktor YANUKOVYCH, the prime minister of Ukraine:
“Informal meetings in Davos, in an informal atmosphere, induce to an open communication and, indisputably, bring benefit. I would like to thank for the interest, shown to Ukraine. I hope that it grows after our meeting. I want that when our activity being assessed, the progress be fixed in such spheres as: democratic development, economic reforms, European choice, and people’s welfare.
Our absolute priority is the strengthening of Ukrainian people’s democratic achievements. Today Ukraine is one of the best developed democracies within the region, and we appreciate this very much. Without open discussions of the most vital questions of the state’s political and economic agenda, its healthy development is impossible. As the head of the government, I am in favor of the dialogue in most important problems, the ideas’ competition, openness and transparency while the approval of the state decisions. I always welcome the fair criticism on the part of the mass media, healthy competitiveness between the power and opposition, the presence of a rational and effective system of restrain and counterbalance, which makes impossible the usurpation and abuse of power.
Another thing is that Ukraine is on a transition stage — from a presidential to a parliamentary-presidential republic, and the existing legal vagueness, unfortunately, leads to the appearing of certain misunderstandings. But I am convinced that this is a temporary phenomenon and in the nearest future we will be able to dot finally the i’s and cross the t’s by means of the joint efforts of all the branches of power, with full accordance to the Constitution. This is namely the reason why I give so much significance to the approval of the main law on the Cabinet of Ministers, which is finally giving an answer to the key questions — who is responsible before the people and millions of voters for the state of affairs in economy. The law, supported too by the opposition, inclines this role and this responsibility on the coalition forces, which win the elections, form the government and appoint its head. The approval of this law does not divide the power branches in Ukraine into the winners and losers. As the head of the government, I would like to assert with all the responsibility that the executive power is ready to do everything in order that the institute of presidency had a worthy and honored place in the society. Neither government, nor prime minister will ever have any possibility to substitute the president or infringe upon his commissions.
What a meaning may these changes on the political landscape have? I will answer, using the words of one of the most successful investors Warren Buffet — “We have not learned to solve difficult questions, but we have learned to avoid them.” Finally, Ukraine’s government has obtained the possibility to avoid difficult problems, which have been accelerated because the inefficiency of the political system. The strengthening of the democratic principles in the society, the final separation of the commissions between the power branches will significantly facilitate our fulfilling of other important tasks — the struggle with corruption and “shade schemes” in the economy.
The implementation of clearly transparent and understandable game rules, the strengthening of the position of small and middle business, any favoring to business is an important priority of my government. We will pass all necessary draft laws to the Verkhovna Rada, which will essentially simplify running of business in Ukraine. Today, in the industrial sector of economy of Ukraine, first of all in metallurgy, there is a transition to the modern technologies. And it demands huge investments from the large business. The owners already make and will continue to make $100 million investments. At the same time, Ukrainian government understands that the realization of modern industrial projects is impossible without an infrastructure support on the state’s part. Electric networks, roads, pipelines belong to the state property, and the state will develop them. This is namely the way we will create synergy for Ukraine’s development, state’s synergy for the large business. Modern infrastructure, along with the modern technologies, I am sure, will create the conditions for a qualitative leap of Ukrainian economy and its strategic development. The modernization of Ukraine’s economy is impossible without its integration into the world’s economic system. That is way we have put maximum efforts for the realization of a long—brewing task — Ukraine’s entry into the WTO. My government namely practically completed this long-lasting process, but we have not finished yet. I hope that we will make this finish successful up to the middle of this year. This important achievement confirms that my government will be a reliable and predictable partner for the world community.
Alexander KWASNIEWSKI, ex-President of Poland:
This meeting is a real success. I see a large and respectable audience; I think it is a positive sign that we can effectively cooperate on this level. We must keep up the good job. I address these words to you [i.e., Viktor Pinchuk — Ed.] as Chairman of the Foundation and organizer of these meetings and discussions, as an expression of my great respect.
What we have heard today is extremely important. In fact, we have needed some concrete information from Ukraine over the past couple of months, maybe the past year. Let me tell you as a friend: you know that I have been genuinely concerned about problems in Ukraine and sometimes even found myself in the midst of certain strained situations. I am trying to be the world’s most active supporter of Ukraine, but sometimes it is difficult to explain certain problems in Ukrainian politics. Today’s speech by Mr. Viktor Yanukovych and the main objectives Ukraine must reach next year are good signs. Indeed, we need this kind of concrete and accurate information about Ukraine’s intentions; we can help you, but we can’t act instead of you and Ukraine in this international policy.
Something you have mentioned should be noted: Ukraine is independent. Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty, and democracy are irreversible. They are the Ukrainian choice. Today the point in question is not whom Ukraine will have stronger ties with, but how this will look in our eyes, I mean Poland, the European Union or Russia. We must respect Ukrainian independence, the sovereign Ukrainian people, because this sovereign country is a fact, something that was demonstrated to us before and during the Orange revolution. It is a very strong awareness of the Ukrainian identity, culture, language, and so on. We in Poland can say the same thing about Ukrainians: they are our brothers. We have excellent and very dramatic pages in our joint history. Yet the first thing we must say is that we respect Ukrainian independence, sovereignty, and every decision made by the Ukrainian people. Your people has made its decision on the political system and on being closer to the European Union.
Addressing my friends in the EU, I would like to say that the time has probably come to announce that the EU doors are open for Ukraine. Indeed, there can be many technical, political, and other problems, along with discussions and debates, but I think it is very important to send this signal and make a statement to the effect that we see Ukraine as a full- fledged EU member at the end of this long process.
Of course, this takes political courage and political vision, but, in view of the arguments provided by Mr. Oli Ren, I think that there is every reason to greet Ukraine among the EU members. It is as important to say when this will happen: in several or ten years. Yet the statement I’m referring to is extremely important for Ukraine. Therefore, first, our respect for Ukrainian independence, [national] identity, and sovereignty; second, to tell them that the EU doors are open. Mind you that such a statement would in no way upset Russia’s interests. Ukraine is obviously not only a neighboring country, sister of Russia, but also one that must and can play a very important role in Europe, in strengthening ties with Russia. We, the EU, need Russia, we need the best kind of contacts with Russia. Yes, problems surface now and then. For example, we are surprised by [Moscow’s] decisions concerning Belarus, gas, and oil, but this is a different subject. We need the best kind of relations with Russia and the EU must wage a consistent policy in this direction. How Russia will respond to our aspirations is another matter. Whether Russia wants to get closer to the EU or play its own geostrategic role is a subject of further discussions.
Dr. Vaira VIKE-FREIBERGA, President of the Republic of Latvia:
Ukraine has been losing a number of opportunities. I think that the pace of reforms was not the kind the Ukrainians wanted. Mr. Prime Minister, do please make up for this; it is never too late and the political leadership of a country can set a course and carefully follow it. Various branches of power cannot be allowed to fight each other. Do please continue a dialogue between various parties, various trends of political thought. It is perfectly natural for a newly independent democratic country to show various views, priorities, and ways of reaching set goals. There can be no doubt about what will serve the good of Ukraine and its people, and the probable cost of this. There must be a national consensus of sorts. Some goals must be proclaimed on a level placing them above all political differences, so everyone can show a dedicated attitude and say, “This is the road Ukraine must follow. We will move in precisely this direction.” We moved in a certain direction in Latvia because such was the people’s will. We regard Ukraine as one of our foreign political priorities and we are prepared to share our experience. We are a smaller country and have fewer natural resources than Ukraine, but we have an experience of quick reforms. I wish you all the best. I see that you have many friends here and that many people across the world are wishing you everything the best. Therefore, please make up your mind and get to work. We are with you. We wish you well. Ukrainians deserve better than they have.