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The spirit of the Orange Revolution lives on, says Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Borys Tarasyuk

 

When President Victor Yushchenko was receiving the Chatham House Prize from Her Majesty Queen Elisabeth II in London as a token of great respect for achievements of the Ukrainian nation, the last preparations to auction the huge Kryvorizhstal steel works were in full swing in Kyiv. These two seemingly unrelated events delivered a clear and powerful message both to the people of Ukraine and to its partners abroad.

Millions of Ukrainians were watching this grand sales show live on TV as if it were a fashionable Sotheby gathering. The President kept his word given in the Maydan one year ago to redress injustice following the theft of the metallurgical plant by oligarchs at a meager price. The budget was replenished by a handsome 4,8 billion US$ enabling the government to fulfill its social obligations. Most importantly, the ideals of the Orange Revolution have not been betrayed.

A special message was conveyed also by the Prime Minister to the diplomatic corps in Kyiv right after the auction. There will be no mass re-privatization. Another five to six big swindled deals might be reviewed and managed in the same transparent and competitive manner, while hoards of small and medium enterprises with foreign stakes can recline and prosper.

These are the clear rules of the game offered to all national business and foreign investors.

I rendered the above examples by means of introducing Ukraine one year after the Orange Revolution. The upheaval of widespread protest led to the establishment of a new, democratic government followed by painful testing of the best economic policies to political catharsis and finally to pragmatic everyday toil. The revolution is over, but its spirit lives on.

I will never tire of re-iterating an explicit appeal to our international partners that their enchantment by the Orange Revolution has to make room for a long term strategic interest in Ukraine.

The international allure for my country draws its strength and sustainability both from the internal and foreign policies of Ukraine.

The first glimpse of interest sparks whenever a British or US or Japanese national calls the Ukrainian Embassy to learn that he or she no longer needs a visa or any sort of invitation or hotel confirmation to enter Ukraine.

The second surprise comes upon arrival at the airport at a swift processing of passengers or, for that matter, at the absence of barbed wire at a border crossing point. The customs officers have become rather inconspicuous and easy-going.

There is a remarkable lack of annoying police patrol down the fine roads, while numerous big-boards underway advertise all sorts of national and foreign makes. The roaming of cellular phones operates smoothly suggesting that Ukraines telecommunications are also neatly integrated into the global market.

Thousands of cranes scattered around the country indicate that the construction boom is blossoming, and posh cars in Kyiv have long ago outsmarted any other world capital, though it is sometimes considered as an open affront to decency.

To be quite objective, the two detrimental elements to this overall positive picture are still unsatisfactory hotels and undeveloped country-side. Big private investments are needed to improve local services and infrastructure.

With the largely simplified procedure to be introduced for the allotment of land plots and construction sites foreign capital will find it much easier to come and stay for the amicable advantage of both sides.

Thus, establishment of one window services for the customs procedures, registration of national and foreign business entities and allotment of land parcels is meant to save precious time of entrepreneurs and to kill corruption in the bud. Overall deregulation of economy is one of the corner stones of the new authorities in their commitment to market economy.

Of course, the positive changes in economic policies could not have been made without political stability, vibrant civil society and widespread exercise of fundamental freedoms, all of which take root in the Orange Revolution.

Freedom of the media stands out high among the virtues of the new authorities. The current environment for journalist activity would have been impossible under the Kuchma administration. Throughout the last twelve months people were daily briefed on all the finesses of political life with disregard to the pulls or posts. The entire political picture has been lying flat and open on the bare palm of the reporters hand.

This unprecedented transparency and scrutiny had a double effect. First, people knew well what was going on to form an educated opinion, which will guide them during future elections. Second, their reaction to disclosed notorious facts drove the president to take specific action.

For instance, with the turnabout of the men in power 18 thousand new executive post-holders had to be appointed throughout the country. Naturally, under the given circumstances and the pressure of time a few mistakes had been made. Within a couple of months and following rising protests of the people several governors and high ranking officials in the customs service, interior and other central bodies were sacked.

This is how democracy works in a new Ukraine. This is how the people learned to defend their rights. For a genuine democracy has to be defended every day, not only during elections.

A remarkable thing about Ukrainians is that they remember about their recent past, but think about their future. They are wise to have no illusion, nor impatience about a quick miracle.

The Orange Revolution was obviously not the end but the beginning of a long process inside the country. The people realized that they can make a real difference, and they will want to feel it and to do it again and again  until they sail safely into the harbour of the European and Trans-Atlantic community. Then they will find out that the same job has to be done for others and by others as well.

With the ultimate success story of Ukraine and sooner or later it will inevitably be the case  the Orange Revolution will reverberate all around the Eastern part of the continent and, in fact, all around the globe. Freedom cannot be stopped is a universal formula that has nothing to do with the export of revolutions, but comes out of peoples hearts regardless of their race, ethnicity or religion.

This new philosophy of the primacy of fundamental rights and freedoms has been laid down into the basis of Ukraines foreign policy, together with such principles as democracy, stability and development.

With the change of the administration in Ukraine and especially recent change of the government many had wondered about the difference in our foreign policy priorities. Looking at the face of it, nothing has changed. Membership in the European Union and NATO, developing friendly relations with Russia and other neighbours and an active regional policy have been and continue to stand out at the frontline.

That is the sign of stability and consistency of the foreign policy of Ukraine.

On the other hand, a major difference is that we mean what we say. It is called credibility in politics.

Today, we reaffirm in Moscow that our strategic goal is EU and NATO membership and hear in reply that it is the sovereign right of Ukraine.

On the other hand, we re-iterate in Western capitals that we genuinely wish to maintain friendly and mutually beneficial relations with the Russian Federation, free of too much politicizing and filled with real economic substance.

Today we do not choose between West and East, between European, Euro-Atlantic integration and Russia. We are often proposed to make a choice: either  or. My answer is  both membership in the European Union and NATO and development of strategic partnership, good-neighbourly relations with the Russian Federation.

The recent visits of the North Atlantic Council to Ukraine and of Prime Minister Yury Yehanurov to Washington, the coming Ukraine  EU summit and expected visits by Prime Minister Fradkov and President Putin to Ukraine are all evidences of this integral policy.

The common interest of all parties in the triangle between the West, Ukraine and the newly independent states is to establish an area of democracy, stability and development, homogeneous with the acquis communautaires.

This is the backbone of Ukraines regional policy, whose next high level benchmark will be the Forum of the Community of Democratic Choice, to be held in Kyiv at the beginning of December.

Apart from democracy, which is a real new element in Ukraines foreign policy, we have been for many years a net contributor to European and international security and the biggest European contributor to international peace keeping operations.

Ukraines primary goal in its close neighbourhood is to help resolve the frozen conflicts. We wish these forgiven spots become safe and attractive for businesses and tourists. Ukraine is a credible partner that can make a real difference in the conflict settlement.

Our heavy-lift cargo aircraft Mriya and Ruslan are known all around the globe delivering not only UN troops, but also humanitarian freights to the countries and regions under the stress of natural calamities. Like it was the case quite recently in the wake of the earthquake in Pakistan.

But most important is, of course, a human dimension. I was deeply moved by a decision of a local Pakistani family to give a popular Ukrainian name Taras to their newly born son, whose appearance in this world was assisted by Ukrainian doctors.

Dear Readers of Welcome to Ukraine,

This issue of the magazine marks the first anniversary of the Orange Revolution, which has become a symbol of universal strive for freedom. A new wind of democratic change is blowing in many quarters of the globe. The spirit of the Orange Revolution lives on in the minds and hearts of many peoples being our common heritage and a solid basis of our common future.

 

Photos are from the Ministry

for Foreign Affairs archive

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