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Prime Minister of Sweden Goran Persson: Shaping our common future

 

For most of the last century, political realities kept Ukraine and Sweden apart. But my visit to Kyiv in January 2006 served as a reminder of the numerous things that keep us together. Our two countries have a fascinating common history, from the time of the Vikings to the Ukrainian independence. Today we cooperate on the basis of a shared commitment to democracy.

The orange revolution in Ukraine was a historic event. Democracy and the will of the people prevailed. It brought respect and shaped the worlds perception of Ukraine. Ukraine is soon to take the next step in consolidating democracy: the parliamentary elections in March. Democracy begins with a countrys first free and fair elections and is confirmed the second time. One person, one vote. Everyone has a say. Being able to freely cast ones vote is one of the finest inventions of democracy.

So is the right to speak ones mind. In Ukraine you enjoy a high degree of freedom of media, a prerequisite for an open society. The Government of Ukraine has launched a range of political, social, judicial and economic reforms. Such initiatives, and their full implementation, are vital. Corruption must be fought and the independence of the judiciary ensured. Transition is a complicated process. Expectations are high and resources scarce. Not everyones needs are met instantly. But the fact remains: this is a historic chance for Ukraine. A democratic and prosperous Ukraine is also important for Sweden and the rest of Europe. We support your efforts, through broad and concrete cooperation.

Developments in Ukraine will determine how that cooperation advances. But so will developments within the European Union. That is why the state of things in the EU is important for Ukraine as well. The European Union is a unique cooperation between democratic, sovereign states. It is a common market allowing free movement of goods, services, people and capital with the aim of securing sustainable growth and prosperity. It is a vehicle for democracy and stability, within and beyond its borders. It is a guarantee for peace and a community of shared values. The Unions success stems from a careful balance between national authority and common powers. We cooperate in areas where joint action is more effective than what member states can accomplish on their own. The construction of the European project can never go further than what the citizens want it to. All major steps must be endorsed by the democratically elected representatives in each member state. In recent years a new constitutional treaty has been elaborated. Partly, the treaty confirms what the EU has already done. But it also prepares the ground for the inclusion of new member states. We thus need such a treaty. Last year, referenda in two member states called the treaty into question. A period of reflection is now underway on the Unions future shape and direction. In their reflections, some set EU integration against enlargement. They argue that the Union cannot absorb new members while deepening cooperation among current ones, and that enlargement should pause. But status quo is not an option. We live in an increasingly competitive international environment. China and India might well be the worlds largest economies within a generation. The union has to grab the opportunities offered by globalisation.

There is a need for citizens to feel stability in an ever-changing global economy. People seek familiarity in the political, economic and social structures that they rely upon in their daily lives. So we need a EU that develops Europes economic strengths while maintaining a high level of social security.

To achieve that, the EU must stay open to the world. The challenge lies not in choosing between enlargement and integration. Instead, we must find the right combination of the two. Sweden has always been a leading proponent of EU enlargement. It is a policy that promotes peace and prosperity. But it also serves to inject energy into the European project as such. Enlargement is a supreme source of dynamism and future-oriented change within the Union. Moreover, the prospect of joining the EU has wide-spread, positive effects in prospective member states. The attraction of the European Community helped trigger the fall of the dictatorships in Spain, Portugal and Greece, helped transform societies in Eastern and Central Europe and now promotes reform in Croatia, Turkey and the Balkans.

The credit for these important changes of course must be given to the citizens of those countries. But such transformation would not have been likely without the appeal of EU membership. EU membership is neither about language or religion, nor a countrys size or location in Europe. What matters are the criteria set by the European Council. Democracy and respect for human rights. Rule of law. A functioning market economy. That is what the aspiring country must deliver.

Meanwhile, the EU has to do its share. It must enable continued enlargement both by improving its institutions and working methods, and by preparing the political ground. The benefits for the Union and its neighbors of enlargement are immense: a Europe of even greater peace, democracy, stability and prosperity. The popular uprisings in Ukraine and Georgia confirmed that the people of Eastern Europe share those aspirations. These revolutions called for democracy, respect for human rights, vibrant civil societies, a social market economy and welfare for all. I welcome the clear direction of Ukraines leadership takes with regard to the European Union. There is a real possibility that further EU enlargement will one day include Ukraine. To reach that goal, further reforms are needed. Such a development would be good for Ukraine, good for the European Union and good for Sweden. I also believe that focus should now be on the immediate future rather than the long-term perspective. We need to work on practical measures that will strengthen todays partnership between Ukraine and the EU. There is a wide range of areas where progress can be made, and where Sweden is willing to contribute. The European Neighbourhood Policy offers great opportunities for Ukraine to thoroughly assess the institutions and standards of the EU. The EU-Ukraine Action Plan will soon be reviewed. If the assessment is positive, the Swedish Government will encourage talks on an enhanced agreement with Ukraine. Sweden was also strongly in favour of the European Unions decision to grant Ukraine a market economy status. We work actively for Ukraines WTO accession and hope to see a decision in Ukraines favour soon. We would welcome an agreement between the EU and Ukraine on free trade and economic co-operation. There is a vast untapped potential for increased trade and investment. For Ukraine to realize its full potential as a trade nation, the reforms must continue. The Swedish Government has recently decided to double its assistance to, and develop bilateral relations with Ukraine. We now work together in areas such as control of nuclear materials, equality between women and men, environment, energy, agriculture, health care and private sector development. We also work closely on regional issues. The local conflicts in Eastern Europe are a threat to our common security. The EU and Ukraine are cooperating for a solution to the Transnistrian conflict. Together, we can assist Belarus in its movement toward democratization and modernization. We share a strong commitment to multilateral cooperation. President Yushchenko is a member of the Leaders Network in support of the United Nations reform, led by Sweden. Together, we work to achieve a more modern and effective world organization. Finally, Ukraine and Sweden share an interest in constructive relations with our common neighbor, Russia. The further development of the EURussia relationship will depend on the course Russian society takes, particularly in adhering to democratic and market economy principles.

It is in the interests of both Russia and the EU to have Ukraine as a stable and prosperous neighbour. This is no zero-sumgame. All three parties stand to gain from deeper cooperation between the EU and Ukraine, between the EU and Russia, and between Russia and Ukraine. Ukraine has lived through some rough times since gaining independence fifteen years ago. Most likely, the road ahead will not always be smooth. But the potential of Ukraine is enormous, both politically and economically. I am impressed with her achievements so far. In the midst of rapid change, the Ukrainian people are establishing the rules for their country. They are the architects of a new society! For a country with high ambitions in the spheres of social security and welfare as well as for growth and development, political and economic reforms go hand in hand.

As Prime Minister of Sweden, my goal has always been to create a society that leaves no one behind. For decades, Sweden has pursued a policy of creating inclusive welfare systems designed to stimulate work and growth as well as security for all: such is the Swedish model. Our policy aims at promoting an even distribution of income, fighting poverty, achieving equality between women and men, giving children an equal starting point in life and levelling out regional differences. Properly planned schools, health care, social services, sickness insurance, labour legislation and unemployment benefits are our tools which are financed by taxes based on the principle of solidarity, leading to redistribution between individuals and groups. Major differences between people are costly and ineffective. Leaving large groups aside creates conflicts on the labour market, and hampers an economic development that benefits everyone. On the other hand, security favours peoples ability to take initiatives, take on challenges and be creative. The Swedish example shows that there is no need to choose between equality and growth  solidarity is productive. Sweden has had a higher growth rate over the past ten years than the OECD average. We rank at the top in surveys of countries competitiveness. We carry out outstanding research and have companies which are world leaders. Underpinning this model is a basic ideological belief: Everyone is fragile at some point in time. We need each other. We will all be richer if everyone is allowed to participate and nobody is left out. We will all be stronger if there is security for everyone and not only for a few. Together we will achieve much more than we would do on our own. This is valid both for individual countries like Sweden or Ukraine, and for relations between us. We need solidarity within nations as much as between nations. Sweden and the European Union want to support Ukraine. We want to be close and constructive partners. Our vision is a Ukraine as a strong partner in a more prosperous and secure Europe. The right of the Ukrainian people to shape their own future is a precious heritage of the orange revolution. Sweden and the EU will do all they can to assist Ukraine in that undertaking.

 

Acknowledgements to the Ukrainian Daily Day

and the Embassy of Sweden in Ukraine.

Translated by the State Secretariat

of Swedish Government.

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