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President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko’s address to the World Forum of Ukrainians
The 4th World Forum of Ukrainians was held in the city of Kyiv in August 2006. Over 3,500 people took part in the work of the Forum, with over 1,500 delegates and guests from 43 countries of the world among them. Dmytro Pavlychko was elected the new head of the Ukrainian World Coordinating Council. Among the prominent public figures who addressed the Forum were Borys Tarasyuk, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, and Askold Lozynsky, President of the Ukrainian World Congress. At the opening ceremony of the Forum spoke President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko.
Excerpts from his speech are presented below.
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Forum starts its work shortly before Ukraine celebrates the 15th anniversary of its independence. Among all the achievements of the Ukrainians I want to name three most important ones.
First. Proclamation of independence in 1991.
Second. Formation of full-fledged state institutions and embarking upon the European and North Atlantic course of the Ukrainian nation.
Third. Upsurge of civil consciousness and the democratic victory of Ukrainian society in 2004.
From my point of view, these achievements lie in the foundation of today’s Ukraine. They serve as a proof of that most important fact that Ukraine has become fully established and unshakable.
I would like to cite some figures so that everyone in this hall feels pride in Ukraine. May you have wings to carry the faith and strength to those Ukrainian communities which you represent. Probably, it will be an economist in me that will take the upper hand for several minutes — I bring my apologies. But these figures reflect the state of the Ukrainian nation.
Last month, Ukraine’s gross domestic product has grown by 9.3 percent. Do you know of many countries, even those who have enough natural gas and crude oil that would have the same rates of growth? At the end of the year, Ukraine’s GDP growth will be around 7 percent, and that makes it one of the best GDP growth rates in Europe.
Talking about the budget I can say that in 2005 the amount of budget revenues grew by 53 percent compared with the year 2004. What do you think made it possible? Great economic growth? No — the main factor was making the economy transparent. Business began to come into the open from the shade — and in that shade were 54 percent of Ukraine’s national economy.
This year the growth of the national budget constitutes 18 percent compared to the last year’s figures.
The salaries and wages in Ukraine grew by 34 percent last year and by 31 percent in the first six months of this year. How has it been achieved? Thanks to the getting the economic processes out of the shade.
As far as the prices are concerned, we have the inflation of prices that constitutes 2.8 percent. Do you know a country where the inflation is lower? If you do, raise your hands, please. Is it lower in Russia, or Belarus, or Moldova, or Poland? No it is not. Inflation in Ukraine is at the average European level, and that’s a fact.
And if you want to hear how the average Ukrainian lives, but not in terms of salaries or prices, but in real earnings, then I can tell you that last year the real earnings of the average Ukrainian citizen increased by 24 percent. It’s a very considerable growth.
I should also mention that last year Ukraine received 7.8 billion US dollars in investments. It is more than Poland got last year. This year, per capita growth of investments rose from 186 US dollars to 390 dollars.
What is it then that Ukraine needs? Most of all it needs a political stability.
A question arises the answer to which depends not only on the president but on everyone of you. Which should be the choice that Ukraine must take?
The basis of a decision to be taken is a simple one. At the last parliamentary elections 8 million Ukrainians voted for one block of political forces, and 8.6 million voted for a different one. Ukraine, according to the results of this voting, has been spilt. So what should be done in a political sense? We have a choice between two roads to follow and to make a choice of this kind is not difficult for any intelligent person.
If we take one road, contradictions and uncertainty will remain and can last for several years. I’d like to remind you of the tendencies that began to emerge when the investments shrank by 4.8 times and Ukraine’s GDP growth was only 1.6 percent. If the situation remained unchanged, it would lead to the collapse, and then we would have to talk not about the humanitarian policies, not about the Ukrainian language or the Ukrainian church — we would be talking about problems with pensions, salaries and inflation. We could make that choice, but it would not be my choice.
That is why, my friends, we should opt for a different variant of development. Shouldn’t the Ukrainians sit down at the table of negotiations?
On the basis of what should we be looking for mutual understanding?
We insist that understanding must be based only on the fundamental things, conceptual for the Ukrainian nation. What are those things?
Firstly, it’s the sobornist (a complex term — conciliation, unity and universal values — tr.) of the Ukrainian nation. We should heal the disease of federalism that has begun to infiltrate in the Ukrainian politics. Federalism is not what we stand for, it is not the Ukrainian choice. And the idea of federalism has been introduced not by miners, or workers — it has been introduced into the Ukrainian politics by the politicians. It’s a concept of the political category, and now the politicians have to deal with it.
Then, it is the controversial issue of the Ukrainian language.
When we talk about the development of the Ukrainian language, I reject challenging statements that claim that the Ukrainian language is developing in Ukraine at the expense of other languages. It is absolutely wrong. The Ukrainian language is developing as the mother tongue, as the state language of Ukraine and not at the expense of Greek, Hebrew or Russian. If we do not preserve our language, it will be the end of the Ukrainian nation.
But we live in an open world and I am sure that any representative of any nation in the world could say the same about their own language and fate of their nation.
Every person wants to see their children raised in the atmosphere and traditions in which they themselves lived, and which they would want to pass on to their children. That is why we should be talking about the development of the Ukrainian language as the state and the official language which is used throughout the whole territory of Ukraine. It is our key task to maintain such status of the Ukrainian language; it’s an evident task of our policies in the humanities.
At the same time we insist that this policy must not lead to any infringement upon the rights of any ethnic minority in using their native languages. It is the European right which has become ours too since the time we established our statehood.
I respect the right of every person to choose their own spiritual road, but talking from the point of view of the Ukrainian national positions I, as an Orthodox Christian, feel pained when I see the discord that exists among the Orthodox Christian Churches of Ukraine.
Our strategic direction of integration is towards the European Union and European market. This market extends right to the borders of Ukraine. Its potential is seven times greater than that of the eastern market. What should we do to make our presence there not at 21 percent but at least 55 percent as it is the case with Ukraine’s presence at the market of Russia? We should talk about the status of the market economy in our relations with the EU, the USA, about the zone of free trade, about the WTO — these are the goals to achieve this year. We have signed more than 40 bilateral protocols, in which we determined the principles of mutual trade.
Our strategic economic goal — integration into the European market. It is not a simple task and it cannot be solved in one year. But if we are talking about joining the WTO now, in several years we shall be talking about joining the European Union. But if today we are not going to talk about the status of the Ukrainian market economy, about the zone of free trade with EU countries, then we shall have to postpone joining the EU for a long time.
In May, last year, we stopped requiring entrance visas for the citizens of the EU countries. Then we did the same for the citizens of the USA, Canada and Japan. It was not an easy political or technical decision. We lost dozens of millions of dollars of revenues to the diplomatic treasury but we had a big increase — two and a half times — in the number of people who visited Ukraine in the last twelve months.
In my own plan of further actions, in my own road map, the political consolidation of the Ukrainian nation is the first stage in the work of all the branches of government, of political and public organizations.
We need one unified cultural space in Ukraine which is based on the Ukrainian national identity and extends from Donetsk to Lviv, from Chernihiv to Sevastopol; it is also based on the principles of regional mutual support, on tolerance in attitudes towards the cultural and language needs of the ethnic minorities.
Regional differences in Ukraine should be tactfully and wisely used for the benefit of the general Ukrainian cause. The way I see it, thanks to the efforts of Ukrainian professionals, regardless of their political affiliations, the third stage in our development will come — Ukraine will really be established as a European state which was founded by the Ukrainian nation, which has been built up by the Ukrainian people, and which is confident that it will live in accordance with the principle of “a free nation in a free country.”
The democratic development and protection of human rights lie at the starting point of all the Ukrainian processes; these things stand above any political negotiations or agreements.
At the same time I’d like to say that we have great problems with establishing the judiciary branch of government, with the law enforcement bodies. For many years, criminalization in them has been the greatest. They were “umbrellas” for those businesses which were conducted in related spheres. That’s a fact of our life.
That is why when we talk about combating corruption, we turn for help to the EU, to the USA — I am prepared to support any public initiative. Ukraine needs your help, dear friends.
Sobornist and unitary condition of Ukraine have been achieved thanks to the great efforts of parents and grandparents who spilled their blood for it. But we live in a country in which not a single metre of the border has been delimitated. And when we talk about relations with the neighbouring countries, I put this task before the Ministry for Foreign Affairs as a high priority — establishment and demarcation of the Ukrainian territory. We are doing this work jointly with the Russian Federation, Belarus, Moldova, Rumania and other countries.
I want to emphasize that there is no alternative to the Ukrainian language as the state language and the language of conduction of official business. The Ukrainian political establishment has accepted this status as inviolate.
The leading political forces have come to an agreement that the process of consolidation of the churches must proceed in the atmosphere of tolerance, with a clear understanding that the state cannot be indifferent to its nation-building character. According to the recently held sociological surveys, the idea of creating the unified Ukrainian Orthodox Church is supported by 50 percent of the Ukrainian population, and only 11 percent have a negative attitude to it.
Not a single responsible political force in Ukraine has doubts about the general strategic course of Ukraine in its foreign policy. A clear agreement has been reached that this course cannot be altered.
Reconciliation between the veterans of the Red Army and of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army and OUN — they should shake each other hands. We should not pass this problem to the next generation. I know that for many, such reconciliation is a very difficult thing to accept… But let’s look at the history of other countries. Why did the Spaniards who fought on the two opposite sides of the barricades achieve such reconciliation? We did forgive the Germans and other nations — but cannot forgive each other? I am convinced that for the Spaniards who once fought against each other the guiding principle was — reconciliation in the name of Spain.
Our veterans must find reconciliation for the sake of Ukraine — it will be another step towards consolidation of our nation.
I insisted that these and other things be included in the political documents in general and in particular in the Universal of National Unity which was signed in Kyiv on August 3 2006. I consider the Universal to be a document of a great political importance. The political forces supported this document though it was not an easy decision to reach. They realized that the policy of confrontation had no future. I realize that the reaction of Ukrainian society and of the Ukrainian communities all over the world to such controversial events as the parliamentary crisis and the formation of the new government of Ukraine was complex and equivocal.
We had a choice — either to go on reacting emotionally, to violate the Constitution and break the law, to revise the results of the elections which were recognized and accepted by everyone, or to be democrats to the end. I am convinced that the emotions will subside. The main thing is that I have made not a single step that could lead to the violation of the Constitution or to breaking the law.
I am convinced that deeds are much more important than words. The foreign and domestic policies of Ukraine will be pursued along the lines that are fixed and guaranteed. Former opponents among the leading political forces of Ukraine opened the possibilities for cooperation. In what way these possibilities will be used — it’s a different question. But we have the political forces on both sides which are responsible for their decisions and acts, and we can embark on the course of stability that will last for years.
We have passed the test of democracy. Accept this fact as a reality and the starting point for new work. I am doing my best to preserve the unity of Ukraine. I guarantee that democracy will be adhered to in Ukraine. I clearly see our perspective. We shall achieve our goals.
Photos have been provided
by the President’s Press Office