Prime Minister of Ukraine

Speech made to the Assembly

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Mrs Tymoshenko thanked the President for inviting her to speak. The “Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe” were simple words but words that symbolised democracy, the rule of law and human rights. Ukraine had recently chosen democracy and the pursuit of social unity. The Orange Revolution of 2004 was described by some as a struggle against old ways, but it was better to say that it had been a fight for new values represented by free elections, democracy, a fair judicial system and freedom of expression. Some might say that instability and disillusionment had occurred since the Orange Revolution. That was not so. Change had just begun and it was naïve to believe that it would be instantaneous. Since the Orange Revolution Ukraine had worked to move away from old traditions, and that would continue.

Last April the Council of Europe had called for early elections because of corruption in the Ukrainian Parliament. Those elections had allowed the people of Ukraine to choose a new government. Some questioned whether elections alone could promote economic and constitutional change. The constitutional changes made after 2004 continued to raise challenges, but the time had come for Ukraine to make change and adopt wider European principles. A majority was being built for changes affecting the judiciary, the separation of powers and the creation of the means by which the public could monitor the authorities. A new constitution would help Ukraine to establish the rule of law and free expression. Forthcoming presidential elections would be competitive and create public debate.

The Council of Europe, as the oldest of the European institutions, was a strong symbol of the European values that it had led the fight to establish. Europe was a continent of stability and prosperity, and Ukraine wanted to join the European Union in order to approach the standard of living and adopt the values of the European Union. Different points of view on EU enlargement should be respected, but Ukraine was introducing European standards in all spheres of society in a calm process of evolutionary change.

Protocol No. 14 to the European Convention on Human Rights should be implemented and the EU should accede to it. There was a need to upgrade European legal tools, and the Council of Europe could take the initiative on that. Among priorities for attention were action on integration, migration, terrorism, and trafficking of people and of drugs. Ukraine’s new programme to prevent the trafficking of people had become a serious obstacle to those who operated that trade. Further priorities were the resolution of conflicts, free movement across the whole of Europe and co-operation on energy and security.

In the year since the Council of Europe’s resolution on political institutions in Ukraine successful action had been taken to combat corruption. During her first term as prime minister her government had been unable to survive and had resigned. Now, the new government was introducing greater transparency and had to deal with understandable resistance to change. Regulations and instructions could be written and institutions created, but they were not in themselves enough to overcome corruption. That could be done only if the political will existed and the present government had a strong will to improve the situation.

New systems allowed the opposition greater influence on the decisions of the government, establishing real control and financial auditing. It was paramount that those involved in corruption were held accountable for their actions and brought to justice. Changes in the constitution envisaged creating a constitutional court and establishing a judiciary system without interference from administrative institutions.

In view of the limited time for the debate, it would be difficult to talk about all the issues and developments in Ukraine, but she stressed the importance of continued co-operation between Ukraine and the international community which had supported Ukraine’s emergence from a totalitarian regime into an independent state. She would always remember that. She asked that the Assembly reconsider the famine in Ukraine in 1932-33 and hoped that it would go down in history as genocide against the Ukrainian people perpetrated by Stalin’s reign of the Soviet Union.

Reforms that were currently taking place in Ukraine were important not only for the country but for the region as a whole. Ukraine was engaged in efforts to develop its democracy further and prove its record on human rights, and she hoped that Ukraine would be used as a good example in this respect, thanks to the will of its political élite. In this Assembly part-session she had felt the Assembly’s strong support for Ukraine and expressed her gratitude to the Assembly.

THE PRESIDENT (interpretation)

thanked Mrs Tymoshenko for her most interesting address and for the clear overview of the political situation in her country. Ukraine could count on the Council of Europe to implement its reforms further in times ahead.

(Translation). – Members of the Assembly have expressed a wish to put questions to you. I remind them that questions must be limited to 30 seconds and no more. Colleagues should be asking questions and not making speeches.

We will have to interrupt the questions at about 1 pm. The first question is from Mrs Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

Mrs LEUTHEUSSER-SCHNARRENBERGER (Germany) (interpretation)

asked the Prime Minister whether she would comment on the constitutional changes made during her mandate.

Ms Tymoshenko, Prime Minister of Ukraine (interpretation)

said that the Ukrainian Parliament was faced with the issue of members of parliament frequently moving from one faction to another. She gave an example: when the president called for an election, 40 parliamentarians changed party. Ukraine was currently a weak democracy, its parliament was weak and there was a strong need to establish rules and measures in the constitution in order to prevent such actions in future. Ukraine was a young democracy and she noted that members of parliament should represent the people rather than their own interests.

Mr MELNIKOV (Russian Federation) (interpretation)

said that there were strong divisions in Ukrainian civil society and politics about joining NATO, and that accession to NATO would possibly lead to the country splitting. He asked why the process of joining NATO had been speeded up.

Ms Tymoshenko, Prime Minister of Ukraine (interpretation)

said that Ukraine was engaged in expanding its co-operation in all areas, including NATO. Ukraine wanted to be more active in discussions with NATO. However, Ukrainian politicians would not go against the will of the Ukrainian people and it was only through a referendum in which all Ukrainians were consulted that a decision would be taken.

Mr LINTNER (Germany) (interpretation)

asked about Mrs Tymoshenko’s vision of a sustainable and long-term security plan for Ukraine.

Ms Tymoshenko, Prime Minister of Ukraine (interpretation)

answered that it was important for Ukraine not to be isolated. She wanted to create an environment where Ukraine felt protected within secure borders. Although retaining national identity was important, Ukraine also wanted to participate in the collective security of Europe, which was developing well, and to be part of a European defence system.

Mr GROSS (Switzerland)

Prime Minister, we would like to congratulate you on engaging with us. My question to you is very concrete. We know that racism and anti-Semitism are among the biggest expressions of wrongdoing in a democracy. We have heard that Jewish books have been taken and burnt at the Ukrainian border by a border force and that a synagogue in Kiev was taken by the mayor and not given back to the Jewish community. Can you confirm that, and what are you doing about it?

Ms Tymoshenko, Prime Minister of Ukraine (interpretation)

said that the examples given by Mr Gross did not reflect the feelings of the Ukrainian people, or the policy of her country, but considered those events as isolated accidents. She had recently met a council of religious leaders to discuss a wide range of issues and none had expressed concern about such incidents. She stressed that Ukraine was a tolerant and open society.

Mr MIRZAZADA (Azerbaijan) (interpretation)

asked about the Ukrainian Government’s policy on the rights of ethnic minorities.

Ms Tymoshenko, Prime Minister of Ukraine (interpretation)

said that her government had paid extensive attention to the issue of rights of ethnic minorities. In terms of the promotion of language and culture of ethnic minorities, there were good examples of the government’s support and investment – for example, in schools where children could learn and be instructed in their minority language. Ukraine aspired to the protection of rights of minorities, and there was no evidence of discrimination. At the political level, all the nationalities of Ukraine were represented in parliament and she wanted that to continue and be developed further.


Prime Minister, thank you for your tour d’horizon. Your vision is very important for the civilisational, strategic and political frontiers of Europe. In your personal opinion, what position does Ukraine occupy in that vision? Is it part of the transatlantic Europe, a new Eurasia or a multiple track of identity and belonging?

Ms Tymoshenko, Prime Minister of Ukraine (interpretation)

answered that Ukraine was a European country and that the international community did not challenge that fact. Some 70% of Ukrainian citizens identified themselves with European Union countries, and it was her hope that step by step, Ukraine would become a fully‑fledged member of the European family. With respect to EU enlargement, because of the quality of its institutions Ukraine would be ready to join in future by meeting the enlargement criteria.

Mr RIGONI (Italy) (interpretation)

wanted to return to the issue of NATO expansion and asked for Mrs Tymoshenko’s views on the absence of any defined timetable relating to Ukraine’s accession to NATO.

Ms Tymoshenko, Prime Minister of Ukraine (interpretation)

replied that Ukraine had clearly stated its position, as encapsulated in its membership action plan. She wanted to extend her gratitude to those countries that had supported Ukraine’s aspirations of joining NATO. Ukraine’s position in relation to NATO would be reviewed in future. There would be a need for a referendum in Ukraine where people themselves would decide and politicians would have to listen. However, she acknowledged that there was a clear lack of understanding and information about collective security in Europe. She gave the example of a recent talk show on television where a politician was arguing against Ukrainian accession to NATO but could not say what the acronym “NATO” stood for. There was therefore a need for greater information and awareness to enable the people of Ukraine to make an informed decision on accession to NATO.

Mr MacSHANE (United Kingdom)

Twenty years ago Spain held a referendum on adherence to NATO, and public opinion was against it. The Left were against it, and many politicians in Spain also did not know what NATO stood for. You may draw some comfort from that.

Do you consider that Russia has the right to veto any affiliation of Ukraine to NATO?

Ms Tymoshenko, Prime Minister of Ukraine (interpretation)

said that she wanted to make it clear that when she talked about Ukraine’s movement towards European integration, other countries did not have a veto. She respected the Russian Federation, but noted that it should be used to the situation in which Ukraine was a strong and independent country. Those supporting Ukraine would be supported. Ukraine and Russia were neighbours and partners.

Mr KOSACHEV (Russian Federation) (interpretation)

said that the Prime Minister had spoken beautiful words about ethnic minorities in Ukraine, but that when he heard from those minorities their message was not in tune with hers. He had heard that schools in minority languages were being closed – for example, those for the Russian-speaking minority – and that there were boycotts, the media were curbed and cinemas showing Russian-speaking films had been shut down. He asked whether she called such actions “representing the interests of ethnic minorities”.

Ms Tymoshenko, Prime Minister of Ukraine (interpretation)

said it could be said that the Ukrainian Government also ate babies for breakfast! All those stories should not be told. Ukrainians had been in a minority in their country and had had to reassert their culture. Her family belonged to a national minority; she had been born in eastern Ukraine, spoke the Russian language, and had learned Ukrainian only as a member of government in 2000. Her family still spoke the Russian language and were happy with this – they spoke the language that they were happy with. Her mother had said that she was too old to learn Ukrainian, but that her soul was Ukrainian and she shared Ukrainian interests.

Mr VAREIKIS (Lithuania)

Your country did not recognise the independence of Kosovo. May we hear a little more about the reasons for that?

Ms Tymoshenko, Prime Minister of Ukraine (interpretation)

said that it was very important to bear it in mind when Ukraine was discussed that there were outstanding territorial issues. Its territorial integrity was at risk. It was not clear whether Kosovo was a unique situation or established a norm. When international organisations had clarified that point, Ukraine would adopt its decisions. Multilateral discussions were ongoing.

Mr ROCHEBLOINE (France) (interpretation)

asked what contribution Europe could make to the greater stability of Ukraine’s relations with its neighbouring states.

Ms Tymoshenko, Prime Minister of Ukraine (interpretation)

said that the issue of co-operation between Russia and Ukraine was frequently discussed. She wanted to express her certainty that Ukraine and Russia were developing a normal, balanced and harmonious relationship. Their history meant that some positions were not yet clarified. That was mostly due to the failure of previous Ukrainian authorities to develop a clear basis for a future relationship, which would be crucial in helping Ukraine to develop a long-term balanced position.

On April 25-26 the Russian Prime Minister would visit Ukraine and Ukraine’s task was to identify the objectives and to start building constructive co-operation. Ukraine would work to develop that relationship.

Mr JAKAVONIS (Lithuania) (interpretation)

said that Lithuania and Ukraine had a commitment to developing a strategic partnership regarding the development of democracy. Organisations such as the GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development – the GUAM countries being Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova – and Black Sea Economic Co-operation were not working properly. He asked how Mrs Tymoshenko was going to handle the frozen conflicts.

Ms Tymoshenko, Prime Minister of Ukraine (interpretation)

said that Ukraine had ratified the GUAM statutory document. It was engaged in co-operation. Regarding Transnistria, her policy was obvious: she wanted Moldova to restore its territorial integrity.

Mr PLESKACHEVSKIY (Russian Federation) (interpretation)

said that Ukraine was of primary importance, not just politically, but economically. There had been another conflict with Gazprom. Ukraine still had a monopoly regarding the transport of natural gas and he asked whether Ukraine would take on part of the responsibility for that transportation.

Ms Tymoshenko, Prime Minister of Ukraine (interpretation)

said that Ukraine was ready to take responsibility for the transportation of natural gas across Ukraine, but not to accept responsibility for large-scale corruption in the movement of natural gas from Russia. She said that Ukrainian actions had led to stresses on the supply of natural gas. One of Ukraine’s accomplishments was to provide greater transparency in the supply of gas. She now felt calm and safe about the issue.

Mr SLUTSKY (Russian Federation) (interpretation)

asked what was happening in the Crimea regarding the Tartar minority seizing land, which was a great concern. He asked Mrs Tymoshenko about her policy on that issue.

Ms Tymoshenko, Prime Minister of Ukraine (interpretation)

said that Ukraine protected the Ukrainian Tartar minority and supported them in returning to where they had lived. However, the Tartar minority could not violate Ukrainian laws, which included clear legislation regarding land.

Mr BRANGER (France) (interpretation)

welcomed Mrs Tymoshenko’s decision to lead Ukraine in efforts to combat corruption in that country. In that, she had the full support of the Council of Europe. The international press had taken up the story of the mayors of Kiev and Kharkiv. He asked Mrs Tymoshenko whether she could reassure him that the charges were not trumped up, and also expressed his concern about conditions for migrants in Ukraine.

Ms Tymoshenko, Prime Minister of Ukraine (interpretation)

said that she wished to repeat that Ukraine was developing anti-corruption procedures, for example in land resources, property, state finances and local budgets. Those aspects were not yet fully regulated in Ukraine. Ukraine was looking at establishing the legislative basis for the transparent transfer of property rights. The Ukrainian Parliament suspected the mayors of Kiev and Kharkiv of making dishonest land transactions. The democratic process was being followed and early elections had been announced in Kiev. This was the first example of mayors being held responsible for corruption; land was much sought after in the capital. Ukraine was proving that it was able to overcome corruption.

Mr HANCOCK (United Kingdom)

Madam Prime Minister, from what you said, you have an awfully big job ahead of you. I am therefore curious to know why you chose to stand for the city council elections in Kiev as number one on the list. I am also interested in your points about the democratic processes in Ukraine. Why was the mayor of Kiev removed from his post having been democratically elected, with no charges proven against him, so forcing an election that the people of Kiev did not want? (Applause)

Ms Tymoshenko, Prime Minister of Ukraine (interpretation)

said that she had paused because she had wanted to work out where the applause had come from. Ukraine should not be selective in combating corruption, and was doing it in the old-fashioned way. Kiev was the capital city and there were many political problems and issues there. Her political group had just proved that lobbying was not a factor; it was ready to do its part against corruption. Corruption should not be hidden. Ukrainian democracy was developing well.

Mr Van den BRANDE (Belgium)

Prime Minister, you faced great expectations when you made your commitments to our common standards. Of course, that proves that the project of progress is going well. However, there remain some concerns; as our council for democratic elections, the Venice Commission, often says, what about the imperative mandate? How will you give clarity on the proposal relating to the Ukrainian Church and the European Court of Human Rights? Finally, there are lots of rumours that you will go for a threshold of 8% or 9%. What is the real position currently between the Prime Minister and the President of the Republic?

Ms Tymoshenko, Prime Minister of Ukraine (interpretation)

said that countries were able to develop successfully when their parliaments had fresh ideas and young and talented leaders. Ukraine had formed its political institutions the hard way, and she was not in favour of increasing the threshold. It was normal within democracies for parties to develop and change. While established democracies might have one example every dozen years or so of someone crossing from one party to another, Ukraine had had 40 members of parliament do so in a single year. Different prescriptions fitted different countries as their political institutions developed, and the Ukrainian parties would continue to develop and mature. Some restraint on moving between them might be needed; she did not believe so, but the consensus in the Ukrainian Parliament was in favour.

Ukraine should have a judge at the European Court of Human Rights as soon as possible.


Thank you, Mr President. Prime Minister, first, I wish you all the best in leading your country to success. I have one small question: what kind of consequences will Ukrainian society face after joining its neighbour state in the Schengen zone?

Ms Tymoshenko, Prime Minister of Ukraine (interpretation)

thanked the Polish people for their support for Ukraine over many years. The separation of Ukraine and Poland by the Schengen border had been difficult, and Ukraine had therefore sought negotiations with the EU on border crossings without visas. Those negotiations would be neither easy nor quick, but it would be good for Ukraine to know what was required and to work towards it.

She thanked the Parliamentary Assembly for its interest in Ukraine and its good wishes towards her country. She had been glad to answer difficult questions to help the Assembly to understand Ukraine better. She hoped that she would be able to return to the Assembly in future.

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

Thank you, Prime Minister. That brings us to the end of the questions. I thank you for your involvement in this democratic exercise of answering parliamentarians’ questions, and for the clarity of your answers.