President of Ukraine

Speech made to the Assembly

Tuesday, 25 January 2005

Mr Yushchenko said that it was a great honour to start his work as President of the Ukraine with a visit to Strasbourg. The idea of European unity had been proposed in 1946 by Winston Churchill as a way to bring Europe together and to make it free and happy. When Ukraine had joined the Council of Europe it had wanted to share its values and to find solutions to joint problems. He was grateful for the support of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and for its fair criticism.

He thanked the courageous rapporteurs who had been the voices, eyes and conscience of the Council of Europe in Ukraine. He would build civil society in Ukraine and seek to approach the ideals of the Council of Europe. The “orange revolution” had succeeded because the Ukrainian people had already embraced European values. Ukraine was a free European country and would not allow the violation of human rights. Now it would be possible to pursue development. The Ukrainian people thanked the Council of Europe and the Assembly for their solidarity and for monitoring the election process in such a persistent way.

From Strasbourg he would be leaving for Auschwitz which was the symbol of pain in Europe. He would honour the prisoners and the liberators and on a personal level would also think of his father who had suffered at Auschwitz. He would never allow anti-Semitism to grow in Ukraine.

It was also a time to remember the famine of 1932-3 in Ukraine that had killed 10 million people and was hidden by the Stalinists. Europe had lived through many horrific events during the twentieth century. Those events should remind them of their duties never to allow hidden crimes to be committed in Europe again. It was necessary to secure the rule of law and not to permit the abuse of human rights. The strength of Europe was its commitment to human rights, not just as words but as legally binding responsibilities.

As the President of Ukraine he would make the democratic transformations including the rule of law, human rights and pluralistic democracy irrevocable. He would also work towards true independence of the judiciary, freedom of speech and expression, freedom of the media, strengthening civic society and combating crime. He hoped to benefit further from the expertise of the Council of Europe so that Ukraine could harmonise its society with Europe. The Ukrainian Government would co-ordinate with the judiciary to fulfil the moral duty of investigating cases of violence against journalists in bringing those responsible to justice. The transformation of the society in Ukraine must be in co-operation with the Council of Europe and he hoped they could go beyond the current relationship to form a real partnership.

Ukraine was on the road towards becoming a fully participatory democracy. The end of the presidential elections in Ukraine was the beginning of a movement into stable economic prosperity. The road would be difficult but not long. Ukraine would be capable of change.

His plan of action for the coming three years was based on the implementation of a strategic foreign goal: membership of the European Union. The process of integration into the European Union would now become a real, not just a declared, aim. The relationship between Europe and Ukraine had to include the prospect of membership.

Ukraine would, in future, become a market economy. By the end of 2005, it would join the World Trade Organisation. He said that Ukraine would also simplify visa restrictions between European Union countries and Ukraine. As Ukraine continued to improve, the wave of immigration into Europe would reduce, and Ukrainians would go to Europe only to visit. The viability of the democratic process would be seen in the future Ukraine.

He was looking forward to participating in the third summit of the Council of Europe.


Thank you very much, Mr President, for your inspiring, encouraging and courageous speech. Members of the Assembly have expressed a wish to put questions to you. A list has been circulated of the names of members wishing to ask questions, in the order in which they were notified to the Table Office.

I remind members that questions must be limited to thirty seconds. Please show solidarity with your colleagues. You should ask questions and not make speeches.

The first question is from Mr Mercan.

Mr MERCAN (Turkey)

On behalf of the European People’s Party, I congratulate you on your personal victory, Mr Yushchenko. Your people’s determination and strong will expressed through democratic values throughout the election period in your country have been admirable. I am very pleased to welcome you to the Hemicycle as the President of Ukraine. It has been a pleasure to hear your vision for your country. The fact that you are visiting the Council of Europe after your inauguration ceremony is not simply symbolic.

We would like to take this opportunity to invite your views on regional co-operation and European Union relations and Nato.

Mr Yushchenko, President of Ukraine (interpretation)

said that he was very grateful for such an important question. The general strategy of Ukraine was integration into European structures. It would also develop regional structures, paving the way to membership of the European Union. Ukraine was planning many initiatives – for example, the Black Sea initiatives – which were establishing economic structures on the basis of projects. Other initiatives included projects with neighbouring countries – for example, producing energy for a united Europe.

Mr EÖRSI (Hungary)

Mr Gongadze’s widow is present in the Chamber. She can never get her husband back, but she is entitled to know the truth about what happened to him. You mentioned the Gongadze case twice. What can you do to ensure that the truth is revealed and justice restored? Mrs Gongadze and all democrats in Ukraine will want to hear your answer.

Mr Yushchenko, President of Ukraine (interpretation)

said that it was the goal of his country to finalise a solution to this moral, ethical and judicial problem, which was a problem of conscience. For both him and his government it was a moral challenge to which they would react quickly and in full. Next week he would be holding a meeting with Mr Gongadze’s mother to establish what she wanted him to do.

In the previous week he had met the Prosecutor General with whom he discussed the issue. They had decided that the case would go to the court as soon as possible. Two cases had already gone to court that were directly linked with the murder of Mr Gongadze. He said that he was completely responsible for taking this issue forward and that there would be an open public investigation in the Ukrainian court in the near future.

Mr MARGELOV (Russian Federation) (interpretation)

said that Mr Yushchenko had set out some prospects for Ukraine’s integration into the European Union. He asked how the President saw Ukraine’s integration with European states that were not in the European Union.

Mr Yushchenko, President of Ukraine (interpretation)

said that Russia was Ukraine’s strategic partner and neighbour. It was to Russia that Ukraine turned to develop its interests. Relations with Russia would be formalised on an economic and fiscal basis.

Mr ROCHEBLOINE (France) (interpretation)

said that during the presidential campaign the public had been struck by the risk of internal dispute within Ukraine. He asked whether this risk was still topical and, if so, what measures Mr Yushchenko would take to combat it.

Mr Yushchenko, President of Ukraine (interpretation)

said he had won the Ukrainian presidential election in seventeen regions and in the capital city, Kyiv. No previous presidential winner had been victorious in more than fifteen regions. He had wide geographical support across Ukraine and was certain that there was no natural reason for dispute between the east and west of Ukraine.

He said that initiatives made several weeks ago by his opponent did not reflect the natural inclination of the people and he felt that breaking Ukraine with federalism would not be possible. He said that it would be very important to Ukraine to hear the European institutions support unity within Ukraine, and he was grateful for the support he had heard that afternoon in the Assembly.

Mr RZYMEŁKA (Poland)

I want to ask President Yushchenko about the future of nuclear energy, and its safe production, in Ukraine as it relates to the nuclear power plants of Chornobyl, Khmelnitsky and Rivne. Will you consult neighbouring countries on the construction of such plants, as required by international convention? I wish you and Ukraine all the best. We have a common future in Europe.

Mr Yushchenko, President of Ukraine (interpretation)

said that a number of international agreements had been signed with European banks to fund the construction of two nuclear plants in Ukraine. In 2000, a number of meetings had also been held regarding seeking European funding to help close the Chornobyl plant. He said that special funding had been found to complete the two nuclear plants and their construction was now over. Ukraine would now work to improve the safety of the country’s entire nuclear power system.

Mr GADZINOWSKI (Poland) (interpretation)

asked Mr Yushchenko what his opinion was of the situation of national minorities in Ukraine, particularly with regard to Polish minorities.

Mr Yushchenko, President of Ukraine (interpretation)

said that he appreciated the relations that had developed between Ukraine and Poland. He had seen many examples of the two nations working together to reach compromise.

He and his government would pursue the road of mutual understanding with the Polish Government. On the specific issue of the Lviv cemetery he had called on Lviv Regional Council to take action.

He said that the children of any minority group in Ukraine would be able to speak the language of their father. Any minority would have his full support.

Ms DURRIEU (France) (interpretation)

asked what immediate action Mr Yushchenko would take to further democratic ideals in Ukraine.

Mr Yushchenko, President of Ukraine (interpretation)

said that most Ukrainians did not like the fact that they had had criminal regimes, no rule of law, no independent courts and no free media. He noted that 55% of the economy was hidden.

Last year he had set up the “Centre of Europe”, a project to further democracy in Ukraine. It had developed a strategy on how to develop access to the European Union and this strategy would form the basis of the policies that his government would submit to parliament.

Ukraine was already a different country. The media was not censored and there were 136 criminal cases pending on electoral fraud. This showed that a lot had been done already. He would develop a dialogue with the business world and reduce taxation, but would make sure that everybody would pay tax. There was a lot of work to do but with the assistance of bodies like the Council of Europe he would be successful.

Ms HOFFMANN (Germany) (interpretation)

asked how Mr Yushchenko intended to work closely with both the European Union and with Russia.

Mr Yushchenko, President of Ukraine (interpretation)

said that Russia was Ukraine’s strategic partner. His heart belonged to Europe, but Ukraine could not arrive in Europe carrying the baggage of its problems with Russia. Europe expected Ukraine to solve these problems. He undertook to work with Russia on these issues.

The borders of Ukraine were borders with Europe. The European market was six times more valuable than that of Russia. Ukraine would be stupid to ignore this fact. He would try to open the door to Europe but could not do this through rhetoric alone. He would work effectively to ensure that Ukraine became a member of the European Union.

Ms TEVDORADZE (Georgia) (interpretation)

said that Ukraine had obligations to the Council of Europe and the Venice Commission to change its constitution. She asked what Mr Yushchenko was doing to this end.

Mr Yushchenko, President of Ukraine (interpretation)

said that recent changes to the constitution were based on compromise. Some parliamentarians did not share the views on which this compromise was based. He would establish initiatives to amend the constitution because parliament understood that changes had to be made as a result of commitments made to Europe.

Mr RAKHANSKY (Ukraine) (interpretation)

congratulated Mr Yushchenko and noted that the permanent delegation of Ukraine to the Council of Europe had been criticised for not implementing Ukraine’s commitments to the Council of Europe. He asked how this would change.

Mr Yushchenko, President of Ukraine (interpretation)

thanked Mr Rakhansky for an important question. Ukraine should endeavour to meet all the commitments that it took on when it joined the Council of Europe. There were two outstanding commitments, of which the legislative initiative would be dealt with within six months. After this he hoped that there would be a review of the monitoring of Ukraine by the Council of Europe.


Thank you, Mr President.

Mr Yushchenko, I am happy that I have lived to see this fascinating emergence of popular energy and initiative in Ukraine for a better world, for dignity, freedom and democracy. But what about the follow-up? What measures should be taken to attract direct foreign investment to enlarge the activities of foreign firms in Ukraine? That will be important for the modernisation of the country and should be a strong incentive for its quick development.

Mr Yushchenko, President of Ukraine (interpretation)

said that Mr Wielowieyski had raised an important question relating to the national economy. Today $600 million was invested annually in Ukraine. By contrast, over $7 billion was invested each year in Poland. He said that the difference spoke for itself. Investors did not like political instability, the absence of independent courts, or the lack of guaranteed security for capital that had been invested.

Corruption had permeated Ukraine from top to bottom. He was appalled that bureaucrats accepted bribes. The regulatory policy was too complicated. This elevated the role of the bureaucrats and allowed corruption to flourish. This had to change.

He would create investors’ councils to learn from them what they thought and to help them to remove the obstacles to foreign investment in Ukraine. He wanted to send a clear message to the rest of the world that Ukraine was a good place to invest and was stable, ruled by law, and protected its investors. Ukraine would be the next modern market in Europe.


Thank you, Mr Yushchenko. I can call only two more members for questions, which is a pity as there are so many on the list. The first is Mr Marty.

Mr MARTY (Switzerland) (interpretation)

said that the applause after Mr Yushchenko’s speech had been an expression of the great expectations placed on Mr Yushchenko. He asked whether the new President would assist in the fight against trafficking of human beings, especially of new born babies, and whether he was prepared to investigate the cases in the Ukraine and assist the Rapporteur of the Social Affairs and Family Committee?

Mr Yushchenko, President of Ukraine (interpretation)

said that he could guarantee that Ukraine would do everything in its power to help in that process, and would open the procedures up to transparency. His government would host the mission and assist it wherever possible.

Mr MIHKELSON (Estonia)

We are aware of the enormous challenges that you face at home, but we understand that it is important to Ukraine’s future that its people share a clear vision. Do Ukrainians have that vision? How do you, Mr Yushchenko, visualise Ukraine’s international position in, let us say, fifteen years?

Mr Yushchenko, President of Ukraine (interpretation)

said his policy was based on Ukraine being both the geographic centre of Europe and its heart. The future of Europe was impossible without Ukraine. Further European integration would take account of the fact that Ukraine was part of European culture. Ukraine would be a long term member of the European Union and of other European structures. When that would happen was not known, but the answer lay not in Brussels but in Kyiv. It depended on the ambition of the government’s agenda and the ability of the new team to deliver it. The road to Europe was scattered not only with roses but with rocks. The strategic goal was to overcome those problems and that must always be kept in mind. Ukraine would also work on developing good bilateral relations with neighbouring countries. As he had said the day before to President Putin of Russia, bilateral policy must be effective. He would be responsible for everything he said and expected his colleagues to be the same. Ukraine would be European, democratic and prosperous.


We must now conclude questions to Mr Yushchenko. On behalf of the Assembly, we thank him most warmly. When he arrived at the Council of Europe, the first thing he did was go to his people. He occupies a warm place in the hearts of so many in this country and outside it. He has encouraged us today to pursue our ideals and to fight harder to achieve our goals and to uphold our principles. I hope that through our applause we have encouraged you, Mr President. Thank you very much for your speech and especially for your willingness to co-operate with the Council of Europe in an open and transparent way. We shall support you with all the tools at our disposal in all aspects of your reform process.