“How New Ukraine’s Fate Affects Europe and the World”
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is an honor for me to open the 12th Yalta European Strategy meeting and a pleasure to see a lot of friends and partners in this hall.
We have gathered today to look at how new Ukraine’s fate affects Europe and the world.
Back in 2010, one of my dear friends, Jose Manuel Barroso, uttered very important words in his State of the Union speech as the President of the European Commission. He said addressing all Europe: “We will only succeed if, whether acting nationally, regionally or locally, we think European”.
In winter 2013-2014, Ukrainians were thinking European and rose up against tyranny and oppression.
They opted for the European values – democracy, the rule of law, respect for human rights and dignity, – which they shared mentally and belonged to historically.
Let me remind you that the EU flag was sprinkled with Ukrainian blood.
This is how new Ukraine was born.
Yet, some thought it differently. Russia, which had failed to become an attractive soft power, unleashed its military power to restrain Ukraine’s quest for modernization and European integration.
By the aggression against sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine, Russia has actually challenged the entire democratic world.
Ukraine and its allies are preventing Russia from growing in its aggression and stretching its deadly neo-imperial ambitions further.
I think it is clear that an independent democratic Ukraine anchored into the system of European values is a cornerstone to security and stability in Europe and in the whole world.
Once this cornerstone is undermined, the European and global security foundations will be shattered.
Three days ago, also delivering his State of the Union speech President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker said: “If the European Union wants to promote a more peaceful world, it needs more Europe and more Union in its foreign policy and this is most urgent towards Ukraine”.
This is very promising that Europe keeps thinking European.
Last year, I spoke at this Forum a week after the truce was concluded in Minsk.
I shared with the audience that I felt much relief not receiving daily heart-breaking news from the frontline about losses of lives.
Unfortunately, it was only a short respite.
Russia spiraled violence to get its way.
However, we have been thinking and acting European.
I have promised that I will bring peace and prosperity to Ukraine and I do my best to keep my word.
Whatever the price I have to pay!
The recent Normandy talks two days ago strengthened my feeling of cautious optimism. The ceasefire is in place for almost two weeks and not a dream anymore.
In spite of overwhelming military advantage of the Russian army and enormous military budget, which is more than 30 times bigger than Ukrainian one, Ukrainian heroes are keeping defense in the Donbas and making Russia pay just price for escalation of the conflict.
It took us only a year to build one of the strongest and bravest army on the continent. Next year we will increase military budget to counter more effectively and resolutely external threats.
However, its sole goal will be to protect Ukraine from any sort of aggression.
Let me remind you that during late spring-early summer months almost all geopolitical and military experts were predicting in unison that in July-August the whole world could have witnessed another bloody large-scale offence of the Russian Armed Forces against Ukraine.
Synergy of heroism of Ukrainian soldiers, officers and generals as well as volunteers with tireless diplomatic efforts to get support of our European and Transatlantic partners has made it possible to avert the most apocalyptic scenarios.
However, the drama is still far from being over as the Russian aggressor is still standing with dozens of thousands troops and countless heavy weapons, tanks, artillery, multiple rocket launcher systems, missiles and other military equipment not only at our gates but also on our soil.
Nevertheless, I understand that the political and diplomatic settlement is unfortunately the only possible way out.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Lack of early and proportionate response leads to ever more aggravated consequences.
Illegal annexation by Russia of the Crimea without immediate strong response from the international community encouraged Kremlin to go further.
These days «green men» are landing in hundreds in Syria, inspiring more violence in the Middle East and provoking ever growing exodus of people, mostly to the EU.
The Crimea has become the military operation base for Russia to further destabilize the Black Sea and the Mediterranean in global confrontation with the West.
Could you imagine that only two years ago all of us had a brilliant meeting in Yalta?
I dream that in a very short period of time all of us can return there. It is our purpose.
Now Ukraine is changing Europe, since Russian aggression against a new Ukraine has become a test for the Europeans – a test for solidarity, a test for unity, a test for freedom and democracy, adherence to common values and principles.
To pass this test we have to translate our common thinking into our common acting.
We must sharpen all instruments at our disposal to compel Russia to abandon its power politics games and come back to the politics of respecting the law.
First, we must make clear that not only current sanctions will stay in place as long as Russia occupies the Crimea and fuels turmoil in the Donbas but also enhanced restrictive measures will follow if Russia further obstructs the settlement process.
We must drive Russia to follow the logic of the Minsk agreements.
We have to prevent fake elections in Donbas, as it will ruin the Minsk process once again.
And it can happen on October 18 and November 1. The same way like last year, when Russia “killed” the first Minsk process providing illegal fake elections on November 2 last year.
We must ensure that Ukrainian citizens held captives in cellars in Donbas and in cells in Russia, including Nadia Savchenko and Oleh Sentsov be set free as soon as possible.
Second, it is high time to discuss the possibility to deploy an operation in Donbas to support due implementation of the Minsk Agreements. It can help us achieve two key objectives for restoring peace in Donetsk and Luhansk regions: full withdrawal of the occupation forces of Russia from the Ukrainian territory and closing the Ukrainian-Russian border. These are two main preconditions for peace and stability in the Donbas. We don’t have any civil war, we don’t have any inside conflict. It is very simple. We have an aggression against Ukraine and occupation of the independent Ukrainian state. The aggressor is Russia. It is absolutely clear.
Third, it is also high time to join our efforts towards amending institutions and instruments that serve principles and norms of the international law, such as in particular a veto power in the UN Security Council. The Russian aggression against Ukraine has showed vividly their flaws. I hope that we will start a relevant discussion during the upcoming 70th session of the UN General Assembly, because Russian aggression against Ukraine and Russian occupation of Crimea completely ruined the postwar security system and made it ineffective.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The last year has been incredibly tough.
Resisting Russian aggression, we have been undertaking tireless efforts to reform Ukraine.
Decades of preceding stagnation and lack of reforms have also worked against us.
However, Ukraine showed all strength and determination to turn away the defeat.
We took this hardest challenge as an opportunity. An opportunity to jumpstart the transformation of the country. To eliminate our “skeletons in the closet” such as corruption.
To change from inside.
The ruling coalition assumed a tremendously difficult job.
The Ukrainian people are thirsty for reforms and will not forgive even a minimal delay.
The reforms needed are systemic and deep.
As such, they are enormously hurting while their effect does not come in one day.
However, Ukraine remains committed to further progress in reforms. We understand that in the face of immense challenges the recipe for our success is:
accountability to the people,
and reliability regarding our partners.
I have no doubt that Ukraine-EU Association Agreement, which is a comprehensive roadmap for our domestic reforms, will enter into force very soon, and a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area part will take effect precisely on January 1, 2016.
Russia’s coward attempts to impede this historic event will fail.
It is impossible to stop Ukraine’s resolute drive towards the European home.
The decentralization has become the most known and visible recent reform in Ukraine.
The principle of transfer of power from the capital to the local authorities is one of the features of the European democracies.
Its effective implementation will lead to significant boost in welfare of the Ukrainian communities and regions, as well as improvement of local self-governance rising up possibilities and rising up responsibilities.
Under current challenges, decentralization is a strong safeguard against any attempts, including from outside, to impose the dangerous ideas of federalization and a way to prevent the spiral of separatism in Ukraine.
With establishing a National Anti-corruption Bureau and a National Agency for Corruption Prevention we have set a proper institutional background for fighting corruption efficiently. These bodies will get operational in the nearest future and be equipped with adequate tools provided by the legislation.
For the first time in the modern history, the Ukrainian people have given their substantial support to the new patrol police. Comprehensive reform of other law enforcement agencies, like the Prosecutor General Office and security sector, is unstoppable.
In this regard, we highly appreciate significant support of our European, American and other international partners.
Equally, I am satisfied that our efforts got translated into critically important assistance that we have received from the IMF and other financial institutions.
Let me remind the words of the IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde during her recent visit to Kyiv: “Ukraine has surprised the world! Surprised by what it managed to achieve in such a short period of time: This is not just something, this is impressive!"
This is also a message for the internal politicians who are trying to bring the country into disappointment and depression. We have problems, but we must be united to solve them.
This is a clear indication that we are on the right track.
As President, I will do my best to maintain the vector and pace of reforms.
We also do our best to help European political culture to flourish in Ukraine.
Political ambitions sometimes go off scale while tough reforms could tempt to enhance political rankings with speculations.
On its part, Russia has changed the tactics and recently increased efforts to destabilize Ukraine from within.
Unfortunately, political forces in Ukraine keep falling into this trap.
However, our political condominium is getting more mature.
Despite recent moves, the pro-European coalition has to keep reforming the country.
We will prove that we have become Statesmen rather than remained mere Politicians.
I hope that democratic political forces in Ukraine will not only tell their voters what they do and promise what they want to do for them. But they will also consistently work to secure a future for generations to come.
This will mean thinking and acting European.
I rely that this spirit will reign during the upcoming local elections.
What I can be sure already is that they will be free and fair.
If there is an example of how democratic elections should be, than it is exactly about this coming vote.
Two days ago, I signed a decree, which rules to secure equal opportunities for all runners, prevent interference into the electoral process, engage international observers, including ODIHR, guarantee proper conditions for the observers and election commissions and ensure security for the voters.
After democratic presidential and parliamentary elections in 2014, this electoral round is deemed to complete the total reboot of the power in Ukraine.
I expect that it will become a point of no return to Eurasian autocracy, which is alien to the Ukrainian national philosophy.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We rely on continuous sincere and committed support of our partners for Ukraine and our efforts towards peace and comprehensive transformation.
We all have to think and act European today.
But I also urge our European partners to think Ukrainian a bit.
Ukraine needs it now more than ever.
We must seize the momentum of now and secure our common European future of tomorrow.
Thank you very much for your attention.