Christ is born!
Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! Happy St. Vasyl Day! Happy Epiphany! These great feasts, as one popular Ukrainian carol goes.
However, holidays quickly pass and routine weekdays come next… Today, dear friends, we assembled here to discuss basic tasks of Ukraine in 2016.
It is impossible to do without a brief analysis of the results and achievements of 2015.
Reforms in 2015 were launched in various spheres, but not all of them have yielded results yet. Nowhere and never did the war lead to thriving of the country. We are now facing military aggression against our country, military actions on our land. It is not just a military aggression. Since January 1, a powerful large-scale economic aggression has been started imposing embargo on a great range of Ukrainian goods.
Today, we can surely say that the country withstood and created preconditions for development – this is the main result of 2015.
First of all, we – society, army, authorities – strengthened the defense capacity of our state significantly. Enhanced defense capacity discouraged the enemy to attack Ukraine. On December 30, I arrived to Luhansk to meet with servicemen. I was convinced of the reliability of our frontline positions and strong morale of Ukrainian warriors.
Second, we ensured the activity and capability of the international coalition in support of Ukraine. A very bright demonstration of this fact was the vote of 177 UN countries electing Ukraine a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. This is the result of a painstaking and efficient work of not only our diplomats, but also many foreign supporters of Ukraine.
When you come to Yavoriv training center, you will see dozens of flags of our allies. These flags are a symbol of our military-technical cooperation with various countries of the world.
Last year ended with a decision of all 28 EU members on the prolongation of sanctions against Russia for its continuous aggression against Ukraine and non-fulfillment of the Minsk agreements. I guess you all know that it required certain efforts from our Ukrainian team. Increasing economic crisis of Russia is a price for aggression against Ukraine.
Third. Despite fierce counteraction of Kremlin, DCFTA with the EU entered into full force on January 1. Unprecedented migration crisis did not hinder the decision of the European Commission on the completion of the assessment mission on the implementation of the Visa Liberalization Plan of Actions and we obtained the decision on the visa-free regime though several months ago few people believed in that inside and outside the country.
By the way, it is the indicator of positive assessment of reforms in Ukraine by the EU and the world.
Fourth. Please recall the beginning of 2015 when we had the same press conference. This reference will help us better understand what efforts were made to avoid default, ensure macro-economic, financial and banking stabilization, restructure foreign debt, increase foreign exchange reserves, improve banking system and create preconditions for economic growth.
All this took place against the backdrop of the war in Donbas and tangible global turbulence, which results into devaluation of many currencies and not very favorable external conditions for the main items of our exports.
One of our first steps are deregulation, abolition of various permits and licenses. Ultimately - a significant reduction of pressure on the payroll fund by reducing the unified social tax from more than 40 to 20 percent.
This will increase salaries of public servants. I also expect Ukrainian business and foreign investors to make an action in response and raise salaries of their employees as well. This was done not only to increase the income of Ukrainian enterprises, but also to raise the share of salaries preserving competitiveness.
On Monday, in the course of the visit to Ternopil region, I visited a great enterprise with German investments, where almost 4 thousand employees work. After the analysis of the financial balance affected by the suggested tax amendments and the reduction of pressure on the payroll fund, the owners promised to raise salaries at least by 10%. I urge national investors to uphold this initiative.
Fifth. Creation of new law enforcement bodies on new principles and with new people. I am talking about patrol police, National Anti-Corruption Bureau, Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecution. Their formation required some time. It is too early to make conclusions about their activity. However, taking into account how wide, deep and high they are digging, I hope they will not have any closed spheres or untouchables.
Summing up the last year, I cannot but mention the achievement of energy independence from Russia. Gas needle, which has been holding Ukraine captive for years, has finally vanished. Nobody could imagine that Ukraine will ever eliminate this dependence from Russian gas.
From now on, the energy system of Ukraine will be integrated into the common European energy market. It started with the signing of the Energy Community Treaty. In 2015, this process evolved and I am confident that it will be continued this year.
Now we buy twice more gas from the EU than from Siberia.
Another important step is decentralization. Despite the fact that respective constitutional amendments are still in stand-by mode in the Parliament, financial opportunities of local authorities have already been increased by 40%. When we speak of the real rights for territorial communities, it also means respective financial resource, respective opportunities and responsibility.
Due to the political will and modern technologies, the society has finally gained a huge number of opportunities to control the government – from the access to the property registers to the anti-corruption system of electronic public procurement.
Everything we sow last year should yield the first fruits this year.
Within the powers and responsibilities given to me by the parliamentary-presidential model, I have set the following priorities for 2016:
First of all, to ensure peace and return to Donbas. In 2016, we must restore the Ukrainian sovereignty over the occupied territories in Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
Struggle for the return of Crimea is also a priority. We will offer to establish the international mechanism on de-occupation of the peninsula. The optimal format is “Geneva Plus”: with participation of our partners from the EU, USA and, probably, signatory countries of the Budapest Memorandum.
Such difficult tasks as the return of Donbas and Crimea should be solved by political, diplomatic and international legal means.
Once again, I emphasize our firm commitment to the full implementation of all provisions of the Minsk agreements by all parties without exception. We will not allow the revision of the Minsk agreements!
Bet on diplomacy and international law in this case in no way diminishes the role and importance of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Purely military budget, the budget of the Ministry of Defense and the Armed Forces for 2016 is UAH 57 billion or 2.5% of GDP. This is the minimum necessary for the army, but this is the maximum Ukrainian taxpayers can accept today. And therefore only effective use of these funds will provide the solution for the top-priority tasks of the Ukrainian army.
National MIC enterprises will be maximally loaded with orders for the production of modern armament. We can count on the Ukrainian defense industry.
We raise money supply for militaries. At the time of my inauguration, I remember my meeting with a sniper of the 3rd Regiment of the Special Forces in Kirovohrad - being in the ATO area where the situation was dramatically different from what is now, mobilized soldier received UAH 600 per month. Now, in 2016, Ukrainian warriors outside the ATO area receive at least UAH 7000.
This decision should increase the attractiveness of contract service and expand the number of contractors in the AFU. But there will be no abolition of conscription. 20-year-old Ukrainian young men should learn military affairs well. But they shouldn’t be sent to the ATO area.
I would like to thank the office of reforms of the Ministry of Defense established on the basis of volunteers who have already ensured transparency of procurement, medical, food, material, logistic and combat supply. Further reformation of the AFU will be held in close interaction with our western partners and in full compliance with NATO standards.
Achieving Euro-Atlantic and European standards is the main content of our domestic and foreign policy.
It is very important that trips to the EU without visas should become a reality already this year. In the coming days, I will submit the last draft laws to accelerate formal procedures of the European Union necessary for the launch of the visa-free regime. This, inter alia, concerns the return of the provision on the electronic declaration of income of civil servants.
The European road movement must be bilateral. We should clear the way to Ukraine for the flow of European and global investments. For investments provide for jobs and restoration of economic growth and welfare of every Ukrainian. This year, I finally predict billions in investments in the Ukrainian economy.
European integration is a good stimulus to struggle against corruption. Anti-corruption strategy for the current year provides for the full operation of the NABU, full transition of the government to the electronic procurement tenders, further deregulation and privatization of strategic state companies and the launch of the National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption. It is another litmus test for our visa free regime.
I expect the Parliament to finally adopt constitutional amendments on judiciary. It is a pity that the Venice Commission didn’t endorse the proposition on total dismissal of judges. We decided to purify the system via personal strict and transparent assessment of each judge, very strict control over expenditures and revenues of judges and abolition of judicial immunity.
I expect teamwork for Ukraine from the coalition, strict fulfillment of the coalition agreement. I expect important staffing changes in the Cabinet of Ministers that should increase its potential.
I expect the Government to ensure economic growth, move from credit oxygen pillows to investment therapy and intensify reforms in all directions.
I consider tax reform the most important, first of all in the sphere of administration. Another priority is healthcare reform. Populist politicians should stop lying to people about free medicine.
Dear friends, dear journalists.
I remember the beginning of the last year. It seems that many people had apocalyptic mood at those times – threat of enemy attack, shelling of Ukrainian cities. It took place right after Volnovakha with destroyed bus. Many of you were in Kramatorsk after the shelling of residential areas by “Smerch” and “Uragan”. Many of you were in Mariupol after the shelling of kindergartens, schools and houses by “Grad”. It took place on the eve of Debaltseve in conditions of zero foreign exchange reserves. Clear reserve was less than zero and foreign exchange reserves were less than 5 billion. Currency exchange course reached UAH 40 per dollar. All experts talked about the inevitability of internal and international default of Ukraine. Everyone talked about the deficit of coal, inevitability of rolling blackouts and absence of optimism.
We have fought and worked so hard that now I can finally say that we have completely changed the agenda of the country.
The agenda of January 2015 was to survive. The agenda of January 2016 is to make the country successful. I think everyone can feel the difference.
2016 is the year of the 25th anniversary of restoration of our Independence. This is the age at which a person becomes mature, experienced and capable of solving all life problems.
I am optimistic about the future and I would like to share this optimism with all of you.