The Orange Revolution: Six Months Later
His Excellency Borys Tarasyuk
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine
I would like to pay my compliments to Her Excellency Michèle Alliot-Marie. We have gone so far as to introduce civilian control over the military in Ukraine, but regretfully not far enough to invite a lady to this post.
I would also like to say that this workshop has resulted in a large-scale Ukrainian invasion of France, featuring our country's President, Prime Minister, Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, and myself. This is a clear sign of the importance my country attaches to relations with the French Republic, both bilaterally and in the context of the European Union and NATO.
In addition I would like to express my gratitude to Dr. Weissinger-Baylon. We have known each other for over a decade and will continue our cooperation. I also wish to congratulate all attendees on the success of the 22nd International Workshop on Global Security. The ambitious goal of forecasting the security challenges of the next decade will certainly contribute to the ongoing debate in the United Nations. Our work proves that we are maintaining a strong transatlantic link and that NATO and the EU are continuing to think in global terms, which is good.
I am going to speak on the Orange Revolution and its consequences for Ukraine, Ukrainian foreign policy, and the outside world. While it may seem that this issue does not correspond to the main subject of the Workshop, it is obvious to me that the historic events in Ukraine, which resulted in a victory for the people and for democracy in my country, marked yet another step toward global security. That is because I strongly believe that only universal adherence to democratic values will guarantee peace and prosperity all over the world. Democracy was the main goal and slogan of the Ukrainian Maidan Square.
CONDITIONS THAT LED TO THE ORANGE REVOLUTION
The Orange Revolution demonstrated the political and cultural choice Ukrainians made in favor of being part of the European civilization, where our nation has belonged historically. By protesting persistently in a non-violent manner for 17 days, despite snow and cold weather, Ukrainians proved to be Europeans, in the heart of Europe and with sympathetic European faces. The revolution was an explicit manifestation of Ukraine’s decision to live in the Euro-Atlantic family of democratic nations.
Ukrainians will always gratefully remember the support expressed by many nations in the Euro-Atlantic area and beyond. France was one of the brightest examples of this support and encouragement, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the many outstanding intellectuals and artists of France, the country that will always remain a symbol of European democracy, for their solidarity, support, and sympathy.
During and after the events of the Orange Revolution, we, as well as the rest of the international community, analyzed the reasons that led to the crucial changes in my country. The following list, while not exhaustive, contains a few of the most distinctive points.
The first and foremost reason the revolution occurred is the high self-respect of Ukrainian citizens, who proved to be better and stronger than the former unpopular administration. The Orange Revolution demonstrated the maturity of civil society in Ukraine and the emergence of a political nation.
The revolution was not a riot of the hungry, but rather an uprising of the humiliated. The people stood up not for a piece of bread but in defense of their dignity and their will and choice. Our citizens had the courage to confront gun muzzles because they perceived democracy not as an empty shell but as a profound personal aspiration.
The second reason behind the Orange Revolution is the emergence of a middle class in Ukraine. Not only workers but the intelligentsia, students, and small business owners rose up against injustice and corruption. Ukraine refused as a nation to tolerate the fusion of the authorities and the oligarchic clans. Though a so-called oligarchic economy may work for a quasi-democracy, a guided democracy was no longer acceptable to Ukraine and its politically active society.
The third reason for the revolution is that the degradation and extreme unpopularity of the Kuchma regime had reached its peak. Politically motivated murders, harassment, corruption, and media suppression flooded Ukraine, and in 2004 Ukrainians’ patience wore thin. The mass and systematic falsifications that took place during presidential elections overfilled the glass of patience that Ukrainians are known for. In actuality the elections were not between candidates but between morality and European values on the one hand and immorality and criminal behavior on the other. The authorities crossed the line and were punished by the citizens, which sent a warning to all authoritarian regimes.
The fourth reason is that after long years of being devoid of true moral leadership, Ukraine had found a strong popular leader: Victor Yushchenko, a man of noble ideals, adamant principles, and deep belief. His valor and fortitude gave him the credentials to be Ukraine’s moral leader for years to come.
A NEW INTERNAL POLICY
The revolution and the reasons behind it, including the expectations of the people, defined the main principles of the new Ukrainian authorities’ internal policy. Today, the supremacy of the person over the state, the rule of law, and freedom of the media are at the heart of our internal policy. Despite problems they inherited from the previous regime, the new authorities abide by the principles of transparency in decision-making, an independent judiciary, an anticorruption policy, and cooperation with the non-government sector.
The essence of the budgetary policy is to begin with a strong social package, as we have in 2005, and to continue putting more toward economic development. After the populist promises of the previous administration, the new government cannot ignore the basic social needs of the people. The impressive 12% GDP growth in 2004 was in fact fiction, because the people did not feel it in their pockets. Oligarch-controlled exports under favorable market conditions were the chief producers of that growth. The 6 to 8% GDP growth that has been forecast for 2005 is still much higher than the average figures for the EU 25.
The government has already prepared a budget resolution for the year 2006, putting more emphasis on the development of small and medium-size businesses while keeping tax and customs reforms in mind. We are already seeing a positive effect of the Orange Revolution on the Ukrainian economy in increased overall trade turnover since the beginning of 2005 (a 15% rise in exports and a 20% rise in imports, with the positive surplus for Ukraine). The same is true for direct foreign investments, which are now close to 9 billion USD. At the International Investment Forum, which is cosponsored by the Ukrainian government and the Davos Forum and will take place in Kiev in the middle of June 2005, we expect an additional influx of foreign capital into our market.
These advancements have positively influenced the image of Ukraine in the international financial world. In January of 2005 Fitch Ratings announced upgrading Ukraine’s long-term loan rating in national and foreign currency from B+ to BB-. In May 2005 Standard & Poor took the same position, and both institutions confirmed a B rating for short-term loans.
All in all, I have quite a positive outlook on the developments that were generated in Ukraine by the revolution. The people of Ukraine also have a positive outlook as proven by their 55 to 60% approval rating of the president and the government (compared to 5 to 7% during the Kuchma era). Opinion polls are also showing that this trust is slowly but steadily growing, in eastern Ukraine as well. It is not expected that the parliamentary election in 2006 will bring about any major changes in the Ukraine’s current political landscape.
CHANGES IN FOREIGN POLICY
The Orange Revolution brought about major changes in Ukrainian society and in the lives of our citizens, signifying the birth of Ukraine as a political nation. This event could not help but change the essence and performance of our foreign policy.
As Foreign Minister of Ukraine, I regard the issues of democracy and human rights, which have been mandated by both the people and the president of Ukraine, as key fundamentals of our diplomacy and foreign policy. This new direction has been clearly evidenced on a number of occasions.
For example, for the first time since independence we changed our position during the voting of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights and supported the EU and the U.S. on resolutions on Cuba and Belarus. In addition, on the initiative of the presidents of Ukraine and Georgia, our countries formed The Democratic Choice coalition and contributed to the return of Kirghistan to a constitutional framework.
After the outbreak of violence in Uzbekistan, Ukraine joined the democratic community in its demand to allow an independent investigation of the killings. While taking part in the international conference of the Community of Democracies in Santiago, Chile, Ukraine’s Minister for Foreign Affairs was honored to chair the European panel. There we were able to secure the signatures of many EU member-states on a statement urging the Belarus authorities to release Ukrainian, Belorussian, and Russian citizens who were being held in custody after a peaceful demonstration.
Quite recently Ukraine and the European Union agreed on a mechanism for aligning Ukraine with EU statements, including those on democracy and human rights issues. The latest example of this alignment is the agreement with the EU’s statement on developments in Bolivia. Ukraine has also initiated and actively made joint statements on behalf of GUAM states in the OSCE and with other international forums.
CONTINUING GEOGRAPHIC AND STRATEGIC PRIORITIES
Though examples such as these reflect our changes in foreign policy, our geographic priorities remain the same: European and Euro-Atlantic integration; strategic partnerships with Russia, the United States, and Poland; instituting GUAM; and a strong regional policy for Ukraine. But a big change here is that we no longer speak in euphemisms. Not only to Brussels and Washington but to Moscow we state clearly that our strategic priorities are EU and NATO memberships.
While Russia seems put out with our position—they have stated on numerous occasions that NATO membership is Ukraine’s sovereign choice—Minister Hrytsenko announced that in military terms Ukraine could join the Alliance in about three years time. We expect to work on the intensified dialogue for about one year, to join MAP after our parliamentary election, and to fully accede sometime around the year 2008. Currently, we are reforming our security system, of which civil control is the major pillar. We are grateful to our allies for assisting us in this regard.
However, a key issue in Ukraine joining the EU and NATO is public opinion, where much remains to be done. President Yushchenko stated clearly that issues of membership must be decided by the people, which is yet another sign of the democratic nature of the new authorities. The latest opinion polls show that 51% of Ukrainians support EU membership and 30% are against it, a drop in support that has always been between 50 and 60%. The decrease can be explained, I believe, by the failure of referendums in France and the Netherlands, which were highly debated in Ukrainian media and society.
On the other hand, support for joining NATO is increasing: 22% are now in favor while 55% are against, when only 18% were in favor three months ago. That means that people are receiving more and more objective information about the Alliance, and that if the positive change continues at the same pace, by the beginning of 2008 we shall have 70% support.
We encourage all of our partners, the media, and NGOs to go on campaigning for EU and NATO membership. The Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation, an independent think tank that I founded, has already organized 33 round tables in all the regions of Ukraine in order to explain the benefits of joining the best two organizations in the Euro-Atlantic area.
CHANGES IN REGIONAL POLICY
Now I would like to outline the main elements of Ukraine’s regional policy.
The principal aim of our regional policy is to continue the wave of democratization in Eastern Europe that the Orange Revolution and the Revolution of the Roses began—we want to create a homogenous area of democracy with the EU, with stability and prosperity from Vitebsk to Baku.
Intensified cooperation within GUAM is a very important part of promoting this objective. As President Yushchenko stated at the Chisinau Summit, our vision of GUAM is an organization based on three pillars: Democracy, economic development, and security. As a regional leader, Ukraine will play a leading role in transforming this institution into a full-fledged regional organization with headquarters in Kiev. Using GUAM as a basis, we aim to create a coalition of states that will become a guarantor of democracy and stability in the area between the Baltic, Black, and Caspian seas.
To achieve that goal, cooperating with the EU, NATO, and the United States is indispensable. Such cooperation should include both security challenges, such as terrorism, but also such issues as energy routes and fighting against separatism.
At present, unresolved conflicts are hampering the building of a free and stable united Europe. It is our joint responsibility to democratize this territory and to settle the problems once and forever. That is why President Yushchenko put forward the initiative “Settlement Through Democratization” and presented a plan for Transdniestrian settlement in cooperation with Russia, Moldova, and Transdnistria.
Global security is unthinkable without promoting, strengthening, and protecting democracy. After the Orange Revolution Ukraine pledged itself to promoting and protecting democracy and human values in the Euro-Atlantic community of Eastern Europe. Let us do this together.