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Twenty years of Ukraine: Our path is only beginning
Twenty years is enough time for a human to develop. But in the growth of a state they are only the first steps. Our main achievement at this moment in history is clear understanding of our common goal. We know what to do and understand how to achieve it. We have defined a development strategy, and we have enough political will to realize it. Our goal is European democratic prosperous Ukraine, a free state where people feel secure, and it will be achieved. And we hope for the support of all Europeans on the way.
On August 24 1991, Ukraine was reborn as an independent state, integral part of the European family of free nations. The dream of many generations came true. The spirit of unity, willpower of the nation, faith in a better future were realized into reality. The Act of Declaration of Independence became an important step of our country’s historical path. Since then and forever, the future of Ukraine has been in the hands of its nation. By supporting the December 1 1991 decision of the Verkhovna Rada, the Ukrainian society has made a final choice in favor of sovereignty and responsibility for its own actions. The Ukrainian idea of independence has become a unifying force, the pillars of which were and are fundamental values: freedom, humanism, democracy, tolerance, justice, and social cohesion.
The 20 years that have passed since then were not easy. Harsh reality has destroyed hopes for a rapid improvement of life, building a prosperous free society and legal democratic state in a short time. Romantic admiration of the fact of independence has grown into a need for real action. The need for pragmatic, informed and responsible approach to every decision.
It is not the first decade that the society has been struggling to overcome the Soviet legacy. No matter how painful it is to recognize, the state has been often behind its neighbors in development. Through all these years, corruption has been eroding the management system, making it for Ukrainians difficult to breathe freely. But despite the difficulties, the main step has already been done: we have finally decided our future. European choice has become the basis of foreign political identity of Ukraine. European values have become the foundation of our development.
Ukraine not only wishes to be a European country. This geographical fact does not require extra proof. We wish to join the great European project – building a united Europe based on the values of freedom, democracy and law. We wish to join it in a difficult time, seeking not subsidies or indulgences, but opportunities and rights. Join it, despite the hard pressure and conscious hindering, as equal partners. Join it for our common future.
We believe that the Association Agreement and establishing a deep and comprehensive free trade area is what Ukraine and the European Union need now. We hope our partners understand that too.
Ukraine is difficult to call timeserving or inconsistent. For centuries, even in the toughest conditions, our society has remained European, and its best representatives have put much into the cultural treasury of Europe. Evidence of our heritage are the golden-domed Kyiv, the medieval Lviv, the diverse Odesa, the modern-constructivist Kharkiv. We cannot imagine the Ukrainian land without the ancient Greek Olbia, Genovese Sudak and Feodosia, Jewish shtetls and Polish palaces. Our history is rich and multicolored, our people is multinational, and it is our common world heritage.
We are united not only by the past, but also by the present. And, I am sure of that, by the future. Examples of that are many. And possibilities are too.
Next year, together with our strategic partner Poland Ukraine will be hosting the UEFA European Football Championship finals – EURO 2012. This event will give European Union citizens another chance to see today's Ukraine, and to Ukrainians – the chance to communicate with tourists and fans from the EU.
Ukraine needs not only economic cooperation, but, first of all, the radical expansion of human contacts with the European Union. Not the government, but the society, every citizen needs that. Ukrainian government will do everything to implement the National Plan to introduce a visa-free travel. We hope the EU side will understand our capabilities and limitations, and help the citizens of Ukraine to exercise their right to freedom of movement.
Ukraine has deeply realized that our European progress is impossible without good relations with Russia. Years of independence have irrefutably proven that such relations are possible only in strict compliance with bilateral balance of national interests and mutual respect. The state and its government will do everything in their power to construct such a balance.
We understand the importance of relations with the leading country of the world – the United States, and hope these relations will be developing on in the coming years. Realizing the enormous potential available here is our main goal.
It is absurd to neglected relations with the People's Republic of China in the world of today. Over the last year, much has been done for the development of these relations, and this is only the beginning of a promising cooperation.
National pragmatism, based on the interests of Ukrainian citizens, is our roadmap to building relations with other states.
The world respects the strong. Ukraine will continue reforming the armed forces, other security sector agencies, introducing European principles and standards, developing cooperation with NATO and other security institutions in Europe.
We do contribute to the international stability and security, resolution of conflicts on the basis of strict compliance with the international law. And not only in Europe. Ukrainian peacekeepers also perform complex tasks of maintaining peace in Asia and Africa.
We realize that the road to Europe runs through every village and town of our country. And this road will be paved by not only diplomats, but by all of us –citizens of Ukraine of all nationalities, those for whom statehood is not just a word, but a common cause.
Ukraine urgently needs modernization of all areas of public life. Further delay threatens not stagnation, but a slow suicide of the state. In order to avoid tragedy we have stepped on the path of reform. This decision was not easy. And although we may not always succeed, the direction is correct and there is no doubt about it.
We set ambitious goals for the state. We target the heights Ukraine really deserves. We should enter the club of world leaders. We should give Ukrainian business an opportunity to breathe freely. We will remove administrative barriers preventing citizens from feeling comfortable in their own land.
After decades of empty talk and attempts to avoid responsibility, drastic changes occur in Ukraine for the second consecutive year. Tax and budget legislation was changed, administrative and pension reforms are pending, a large experiment in healthcare is being realized, there is discussion of a new Criminal Procedure Code and electoral legislation. New serious action is being prepared. Ukraine has already changed, and the transformations in the interests of the Ukrainian people will continue. Regardless of whether the advocates of the old system and irresponsible populism want it or not.
The success of reforms will be guaranteed by overcoming corruption – the priority threat to national security of Ukraine. For the first time in many years we are taking real steps, not decorative ones, as it has often been. But corruption cannot be crushed without ensuring the full equality of all citizens before the law.
An important step was made – there is no more caste of untouchables now in Ukraine, and I am sure, there will never be in the future. And if anyone believes this is a separately taken campaign, he is deeply mistaken. No position, no wealth, past or present, will protect the criminals. The basic principle of justice has been restored – the inevitability of punishment. Ukrainian Themis’s eyes will be closed, her focus will be only justice, and her scales will be calibrated in accordance with the European standards.
Not everyone likes that. Our actions often encounter strong resistance. But we are confident that the chosen course is right, and the results will help all citizens of Ukraine to get rid of the corruption tax and protect their own dignity in the face of today's and tomorrow's officials.
I will not deny that the government has made mistakes. And more than once. Unfortunately, we are not immune to them in the future. But we learn. Time has proven conclusively that the current leadership of Ukraine is able to do its homework.
Ukrainian government strictly complies with the provisions of the Constitution regarding the rights and freedoms of a man and citizen, and does everything necessary to fill these provisions with real content. And here we count on the support and assistance of Ukrainian civil society and general public of all European countries.
We are open to dialogue, but will not give up our principles, the main of which is serving the interests of Ukrainian society and democratic state.
All these factors give me full confidence that today, in the days of the twentieth anniversary of independence, Ukraine has broad consensus. Each of us is fully aware what country are we building together. This is a modern, democratic, legal, high-tech, and advanced country that is an integral part of European cultural space. And this goal unites all the Ukrainians, regardless of their political affiliation or belief. The way to achieve it has no alternatives to a deep modernization of the country. Time will come and in ten years Ukraine will be in the European Union, will enter the circle of developed countries. I am convinced of that.