Dear Mykola Oleksiyovych!
Honored professors, lecturers!
Dear students and postgraduate students!
Last year, you officially celebrated the 100th anniversary of the educational institution. But the question of your age is not so simple. There are grounds to believe, and during a short visit to your museum with the rector, that your educational institution is significantly older and your roots are much deeper. It dates back to the time of the famous Chernihiv collegium founded in times and under the patronage of our great Hetman Ivan Mazepa. People say it was the first university - the first educational institution of the Left-Bank Ukraine. The third in Ukraine, after the Ostroh and Kyiv-Mohyla Academy.
It's good that you return to the origins, to the sources of your own history. It is nice that you have been heard and the Government has finally legalized the name "Taras Shevchenko National University "Chernihiv Collegium". But in order to launch this process, the President's decree is necessary. Therefore, I sign a decree to preserve the status of "national" of your university. And the President’s Decree proclaims the name "Taras Shevchenko National University "Chernihiv Collegium" for the first time. I thank you for these applause and congratulate you on this very solemn event.
This is a fair and deserved decision. The return to history is an extremely important thing – it is a recognition of your present achievements and a loan for the future.
The national status is not only a great honor but also a great responsibility. And your staff knows well what responsibility is since times of its first representatives glorified by the surname of founder Ivan Maksymovych.
Your educational institution became alma mater for many thousands of highly skilled professionals. The twentieth century began here with two now-legendary names. I want Ukraine to know about it. These are Tychyna and Veryovka. These two prominent personalities were formed in Chernihiv.
Nowadays a new generation of Ukrainians - highly educated, talented and patriotic citizens - is being raised in the institution. You preserve and multiply the rich educational traditions accumulated over the course of three centuries by the efforts of fifty thousand graduates of different times.
Especially we are proud of those who defended the Homeland from the Russian aggression. We are proud of them. May the memory of 6 graduates who gave their lives in the struggle for independence, freedom, sovereignty and every piece of the Ukrainian land live forever.
The way to overcoming aggression, to our common European future is not only through the front, but also through a modern school. The modern school should bring us all closer to Europe.
In order to pave the way for a comprehensive, systemic reform of education, I signed a new Law "On Education" last week. Modern Ukrainian school, present-day children need a completely new, qualitatively different teacher. We are still using, unfortunately, the old teaching methods. But new times already require a modern teacher and modern approaches.
To a large extent, the "New Ukrainian School" is a challenge for our pedagogical higher education institutions, because a young teacher must come to the school prepared for the challenges that are awaiting him.
This Law does not simply declare a new level of teacher's professionalism. Finally, the teachers have the right to academic freedom, freedom from interference in pedagogical and scientific activities, free choice of forms, methods and means of study. Many lecturers and teachers dreamed about it.
It is very important for me to feel your support for progressive changes, dear students, lecturers and professors. And I ask now, without wasting time, to actively participate in the development and implementation of the principles of a new Ukrainian school.
Certainly, pedagogy will be an important direction of an updated university. After all, you must ensure the training of teachers who will come tomorrow to an updated Ukrainian school. I believe that Taras Shevchenko National University "Chernihiv Collegium" will loudly declare its new achievements not only in Ukraine, but also far beyond its borders.
Educational reform is very important, inter alia, for the protection of national identity and national language. In no way claiming to reduce the study of any other languages, including the languages of national minorities, we require a person who graduated from school to know our Ukrainian language. This is the protection of his or her rights - because without knowledge of the language, a person will not find a job, will not be able to work, will not be able to live a normal life. And knowing two, three, four languages - "welcome", "bienvenue", "bine aţi venit" and in many other languages - the more, the better.
Educational reform is not the only one we start this autumn. Yesterday, the Verkhovna Rada finally gave a green light to the pension reform, with a strong majority backing the relevant law. I would like to thank our people’s deputies, who are with us today in this hall, for the decisive changes that the Verkhovna Rada supports. Extremely important educational, pension, judicial, medical reforms. And that's all in a few weeks. When else did Ukraine have such pace of reforms? Speaking of the pension reform, it is designed for a long-term strategic perspective. However, it is very important that millions of pensioners will receive higher pensions in the coming months. Moreover, this is not a distribution of money before the elections, this is the implementation of our strategy. We raised the minimum wage twice - from 1600 UAH to 3200 UAH. So many people told us that it would cause arrears in salaries and pensions, that we would fail. We succeeded. Jointly with the Government and the Parliament, we have provided an increase in the average wage and an income growth, despite lowering the UST rate and the revenues of the Pension Fund.
Today an opportunity was created to restore justice. The one who had a higher salary and paid more to the Pension Fund has everything to count on the fact that he will have a higher pension. And one who has worked for 10 years cannot receive the same pension as one who has worked for 40 years. Because they have contributed a different share to the Pension Fund. And now justice was restored. And I emphasize that it happened without the increase in the retirement age, by which the opposition scared the whole country.
I feel certain moral satisfaction, because by restoring economic growth after the deep crisis caused by the war, the hybrid aggression of the Russian Federation, we are finally able to make the first step to somehow ease the life of the elder Ukrainians. They have been experiencing this trouble so hard and painfully.
We could have made it a little earlier if some irresponsible politicians in the Verkhovna Rada, abusing the right of the opposition, had not blocked the process.
Dear friends, it is because of them that the Verkhovna Rada has been stuck on the consideration of thousands and thousands of technical amendments to the bills for several weeks. All day long, from week to week revising bills on amendments to the procedural codes. Moreover, I emphasize that most of them are of a deliberate technical nature: remove comma, rearrange the words, replace comma with a dot or change the word stress. They wasted a lot of time. The parliament works in plenary mode two weeks a month. And it was a wasted month. By the way, some very significant amendments aimed at protecting rights and freedoms were supported by the Verkhovna Rada. They picked the wheat from the chaff and adopted the law. Its adoption paved the way to a very important judicial reform that is finally being implemented after the beginning of the new Supreme Court’s functioning
Changes to the codes are the most thought-out order of the court process bringing it in line with the best world practices. A large number of Ukrainian and international experts were involved in the development of these changes. I expect this bill to be submitted for my signature within a few days.
The competition of judges for the Supreme Court is about to finish as well. Someone says that the process is almost a year long, I want to emphasize that more than a year. Therefore, we managed to implement the constitutional amendments regarding the judicial reform. What was their purpose? To eliminate the old corrupt court, where Ukrainians could not find truth and justice. It has never been done in the world. And again, I thank the Parliament for having supported the President's initiative with a constitutional majority. Simultaneously, all judges of the Supreme Court and higher specialized courts retire. Those who wish can go for a new, effective and transparent competition.
All contests are under TV cameras, live streaming, and everyone can be convinced of the transparency of the process. Test questions are formed by the best world experts. Everyone has to be checked by NABU, and if there are any substantiated objections they should be submitted to the High Qualification Commission of Judges. Everyone has to fill out an electronic declaration and report where from and what he got, from which income. The electronic declaration must be verified by the National Anti-Corruption Agency. We created a tool of public control - the High Council of Integrity, which can express any information that has become known to them, and this information must be scrutinized. And almost 80% of this information was confirmed and taken into account. Part was not confirmed by the competent authorities.
The whole competition took almost a year. Someone believes it is too long. Maybe. But this year has shown Ukraine and the whole world that Ukraine is able to hold an unprecedented selection of candidates at a very high level. I am pleased that European experts highly evaluated the openness of all procedures and the quality of the competition. Moreover, they even suggest using our experience for other countries.
Therefore, I draw attention of those who instigate “treason” everyday to the fact that the Supreme Court will start functioning already this year. And, no doubt, it will be its best composition in all years of independence. Its judges for the first time will be scientists, representatives of the best Ukrainian law schools. For the first time, its judges will be lawyers and well-known human rights defenders who have been defending the interests of ordinary Ukrainians in the European Court of Human Rights for years, as well as judges of the first and second instance.
The Law adopted by the Verkhovna Rada "On the Judiciary and the Status of Judges" became the basis for the start of the judicial reform. I want to remind that this was also my project, introduced as urgent. And I wrote with my own hands the regulation on the creation of the anti-corruption court to the draft law. And, by the way, funds for financing the anti-corruption court in the draft budget for 2018 have already been foreseen. Believe me, it is not accidental.
We really need to ensure that all courts in Ukraine are anti-corruption. All without exception. To do this, we are making a reform. However, a separate judicial anti-corruption vertical line must be created in the composition of a separate Anti-Corruption Court, cassation instance - the anti-corruption chamber in the Supreme Court of Ukraine and, as the Verkhovna Rada will determine, departments of the anti-corruption court on the ground. So that people from Sievierodonetsk or Zakarpattia won’t have to go to a single anti-corruption institution.
Several draft laws have already been elaborated even though they are not flawless and in a certain way PR-projects of certain political forces, because the key word is only the word “anti-corruption court”. Of course, everyone welcomes that. But the devil is in the detail. And that is why, it is extremely important to collect votes in the Parliament, which is currently impossible with such draft laws.
Thus, I would like to address the Parliament with a proposal to create a working group immediately in the committee on legal policy, or under the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada, or an interfraction group. This is the competence of the Parliament. And to work out an agreed bill as soon as possible that can be supported by the entire Verkhovna Rada. This is the only possible way. And when a concerted draft law is found, just as it happened with the draft amendments to the Constitution, please present it to me without wasting time. I emphasize that it must have the support of both the ruling coalition and the opposition factions. I emphasize that I am ready to adopt this bill, complete its elaboration jointly with the group or, in case of my full consent, support and submit it on my behalf to the Ukrainian Parliament as urgent.
However, I would not like this issue to be used as a subject of political PR or political speculation. It is not about a person who takes all the laurels. The question is to create a truly effective and independent judicial body that will specialize in combating corruption and help accelerate the disposal of legal proceedings against corrupt officials. No matter who exposed those corrupt officials.
An anti-corruption court should be formed on a competitive basis under the close supervision of the Ukrainian public. However, I believe that it is impossible for this court to turn into a political inquisition, as someone dreams. It is out of discussion. This court should be an effective anti-corruption institution guided by the rule of law and the principles of national sovereignty. Ukrainians themselves are capable of forming a judicial system, including an anti-corruption court. According to the Constitution and the standards of the Council of Europe. I am sure we can demonstrate that.
We have passed very illustrative contests for the formation of NABU. I recall a withering criticism of state-mongers towards the President for the appointment of Artem Sytnyk. Give him an opportunity to work, prove independence. Now this criticism has faded away.
Then there was a competition for the appointment of a Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor. The same criticism.
The appointment of judges of the Supreme Court is now under way. Criticism is smaller, but it is also more than enough. As they say: someone lies, someone barks, and the caravan goes on. They say: "We do ours".
The changes in the Supreme Court, of course, need time, and time works against us. People have the right to demand justice from us right now, without waiting for the creation of this or that wonderful institution every year.
Therefore, along with the launch of the lawmaking process and the creation of an anti-corruption court, I will offer several quick solutions to accelerate the fight against corruption.
I think that in the near future we can create a specialized anti-corruption chamber in the new Supreme Court, which will be the cassation instance in all anti-corruption cases
We can accelerate the renewal on a competitive basis of the courts in Kyiv - Pecherskyi, Solomyanskyi or in the combined courts, as the capital has the lion's share of anti-corruption cases that require immediate consideration. Objective, fair, impartial, but immediate.
So, I would like to emphasize: this would not substitute the creation of an anti-corruption court. This is an addition, so that we do not waste time within a single anti-corruption strategy.
Everyone needs a fair trial. When I said why Ukraine needs the judicial reform - this is the right of the people to the truth. The right of the investor, and we will sharply improve the investment climate, to an objective and independent review of his affairs.
Only in the presence of a fair court, we will build a successful country for successful people where every person can defend himself in a fair, impartial and objective court.
Sorry, I took so much time on the judicial reform. But look - educational, judicial, medical, complex, fundamental changes to ensure a transparent process of privatization. And these are just steps that are scheduled for the fall of this year.
This is the pace Ukraine has never had. This is the pace recognized by all international partners - that in the past three years more has been made than in the previous 23 years. And the ratification of the Association Agreement, and the entry into force of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area Agreement, which gave an opportunity to increase the share of the European Union in the overall balance of foreign trade to 40% and to survive hybrid aggression in the form of a trade blockade with the Russian Federation.
And, finally, visa-free regime. Since June 11, after implementing all 144 points of the Visa Liberalization Action Plan, every Ukrainian citizen with a Ukrainian biometric passport freely crosses the European Union's border without waiting in queues, without being drawn into huge bureaucratic and paperwork issues. They scared us that we will have refugees, because we are a country in war, a country that is not able to be in charge for its citizens. Look - more than three months have passed since June 11 and there are no problems. And this is not just the right of Ukrainians to cross the border freely. This is the final "goodbye" to the Soviet Union and the Russian Empire, and the return of our great and proud nation to the family of European nations. Because we were always Europeans. Nobody even puts it in doubt. And I sincerely congratulate you on this.
I wish you all a good health, peaceful sky, generous fate and new achievements, already under the new name (university - ed.), for the benefit of Ukraine.
Glory to Ukraine!