Not much time is left before March 31, the day, which, according to the unanimous statements of Ukrainian and foreign politicians will define the future of Ukraine. High profile foreign visitors, are coming to Kyiv to evaluate the pre-election situation and to make tentative forecasts of the development of events in Ukraine and its relations with their countries and international organizations. Only last week, four such visitors came to the Ukrainian capital: Madeleine Albright, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Gar Knutson and Javier Solana. (It is surprising, but for some reason in this row there is no representative of Aleksander Kwasniewski, who promised the Ukrainian opposition last year that the elections in Ukraine would be “fair and transparent”.) All who visited Kyiv are diplomats (incumbent or former), but their assessments of the situation in Ukraine are so different! The Canadian Secretary of State said that for the time being his country “did not see any worrying symptoms” regarding the level of democracy in the election campaign in Ukraine, however former US Secretary of State Ms. Albright openly said that she has evidence of infringements. The former German vice-chancellor and foreign minister did not speak directly about the elections but emphasized over and over again the phrase “European standards.” Secretary General of the EU Council, the EU chief representative for foreign policy and security, Solana, was masterly and careful with his answers. However, this did not prevent him from making this clear: Europe is expecting Ukraine to have free, fair and transparent elections. However, what will happen if their hopes are not justified remains unclear…
Mr. Secretary General, a few days ago Ms Albright said that she had evidence of infringements during the election campaign in Ukraine. Moreover, she expressed her concern saying "at this moment, it is unclear whether the March 31 elections will mark a step forward for Ukraine's democratic future." Are you worried about anything in the Ukrainian election campaign?
You are now in an electoral campaign, which is going to be very important, and everybody has to make an effort to have free, fair and transparent elections. This is an important occasion for your country and a responsibility for your government, responsibility for the central committee of the elections, responsibility for the media, responsibility for the society. Everybody has to make a great effort because these elections are very important for your country and I hope that every effort will be made by everyone to ensure that the elections are fair and free. You know the European Union will be sending observers; other organizations will be sending observers. There is no doubt that the reports of these people will be fundamental to the transparency of these elections.
The EU is currently imposing sanctions on Zimbabwe for the violation of democratic rules and in particular for pressure on the media. What actions might the EU take in the case of international observers finding infringements during elections in Ukraine?
You cannot compare Zimbabwe with Ukraine. This is a completely different situation. As I said we would like to see elections, which are free and fair, transparent, with equal access to the media, etc. And the observers will be here to observe as in any other elections that have taken place in many countries of the Council of Europe and the Council of Europe will be also watching. But the important thing is the message to everybody, the government, society, the parties, citizens, the electoral committee, that this is an important event, these elections are being followed carefully by the international community. And since you are a country that wants to join Europe you have to adapt your behavior to the behavior of European countries.
Mr. Solana, the European Union has many times emphasized the need for a quick and transparent investigation into the murder of journalist Georgy Gongadze, and the Council of Europe recommended that Ukraine set up an international commission to investigate this case. In view of the fact that Ukraine ratified the European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters, could we expect the European Union to provide assistance and qualified experts to help with this commission?
The European Union has been cooperating with the investigation. Help with information, and forensic accounts have been asked by your government, by your investigation committee. So we have always been ready to cooperate and continue to cooperate.
Do you think the cours of Ukrainian foreign policy will be shifted after new people’s deputies come to the Verkhovna Rada?
I hope that the basic elements of your foreign policy, which are a foreign policy that is pro-European, will not change.
Last year Ukraine received several positive messages from the EU. Moreover the representatives of several influential European states expressed their support for the aspiration of our country to become an associated member of the EU. Recently President Kuchma made it an objective of the Ukrainian government to achieve the status of an associated member by the year 2004. However some time agp, Ukraine had to wait for the ratification of an Agreement on partnership and cooperation between the EU and Ukraine by the European parliament for four years. In view of this, how realistic do you think it is to sign the European agreement in such terms that would allow its ratification before the Agreement on partnership expires, that is before the year 2008?
I do not wish to put a specific date. The important thing is to do the work that has to be done. Your country has to continue to press ahead with the reforms it is engaged in. It has to adopt new elements of behavior. As I said, the elections will be an important watershed and what I would like is it to encourage the government and society to make an effort and implement the reforms, which are needed for getting closer to the European Union. You don’t have these reforms. Therefore I cannot give a definite date. It is more important that everybody gets together to do the thing that has to be done. But you know that there is a perspective. The relations between your country and the European Union are very good and it has to be continued.
In two years Ukraine will have a border with the European Union. Being concerned with its inner stability and security, the European Union is currently strengthening its future borders, that is the eastern borders of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia (and consequently the western borders of Ukraine). However Ukraine’s northern and eastern borders are far more transparent; a stream of illegal immigration, weapons and drugs is heading to Europe through them. That is why, don’t you find it a more expedient investment for the EU to provide assistance to Ukraine in strengthening its northern and eastern borders, especially if there is the veiw that they will become the borders of the expanded European Union?
In a few years the European Union will enlarge, the countries of the European Union will border Ukraine. So the EU has its responsibilities for these borders. It has already done work with Ukraine so that the new situation at the border will not cause problems to your country. We are ready to talk to contact with the government of your country to see what can be done effectively. The western borders of Ukraine will be the borders of the European Union, therefore they need a certain structure. But we are ready to cooperate with you also in strengthening your eastern and northern borders.
The Ukrainian side proposed to sign a Memorandum on EU- Ukraine cooperation in the military technological field at the EU- Ukraine Paris Summit almost a year and a half ago. As far as we know the Ukrainian side have not yet received any answer to its proposal. Does this mean that the EU is not interested in military technological cooperation with Ukraine?
We had a good discussion yesterday with the minister of foreign affairs and we provided the answer to that question, we provided the mechanisms to increase this cooperation. There hsd been an improvement in contact with your authorities in the last two years. I have visited your country five times. This is more than any other country. We are moving in that direction. Your minister of foreign affairs will be in Brussels in a few weeks to continue talks. We have to develop as much as possible a mutual cooperation in security.