The CSDU is the successor to the Jackson-Vanik Graduation Coalition, which united the efforts of more than 250 businesses and Ukrainian-American, Jewish- American and other non-governmental organizations to promote Ukraine’s graduation from the provisions of the Jackson-Vanik amendment. That goal was accomplished in March 2006, when President Bush signed legislation removing Ukraine from the purview of Jackson-Vanik and granting permanent normal trade relations status to Ukraine.
The CSDU welcomes Prime Minister Yanukovych’s visit to the United States and hopes it will strengthen U.S.-Ukraine relations and Ukraine’s ability to realize its full potential. The CSDU believes the following are important for Ukraine’s ability to move forward.
Democratic Consolidation. Ukraine has recorded significant democratic gains over the past two years. It is important that the government safeguard these gains; promote further steps to protect the independent media and non-governmental organizations; and institute measures to make government at all levels more accountable to its citizens.
A Common Vision. Prime Minister Yanukovych and President Yushchenko should have a common vision for Ukraine’s democratic future in Europe. This vision should be pro-Ukraine, practical and understandable to Ukraine’s partners. It should respect the constitutional roles of the President and Prime Minister. The appearance of two competing foreign policies in Kyiv, as has been the case in the past few months, causes confusion among Ukraine’s partners and seriously undermines Ukraine’s international authority.
WTO. Accession to the World Trade Organization will integrate Ukraine into the global economy, open the way for negotiation of a free trade agreement with the European Union, and help protect Ukrainian exporters in key markets. The Prime Minister and President both say they support WTO accession. They should together work with the Rada for immediate passage of legislation to bring Ukraine’s trade regime into conformity with WTO requirements, so that Ukraine can complete its accession and begin enjoying the trade and broader economic benefits of WTO membership.
Information on NATO. The CSDU supports Ukraine’s rapid integration into and membership in NATO, but understands this is a subject of debate within Ukraine. Obviously, how far to go with NATO is a question for the Ukrainian government and people to decide. But this should be decided based on a correct understanding of NATO today and the benefits, obligations, advantages and disadvantages of membership. Both the Prime Minister and President have called for a public information effort on NATO. The government should live up to its announced intention to stimulate a comprehensive public information campaign with appropriate funding but without exclusionary limits on access to and use of such funds.
Energy Security. No issue is more critical for Ukraine than energy security. Kyiv needs an energy strategy that supports economic growth and minimizes the prospect that another country could politically exploit its dependence on energy imports. Key elements of such a strategy should include allowing prices to rise to cost-recovery levels, energy efficiency measures, creating conditions for Ukrainian and international investors to expand domestic production, developing renewable energy sources and diversifying imports.
Anti-corruption Measures. Major corruption at all levels continues to plague Ukraine, imposing great costs on its citizens and discouraging investment. For example, in recent months rebates of value added taxes have been distributed in a discriminatory manner, and reports suggest that some businesses with political connections to the government are not paying their full taxes. Transparency is important: the government should regularly publish value added tax rebates returned to oblast governments and make public the tax payments made by Ukraine’s largest businesses. Transparency is also vitally important in the energy sector; too many questions remain, for example, about the operations and ownership of RosUkrEnergo.
A Modern Economy. Investment by domestic and international investors will spur economic growth, create new jobs, and generate greater tax revenues. But investors will not invest in Ukraine if they fear arbitrary actions and interference in the market by the government. In this regard, the decision to impose grain export quotas has hurt Ukrainian farmers, badly affected Ukraine’s investment image, and set back Ukraine’s ability to become a major exporter of agricultural products. The quotas should be ended immediately.
Language. Ukraine’s practice over the past 15 years of having Ukrainian as the sole state language while Russian can also be used on a practical basis has worked. Attempts to change this, by trying to make Russian a second state language, would only make language a divisive issue among Ukrainians.
Finally, performance is the standard by which governments are judged. Translating words, such as those in recent op-eds by Prime Minister Yanukovych and President Yushchenko in The Washington Post, and by the Prime Minister in his December 4 speech at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, into concrete actions will be important for the people of Ukraine and for Ukraine’s ability to succeed as a modern, European state. From the point of view of the CSDU, actions will be important for securing Washington’s continued strong interest in Ukraine and its future development.
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