President of Ukraine Victor Yushchenko
Address on the Occasion of the 18th Anniversary of Ukraine’s Independence
Dear Ukrainian nation,
Esteemed Ukrainian officers and military,
Respected fellow citizens,
Ukrainians of the world,
I greet you with the 18th anniversary of Ukraine’s independence.
In our contemporary history, August 24th is the main, most important date in our lives.
But I will begin with words that do not concern the date, but all of us.
I will begin with the symbolic Ukrainian “I Believe”, which today each one of us can and should utter, no matter our views, background or faith:
I believe that I am a Ukrainian, and I wish my homeland well.
I believe in our national identity and want it to spread through our native land, while, like any good and wise host, I respect and protect each and every culture that has been born here.
I believe in my belonging to a great Ukrainian people, to its thousands’ years’ culture, history, fate, for which I feel a personal responsibility, because it concerns my life and the lives of my children and my grandchildren.
I believe and respect our state and will utilize my own strength to make it stronger, and ensure a more secure and prosperous life for my nation, my fellow citizens and our families.
I believe in our sovereign ability to achieve great goals.
Any divisions pale before the understanding of our truly great idea in a new era – the creation of a single Ukrainian nation, a contemporary national, political and community organism, which includes each and every citizen of our country.
I am not speaking of abstract concepts.
On this Independence Day, I first and foremost appeal to a national idea, because it is the only key to a normal life for all Ukrainian citizens and the whole Ukrainian nation.
Without this understanding, we will not be able to overcome any trial.
There never has been, is, or will be an alternative to the idea of a national identity. Everything else will inevitably be of derivate and secondary nature.
Our goal is to shape national state in a modern sense of the word.
I mean the emergence of a feeling of affinity with one's state in a citizen that produces the feeling of being an owner and, therefore, inner strength and independence to fully protect political, economic and social rights.
I appeal to all of us: Ukrainian and Russian-speaking, Orthodox, Greek Catholics, all Christians, Muslims and Jews, our villagers, intellectuals, workers and the military: there is no difference between us, for with a thought about the future we must follow the path of establishment of a single nation because only its monolith will protects and safeguard us in the new century.
I appeal to all Ukrainians worldwide.
There are not ten, or twenty, or forty, but seventy million of us all together. This makes us the global force capable of bring good to the native state.
The problems, Ukraine is experiencing are of difficult and I would say complex nature.
I am sure, we should be straightforward and without despair about these objective factors.
Namely. Ukraine is a post-totalitarian state.
This, first of all, has tremendously affected the traditions and the way of governance and the functioning of state authorities.
In fact, the barracks constructed 70 years we were forced to rebuild as normal house in 18 years. Despite the fact that all elements of design were meant to be barracks, and architects got used to build only barracks.
But this is only the small part. The hardest thing is that people got used to permanent guardianship, patronage from the state, which the Soviet system provided and mouthed drop by drop to all its ‘cogs’, regardless of the quality of their work or the real achievements of this work.
Hence the coterie: people do not appreciate the results of their work, wait for universal support from the state and provide rich soil for political populism. Hence is the popularity of populists in the society and politics. Hence is the hope for mythical ‘strong hand’.
Ukraine is a post-colonial country.
One of the main results of such a state is domination of capital alien to its people, unproductive, impotent, tied to the former mother country.
Unlike the national capital, for these ‘big money’ our land is merely a territory, a source of enrichment and docile labor. This capital, dependent of and obedient to the former empire, despises its own country and supports neither it nor its culture.
Ukraine also is post-genocide nation.
This post-genocide status of Ukraine according to James Mace means firstly - the ‘killing of the intellect of the nation’, i.e. tearing apart its intellectual elites; secondly - the ‘lumpenization’ of the village, which significantly slows the agrarian reform; thirdly - the perversion of worldview and vision of history as well as low national solidarity between different strata of the population.
I emphasize it without intention to insult anyone: these factors are objective.
It does not matter who will be the President or Prime Minister of Ukraine, whether he will identify these problems or not, whether he will admit them - the challenges will remain as does the radiation of Chernobyl remains.
And overcoming them, reaching out for new stages of our development is our objective ‘homework’ for the coming years of our development.
I think that not dropping our hands and not to stop is the most important thing.
I want to add confidence in all of us, but not a groundless or say-so confidence.
I strongly reject any claims about weakness of Ukraine or even more so the allegations that ‘it is a project’. These are words of neglect in which new ‘Little Russians’ and fierce opponents of Ukraine exercise.
We are the state. Sturdy and large. With a broad margin of stability. We are 18 years old. We have a millennial history of our state of Ukraine-Rus behind us.
Our state has strengthened itself and its renaissance is an exceptional historic achievement of all the Ukrainian people. Ukraine was, Ukraine is, Ukraine will always be.
Openly speaking about our problems, we should celebrate and value with dignity our every national achievement.
In last five years Ukraine has done, of course, much. We have changed.
We are free and democratic country. The system of political censorship and persecution has become the thing of the past. The opposition has come to power twice in a free election. This is the real evidence and a fait accompli for democracy and freedom.
Further. Ukraine was recognized a market economy. We joined the World Trade Organization, got rid of discriminatory trade restrictions, which had been there for last fifteen years.
We have overcome tremendous distance in the relations with the European Union. Soon we expect truly historic event to happen: the signature of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. This result was unthinkable even four years ago. Today we are working on the EU - Ukraine agreement on joining our energy systems; today we are working on EU-Ukraine free trade zone.
Gradually, we are joining the European space in all the important areas - from energy to education.
Precisely in line with European standards we have conducted educational reform, launched a new system of external testing in higher educational facilities, have joined the Bologna Process, entered a single European educational space.
We started the reform of the Armed Forces. Military service term was shortened to one year. Military is rearmed – almost 80 new models of equipment were introduced, including the newest tank ‘Oplot’, which you will see today at Khreshchatyk. The goal is clear and I'm sure it will be achieved - the army will be professional. The respect of state authorities will return to it together with the respect of all citizens.
With the right steps we have stopped critical demographic processes. In 2009 we recorded the highest birth rate in 18 years. The number of children, adopted by our citizens has increased by almost 40%.
More than half a million Ukrainians are born yearly now - we did not have that in the past 18 years.
We have laid new standards of social policy, which allowed to increase almost three times the average salary in Ukraine and to increase the real incomes of people. Over the past four years we have doubled the national budget. Ukraine did not have such indices in its previous history.
I am convinced, deeply convinced that we will withstand the economic crisis hit.
Today this issue is obviously the most acute.
As the President, I appreciate the efforts of all professionals who tackled the problem, in spite of all the pressure of political and electoral populism.
I say this quite calmly and with firm conviction, and not for the good of words.
I remember well the time, when during presidency over the National Bank of Ukraine the galloping hyperinflation was stopped, which reached 1182% a year, stable solid hryvnya was introduced and efficient banking system of Ukraine was established.
I remember well the time of my presidency over Government of Ukraine when decline in production in the country has been suspended for the first time, when state debt of Ukraine decreased, the deficit-free budget of Ukraine was approved, the default was avoided, which the journalists and political circles were speaking about from morning till evening, and barter was eliminated, real GDP growth was provided and arrears in pensions and wages were paid in full.
Back then we have overcome serious challenges and created the foundations for the normal development of our national economy.
We have reached success because we acted systematically, introducing reasonable market principles, without lying to voters and giving out ‘sops’ or empty promises. We were honest with our society.
This experience, I firmly believe, is invaluable to us. We need it to face new challenges.
I still have hope that the government and opposition hear the President, but largely it is our people I appeal to.
My strategic plan has three principal positions.
First. We must continue the course of true national revival of Ukraine.
Much work has already been done. The state speaks from the position of national idea. We have started an extensive work to restore the historical truth and memory. We have given an impetus to establishment of a local Ukrainian Orthodox Church. On this occasion, from this rostrum I address the Ukrainian Orthodox clergy - start your interfaith dialogue. It is your responsibility. Remember that the spiritual unity of Ukraine is required today as a breath of air.
These efforts cannot be stopped. So the most focus should be on the newest information policy of Ukraine.
Together with the promotion of our media, film and publishing it should become a major tool to promote Ukrainian national ideas - ideas of cultural and spiritual unity among all segments of our community.
Second. The key and no-alternative means to restore order in our country is a constitutional reform.
I firmly insist on constitutional changes that should fix all the current controversy.
I stand for strong state authority with democratic division of powers, duties and responsibilities among all branches of government.
I demand lifting parliamentary immunity. It is humiliation for the Ukrainian society.
I propose to numerically reduce our parliament and increase the powers of the regions. It is the call of time, freedom and democracy.
I demand guarantees of the strictest accountability of the parliamentary parties before the electorate and introduction of the ‘open-list’ principle, which will let election of both a party and separate deputies.
My suggestions are set forth in the draft amendments to the Basic Law of our country, which I had presented to the Parliament in March this year.
Until now the Parliament has failed considering them. And I think it never will.
Therefore I would like to announce that I am signing the decree on holding a nationwide discussion of the draft Constitution submitted by the President of Ukraine. I am ready to hear the opinion of every Ukrainian.
I believe that such discussions produce a broad public reaction, which will force members of the Parliament to begin caring for their people, rather than for their seats.
Third. I propose a holistic plan for economic recovery of Ukraine.
It is my experience and knowledge as a former Chairman of the National Bank and Chairman of the Ukrainian Government.
Its main priorities are simple, clear and specific.
First is the restoration of financial stability. Strong money, low inflation, strong fiscal policy – these three things provide primary, proper restoration of financial stability. Next thing is reduction of business taxation, simplifying tax administration.
Next thing is promotion of external and domestic investment, particularly in the context of Euro 2012. I mean tens of billions of dollars of investments for which we should create a proper climate through professional system of government.
I mean support of a competitive Ukrainian manufacturer, concentration of the authorities on potential points of economic growth and thus on the support of small and medium businesses.
I mean establishment and introduction of a fully functioning land market, lifting the moratorium, transformation of the agricultural sector into one of the foundations of our country's export potential.
I mean the concerted implementation of reforms in pensions care, healthcare, children and maternity protection.
The most needed thing in Ukraine now are reforms rather than holing up through the crisis.
The main criterion for effectiveness of central and local authorities’ work should be the indicator of life expectancy, population growth and decline in dynamics of socially dangerous diseases, social standards.
My plan applies to all spheres of economic and social life of the state and people.
There is one single principle in its basis: the crisis must be used for radical reforms, but not for elections.
These steps can open new prospects for Ukraine, paving the way for the economy of knowledge and let using all the national benefits in science, education and scientific technology.
My plan is realistic and its goal is absolutely attainable.
In a few months there will be new presidential elections in Ukraine.
As the President I guarantee that the electoral process and voting will be carried out freely, honestly and legally.
I am sure that regular attempts of political collusions at these elections will fail.
I believe that the Constitutional Court of Ukraine will say its authoritative word about recent changes to electoral law and will not allow violation of democracy, human rights and freedoms of Ukrainians.
We must keep awareness for these elections will decide not only political life but also our great civilization choice: where do we go - back into the past or into the future.
Our safe and prosperous future is at one scale and conservation of clans that again divide the country into two is at the other.
I choose strong national state.
I choose the strength and dignity, which will put in their place not only local ‘feudal lords’, but also the external ‘masters’, who want to determine how we are supposed to live.
I choose equal and full participation of our country in the life of Europe.
I choose freedom and our national interests.
I calmly and confidently look into the future.
Our new state is eighteen years old.
We have our millennial history of the state of Ukraine-Rus behind us.
The future ahead is great.
I am proud that I am Ukrainian.
I am proud of our state.
I am proud of our people.
Hail to you, dear brothers and sisters!
Hail to Thee, the Ukrainian state!
Let the great banner of freedom always fly over us, protected by our troops and our hearts.
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