Five European Presidents Praise Ukraine and Call for a New European Vision

KIEV, Ukraine -- The presidents of five European countries have joined together in support of the newly democratic Ukraine and its reform programme. At the opening plenary of the World Economic Forum’s Ukraine Roundtable in Kiev, they called for a new vision of Europe founded on closer ties.

European Union Comissioner Joaquin Almunia (L), Estonian President Arnold Ruutel (2L), Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili (3L), Klaus Schwab, Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, Ukranian President Victor Yushchenko (4th R), Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski (3rd R)

“Ukraine is prepared to ensure its place in the modern world,” declared President Victor Yushchenko to more than 250 participants – the vast majority of them business leaders – from 32 countries. He outlined the government’s economic and political reform programme to raise the effectiveness of the state and ensure Ukraine “is the most beneficial place for investment”.

Yushchenko announced new a memorandum on privatizations. “The people of parliament and the cabinet have signed a memorandum on privatization and the authorities recognize private property. There will be no re-privatizations,” he said, promising that it would be left to the legal system to deal “fairly” with any investigations of past privatizations.

Other reforms on the agenda include fighting corruption; eliminating unnecessary regulations; upgrading the securities market and social benefits. “From the youngest to the oldest, our aim in 2005 is that social benefits would be felt by each Ukrainian citizen. Real income in the first quarter has grown by 25 percent,” Yushchenko said in a keynote address.

The Ukrainian president reiterated the country’s strategic goal of European Union membership. He noted that the “European choice of Ukraine cannot be an obstacle to relations with Russia… and the development of ties (with Russia) is in the interest of all Europe,” he said.

President Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland, Mikheil Saakashvili, President of Georgia, Ilham Aliyev, President of Azerbaijan, Arnold Rüütel, President of Estonia, Vladimir Voronin, President of Moldova all spoke in the plenary in support of Ukraine’s EU membership bid.

“Ukraine needs Europe, but Europe needs Ukraine,” declared Kwasniewski. He called on the EU to “keep the doors open to new countries and believe in the European project and values.”

The EU is developing close ties with European states beyond its borders through its “good neighbourhood” policy, assured Joaquín Almunia, Commissioner, Economic and Monetary Affairs, European Commission. The message he will take back to Brussels, he said, is that “we need to build a common vision of Europe among all Europeans.”

The president of Georgia echoed calls for greater European solidarity. Ukraine and Georgia are two nations that are “proving that democracy in this part of the world works,” Saakashvili said. He drew participants’ attention to Belarus whose population also “deserves to be in a free democratic society.”

“Today we need solidarity for Belarus and hope that soon we can have a new conference of what we can learn the Belarus democratic experience,” he said.

Source: WEF Press Release