Events from January 15 to 23, 2004
The course of the constitutional reform
The issues of the reform remained in the focus of attention of both Ukrainian politicians and a number of international organizations.
While the parliamentary majority stood out in support of the reform, the position of the leaders of the opposition was not clear enough.
Speaking on January 19 in the political discussion on the first TV channel leaders of opposition factions Viktor Yushchenko ("Our Ukraine") and Oleksandr Moroz (the Socialist Party) declared their support for the reform, but spoke against the clause providing for elections of the president in parliament.
On January 20 President Leonid Kuchma received Viktor Yushchenko on his request. It became known that the main subject of the talk among other things was the constitutional reform, but they did not go into detail when revealing the subjects of the talk.
At the same time, at the press conference on January 21 Yushchenko said that "Our Ukraine" demanded that the decision made on preliminary approval of the bill supporting the introduction of amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine be recognized as invalid. "This is the first step to political understanding", the leader of "Our Ukraine" said.
Commentary. According to the Constitution the reform should be adopted by two sessions of parliament. Therefore the demand to vote for the reform anew actually means that its implementation becomes impossible.
On January 18-20 the delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe of Hanne Severinsen and Renate Wohlwend visited Kiev.
They met with the representatives of Ukrainian authorities and the opposition, in particular, with parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn, presidential chief of staff Viktor Medvedchuk, Prosecutor General of Ukraine Hennadiy Vasiliev, chairman of the Constitutional Court Mykola Selivon and leaders of the opposition..
The PACE delegation gave an interview on the Ukrainian TV. The statement made by the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs assessed a number of "partial statements" made by of PACE rapporteurs Hanne Severinsen and Renate Wohlwend about the course of the constitutional reform as "interference into internal affairs of the country, which is not conducive to the assertion of the Council of Europe standards in the Ukrainian state".
At the same time Viktor Yushchenko expressed an opinion that the current mechanism of monitoring "was insufficient" and proposed to create a commission in the PACE, which would work on a permanent basis and scrutinize the situation in Ukraine prior to the presidential elections.
As expected Ms. Severinsen and Wohlwend will present their report to the PACE following their visit to Ukraine.
On January 15 a group of lawmakers from the opposition met with the judges of the Constitutional Court and got across their point of view on the parliamentary crisis.
Viktor Yushchenko visited Poland and met with President Alexander Kwasniewski (Jan. 19). They discussed the political situation in Ukraine.
Commentary. On April 1 the Year of Poland in Ukraine will be opened.
Speaker of the Ukrainian parliament Volodymyr Lytvyn proposed, in order to settle the parliamentary crisis, to convene a special session of parliament (a regular session is to start on Feb. 3). It is also proposed to hold "a round table" involving participation of the representatives of the parliamentary majority and the opposition and possibly President Kuchma.
Chances of the candidates at the elections
The result of a ten-year economic crisis (1989-1999) was that the credibility of all Ukrainian politicians (both those who hold the power and those who are in opposition) is extremely low; in Ukraine there is not a single politician who would enjoy the support of most citizens and for all intents and purposes the number of those who do "not trust" a given politician is greater than the number of having trust in this politician. Accordingly, the presidential elections thus far have always turned into the search for a candidate who represented "a lesser evil" rather than a candidate whom the citizens could trust. (Here is difference between the Ukrainian situation and the situation, for instance, in Russia, where at present President Putin is very popular).
The opinion polls held over the last two years demonstrated that Viktor Yushchenko has had a relatively large number of supporters (about a quarter of the citizens). At the same time over this time he could succeed in enlarging the number of his adherents since, as before, it is not clear whether he will do well in winning the support of more than 50% of the electorate or whether the majority will prefer another candidate as "a lesser evil". It is characteristic, by the way, that according to the data of the opinion poll held in December last year by the Ukrainian Center for Economic and Political Research (UCEPR) almost half of the respondents (45%) could not see a credible nominee for a title "a politician of 2003".
According to the data of the opinion poll held in December by the Kiev International Institute of Sociology in the event the elections were held now 23% would vote for Yushchenko, 13% - for the Communist leaders Petro Symonenko and 10% for incumbent Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich. Other candidates would have not more than 4%.
Similar are data of the December opinion poll held by UCEPR: Yushchenko - 25%, Yanukovich - 13% and Symonenko - 12%. Among other nominees Oleksandr Moroz will obtain the greatest number of votes: 5%.
Difference between these data rather well fit the range of the polling random error.
Thus the results show that any two politicians today together will not win more than 40% of votes so that the electorate majority prefers neither of them. Irrespective of who among the candidates will take part in the second round of elections - the outcome will be decided by those voters who at present do not support these politicians.
On January 19 the FATF mission began its visit to Ukraine. Its goal to assess to what measure Ukraine has enhance fighting against money laundering. Following the results of the mission it will prepare a report, which will be considered at the FATF plenary meeting in February in order to settle the issue of crossing out Ukraine from "the black list". The FATF representatives met with Prime Minister Yanukovich.
Inna Bogoslovskaya, head of the State Committee on Regulatory Policy and Entrepreneurship, resigned on January 19. As a reason for her resignation she named inefficiency of executive authorities and "Azarovism" (after the name of First Vice Prime Minister Mykola Azarov).
The observers noted that criticizing Azarov rather poignantly she did not say a word of criticism either against Prime Minister Yanukovich or President Kuchma.
The government said that it was going to sack Bogoslovkaya anyway.
Yushchenko accused Yanukovich's government of nonprofessionalism and that they were "engaged in politicking". According to him that was why "healthy political forces" did not wish to go to work in this government.
On January 19-20 a delegation of the Ukrainian parliament headed by its speaker Volodymy Lytvyn visited Israel. The memorandum on mutual understanding in cooperation between parliaments of the two countries was signed.
The 5th Ukrainian Separate Battalion of the Mechanized Brigade in Iraq, commanded by Valeriy Kuzmin, was named best following the results of 5-month activities of the Cimic (Civil military cooperation) units of the multinational division "Center_South" of the Joint Coalition Forces in Iraq.
On January 21-23 Ukraine was visited by United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup.
Advisor to the President of Ukraine on international affairs former Minister of Foreign Affairs Anatoly Zlenko visited the U.S. and met with a number of U.S. political and public figures, in particular, with Henry Kissinger, the former U.S. Secretary of State. Kissinger expressed conviction that Ukraine was "a factor of stability on the European continent".
Several officials of high standing in Mukachevo (a city in the Transcarpathian region of Ukraine) said that they were politically persecuted and asked the U.S. to grant them political asylum. A conflict unfolds in the city in the wake of mayor elections whose results were cancelled by court.
On January 22 Ukraine marked its national holiday - the Day of Unity. Eighty-five years ago this day saw the publication of the Act on Unity between the Ukrainian People's Republic and the Transcarpathian People's Republic..
The visit of President of Russia Vladimir Putin to Kiev started on January 23.
Results of Ukraine's economic development in 2003
Preliminary official results on the growth of Ukrainian economy in 2003 substantially exceeded even the latest governmental forecasts made right at the end of the year.
The increase of the GDP constituted 8.5%. According to expert estimates the index of the real GDP increase will be 9.2-9.4%. This will be the highest indicator over the all years of Ukraine's independence.
Substantial acceleration in the GDP growth over the last months of last year and the fast growth of investments made it possible to predict high pace of growth in 2004.
Industrial production increased by 15.8% compared with 7% in 2002, the scopes of construction - 23.1% (in 2002 a 0.7% reduction was recorded). Transportation cargo turn-over increased by 11.9% (in 2002 - by 4.4%).
A characteristic feature of industrial growth was a fast growth of manufacturing industry - by 18.2% while that of extracting industry - only by 5.5%.
This is a fundamental difference between the situation in Ukraine and the situation of most CIS countries, Russia including, in which extracting industries demonstrate fast pace of development.
Following the results of the year the increase in engineering products was 35.8%. However, its specific share in the total volume of industrial production is still relatively small -13.6%.
Ukraine's economy is still heavily dependent on the situation in metallurgy and metal-working whose specific share constitutes about a quarter of the overall industrial production (an increase during a year - 14.3%.
Total economic results could be substantially higher but for a catastrophically bad harvest. The slump in agriculture was 10.2%. In this case the gross harvest of grains was only 20.2 million tons, which was 1.9 times less than in 2002.
Food grain produced was only 5 million tons, that is only 22% of the volumes of 2002.
Nevertheless, serious problem in furnishing the population with foodstuff did not arise, which testified to a rather strong "safety margin" of Ukrainian economy.
A fast economic growth in Ukraine is associated with the growth in consuming energy, where Russia remains main supplier. So far there is no real alternative to it. As a result when compared with 2000 Ukrainian export to Russia in 2003 grew only by 10% while import from Russia (at the expense of energy) increased by one third. Credit balance in trade with Russia makes up almost USD4 billion and over three years increased 1.7 times.
No doubt, it means that the growth of Ukraine's economic dependence on Russia cannot but affect the relations between the two countries.
A reflection of this situation is, in particular, Ukraine's participation in the formation of the CES.
In the West it is often believed that Ukraine displays some vacillations in pursuing the course for Euroatlantic integration.
In reality, this is an issue of completely pragmatic economic consequences - facilitation and cheapening of energy delivery to Ukraine and of lifting trade barriers for the supply of Ukrainian products to Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus in order to improve the balance of trade with them.