Events from April 18 to 23, 2004
NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer visited Kiev on April 19. He met with President Leonid Kuchma and Prime Minister Yanukovich.
Scheffer said during the meeting with Kuchma that the Ukraine-NATO plan of actions is sufficiently ambitious and "contained everything that promotes closer links between Ukraine and NATO".
Prime Minister of Ukraine and presidential nominee from the parties of political center Viktor Yanukovich said that in the course of restructuring the Ukrainian economy up to the year 2015 the Ukrainian GDP should increase 2.3-2.4 fold. It implies the annual growth approximately by 7.5%. In 2003 GDP increased by 9.4% and in 2004 the government predicts its increase by 9.5%.
Ukraine's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that at present Ukraine did not intend to withdraw its peacekeeping contingent from Iraq. At the same time the MFA of Ukraine expressed its disappointment by the fact the U.S. side had decided not to pay a compensation to the family of Ukrainian TV cameraman Taras Protsyuk employed by Reuters Agency and killed in Iraq in 2003.
President Kuchma also said (April 22) that the Ukrainian military contingent intended to act as part of the multinational coalition to support peace and stability in Iraq to the end of its mission, but Ukraine had no intention to enlarge the strength of its contingent.
"Ukraine came to Iraq with a peacekeeping mission. We are not conquerors nor invaders. We are going to complete our duty to the end. We are not going to run out", he said.
On April 20 the Verhovna Rada of Ukraine by its 265 votes ratified the agreement on the Common Economic Space with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. Simultaneously this agreement was ratified by Russia and Kazakhstan. The fourth participant - Belarus - ratified the agreement only by its parliament lower chamber. (See an economic commentary below).
At the same day the Verkhovna Rada ratified two more Ukrainian-Russian documents: the agreement on the state border and the agreement about exploiting of the Azov Sea and the Strait of Kerch.
The first of these documents draws a line under a more-than-10-year period when Ukraine, being a sovereign state, did not have a clear-cut border line with its powerful neighbor that was fleshed out in an international treaty.
On April 23 Presidents of Ukraine and Russia Leonid Kuchma and Vladimir Putin met in Yalta (Crimea, Ukraine). Yalta since the Soviet time has been a favorite meeting place for the leaders of Eastern Europe.
At the meeting the presidents exchanged the instruments of ratification of two Ukrainian-Russian treaties. Next meeting is planned to take place in Kiev in a month time.
Speaking in Kiev on April 21 President Kuchma said that hastiness in the process of Ukraine's integration into the European Union was improper.
"We must creatively digest the experience of the countries of the previous wave of the European integration process, to analyze not only positive, but negative aspects in order to avoid mistakes, which were made by the countries of Central Europe. We should not integrate into Europe as "a junior sister". We have a similar experience. We must predict these events", he said.
The elections of the mayor of the city of Mukachevo were held in an extremely scandalous situation. The parliamentary opposition demanded an investigation of everything that happened and a punishment of the culprits.
President of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma charged General Prosecutor Gennadiy Vasiliev with a task of conducting a comprehensive investigation of the facts of possible infringement of laws during the elections of Mukachevo's city mayor by the General Prosecutor's office and the Security Service.
The opposition also demanded the firing of Medvedchuk, presidential administration's chief of staff, the minister of interior and the head of the Transcarpathian regional administration, however parliament voting on this issue was negative.
The CES agreement ratified
The assessments of this event by the Ukrainian experts are controversial enough.
Many of them believe that it is about a patently inviable integration project on the CIS space.
But there is also a not less popular opinion that this time we face a really serious attempt of reintegration (so far only economic one) in the territory of the former USSR under Russia's aegis.
A decision on the creation of the CES and its sure-footed ratification in Ukraine's Verkhovna Rada (265 votes out of 450 possible ones) is difficult to fathom out of the context of Ukraine's relationships with the EU and the U.S.
No doubt, the creation of the CES is directly linked with the enlargement of the European Union and with the fact that Ukraine could not receive a definitive answer to the issue of its possible membership in the EU even within distant historical projection. This in a most serious way undermines the positions of the supporters of the European integration aspirations in it.
Besides, direct real losses of Ukraine as a result of changes in the trade regime with the countries - new members of the EU - are evaluated as USD 350-500 million per year and Ukraine was clearly told that any compensations are out of the question.
At the same time, the creation of a free-trade zone within the CES framework may bring Ukraine approximately USD 1 billion a year.
In addition, new opportunities open for additional export of Ukrainian engineering, science-intensive and highly technological products on the markets of other countries - the CES members, where they are quite competitive in terms of the price-quality ratio.
Ukraine's stance was also affected by gradual perception of the fact that it could not reckon on a serious economic cooperation with the U.S.
Ukraine was, as a matter of fact, excluded from the participation in Iraqi projects, while Russia, which had denounced the war in Iraq, obtained lucrative contracts.
It is obvious, that given a dramatic exacerbation of the situation in Iraq, on the one hand, and the absence of any prospects of contracts, on the other - an interest in Ukraine's participation in Iraq restructuring will gradually taper off.
The CES prospects are directly linked with the positions of the EU and Russia.
Ukraine has sufficiently modest wishes for the EU under new conditions, which emerged after its enlargement: liberalization of the visa regime with most EU countries following the pattern of the agreements concluded with Poland, Hungary and a number of other countries of Eastern Europe; the use by the EU of the economic policy with respect to Ukraine, which was used in relations with the countries of Central and Eastern Europe at the stages, which preceded their accession to the EU.
In the case of failure to meet these wishes the CES will never be a hindrance on the path of Ukraine's European integration even if Russia provides real concessions within the CES framework (for creation of a free-trade zone as the first stage of the CES formation economically is very advantageous for Ukraine).
However, if the EU will, as before, pursue the policy of empty promises against the background of creating a new real "iron curtain" on Ukraine's western border, while Russia demonstrates certain flexibility the CES may really become the first stage of economic and later of political reintegration of Ukraine into Russia.
Despite all current declaration of the Ukrainian leadership given the similar development of the events the range of this reintegration at present is impossible to determine. It is quite likely that it will lead to the creation of a new geopolitical association of a confederate type.