A Word from the Global Ukrainian Hromada

Ukraine’s Quest for Mature Nation Statehood Roundtable XII:
“Compelling Bilateral Ties/Poland-Ukraine & Turkey-Ukraine”

Seeking a Whole, Free and Prosperous Europe as a Strategic Goal
of Ukraine-A Word from the Global Ukrainian Hromada

Stefan Romaniw

Remarks by Stefan Romaniw, General Secretary of the Ukrainian World Congress, delivered at Ukraine’s Quest for Mature Nation Statehood RT XII: Compelling Bilateral Ties/Poland-Ukraine & Turkey-Ukraine, held in Washington DC on October 20, 2011.

How does one go about relaying a concise message from Ukraine’s 20 million Diaspora, which is itself very diverse, that (a) Ukraine’s place is in Europe and (b) the beneficiaries, politically, economically, socially and ideationally will be both Ukraine and Europe itself?

Indeed, on what basis can the Ukrainian World Congress make such a broad statement?

One might begin by noting the following:

  • Successive governments of Ukraine have indicated that this is the direction the country should go.
  • Many European leaders since the Orange Revolution have voiced their opinion in this regard.
  • Ukraine being strategically and politically tied to Europe would blunt Russian expansionism-which is without doubt currently on the move; and forming strategic alliances e.g. Ukraine, Poland, Turkey and others would undoubtedly strengthen such a framework in the region.
  • The Ukrainian people have voiced their opinion:

    In May 2010 53% of Ukrainians older than 16 would like their country to join the European Union in the future. Citizens aged between 20-39 were most enthusiastic about the idea: over 60% out of this age group support it. : 31% of respondents aged between 50-59 and 33% of respondents over 60 years old said no to the possibility of joining the EU.

    As for regional differences, citizens of the central and western regions and Kyiv residents support Ukraine’s membership of the EU (69%, 61%, and 60% of respondents in these regions respectively). Some citizens in the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine are strongly opposed (35% and 31% of respondents in these regions respectively).

  • Increased awareness raising programs of the benefits of joining Europe would increase interest in EU membership even more.

My community and professional responsibilities have taken me to many parts of the world; the overall message has been: Ukraine’s Place is in Europe.
Spending lengthy periods in Ukraine and conducting public meetings in Ukraine’s East from Stachanov, Luhansk, Dontesk, Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizza, Kharkiv, Kryvyj Rih to Symy, Poltava, Cherkasy, Chernhiviv, Kyiv as well as in the West of the country, I can say there is no doubt a resounding message: We must move to Europe, whilst not losing sight of our current neighbors.

The message certainly is not: Let”s form a new CIS /USSR or live in a vacuum.

The Ukrainian Word Congress has made its position well known to President Yanukovych and the Ukrainian Government. The UWC has stated categorically that:

  • There must be a value system involving building and reinforcing a strong Ukrainian State that is fit to be a player in the international community.
  • European standards and criteria in government and society must be adhered to including democracy, freedom of speech, human and national rights
  • Ukraine must position itself strategically; it must be in charge of its own destiny and should move towards integrating into the European community.

At the June 2010 meeting the UWC provided President Yanukovych with a Memorandum highlighting the UWC areas of concern; some of these included:

  • The Agreement on the Black Sea Fleet was not in Ukraine’s interest
  • Ukraine’s lack of process in terms of the accession to the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty and Ukraine’s position to NATO and the National Centre for Euro-Atlantic integration. are contrary to the Law “On Principles of National Security of Ukraine
  • The erosion of human rights and freedoms and curbing of free speech
  • The detention, harassment and intimidation of opposition politicians, historians, academics, intellectuals
  • The resolve not to pursue the Holodomor as an act of genocide
  • The stripping of the Bandera & Shukhevych titles as Heroes of Ukraine
  • Issues relating to Ukrainian as the national language with the introduction of Russian as a regional language

The Congress made it clear that all these issues would impact negatively and lead to a harder road into Europe.

The current Tymoshenko fiasco is yet another example of where President Yanukovych and his Government just don’t get it”. There are many versions of why this case was allowed to proceed – political ambition, the notion that there would be limited international reaction, the thought that the courts could be manipulated without notice. The calling off of the meeting in Brussels on Thursday (Oct 20) by the EU should send strong message – Come to table sensibly or don’t come at all!

The window into Europe is getting smaller and the doors will not open until true democratic processes, according to European standards, are met. In this current standoff, who suffers? It is clearly not the prevailing Government but rather the march toward real Ukrainian Statehood that falters.

The message to the President and his Government should be clear. If you are not capable of leading the charge in accordance with internationally accepted standards, then stand aside and do not hinder Ukraine’s progress and journey in quest of democracy and national statehood.

The UWC has also held meetings with high level EU officials to state its case.

Message: Let’s also not lose sight of the bigger picture

Due to a long list of internal and external causes, today’s Ukraine is unfortunately weak. Ukraine, at times, has become a favorite whipping boy for the international community at times. This attitude has been lavishly supported by proven Russian active measures to compromise Ukraine, the Ukrainian people, and discredit it as a failed state”, a temporary phenomenon”, a mistake of history” etc.

Since the government of Ukraine, under international pressure (US, Russia, Western Europe) and because of its own credulity, gave up its nuclear weaponry, and, recently its stockpiles of enriched uranium, the EU and NATO (Germany in particular) have been constantly raising the bar for Ukraine to integrate into the Euroatlantic zone. Ukraine has been singled out for uneven treatment in comparison to other states of the former Soviet bloc.

And this is the case today. The Tymoshenko issue for some is not so much an issue of human rights and democracy as it is an issue of energy deals with Russia-to keep Ukraine out of the loop” and in Russia”s sphere of influence.

The UWC has called on the international community not to punish the Ukrainian people, but to send a strong message to the President and the leadership.

What is the task ahead for Ukraine today? The answer can be divided into two parts:

President Yanukovych and the UA Government

The role of Government is to work towards unity and harmony. In this regard the artificial divide of East and West of Ukraine must cease. This myth has been created and continues to be prolonged by those who have keen stakes in ensuring there is no unity. New generations see themselves as Ukrainians – not divided by their geographic position.

Secondly, the artificial rewriting of histories, the anti European practices of restriction of free speech, of manipulating court systems, of instilling fear, of corruption are aspects that Government must tackle forcefully.

The EU has granted Ukraine time to reform; this is not about more time, this is about the monitoring of the situation.

Freedom House released its report on Ukraine in April, reinforcing the message to President Yanukovich that Ukraine must stop the decay in democratic processes. It has incidentally requested a response as to how this would be done. There has been no response and very little movement to rectify the situation.

The Ukrainian people

The people have spoken. In 1991 the Ukrainian people voted for Independence; Sovereignty-or, more precisely, Statehood [Дeржава, державність]-was and still is the driving force.

During my visits to the East and West of Ukraine and meeting with Ukrainian communities in the Diaspora-new and old-the stated issue remains the driving force.

Today’s challenge in Ukraine is to build a strong peoples’ movements that covers all vectors-the village, the region, the major cites, students, business, culture. All levels of society must believe in themselves and be prepared to take responsibility and not be manipulated by politicians and political parties.

The constant call for uniting parties is not genuine; if Ukraine is to travel the Europe route, parties must agree to focus on the building and development of nationhood, statehood and everything that stands behind this. Identifying what Statehood means and agreeing on the criteria to deliver that paradigm is a far better exercise for political parties and peoples” movements than pretending that egoistic party leaderships are looking for the formation of one, united block.

On another significant point: Ukraine’s historic path is very much a European Path

The milestones of Ukraine”s history are very much that of a European nation.

Without going into detail we know that:

  • The period of the Cossacks was a defense before expansion from non European forces
  • The defeat of the Swedish-Ukrainian Coalition of Charles XII and Mazepa led to the rise of a Eurasian” Russia
  • The humanistic ideas of the Enlightenment in Europe and the U.S.
    led to the emergence of the modern Ukrainian nation, which became a modern nation-state as a result of the national revolution after the collapse of Tsarist Russia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire (1917-1921).
  • During the violent twentieth century Ukraine, while losing its State, led the way to a political self-liberation movements based on the right to self-determination of peoples.
  • The proclamations of Independence through different periods history 1918-1919, Carpathian Ukraine, the Proclamation Act of June 30, 1941 and OUN-UPA were examples of European style independence struggles and attempts at building a mature Nation State.
  • Ukraine as a country become a theatre of protracted fighting during the Second World War and suffered huge losses and casualties. However, this failed to silence the unbroken voice and spirit of a free Ukraine “always striving for freedom”. This voice was heard in the world of Stalin’s Gulag, in the National Resistance Movement and in the Catacomb Ukrainian Church as well as the Helsinki movement. Again, European standards being the thread is unmistakable.
  • The universal goal of national independence and sovereignty, which was an aspiration espoused by Europe and Ukraine, was finally achieved by a joint effort to overthrow the Berlin Wall (1989) as a symbol of the Last Prison of Nations” – Bolshevik Russia.

What now?

Ukraine must be strategically reoriented in heading towards Europe and must look for the correct partnerships that are of equal standing.

Former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, was asked what was Germany’s greatest achievement after being demolished after the last war . Schmidt believed the greatest achievement and victory for Germany was that it was possible to establish with all its neighbors with whom she had historical conflicts, peace and partnership, strategic alliances and in some cases friendships and mutual respect. This strategic hard work has created the economic strength of Germany in Europe and given it political influence.

If the same political agenda had been earmarked for Ukraine by previous and current leaderships -developing strong policies in this regard, we would have a different Ukraine today. If achieved, this would create stability, freedom, cultural development and economic prosperity in Central and Eastern Europe- the space between the Baltic and Black Sea and Caucasus.

The question we need to pose: Is Ukraine’s leadership up to this task? Answer: Its current track record shows it falls far short of the mark.

Why? Because the interests of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people are secondary to the aspirations of oligarchs, those who want to remain in the seats of power, those who manipulate.

Ukraine as a State is still young and inexperienced; it suffers from the effects of its totalitarian and genocidal past (denationalization). It shares common values of European civilization, which stand on the following historical pillars: Greek culture, Christian religion, the Roman sense of justice, and ideas of the Enlightenment and the American and French revolutions that gave birth to modern nation states.

Like all modern nations, Ukraine has a democratic constitution; likewise, it has introduced a social-market economy, sought to embrace the doctrine of common Euro-Atlantic security systems and professes the same cultural and social values as modern Europe.

Unfortunately Ukraine”s governments have not seized this opportunity; Ukraine continues to suffer from a lack of strong leadership focusing on building a strong Statehood model which is Ukrainian and has respect of other minorities which have settled in Ukraine.

Ukraine”s examination of political and democratic maturity was also judged by the international jury during the Orange Revolution in 2004. The UWC believes that Ukraine, whilst currently weak in its direction, will again reinforce this message –that we will not be manipulated.

Full and harmonious integration of Ukraine into existing European structures is now a serious test; it is a very important and strategic task facing the new generations of Ukrainians found anywhere around the globe.

What are some possible already well articulated steps that need attention.?
What can we /I do to see this happen?

  • Historical identity and truth must be recognized and respected in the nation building process.
  • Through those who fought on many fronts for an independent Ukraine must be recognized. The OUN-UPA pages of history must be restored and acknowledged.
  • The fact that the Holodomor was an act of Genocide must be acknowledged.

These elements are important in as much as they give a nation a soul to take with it into the international community.

In entering Europe and living with its current neighbors there are other issues that need resolution:

  • Small business and medium business are the foundations of civil society in opposition to oligarchic-bureaucratic power in Ukraine.
  • Economic reforms that provide for free enterprise are required
  • Constitutional and election reforms are critical.
  • The international community should not provide additional powers to Ukrainian authorities at the expense of support to NGO initiatives
  • There is a critical need to guard democratic principles. Vigilance vis a vis the growing throw power” of Russia and China needs to be addressed by the international community. Our region has a role to play.
  • Civic movements – agents of democracy in the world need be expanded, nurtured and supported. A groundswell of activity on all levels of civil society needs to appear.

Although the Ukrainian people may be ready or may become soon ready for another attempt at revolutionary change of this post-Soviet” regime in a Ukraine still ruled by post-Soviet” elites, an alternative national elite is not yet in place to take over state power. The new Ukrainian national elites, free of baggage are only now beginning to be reborn and are beginning to fill the void.

It should be clear that we unconditionally support Ukraine”s fast-track integration into the Euroatlantic zone for a long-term geopolitical benefit for Ukraine and the international democratic community. By the same token we are, in principle, against isolating” Ukraine, as this may push the country further into Russia”s embrace” – for lack of a viable geopolitical alternative.

All internal and external policies that foster statehood, independence, sovereignty, security, national interests, a democratic political system and the construction of a civil society should be supported. At the same time there must be active opposition to any government policy that willingly or unwittingly undermines these tenets and principles.

The challenge is not to let the objective of building a strong Ukraine to be railroaded by those who, for whatever reason, work against this objective.

Everyone one of us has a sphere of influence-political, economic, social.
As responsible competent members of the international community, we must strive to maximize that influence. We must jointly take a clear, principled stand in bolstering and safeguarding core values of democracy, human rights, rule of law, respect of sovereignty of all countries. This is our moral duty and common responsibility. This will lead Ukraine back to the international table.

I often quote Evhen Konovalets, the first leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, who said that we can become the creators of history or its sacrifice. The UWC calls on us all to become the creators.