Allocution to the 2nd Forum “Europe – Ukraine”, Kyiv, February 29, 2008
My intervention is an attempt to unravel what new the Second Forum EU – Ukraine in Kyiv 2008 could bring in addition to the first one in Krynica in 2007. Both of them have correctly identified the challenges regarding EU - Ukraine cooperation. I have attentively studied the debates that took place and, in my opinion, both the challenges and the problems issued by these are the same for Ukraine and for the European Union. They would have been the same and if EU and Ukraine had faced them apart. To make an analogy with the competitions of artistic gymnastics, the EU – Ukraine cooperation is very much alike to the uneven bars event. In other words, there place in the same position but with the point of support at different heights, which makes the exercise to be more difficult but even more interesting. As I say, the inventory of the main challenges with respect to the evolution of the globalized world is already set: economic growth, consolidation of the rule of law, corruption, bureaucracy, political instability, national security, identity preservation. Viewed from East, the European model has now, in 2008, a different aspect from that one of Cold War period. Then, for the peoples of Soviet Empire things were seen antagonistically. In the Eastern Europe: dictatorship, state planed economy; consequences: regress and poverty. In the Western Europe: democracy and market economy; consequences: progress and prosperity. Black and white without any other shades. When obtaining the necessary information, the peoples from East have chosen for Western model and have accepted to pay a hard social price for the change. At 19 years from the collapses of the communist regimes in Eastern Europe, the response to challenges is more nuanced. Both East and West of Europe have advanced in a system with variable geometry, adjusting themselves to changes. This adjustment will be also necessary in a future where we should permanently take into account both changes in EU and Ukraine on the one hand and the changes in the globalized world on the other hand. On global level the European model is now in competition with other political and economic models, as those of authoritarian regimes which have adopted market economy or of oligarchic regimes with formal democracies, which also present to their peoples offers of economic progress and prosperity. The interests in European model could be maintained if seeing every response to contemporary challenges as a choice on long term.
- Economic growth as a choice between a savage development with the depletion of the resources and a sustainable development with deference to environment
- The rule of law as an option for a predictable legislation and for functional institutions versus anarchy which could skid into authoritarianism.
- The politics as an option between a vision on national interest and strategies of public actions on long term versus populism as a demagogical offer to obtain and maintain personal power. In fact a political choice versus antipolitics.
- The corruption as a embezzlement of the profit obtained from economic growth towards a limited group of interest, by oligarchic system versus transparent directing of the profit through budget towards sectors of general interest: education, culture, infrastructure, social protection.
- The bureaucracy, the conservation of the administration privileges versus serving the citizens
- The national identity as an option between cultural values, religious faiths based on history memory on the one hand and the spiritual disintegration and individual and collective alienation on the other hand
- The national security as a response to contemporary threatening by isolation versus integration into a common system of prevention and defense.
I repeat, EU has much vulnerability, it is a model far from being perfect, but which has proved to be perfectible. The adhesion for EU project – 90% in Ukraine and 80% in Romania (before and after the accession) - indicates a good instinct of the people who has correctly chosen even in the absence of a detailed knowledge of the political project of accession. One could add an unpleasant observation for national political leaders: the feeling of the population that EU could defend better the citizens’ interests than their own leaders.
Leaving from this, the idea I used in Romania, idea that I also heard here in Ukraine, that is to build the European project in our country because the reforms are for us and not for EU has a profound sense of national dignity. With such an approach we are able to face the pressure of time. From our experience I can tell you that after beginning the negotiations, the speed of concluding negotiations chapters with EU is no longer an essential element. In the two years of delay Romania could prepare itself better, fact that has diminished the shock the other eastern integrated countries has passed through.
In conclusion I would like to approach an issue less discussed when analyzing the specific of integration of various counties in EU, the dimension. If it is less discussed in public because of “political correctness” reasons, I could tell you for sure that the factor dimension is seriously evaluated in the Western chancelleries. When I was elected President of Romania and I decisively accelerated the process of accession in NATO and EU, I knew that our chances depended on those of Poland. I left from the premise that without Poland there wouldn’t have been a project of enlargement of NATO and EU, project of great importance on European and world level. Romania is the 7th country in EU taking into account its population. With 22 millions of inhabitants, she follows Poland with 38 millions, and excepting the Netherlands with 16 millions, the other 19 countries in EU have the population between 10 millions and 400.000. I do not intend to underestimate the role of economic and social performances, where Luxembourg, Ireland, Denmark, Netherlands, Austria or Belgium are placed on the first places. I do intend to speak about the development potential that the number of in habitants or the surface could support. In 1997 the first act of foreign politics of my mandate after the historical reconciliation with Hungary was the conclusion of the treaty of state with Ukraine and the participation at the Poland’s initiative to build a diplomatic trilateral Poland-Romania-Ukraine. In 1999 in the difficult moments of NATO intervention in Serbia, Poland, Romania and Ukraine already represented a stability pole in Central Europe, as a possible model for violent conflicts in Balkans.
Two conclusions could be drawn from here, conclusions that could be interesting for the Ukrainian friends. The first: the importance of good relations with the neighbors (with all neighbors) in order not to induce conflicts inside or outside EU. The second: reaching a level of irreversibility of the reforms accepted by population, reforms to prevent the danger of a political, economic or social destabilization of EU.
If Ukraine would be now integrated into EU, it would be the greatest country from the point of view of population. If we see the things in that perspective we obtain a better image of the responsibility of fulfilling the criteria of accession and of a future where Ukraine, next to Poland and Romania could assure in the Eastern EU and in NATO a stability and sustainable development area that should contribute to the strengthening of EU role in a global world in everlasting change.