Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tymoshenko upbeat on EU integration

Welcoming international, and especially European business houses to Ukraine, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko said in Brussels that, “It is crucial for the Ukrainian authorities to make foreign business feel comfortable in our country.”

Addressing a galaxy of European industrialists, diplomats and other dignitaries brought together by EU Ukraine Business Council and EGMONT, the Royal Institute for International Relations based in Brussels, Tymoshenko said, “We aspire to be a favourable country for foreign investments.”

Comparing the problems faced by Ukraine with the biggest tsunami in the world, the prime minister said, “This is the tsunami of counteraction because the society is used to live in a half shadow economic situation”

Acknowledging that Kiev is facing tough opposition to the proposed reforms, Tymoshenko assured business community saying, “But our government team is able to accept all challenges and demonstrate results.” “We are confident of our power, unity of our democratic team, including consolidation of the Government and President’s team and of the fact that Ukraine will become a member of the European Union,” Tymoshenko added.

Answering questions from the audience, the prime minister gave a balancing act answer about relations with Russia and the European Union.

Pointing out that European integration is supported by main colours of political spectrum and vox populi in Ukraine, Tymoshenko said the country is taking “serious steps” to get closer to membership of the European Union.

But asked to give a timeline for membership, Tymoshenko said she would prefer not to give a specific date just in case success is not achieved by then. Outlining the roadmap for reaching the EU membership, Tymoshenko stressed the importance of economic integration, particularly freeing trade environment and letting relations develop without economic barriers.

Basing her prediction on current GDP levels, Tymoshenko said Ukraine “could be a serious economic partner,” as Kiev expects inflation to reach half of 2007 levels.

Highlighting the role of privatisation of key sectors, Tymoshenko said Kiev is planning to privatise its communications sector in the coming months, as well as its energy distribution network.

Accepting the fact that Ukraine is currently fully dependent on Russian energy networks, the premier said there is more close cooperation between Moscow and Kiev in different branches of industry, from outer space to machine-building. But this is important both to Ukraine and to Russia, underlined Tymoshenko.

Lamenting inefficient production and corruption as the stumbling blocks to utilising Ukraine’s own gas resources, the premier said, “Licenses are issued but there is no exploration and zero efficiency.” Tymoshenko promised that Kiev is set to float legislation which would enable investors in this sector to build a more secure relationship with the state on the basis of production-sharing agreements.

Tymoshenko negated the suggestion that Ukraine has to choose between building relations with the EU or Russia, saying, “Either, or is incorrect.” Blaming Ukrainian politicians before 2004, who she said had put national interests second to other interests, thus strengthening Kiev’s energy and political dependency on Russia, she stressed that Kiev is now set to build relations with Russia as equal partners, diminishing its energy dependency on the big neighbour.

Reiterating, “Integration is hopefully towards the EU. Ukraine decided that a long time ago,” Tymoshenko concluded, “We are not flirting anymore (but) we are seriously integrating.”

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