HomeDOCUMENTSSpecial Publications200422 May 2004 - 'The Door to the West is Open' by Hon Doug Bereuter
22 May 2004 - The Door to the West is Open - by Hon Doug Bereuter
This article appeared in "Den"(Ukraine) on 22 May 2004
WASHINGTON – As they choose a new president this fall, Ukrainian voters have a historic opportunity to orient their nation toward the West and work toward membership in Euro-Atlantic institutions, like the European Union and NATO. In such a quest, Members of Parliament from the 26 NATO nations stand ready to assist.
Of course, Ukraine now shares borders with the European Union and NATO as a result of the recent enlargements of both organizations. With its resources and economic potential, if Ukraine becomes a stable, independent, and democratic nation, it would be seen by many in Europe and North America as an important element in the stability of Europe and a natural future candidate for the European Union. Similarly, many feel Ukraine could play a positive role as a neighbor to NATO, and perhaps eventually a member.
Because of the importance of relations between NATO and Ukraine, I am visiting Kiev next week as president of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. The Assembly consists of representatives from the national legislatures of the 26 NATO countries, and it also includes 21 other associate and observer nations, including Ukraine. In my meetings with Ukrainian government and parliamentary officials, I will emphasize that the door to the West is open to Ukraine. The next several months will be a crucial test of whether the Ukrainian people and their government are willing to make the effort to walk through that door.
The development of Ukrainian democracy has been slow and difficult over the past 13 years. By any measure, however, no issue will be more important to Ukraine’s future standing with the West than the strength of its democracy.
Therefore, the upcoming presidential election in October is of the greatest importance. Based on the numerous problems of past elections in Ukraine, concerns have already been raised in the international community about whether the election will be open and fair. I believe it is important that Ukraine’s leaders understand that the presidential election will be regarded as a litmus test of Ukraine’s commitment to democracy. In my meetings this week, the importance of a fair and transparent election in the fall will be one of my most emphatic messages.
My colleagues in the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and I frankly are concerned about recent signs that have indicated that October’s election may not be free and fair. In my meetings, I will ask officials about reports of government harassment of companies that support opposition candidates, of threats and violence against opposition leaders and their families, and about allegations of outright fraud in the mayoral election in Mukacheve last month. Likewise, I will ask what steps they are taking to end the harassment of independent media in Ukraine, particularly the confiscation of the transmitter of Radio Kontynent, which had offered to air Radio Liberty broadcasts on FM radio in Ukraine. I will stress that it is important for President Leonid Kuchma and other senior officials to take active steps to ensure that such abuses do not mar the presidential election.
The NATO Parliamentary Assembly attaches great importance to the success of Ukraine's transition to democracy, with strong institutions and with a flourishing market economy. We remain committed to assisting Ukrainian efforts to build a stable, democratic, and prosperous Ukraine, more closely integrated into European and Euro-Atlantic structures. We also recognize and welcome steps that Ukraine is taking toward peaceful relations with its neighbors and its contributions to European security, such as sending troops on NATO missions.
In order to strengthen our links with the Rada, the NATO Parliamentary Assembly has created the Ukraine-NATO Interparliamentary Council as a forum for a regular dialog between the members of the Assembly and the Rada, with annual meetings in both Brussels and Kiev. Members of the Council have emphasized the need for Ukraine to meet democratic standards, the key role that Ukraine plays in Euro-Atlantic security, and its contributions to Alliance-led operations in and outside of Europe. They have also noted the positive role of the Ukraine-NATO Action Plan in assisting Ukraine to move closer to Euro-Atlantic integration and its eventual goal of NATO membership.
We recognize that Ukraine has formally declared its ambition to join NATO. The NATO Parliamentary Assembly certainly looks favorably upon this aspiration, but the actions of Ukrainian officials will determine whether this goal will be achieved. If it wants to meet the standards for NATO membership, Ukraine should be ready to take the necessary decisions and implement the political, economic and defense reforms needed.
Ukraine should be commended for its progress in achieving a substantial part of the Ukraine-NATO Action Plan, particularly in the field of defense reform. The Action Plan has a substantial parliamentary dimension and the NATO Parliamentary Assembly can play a role in assisting with those aspects. Indeed, the Rada should be applauded for adopting a wide range of legislation in accordance with the Action Plan, but these words must be followed by actions. Equally important are the political reforms which demonstrate that Ukraine shares the core democratic values of NATO’s members. If Ukraine succeeds in implementing these reforms, its future as a member of Euro-Atlantic institutions will be assured.
Congressman Doug Bereuter is President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. He serves as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Europe of the U.S. House of Representatives.