Full transcript of a October 17, 2012 Patriciu Eurasia Center event titled “Ukraine’s Upcoming Parliamentary Elections: A Pivotal Moment for Democracy?


David Kramer,
Freedom House;

Stephen Nix,
Regional Director, Eurasia,
International Republican Institute;

Laura Jewette,
Regional Director, Eurasia,
National Democratic Institute;

Eugeniusz Smolar,
Foreign Policy Analyst,
Polish Institute of International Affairs (via Skype);

Viorel Ursu,
Senior Policy Analyst for Eastern Europe,
Open Society Institute;

Olexander Motsyk,
Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States

Moderated by:

Ross Wilson,
Director, Patriciu Eurasia Center,
Atlantic Council

Atlantic Council Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center,
Washington, D.C.

Date: Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Transcript by
Federal News Service
Washington, D.C.

ROSS WILSON: (In progress) – Fred Kempe. Let me welcome you to this event on Ukraine’s upcoming parliamentary elections: a pivotal moment – movement – moment for democracy.

My name is Ross Wilson. I’m the director of the Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center here at the council, and our center, together with the Transatlantic Relations Program, directed by Atlantic Council Vice President Fran Burwell, who is here with us, are very pleased jointly to host this event to take a look at Ukraine’s elections, upcoming elections at a pivotal time for that country.

Our two programs focus on Ukraine as one of the key countries in Europe whose success or lack thereof will have a great deal to do with the extent to which East-Central Europe and the states of the former Soviet Union develop a strong, stable, secure, democratic and market-oriented countries.

Ukraine’s elections take place on Sunday, October 28. This is the sixth set of parliamentary elections since the country gained independence, and the first nationwide election since the early 2010 contest won by President Viktor Yanukovych. Ukrainian voters will cast their ballots for a new Verkhovna Rada to replace the one elected in 2007 in the aftermath of the Orange Revolution that encouraged so many about the prospects for democracy and effective governance in Ukraine and for the country’s success as a leader in the Euro-Atlantic community.

All 450 Rada seats are up in this election; 225 will be awarded based on the share of vote(s) that the respective parties receive nationwide; 225 are contested in single-member districts. There are four main contestants as well as a number of smaller parties. President Yanukovych’s Party of Regions, or PRU, dominates the outgoing Rada and, of course, the executive branch of government. Recent polling has put it in the range of about 20 percent of the electorate.

There is a united opposition block led by Batkivshchyna, or the Fatherland Party, of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who’s currently in prison based on a prosecution that many regard as a politically-motivated effort by the government to squelch its main political rivals. Currently, Fatherland comes in at around 15 (percent) to 19 percent of the electorate in recent public opinion surveys.

Third, Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform, or UDAR, which, for those of you that don’t speak Russian or Polish – or Russian or Ukrainian, means “punch” or “blow” in those languages. It’s led, perhaps appropriately, by former boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko. In the polls, it runs around 10 (percent) or 11 percent; and then the Communist Party, which has – recently has been polling about 9 percent. And as I noted, there are a number of smaller parties, and perhaps we can get into that.

As one who has observed and worked on Ukraine a number of times over the past 20 years, I have found striking a couple of features about this campaign and public attitudes toward it. Support in opinion polls for both PRU and Fatherland seems to have fallen quite significantly from the levels that they received in the 2007 elections, when those parties respectively received 34 (percent) and 31 percent of the total.
A large share of the voters seem to be undecided in this election, as much as 30 percent, according to one poll that I saw. Some polls suggest a very high degree of public pessimism about the future of their country. And in one, a majority of Ukrainians expressed doubts about whether this election would be a free and fair one.

There are substantive issues, of course. Among these are Ukraine’s democracy itself; the economy; pensions; taxes – issues that would be familiar to Americans as we look at our own election – various specific economic and regulatory matters; language issues, particularly regarding Russian as an official language; and matters of corruption that overhang the elections for a lot of Ukrainian voters.

The official positions of the parties and of leading candidates on these issues, at least as far as I can see, tend not to differ all that much from one another. As elsewhere in the former Soviet Union, the Ukrainian election may be more about personalities than about issues, and Ukraine’s personalities – Yanukovych, Tymoshenko, Klitschko and others – loom very large, of course.

This election will also have a lot to do with the nature of the country’s engagement with its neighbors and with others in the Euro-Atlantic community. Relations with Russia have become more complicated over the Tymoshenko prosecution and Moscow’s efforts to draw Ukraine into President Putin’s new proposed Eurasian economic union.

Ties with the European Union have foundered over the Tymoshenko case as well, leading to question marks about the future of the EU-Ukraine association agreement and the deep and comprehensive free trade agreement that is part of that, both of which are leading elements in the EU efforts to engage effectively with Ukraine.

And clearly, the way that the election is conducted and its aftermath will have implications for Ukraine’s relations with the United States, for its – the role it will be able to play as chairman in office next year of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and in other areas.

To discuss the election, the context in which it takes place, some of the mechanics associated with it and issues that the election and its conduct will give rise to – its results and its conduct will give rise to – in terms of Ukraine’s success, its ties with Europe, its ties with the United States, its ties with other neighbors – the Atlantic Council is very pleased today to welcome five distinguished experts. Each will make some brief opening remarks, five to seven minutes, and then we will open it up to questions from – and observations from you in the audience.

You have their bios, so I’ll not repeat that. We will have speaking first today David Kramer, the president of Freedom House; former assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor in the George W. Bush administration. David and Council Executive Vice President Damon Wilson – no relation to me – led a small group to Ukraine earlier this year to assess developments in that country and their implications for Western policy toward it.

To give us an on-the-ground perspective, we’re pleased to have with us Laura Jewette, the Eurasia regional director at the National Democratic Institute, who has long experience in the region; and Steve Nix, who serves as her counterpart at the International Republican Institute, regional director for Eurasia.

And to provide a European perspective, we’re very pleased to have with us Viorel Ursu, who is a senior policy analyst for Eastern Europe at the Open Society Institute in Brussels; and via Skype, Eugeniusz Smolar, a foreign policy analyst at the Polish Institute of International Affairs and former president of the Center for International Relations.

With no further ado, let me turn it over to you, David.

DAVID KRAMER: Great. Ross, thanks very much, and thanks to the Atlantic Council for doing this event and inviting us. And always good to be with my colleagues here on this panel, including from Warsaw.

You’ve asked me to give a broader overview of the context in which the election is taking place. And the title of today’s session, with a question mark, is “A Pivotal Moment for Democracy?” And I think there’s no question that this is a pivotal moment for Ukraine, whether it’s for Ukrainian democracy – and that remains to be seen because as we’ve argued in the delegation that we headed earlier this year, Freedom House issued this report “Sounding the Alarm: Round 2.” Last year, we wrote a report, “Sounding the Alarm” – we didn’t put round one, but this year, it’s Round 2 because we actually really mean it, and that’s because we do worry very much that the state of democracy and freedom in Ukraine are in – is in jeopardy.

The election is taking place against a backdrop that I think is familiar to a lot of people in this room. We have warned in our report last year and again this year that there has been a deteriorating situation when it comes to the state of democracy and freedom and human rights in Ukraine.

We’ve expressed concern about the consolidation of power by President Yanukovych and the small circle around him. We warned about pressure on the media, about the selective prosecution of political opposition leaders, about the intrusiveness of the SBU in civil society and with the opposition. We have to remember that the last main election that was held under President Yanukovych’s watch were the local elections that took place in October of 2010 that most observers roundly condemned as badly flawed.

We arrived earlier this year in April just a few weeks after a mayoral election in the city of Obukhiv that was also widely condemned. So, so far the track record under President Yanukovych for elections, albeit for local and regional elections, has not been a promising one. This election really does matter because if this election goes badly – and by badly, I mean if it – there are strong indications, clear manifestations of fraud, of rigging, ballot-stuffing – and I’m not predicting that, I’m simply saying if that happens, then I think you will see a much stronger and more negative attitude taken by the European Union and the United States, including the possibility – and this pains me to say it – of sanctions for the first time against Ukraine that would be targeted against certain individuals.
There are sanctions, as I think everyone knows, already in place against the Lukashenko regime. Ukraine is not Belarus. There are sanctions being talked about in the U.S. Congress under the Magnitsky Act for Russia, for Russian officials who engage in gross human rights abuses. I hope that will pass, but I really think it would be a sad state of affairs if there were sanctions passed against Ukraine, and yet I have to say I am sympathetic to the push for them because out of frustration for trying to get the attention of the Ukrainian leadership to understand that the path it’s on is the wrong one, out of frustration, that’s why people are talking about sanctions.

This year, we also said that the trends we spotted last year that included, by the way, a rubber-stamp Rada that has certainly not acted as a check on the problems – or the executive branch, rather – and then the issue of corruption – those problems have only gotten worse this year. And this year, when we went to Ukraine, we heard the term “family-ization,” referring to a concentration of wealth and resources in the Yanukovych family itself. And indications that one of his sons in particular has seen his income increase 18 times in a year, and he’s a dentist by training, which suggests he must be doing a lot of fillings.

The problem of corruption, we’ve argued in our reports, is the gravest threat to Ukraine, its independence, its sovereignty. It’s not Russia, it’s corruption in Ukraine, and corruption is rampant throughout the country. It’s particularly concentrated, I would argue, in the energy sector, in the existence of corrupt middlemen companies. And one company in particular I think is an indication that this problem is very much on the rise.

So there’s a lot riding on this election; there’s no question about it. The issue of the case of Yulia Tymoshenko, Yuri Lutsenko is obviously the – arguably the most dominant issue that has come up short of the elections that will take place in less than two weeks. The issue of Tymoshenko is one where there is zero credibility in the legal process, in the prosecution of her case. It is not to say that Yulia Tymoshenko is a saint, but it is to argue that the way that the Ukrainian legal system and the prosecutor-general’s office in particular has gone about the prosecution against her, starting with Kyoto funds going to ambulances, going to the gas deal signed in 2009, most recently, talk about murder charges from nearly 20 years ago, lacks any credibility whatsoever and has undermined the independence and integrity of the judicial system. And arguably, I would say, this too, along with corruption, is the greatest threat that we’ve seen emerge in the country in the past two-plus years.

So I really hope that observers – IRI, NDI, others, OSCE, ODIHR – will be able to give a decent stamp on these elections. There have been problems already; I’ll let my colleagues address those. But there is a lot riding on this election. And I hope for Ukraine’s sake – regardless of who wins in a free and fair ballot – I hope for Ukraine’s sake that this election does not become a new source of controversy. Let me stop there.

MR. WILSON: Thank you, David. That’s a very good opening.


LAURA JEWETTE: Thank you, Ross, for this event.

NDI, along with IRI, has conducted democracy assistance programs in Ukraine since 1989. We’ve had an office there since 1992. And we have been watching these particular elections very closely.

Among other things, we’re supporting the work of Pora, which is the largest domestic Ukrainian election monitoring organization. They’ve been observing the election since April, and they will – on Election Day, they will be conducting a parallel vote tabulation, which will provide very reliable information about the quality of the process on Election Day, but also may allow projection of the results for the proportional representation portion of the vote. So I would encourage people to keep an eye on that.

We’ve also been supporting the work of the European Network of Election Monitoring Organizations, which is the first international observer delegation to be on the ground in Ukraine. They’ve been there since July throughout the country.

NDI also conducted a pre-election assessment of the electoral and political environment in September. I was part of that delegation, which was headed by Governor Christie Todd Whitman. We issued a statement in connection with that assessment, and there are copies out front for anybody who might like to read it. The statement issued a series of recommendations of items that could be addressed before the election and longer-term improvements that could be made in advance of any future elections.

We’ve also issued a progress report since that time; it came out earlier this week. And there are also copies of that out front for anybody who would like to take a look.

As Ambassador Wilson and David have both said, there’s – there is a lot at stake in these elections. A lot is riding on them. If they do reflect the voters’ will, the legitimacy of the parliament and the government would certainly be enhanced in the eyes of Ukrainians and the international community. This would, in turn, reinforce Ukraine’s sovereignty and facilitate international cooperation on multiple levels. It would enhance Ukraine’s leadership as chair of the OSCE. It would certainly help the Ukrainian government tackle the domestic issues that citizens care most about. And, of course, it would set the stage for the 2015 presidential election.

There are a few things that are in Ukraine’s favor when it comes to elections, and this election in particular. Certainly, Ukraine has the capacity to hold democratic elections as we saw in 2005, 2006, 2007 and January of 2010, when President Yanukovych was elected. President Yaunkovych himself has said repeatedly in a variety of settings that this election should be perfect, in his words, and in full accordance with international standards. And that, of course, is a very welcome position for him to be taking.

The government has been very open to international observers, and welcoming. And I would also note that domestic observers have been given – under the new election law have been given additional rights that they did not have under previous election laws. At the same time, we’re seeing a number of major challenges and, I would say, not enough effort to address those challenges.

The most important and overarching point is that Ukrainians are losing confidence in their political institutions, including elections. I think IFES as we speak is having their own event releasing results of a poll that they took in – and I think Steve might be talking about IRI poll results, which I look forward to hearing – but according to the IFES poll, more than two-thirds of Ukrainians do not have confidence in the Cabinet of Ministers or in the Rada; almost half do not have confidence in the Central Election Commission; more than half think that voting in elections does not give them a chance to influence decision-making in the country; and 39 percent think these elections will not be free and fair.

As David mentioned, I have to say that the selective prosecution, the perception of selective prosecution, however you want to define it, but the selective prosecution of opposition members, including Yulia Tymoshenko and Yuri Lutsenko, has contributed substantially to this erosion of confidence in political institutions. So too did the conduct of the local elections in 2010 and the Obuhkiv by-elections.

What this means is that the government and the election authorities are starting from a deficit as they go into these elections. They have to go beyond the letter of the law and beyond minimum international standards in order to regain public trust. The point here is that elections are not just a technical exercise where you can check off the boxes, they are also a political exercise. And political and public confidence are part of the equation.

So it’s not sufficient just to hold an election that meets technical requirements. The threshold in Ukraine that has to be met is convincing Ukrainian citizens that their votes count. And I would suggest that those – that criteria has not yet been met.

There are a number of aspects of this election that are troubling, but I would point to four in particular, and those have to do with the composition and operation of the election commissions; the intimidation and harassment of candidates; the media environment; and the plan to put web cameras in polling stations.

Briefly on the election commissions. A lottery process was used to select members of district and precinct election commissions. The use of a lottery in itself is not a problem, but the process by which district election commissions were selected meant that some parties with a significant stake in the election ended up being shut out; other parties that were running perhaps one candidate in one single mandate got overrepresented – disproportionate representation. There were efforts to improve the process for the selection of precinct election commissions, but the instructions were confusing. And as a result, there is a lot of flux and uncertainty about the composition of the elections commissions and concern that the commissioners themselves will not be prepared or well enough trained for their jobs.

Harassment and intimidation of candidates is probably the most serious concern. We are aware of 41 cases of candidates being pressured in one or more of four types of ways: investigation by tax authorities, investigation by other law enforcement agencies, threats or intimidation and violence or physical pressure. This information has come to us either from sources we consider to be credible and impartial, or we have – as NDI, have verified it ourselves. Of these, 12 are from the United Opposition, 12 are from self-nominated single-mandate candidates, eight are from UDAR, two are from Svoboda, the rest are from smaller parties. None of these cases or complaints so far have come from Communists, none from Ukraine – Forward! and none from Party of Regions. But we consider these to be very serious concerns, and the issue now is that there should be investigations of these allegations. And to the extent that the investigations find that there is merit for prosecution, those prosecutions should go forward to the full extent of the law, because this obviously has a chilling effect on any candidates.

On the media environment – media outlets and individual journalists in Ukraine continue to face harassment. And this means, of course, that the range of information and opinion available to voters is limited. Particularly troubling is the situation surrounding TVi, the only national channel that reliably covers the political opposition. TVi has been excluded from cable companies’ affordable packages or dropped from their packages altogether. NDI has recommended consideration of a must-carry provision similar to that that was established in Georgia in advance of their October 1 elections, but this recommendation so far has not been taken up. There are also cases of journalists being denied access to public events, media outlets being pressured by authorities. It’s very important that these allegations be investigated and followed up on.

Finally, on web cameras. There is a plan to place cameras in polling stations, and these would live stream. The issue is that there have been a lot of allegations that citizens are being told that these cameras will be used to reveal how they have voted. I don’t think that is the intent; I think the intent is for this to be a transparency mechanism. But there haven’t been enough efforts yet to explain to voters what the purpose of these cameras is, how they will be used, who will have access to the footage – how the footage may be used, if there are allegations of violations afterward. And I would suggest that whatever benefits in terms of transparency that may come from these web cameras, it may be outweighed by the concerns that are raised about violations of the secrecy of the ballot.

We would urge Ukrainian authorities to take immediate steps to address these issues, and I would certainly urge those in the international community to monitor them carefully. Nothing would be better for Ukraine at this moment than to have the perfect elections that President Yanukovych has called for, but we’re not there yet.

MR. WILSON: Great. Thank you very much, Laura, for that very detailed review of some of the issues that your pre-assessment mission identified, and that have been around for a number of years, about Ukraine’s electoral system.

Steve Nix, from IRI, will be leading an IRI delegation to Ukraine – observer – election observer mission – in just a few days. Stephen, let me turn it over to you.

STEPHEN NIX: Sure. First of all, thank you, Ross, for convening this event, and thank you to my colleague David for providing a very comprehensive overview of some of the issues and the stakes that arise from these elections, and Laura for – in turn, for sharing with you some of the concerns that we have going into these elections. And we share those concerns that NDI has pointed out in their pre-election assessment, and these will be the subject of scrutiny of both long-term and short-term observers who will be present on election day in Kiev.

I’m going to focus my remarks primarily on more of the operational stage and some of the strategies that have been employed by the competitors in this election. And I’ll start with the electoral framework, the election law. And the most salient point of the election law is the return to the mixed system, as Ross pointed out earlier. It’s had profound effect on the strategies that are being employed by the various political parties competing in these elections – how those strategies were formulated, the issues that have arisen, the entire approach to this election. So it really is a driving force in how these elections might play out, and that is that half are elected by party list and half by single mandate. Importantly for us who have worked on Ukraine for a long time, this is a return to the system that was used last in 2002. And as history reminds us, in those elections Viktor Andriyovych Yushchenko and Nasha Ukrayina did very well in the party list seats – won a plurality of those seats – and their opponents Party of Regions did exceedingly well in the single-mandate seats.

So again, looking forward to this election, some of the issues remain the same. And the polling data is very interesting. Our latest poll, and this has trended throughout the four polls that we’ve done in the last six months, is that in the national sense – that is, nationally, not in single-mandate districts – the opposition has a lead in this election, the combined opposition of UDAR, Batkivshchyna – (inaudible). And then if you also add Svoboda, who has indicated that they will coalesce in parliament with the previously mentioned parties, those parties have a lead in this election. And if the election were only on party list lines, the opposition would win a plurality of the seats again. But half the seats are elected in single mandate.

So, obviously, the strategy of the opposition this time was to avoid the mistake of last time, try to reach agreement on a list of single-mandate candidates – A, single list of candidates; and B, run a coordinated campaign in the party list seats based on the two salient issues – and these stand out above all – and that’s jobs-slash-economy and corruption. Those are the salient issues. I think, by and large, the opposition has done a pretty good job of running that type of campaign focused on those types of issues.

The big obstacle was – and has always been the case – is total unity on the single-mandate side. And I have to give the opposition some credit. As you probably read, recent press reports indicate there have been some negotiations; there was an agreement to have a single candidate from the opposition in 58 of the districts. So they strove for 225, didn’t get there; they got 58. But I think that’s significant because I think it has repercussions on what might happen in the future in the presidential elections, that the opposition might be able to work in a more cohesive manner. So I give them a lot of credit.

On the other side, Party of Regions knows – they have access to our data; we brief everybody – that they have been losing support from their base in the Donbas, and a lot of those people have moved to the undecided category and some have gone over to the Communist Party. So the strategy on the other side has been two things: Number one, maximize issues related to Russian language and relations with Russia; and number two, invest heavily in targeted single-mandate districts. So Regions knows what those numbers are, they know what the party list scenario looks like, so they have really focused their campaign primarily in trying to win single-mandate districts. So they tried to run top-notch candidates; they have allocated their resources accordingly to targeted single-mandate districts and they have done a pretty good job.

And in fact, if I were Regions I would agree with their basic theme, which translates roughly into: For now, stability, so that we can have prosperity in the future. A lot of the issues that David pointed out to are connected up with this goal towards stability. And the strategy is to explain to the public that the reason, the basis for these decisions, these moves – a reduction in civil society, more scrutiny of media – is necessary in order to create favorable economic conditions for Ukrainian citizens. Now, that will be up to the Ukrainian voters to decide whether that is an appropriate strategy, whether they agree with that, and we’ll find out very soon if that worked. But those are brief summaries of the strategies of the basic two sides.

Now, again, the polling data indicates that there’s only 18 percent undecided as of the second week in September. No one knows how those votes will go. But we have seen polls subsequent to ours that show that UDAR has been surging, and that is an interesting phenomenon in itself. So again, you’re seeing a lot of trends towards unity in the opposition, you see Regions carefully targeting districts, so it is going to be a very competitive election from that standpoint. Nonetheless, we think that there could be problems – and Laura has alluded to many of them – and I think the international observers have to be very, very vigilant on this.

In addition to what Laura has stated, one of my basic concerns, also stemming from the election law, is the fact that dispute adjudication – that is, judicial decisions on outcomes – is no longer vested in the Supreme Court or the Constitutional Court of Ukraine. It is invested in administrative courts – two main courts: administrative court and the Higher Administrative Court of Appeals. So if this election is tight, if one or two single-mandate seats could determine where one side has the majority or not, that decision is not going to be made by the highest court in the land, it’s going to be made by administrative judges that were appointed, quite frankly, by one side.

So we are urging the OSCE, everyone else who’s observing this election, that post-election we have to watch very carefully if there’s any adjudication, any disputes over outcomes in single-mandate districts. Because these courts have final jurisdiction; there’s no appellate review from the decision of these administrative courts. So that is one thing we’ll all be vigilant on.

I’ll sum up by saying – back to David’s comment – the stakes are high here. There has been not just discussion of ramifications for a banned election, for a flawed election, for an election similar to what was held two years ago, in the local elections. There’s not just been discussion of sanctions, visa, denials, freezing of assets – there’s actually a resolution that was adopted on the Senate side, and Congressman Smith has drafted and prepared and is seeking co-sponsors on a similar resolution that we think will even be broader in scope that will include those who may have engaged in electoral fraud in these elections.

So these are significant steps. And it’s gone, as I said, beyond the discussion stage; these are – these are draft resolutions. Again, one can argue about the effect of a resolution, but there’s a discussion going on along similar lines in Brussels right now. So everyone will be watching very closely, and I have every reason to believe that if the election is well-administered, that there are few problems, adjudication goes smoothly, the international community issues their reports and Ukraine indeed does hold an election that meets international standards, that will be reported out. And that will, I think, be met with great enthusiasm in both Brussels and Washington. If, however, the elections don’t meet standards, then I think that you are going to see a serious discussion about these types of sanctions put in place.

And as David said, it’s regrettable. Ukraine can conduct free and fair elections. It has done so. So it’s up to Ukraine. As Laura pointed out, our poll supports the notion that a majority of people do not think that these elections will be free and fair, so it’s up to this government to take steps to ensure that voters have greater confidence.

And then I’ll reserve the rest of my time, and take questions if anybody has any.

MR. WILSON: Great. Thank you very much, Steve.

The Atlantic Council was established over 50 years ago as a civil society advocacy organization for the trans-Atlantic relationship and as an – as an entity to advocate for strong trans-Atlantic ties. And I think for that reason, among others, it’s particularly important that we have two European viewpoints as part of this discussion here in Washington today on Ukraine’s elections.

And let me turn first to the one that we have here in the – in this room. Mr. Ursu.

VIOREL URSU: Thank you for the invitation, and thank you for your interest in the European perspective.

The assessment of the election is going to be very important for the EU to answer the big questions of the future of EU-Ukrainian relations. Every debate in Brussels and in Kiev on the EU-Ukraine relations is about to sign or not to sign – this is the big question. And the assessment of the EU on – or this assessment, actually, will answer this question and determine when and even maybe if the EU is going to enter into a political association with Ukraine and is going to start building a deep and comprehensive free trade area with Ukraine. There are no clear answers yet. That’s because many EU institutions have divergent views on that, so their answer was postponed until after the – after the elections.

Just a few words about what – why this deep and comprehensive free trade agreement is so important. This is actually the most powerful tool that EU has to anchor a partner country in its orbit – in the union’s orbit. The agreement will offer Ukraine easy access to the EU huge market and subsequently will also attract – offer great opportunities for European investors in Ukraine.

The text of the agreement was already finalized, and it was initialed at the beginning of this year. It’s a very thick document; it’s 1,200 pages. It’s now being translated in 22 official languages, so it’s going to take some time. (Laughter.)

MR. : Full employment. (Laughter.)

MR. URSU: But just imagine how important is this document. There are many commitments that Ukraine is going to take; they will – Ukraine will have to approximate its legislation with the EU legislation over a certain period of time.

The other two important carrots that the EU – the European Union holds are financial assistance and the visa-free travel for Ukrainian citizens to the EU. The European Union uses the conditionality for each of these carrots and expects the Ukrainian government to deliver on its commitments. So the EU put aside, for instance, half a billion euros for macroeconomic assistance to Ukraine, but it expects – it is conditional on the IMF positive assessment. The EU also expects Ukraine to adopt a series of legislation before it could be granted visa-free regime to Ukraine.

So the question is also how Ukraine is delivering not just on elections but on the long list of the commitment(s) it has towards the EU. And besides the Tymoshenko case, there is a growing irritation of Ukraine not delivering on its commitment. The macroeconomic assistance I mentioned, which was put aside, it’s still blocked. Even the EU assistance, which is usually annual grants, is – has been delayed on several occasions. Ukraine also failed to adopt all necessary laws in order to advance on visa liberalization negotiations. For instance, Moldova, which started the visa liberalization negotiations much later than Ukraine, has recently – has been recently advanced to the second phase of the negotiation, to big embarrassment of Ukraine.

Also, since Arab Spring, EU has adopted a more consistent policy towards its neighbors. It’s called “more for more, less for less,” which means that more the partner countries adopt the reforms which EU agreed with the partner countries, the more – the bigger the offer EU is to the – to those partner countries. And usually, the offer is access to market, is financial assistance or people’s mobility. The benchmarks for measuring the process on this small form of policy, it’s called deep – it’s based on deep and sustainable democracy. This is a new concept that the EU put forward this year, which has five benchmarks. So how – and of course, free and fair elections is the key benchmarks in offering more for more.

So how Ukraine is performing on more for more? The most recent EU assessment, which was done in May, shows that it’s not very positive. The EU points out many shortcomings and put forward new expectations towards Ukraine in the forthcoming year. And again, to conduct a free and fair election is a key condition for the advancement of the EU-Ukraine relations. Based on this more-for-more policy, the EU also put a – set – put aside a reward mechanism, which is a special funding mechanism. And each year, the EU, based on its comparative assessment, gives additional funding for the best performance. Most recently, the EU offered additional funding to Moldova, to Georgia and Armenia, while Ukraine was left with no additional money and was put in the same group with Azerbaijan and Belarus.

A few words about the election campaign. The election campaign has both positive and negative effects on the deliverables to the EU. What we observed, that many of the overdue laws were being adopted in a hurry by the – by the parliament in the last session. Some of them are positive developments. They were expected by the EU, for instance, the establishment of the national torture prevention mechanism, which was overdue for six years, and also the law on biometric passport, which was very important for the EU to advance in the liberalization process.

On the other hand, many of these laws were dictated by the populous impulse of the MPs in the last sessions to gain more votes and instead raise many new concerns from the EU, either expressed publicly by the – even by the High Representative Ashton or the EU ambassador in Kiev. And this is – I refer to the, for instance: law on the Public Prosecutor Office, which was not consulted with the Council of Europe; the anti-defamation law, which was suddenly proposed by a group of – members of the parliament; the anti-discrimination law which entered yesterday into force, again without taking into consideration the concern of the EU or the new law on banning propaganda of homosexuality. The EU insists that all this law will have to be corrected after the elections if Ukrainian government wants to follow its commitments towards the EU.

So how the EU is going to react to these elections? The EU, of course, will follow the assessment of the OSCE ODIHR, and which will most probably show some progress and it’ll also show – point out the shortcomings. I think trends matter. And I think David mentioned that the local election in October, 2010, showed a negative trend. And the – hopefully these elections will reverse this trend. So this is going to be very important for the EU.

Last week the EU high representative on foreign affairs made a public statement and raised again concerns regarding the elections in Ukraine, specifically the problem of unbalanced media coverage and the transparency of the work of Central Election Commission. Still, the feeling – the general feeling is that the elections are competitive, in big contrast to what we usually witness in Russia and Belarus, and that the rules of the game for these elections were set up fairly, as they were agreed with opposition which voted for the election codes.

So what shall we expect next in the EU-Ukraine relations? Whatever the results of the elections, the EU will continue most probably engaging with the – with Ukraine. However, the speed will depend very much on the speed of the reforms and the deliverables from the Ukrainian government. Despite divergent views in different Europeans institutions, including the parliament, member states and even in the – in the commission, I think the DCFTA, Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement, is ready and going to be signed in 2015. The EU is unlikely to cancel its summit with Ukraine, which normally should take place in December this year. However, the council will be postponed for the beginning of next year, only to give more time for the new – (inaudible) – administration to take the job.

MR. WILSON: Great. Thank you. Thank you very much. Through the miracle of modern telecommunications, we’re very pleased to have a guest with us today from Warsaw. Mr. Smolar, the floor is yours.

MR. : I lost part of the conversation – (inaudible). (Laughter.)

EUGENIUSZ SMOLAR: First of all, one senior commission official told me once – (inaudible) – needed because one of the very loopholes that – (inaudible) – that was, in a way, how we kept working for many years – (inaudible) – to promote Ukraine position and then to – (inaudible) – in the European Union. (Inaudible, background noise.) And I’m sorry to say but – (inaudible). And our – (inaudible) – Warsaw are people that include the – (inaudible) – equal. (Inaudible) – it was our initial – (inaudible) – engagement. It was natural for us when we joined the European – NATO as European Union to wish the same good thing for our – (inaudible, background noise). Can you hear me?

MR. WILSON: Yeah – yes, yes.

MR. SMOLAR: OK. To wish – to have good faith to our neighbors. And make democratic – (audio break). We – (inaudible) – and we underestimate – (inaudible) – objectives of the — in each of those countries. And we – (inaudible) – objectives of each of those countries then, which includes – (inaudible, background noise) – elections.

(Inaudible, background noise.)

MR. : (Off mic) – remarks, but I think – (audio break) –

MR. WILSON: Mr. Smolar beat me to the punch in welcoming one of the two ambassadors who is – are here with us this morning – Ambassador Motsyk and, of course, Ambassador Yakovitch. Really, very glad to have both of you here. And if – when we’re finished with this portion if you’d like to say something, I’d be happy to recognize you.

It seemed to me maybe – and this opens up the question and answer portion of this event. So please think of a question or a comment that you would like to make, catch my eye. I will recognize you. I would ask that you please identify yourself and your affiliation – wait for the microphone, identify yourself, your affiliation and pose a – and pose a question to one or more of the members of our – of our panel.

And maybe just – if I’ll take the moderator’s privilege and ask a first one. It seemed to me that one of the issues that’s being discussed here is that – is a – the reality that building democracy is about more than just elections. There is – there are a whole set of issues related to the conduct of these elections. Will they be a free and – will it be a free and fair ballot? Will the results of the balloting reflect the will of the Ukrainian people? And there’s an important set of issues there. There’s a broader set of issues – and, David, you in particular, I think, were referring to this as well as our final speaker, Mr. Smolar – the broader set of issues that constitute democracy – real democracy in any country, and in particular in Ukraine.

And I was also struck in the comments by the conversation – and this, I think, in part reflect the order of the speakers and the way this was laid out – but on the one hand the – U.S. engagement and U.S. response to the elections sort of largely revolved, in your remarks – or seemed more to revolve, in your remarks, around the possibility of sanctions that may come after these elections and the resolutions that have been put forward in Congress on the one hand, and a rather broad agenda that the European Union has that has some punitive possibilities – or less for less if nothing else – but also has a whole set of carrots that are out there to try to help pull Ukraine along.

And so a question I’d ask for David, maybe to start this is, if you could say some things – if you want to elaborate a little bit more on this issue of elections in a broader democratic context, but especially what are the pieces that the United States has out there for Ukraine as our encouragements to Ukraine to follow through on commitments that it has made to the United States and to many others about its own democratic development as a part of the Euro-Atlantic community?

MR. KRAMER: Well, Ross, I would say, to be perfectly honest, we offer much less than the European Union does. There’s no question about it. President Yanukovych, I have to give him credit, in April of 2010, when he came to Washington for the Nuclear Security Summit, played it brilliantly. He brought the deliverable for President Obama on highly enriched uranium. And that shifted the U.S. focus onto security issues – on nonproliferation issues. It was – it was very smart and very well-done.

I fear, however, that the impression that we have conveyed as a result of that is that we are more interested in HEU than we have been on the domestic and political developments inside of the Ukraine. Eugeniusz’s comments about Ukraine being too big, too independent, too important are true. The problem is Yanukovych, in my view, feels he doesn’t have any price to pay for this kind of behavior.

And I think we have to be very careful about sending that kind of message because the concern is – we –the EU has held up on signing the DCFTA and the Association Agreement, but I’ve heard EU officials say, actually, all he was interested in was initialing that agreement so that he could say to Moscow, I’ve got this alternative if I need to use it. He hasn’t paid really any price, other than some criticism from some European officials, more so than Americans.

There were European leaders who didn’t go to Yalta, that summit was cancelled, who didn’t go to the Euro Cup in the summer that was co-hosted with Poland. He got over that pretty quickly. To me, at the end of the day what’s much more important to him is this consolidation of power, staying in power and making sure that the opposition doesn’t come back and do to him what he’s doing to them.

In 2010, Yanukovych – I’m doing a little psychoanalyzing, but based on a number of encounters that I’ve had with him – feels he was re-elected not elected. He thinks he won in 2004 and that that election was stolen from him. And the person – I don’t know if it’s ironic or not – the person he blames most for that is Yulia Tymoshenko, even though Viktor Yushchenko was the one who became president after the Orange Revolution.

And Viktor Yushchenko was the one who also abetted Yanukovych’s victory in 2010 by not focusing his venom against Yanukovych, his rival in 2004, but against Yulia Tymoshenko in bringing her down. I don’t want to exaggerate Yushchenko’s influence on the outcome of the election, but to – given what Yushchenko went through in the fall of 2004, to have taken that position in 2009-2010, to me, is baffling.

I don’t know if that answers your question, but the U.S., at the end of the day, we’ve got to speak out more than we do. And we’ve got to show that the relationship matters more than just HEU. HEU’s important, but democratic consolidation, arguably, is much more important at the end of the day in Ukraine. We want to see Ukraine succeed. We want to see it become more integrated. But the path Yanukovych is on is isolating the country from the West. And I would think that Yanukovych doesn’t want to be left to the whims of the Kremlin.

MR. WILSON: Good, thank you. That’s a good opening answer. Now let me turn to the audience. Jeff Goldstein and then – and then Fran Burwell.

Q: Good morning. Jeff Goldstein from Open Society Foundations. I guess my question is best directed to Laura and Steve, but do you think in light of the unexpected opposition victory in Georgia that increases the chance that we’re going to see bad elections in Ukraine, as the government feels that they may need to do more to ensure the desired result?

MR. NIX: Well, my hope will be, again as I said previously, is that these elections will be well-administered and will meet international standards, will reflect the will of the people. I’m not sure if the Georgian result has any real effect on officials within Ukraine. I mean, our concern really is more focused on what Laura cited earlier, is the absence of some of the major parities being on election commissions.

Heretofore, Ukraine election law had always sort of hedged their bets twice in terms of observation. They allowed political party people to serve on election commissions and they allowed political party representatives to be present to observe the work of the commissions. That, combined with international election observers, the greater rights, as Laura alluded to, to domestic observers, you know, creates a pretty significant barrier to fraud in the election place on election day and with the tabulation process. So I think our focus is primarily on those areas and what will happen.

We had great concerns about the voter list which, for the first time, was electronic. So with a grant from the Canadian government, we actually put in place a program to send people out and to review lists, to try to maintain the list, to increase vigilance, to strike names of people who are no longer living, who are no longer eligible to vote, and to add people on the voting list that should be there. So I think we should see a significantly improved voter list.

Hopefully that’s a problem that will be avoided. And that has been a persistent and troubling problem in previous elections in Ukraine, even the ones that were administered under the Yushchenko administration. So I’d – in answer to your question, I don’t see a real connection to that. We’re looking at other things, different factors in Ukraine separate and apart from the elections in Georgia.

MR. WILSON: Laura.

MS. JEWETTE: What I would add, Jeff, is that I don’t – I don’t know what lessons Ukrainian authorities are drawing from the Georgian elections. What I would hope – one lesson I would hope they would draw is that the UNM, by losing and by conceding defeat, has cemented the legacy of President Saakashvili as having genuine democratic instincts or a democratic legacy, and probably has done more to move Georgia back in the direction of Europe than anything else recently. I think it really helped Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic prospects, the outcome of that election and the conduct of that election. And I think that’s the important lesson to be taken from it.

MR. WILSON: Whether that’s the lesson that will be taken is another matter. Fran Burwell.

Q: Thanks. Fran Burwell from the Atlantic Council. I wanted to return to the idea of carrots. In the past, the EU has been able to use its considerable leverage because there was an indication that countries could join. And therefore, the EU could demand quite serious and fundamental reforms across the whole society and economy. And I wonder, though, if – and this is really directed for Mr. Ursu and Mr. Smolar, if you think that President Yanukovych really wants this – is he really motivated in this way? Or, as David says, is he bargaining between Russia and the EU?

If he is unconvinced and if others around him are unconvinced about the value of EU membership, is this the right strategy to go for something like a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement, which is basically about adopting the acquis, or is there something less that would at least open the economy and create even more economic and personal ties that might be less onerous? Because I fear, as you described Mr. Ursu, the difficulties that Ukraine has had, intentionally or not, in adopting legislation that you’ve been watching, the more complicated legislation of the DCFTA and the regulatory framework – are we setting ourselves up for failure there and for alienating those who might be the friends of Ukraine moving forward?

And – one of the things that I have heard as well is this difficulty in investing. And it strikes me that the most investment we can encourage in Ukraine would in fact create more ties for Ukrainians and more of a stake – perhaps not with Yanukovych and his family personally, but with others to cause them to look West. But I don’t know if the EU is putting forward the right mechanisms for doing that now, given that Yanukovych doesn’t seem fully convinced that he wants to be sitting at the European Council table sometime in the future – or his successors.

MR. URSU: Of course there are many reasons of delayed reforms in Ukraine. And one of them, of course, is that they domestically delay reform for tear (ph) – for fear of losing the – (inaudible) – and power. There is also another question of capacity of Ukrainian administration to deliver, because EU acquis is very complex and complicated. So that’s why, during the DCFTA negotiations, EU and Ukraine – they agreed on a longer-term perspective of adopting this acquis after five or 10 years’ time. Also, the EU provides additional funding for capacity building for the administration of all the partner countries, including Ukraine, on how to adopt this legislation.

However, the question is – I mean, we know that Ukraine endorses multifactor foreign policy. When it comes – when they come to Brussels, it’s all about European integration. We hear different speeches in Kiev or in Moscow. And I think the – nowadays I think the pro-European factor is not self-evident choice for Ukraine, which is economically interindependent (ph) with EU and Russia. And the economic crisis doesn’t help, because the EU is becoming less attractive for the – in shorter term for Ukrainian business and elites. And they rather turn for short-term profits to Russian market, which has more opportunities in the short term. So this also, in a way, defines this multifactor approach of Ukraine.

Is accession agreement and DCFTA a carrot? Five years ago we thought of this as a big carrot. One thing is the – before that, all these countries in – (inaudible) – partnership were very sincere about their European integration. And we saw, for instance, that Moldova and Georgia – they actually adopted their unilateral accession policy. That’s why they actually moving much faster than Ukraine towards the EU. And of course there is an enlargement fatigue. I mean, nobody’s talking about enlargement in Brussels anymore beyond the current – the candidate countries. Still some governments believe that at some point the debate – EU will – the crisis will finish in five, 10, 15 years’ time. (Scattered laughter.) And there will – maybe we will have a different debate then.

And DCFTA and accession agreement might have been a sweet carrot, and Yanukovych fought hard to get in the preamble of this agreement, the membership – (inaudible). And he failed to convince the EU partners and the member states – the 27 member states – they will not agree at this time on a membership – (inaudible). So in a way, that removed the big carrot from the accession agreement. And now I – we see that from the – from kind of an incentive for reform, DCFTA and accession is not as sweet as it used to be.

And of course there is a risk that the – even if the agreement is signed and enters into force, the Ukrainian government will not deliver on the commitment. For instance, it doesn’t deliver on the commitments of accession, which it took when acceding to the European energy community. And we know the pressure coming from Russia, but the Ukraine committed to adopt the legislation, the EU acquis, and it’s still hesitating. And we know the reason why. And I would imagine – (inaudible, background noise) – will be when the DCFTA’s going to enter into force. And then – (inaudible) – timeline will start ticking.

Does it mean we shouldn’t take this risk? I think we should still take the risk. And I think the EU’s right in helping the governments with capacity building. That’s why it has – (inaudible) – all kind of project. And hopefully – I think we have to be patient. And even the timeline of 10 years of – which is provided in DCFTA might be prolonged. And we’ve seen that even in the accession, countries had difficulties in adopting this legislation in 10 years’ time. But I think we should take the risk.

MR. WILSON: Thank you.

Mr. Smolar, is there anything that you would like to add on the issues that Fran just mentioned?

(Audio break.)

Identify yourself for everybody – (inaudible).

Q: Yeah, sorry. My name is Ana Oslund (ph), and I work as – I don’t want to call myself consultant; I would say – (inaudible) – between – (chuckles) – Ukraine – Kiev, or rather Moscow, and Washington. I am half Russian, half Ukrainian. I was very grateful and very inspired by the discussion today. And despite some technical issues, I think was extremely important to have Mr. Smolar with us today.

And so I was in Yalta, European Strategy – during Yalta European Strategy conference, listening to people whom we discussed here. And I like to think of people rather than parties, although it’s extremely important to build parties. (Chuckles.) And I hope they will be built eventually, although right now only Batkivschyna seems to be functioning as one. And otherwise people are thinking of personalities they will be voting for.

And so there were so-called elites. And here, Mr. Smolar, I really like this expression, “genuine objectives of the elites” – although, to our great, I would say, luck – or fortunately, the elites is not one person. There are many people who are powerful, have – still have some political power and have a lot of money. As an economist, I believe that’s extremely important. So these people are not unanimous in their assessment and their aspirations.

And while the president himself, I’m convinced, is not impressed by the danger of not becoming member of European Union – because I don’t quite know what is he going to lose if he’s not going to become one. On the contrary, when asked by Carl Bildt, the minister of foreign affairs of Sweden, what role does the President Yanukovych believe European Union is supposed to play in the future of Ukraine, he said: Ukraine is planning to be friendly and cooperating with all important international organizations. And then he went on naming everything from customs union – (chuckles) – all the way as late, Carl Bildt joked, African Union. And then somewhere very close to the end, he said, and European Union as well. This way, he said very clearly and loudly, in front of many people from all over the world, that – so what? We aren’t terribly interested.

On the other hand, if we speak about genuine objectives of the president rather than elites in general – because as I, again, started, elites are different people. And there are among them people who are genuinely interested, both economic – well, both – mostly economically – (chuckles) – in not being outcast in the world, with exception of Russia maybe, right? So I guess these people are the hope. At least for me they are the hope. They are strong; they know how to stay in power no matter what. And these are real men. And here I say “real men” including Tymoshenko, who is the main guy in the – in the country, of course. And that’s why people admire her. That’s why UDAR – Klychko, the boxer – is so popular, because these are strong people, people – (inaudible).

So I would say that I would appreciate if David Kramer, who is – I’m a long-time admirer of him.

MR. KRAMER: Why, thanks.

Q: And he’s – I’m afraid the only weakness of America – (inaudible) – so pro-democratic and so genuinely passionate and idealistic is to be able to understand how different can be people in other parts of the world. So if you identify the alternatives – you know, Yanukovych is already there, as Mr. Nix said. I hope that’s not exactly so, but I think it’s very close. It’s up to the government to assure that these elections are fair. If that’s the case, I don’t see any reasons to be optimistic – (chuckles) – to be honest. And the government is changing quickly. People who are not – (inaudible) – being replaced.

So if you please identify the healthy alternative that Europe or the United States see. Who are the people whom you hope – who you hope will take the lead – because we know the names. We know Klychko; we know – (name inaudible); we know, you know, Tymoshenko, who is in jail. But who are the leaders there whom you would like to see either replace or to challenge the current president? I was really looking very carefully, and I personally failed. (Chuckles.)

MR. WILSON: David, do you want to try to take on any of that?

MR. KRAMER: Oh, I don’t know how to respond to your question. I don’t want to pick favorites; it’s not – it’s not my job to do so. It’s for Ukrainians to do so. If I were to get behind one segment of Ukrainian society, it would be civil society, which I do think is actually reanimated again. When we were there last year, we detected that civil society was pretty down, understandably, about things. They had gone through the Orange leadership; they now had Blue. None of it seemed to be working terribly well. This year when we went back, civil society seemed reanimated because I think they’re just pissed off, and they’re fed up. And that’s not a bad thing. And I actually am heartened by that.

So I want to see civil society play a stronger role in Ukraine’s development and Ukraine’s future. Individuals, parties have to play some role, but it has to be based on rule of law, respect for civil society, respect for a free press, independent institutions. All of those things are essential to forming a democracy. I still want to stick with the word democracy, not just pluralism. And to me, I think it’s critically important that we call out Ukraine when it engages in transgressions, when it engages in abuses.

I agree with you. I – Yanukovych has to be sitting there thinking, membership in the European Union is never going to happen while I’m president. In my view, the EU is a point of leverage vis-à-vis Moscow for him. But the problem – and this is not unique to Ukraine; it’s not unique to Yanukovych – leaders in this part of the world tend to take an approach that it’s my turn, when they come to power. It’s my turn for personal enrichment, rather than it’s my turn to serve the greater good. And that’s where I want civil society to demand better from Ukraine’s leaders across the political spectrum, not just the current crop.

MR. WILSON: Maybe we could close, if any of you would like to venture a prediction. (Laughter.) And in – and maybe more importantly, what should be the – what should be the West’s response in the wake of – in the – you know, in the – in the immediate aftermath of October 28th? Briefly –

MR. SMOLAR (?): I’ll let – I’ll let others go.

MR. WILSON: Steve?

MR. NIX: Sure. I would say, in brief, if the elections do meet international standards, then, you know, my hope would be that there would be increased interaction with the EU and progress on the instruments that the two sides are negotiating. If the elections don’t meet international standards, I feel – and I’m afraid to say this – that then I think there will be movement towards the types of sanctions that have been discussed in the House side, on the Senate side here and have been discussed in principle in Brussels.

So in response to your question, Anya (ph) – your question – yes, it’s up to the Ukrainian government in terms of how these elections are administered, because the government administers them. We don’t; none of us do. But in addition to the government, we all play a significant role – international observers, domestic observers, civil society, as David pointed out. And I think public opinion, based on the polling data that we have, is that if the elections are not deemed to be free and fair, are not reflective of the will of the people, if there’s a perception that fraud played a big role in this election and that affected the outcome, I think you’re going to see a very strong reaction from the civil society side, from political parties.

So again, it’s a number of players and forces that have an important role in this process: the government to administer and conduct these elections, but equally important roles for those to observe and react depending on the outcome and how the elections are conducted.

MR. WILSON: Good. I think that’s a good way to close for the panel.

Before we close entirely, though, I’d like to recognize Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States, Ambassador Motsyk. The respect that I have for you has been – has been added to by the fact that you’re here for what’s been a – we can all recognize, a critical conversation about your country. Please, sir.

AMBASSADOR OLEXANDER MOTSYK: Thank you. Thank you very much. First of all, I would like to express my deep gratitudes for interest showed to Ukraine, to situation in Ukraine and to forthcoming elections. Thank you to all panelists, to all my friends. Thank you to Ambassador Wilson, to my good friend Eugeniusz Smolar. I’ve been – I had been ambassador to Poland for four-and-a-half years, and it was quite good time for me, I can say.

First, about elections – forthcoming elections: Yes, president of Ukraine, government of Ukraine – we understand that the stakes are high. And we understand how important elections – these elections are for the future of Ukraine. That’s why the Ukrainian government has been doing its utmost, its best in order to conduct these elections in democratic, fair, free, transparent way.

We are very open. Ukraine is very open. We are very open to dialogue. We – you know that government coalition, together with opposition, adopted an election law which was actually almost unanimously supported by parliamentarians. We have constitutional majority in support of this law. Only six members of parliaments, out of 450, voted against, and more than 395 in favor. So everybody supported this law. And immediately after the adoption of the law, leading the opposition made a statement that – at least some of them – that this law will guarantee the fair and free elections in Ukraine.

We are open, really. And we are open for dialogue on any issue. And we invited very early international observers, and we highly appreciate all those who are going to come to Ukraine. And we say today that the more observers, the better, because we are interested in fair and free elections once more. And there is competitiveness. There is very clear competitiveness in Ukraine, and I didn’t hear – overhear that somebody would say that opposition or coalition parties would win. Nobody knows, like here in the United States. So it is very important also for democracy.

And in general I can say that the perception of the real situation in Ukraine in the area of democracy and rule of law and the situation with the preparation towards the elections is much more better than the perception. Unfortunately the perception is not so very good. And the – again, if take Web cameras, the purpose is not to frighten somebody or to spy for somebody. The purpose is to exclude falsification. That was the purpose of installing the cameras. And the – if we can go back before the decision to install cameras, there were many, many – let’s say speculations that there could be some falsification. So cameras would be – Web cameras would be a good answer. So this answer we are – and – right now we have in Ukraine.

This is about elections. Once more, we know the high stakes. And we in Ukraine – I mean, president, government in general – that we are interested very much in having elections as much as possible which meet highest international standards and be free and fair and democratic and transparent.

Second, on reforms: this government started reforms – previous five years were lost totally, and the Yuschenko-Tymoshenko administration did nothing for reforms. Somebody told the – (inaudible) – maybe even less than little, and that’s why this government has been implementing reforms. It’s not – let’s say, reforms are not the phenomenon that you can introduce overnight; it takes time. But nevertheless, there are – a lot of laws were already adopted, and many since were changed to better. And the purpose of these reforms is to transform Ukraine into really prosperous, democratic European state. Yes, not everything is perfect, understanding that some laws maybe need further improvement, but in general, we have managed, for the first time, to adopt such important laws as budget law, as budget codex – code – as tax code, customs code, pension reform during the election year, by the way, and many, many others.

Again, somebody mentioned over here the law on NGOs, which really is – meets all international standards and helps NGOs, including those who now participate in observing and monitoring elections in general – in covering elections. Law on access to public information, which is also very important, then the last law – which was adopted yesterday on biometric passports next – that means – what I wanted to say that, really, this government is serious when it says about reforms.

Next, European integration. The priority number one of Ukraine is really European integration, and this president, this government confirmed them and confirmed by adopting law on priorities of internal and foreign policy; this law was adopted in 2010, which will assess that priority number one for Ukraine is integration to European Union. At the same time, like all other states, we want to have very good relations with other countries, and naturally, with our largest neighbor, Russia. And we are now sometimes even (prompted ?) – in the past we are (prompted ?) from the West, from some big players in the European Union that, please, try to improve your relations with Russia, it didn’t – and it will help to you to help better relations with the European Union.

Well, we are sure that having good relations with Russia makes our chances to become, in the future, member of European Union are better. So, once again, we are very serious on joining the European Union. On the contrary, we have been waiting a lot for signal from the European Union – I mean, the perspective – perspective. OK, this government may be as one – as somebody mentioned, that maybe this government will not receive this signal, but during Yuschenko administration – Yuschenko-Tymoshenko administration, Ukraine also asked for that signal, and we have a – we have never seen that signal. That means that the problem is not 100 percent with Ukraine, but maybe the problem is also with the European Union.

So once more, on elections, Ukrainian government want and does everything possible to have free and fair elections – second, on reforms, they’re way serious, and third, for European Union, yes, it is our priority number one. Thank you very much.

MR. KEMPE: Thank you very much, ambassador, for those – for that very clear and excellent closing on your part. We’ve run a few minutes over, and I’m very sorry about that. I think this has been a very useful and important conversation. We can all agree Ukraine is an exceptionally important country. We can, I think, all agree on how important Ukraine’s further democratic development is for its future as a country and for the Euro-Atlantic community as a whole.

Many thanks to all of you for joining us today. Thank you, Anna Borshchevskaya, for taking the lead in getting this organized. Please join me in thanking our panelists.