His Excellency Leonid Kravchuk, Chairman of The Supreme Rada of Ukraine
A VIEW FROM KIEV
Introduction: Roland Lutes
President, The Canadian Club of Toronto
Ladies and gentlemen, I want to greet the representatives of Canadian business who are interested in establishing contacts with Ukraine and to express my deep appreciation for the opportunity of speaking to you today.
It's a great honour for me to talk to the people who are steering the gigantic ship of business, to the people whose acumen and talent for entrepreneurship determine the main lines of development of the economic basis of society, welfare and prosperity of millions of people all over the world.
The fact that we live in a world which has been cardinally transformed is of great significance.
The primacy of law and humanitarian values is getting a firm hold, Cold War systems are collapsing, and elements of a new world order are emerging in the countries which have taken their stand and have taken the path of radical reforms.
Ukraine has also taken this path, for it sympathizes with the peoples that strive for peace, justice and freedom.
The reconstruction processes in Ukraine, their potential significance and orientation to the future have found their most concentrated expression in the declaration of national sovereignty adopted by the Ukrainian Parliament in the summer of 1990 as well as in the August 24, 1991, Act of Independence of Ukraine. These documents, which are of vital importance for us, have proclaimed the formation of an independent democratic State of Ukraine, the supremacy, absoluteness and inviolability of the bodies of state power in the Republic, and guaranteed the exclusive right of the people of Ukraine to access to its national riches.
The sincerity of our intentions and the seriousness of our actions aimed at the creation of a truly democratic society can be proved by the fact that several amendments have been introduced to the Constitution of Ukraine. These amendments will make a reliable legal basis for the functioning of a multi-party system and a multi-structure economy.
The process of the formation of an independent republican legislature is going on. All levels of state administration are being restructured to create necessary conditions for the triumph of democracy and free market relations in Ukraine. Very intensive work on establishing all structures necessary for a modem state, which ensure its security, is under way.
The declaration also says that in the sphere of international relations, Ukraine, being a subject of international law, shall exercise direct bilateral relations with other countries, shall become party to treaties and exchange diplomatic missions. We have an unwavering intention of developing those relations, the economic ones in particular, with the Republics of the fonner Soviet Union and the countries of Easter and Western Europe, and of becoming a full-fledged and esteemed member of the world community.
Being a member of the founders of the United Nations, Ukraine is ready to invigorate its contribution to further enhancing the prestige of this highly honoured organization, to help to strengthen international security and to avert the threat of a nuclear war.
As you all know, several types of nuclear weapons are located on the territory of the Republic. This placement is temporary, their removal is only a matter of time, though it may be a rather lengthy period of time. But guided by the principles of our declaration, we consistently emphasize our intention of becoming a neutral nuclear-free zone and we are ready to participate in negotiations on the reduction or elimination of nuclear arsenals at all levels.
To be frank, not everything that has been proclaimed will be easily translated into life. We are only junior students of democracy, but we are honest in our appreciation of everything progressive that has been accumulated by other countries in this sphere.
Thus, the declaration of independence is a road sign in the process of the creation of a democratic lawful state and the full-fledged political, economic, social and spiritual development of the Ukrainian people. Spiritual, for the gospel reads: "For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?"
But you are businessmen and have to be pragmatic. You have every reason to ask me if there is a place for Canadian business within all that has been mentioned.
Let me be honest, for honesty is the best policy. A lot of representatives of business quarters have already visited Ukraine. We can see instances of worthwhile and fruitful cooperation. But most of those who represent financial institutions, industrial concerns and trade firms show restraint.
And we can understand the reasons for their and your doubts. We are well aware of what prevents us from working more effectively for the benefit of all parties concerned. I'd like to dwell on some of the most important issues.
First of all, we are in a very complicated political situation, with signs of instability and prospects of possible national conflicts in the former USSR And the levels of this "instability" are different for different regions of the Soviet Union. Present-day Ukraine is living through a transition stage of its political and socio-economic development. It is characterized by a radical democratization in all spheres of our social life, the appearance of numerous new political parties and social groups.
But the main feature of our day is that all political forces in the Republic are united by one great idea--the idea of the sovereignty of Ukraine--and the aspiration of being master of one's own life.
The majority of the Ukrainian people had their say in favour of the creation of a free democratic lawful society, thus giving credentials to the supreme Soviet.
Taking into account the wish of the people, the Parliament and the Government of the Republic is paying great attention to the problem of international relations, maintaining concord amongst the representatives of all nations that make up the Ukrainian community. The absence of acute ethnic conflicts in Ukraine manifests a balanced approach of all major political forces to the problem of inter-ethnic relations. And I'm sure that the policy of mutual understanding and tolerance will last.
Secondly, there is also an economic instability, an absence of a legal basis and the "war of laws"--a favourite subject of the media both in Ukraine and here in Canada.
Although economic instability is definitely present today, I will not divert your attention and analyze the reasons for it. I will just say that both the Parliament and the Government are sparing no efforts to solve this problem.
A reliable juridical basis is being formed in the Republic now. Among the documents which have been adopted by the Ukrainian Parliament for that purpose are the law on economic independence of Ukraine and the concept of a change to a market economy, laws on prices and price formation, the budget system and entrepreneurship, land laws, and many others. These laws have already started regulating the national economy of the Republic in its transition to the market economy and international division of labour.
As for the problem of the "war of laws," which, unfortunately, is a manifestation of the "law of war," or as you say, "the law of the jungle," we are trying to solve it on a horizontal plane, by signing inter-republican economic agreements and thus harmonizing the interests of all the Republics of the Soviet Union.
The third factor which hinders the development of economic relations is the need of guarantees of Western investments and the non-convertibility of the ruble.
In this context I would like to say a few words about our law on foreign economic activities. This law ensures legal regulation of all kinds of trade activities, economic, scientific and technological co-operation, and credit and other financial operations.
Proclaiming the principles of free foreign economic entrepreneurship, juridical equality and non-discrimination, this law ensures equal protection of all subjects of foreign economic activities and foreign subjects of economic activities on the territory of the Republic. The law guaranteeing foreign investments in the national economy has been adopted by the Supreme Rada of Ukraine this month. As to the non-convertibility of the ruble, I'd like to tell you that Ukraine intends to introduce its national currency. Ukraine is not going to repudiate its share of the all-union debt, but in the future it will recognize only first hand credits.
A fourth group of problems is connected with the lack of a proper economic infrastructure in Ukraine. You are quite right, there is no infrastructure as you understand it, but there is a nation of clever and industrious people, there are highly qualified specialists and, what is really important, there is a thirst for a new life. So let us work together to our mutual advantage.
Quite a number of interesting suggestions from our Western partners have been made of late, and we have to act quickly because there is no time left.
We know that there are outstanding bankers, managers and owners of companies among the representatives of the Ukrainian community here. Does this mean anything for present day independent Ukraine? Yes, it does. It means a new powerful source of experience and knowledge, and new contacts.
Of course we have to solve our problems ourselves. No foreign injections will reanimate our inefficient economy, but external business assistance is capable of helping it out of this state.
Canada and Ukraine have been maintaining reciprocal relations for a long time now. And we remember that Canadian Ukrainians, members of various governments and businesses, helped us establish these relations.
They are all aware of their origin and descent, their Ukrainian identity. Our members of Parliament, scholars and writers testify to this fact. They are looking Ukraine in the face. And we are grateful to them for this.
Canadian-Ukrainian co-operation is entering a new phase as ties broaden between our two countries. I hope you will participate and act as mediators in the establishing of mutually beneficial economic and trade contacts between businessmen, state institutions, and companies.
We are all of us united by our love for Ukraine. I would like to end my brief speech with the words of our poet Taras Shevenko:
"And send to all of us on earth accord of mind and brotherly love."
The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by John F. Bankes, President, The Empire Club of Canada.
As President of The Empire Club, I am pleased to express the thanks of this meeting.
My impression is that someone recently pressed the fast-forward button on history. This acceleration has been particularly evident in the recent events in what we used to know as the Soviet Union.
Today, we have been honoured by the presence of a man--and his wife Mrs. Kravchuk--who is integrally involved in these dramatic events. He has first-hand involvement in two of the recent dramatic occurrences, the transformation of a political system and the re-creation of a nation.
Winston Churchill once described the Soviet Union as "a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma." Well, that riddle has begun to unravel. On September 2nd, Mr. Gorbachev, Mr. Yeltsin and the leaders of nine other republics announced a plan to create a loose confederation of "sovereign states" within a "common economic space."
A revised version of this plan was eventually passed by the parliament. But it still left many questions unanswered. Today, from Mr. Kravchuk's remarks, we have gained important insights into how it will evolve.
As we watch the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the attempt to cobble together a new system based on the separate republics, we wonder whether such a hybrid can work. How can a mosaic of states have an effective material economy? A foreign or defence policy? As chairman of the Verkhovna Rada (or parliament) of Ukraine, Leonid Kravchuk will play an important role in a political and economic upheaval that all Canadians are anxious to better understand.
"Ukraine is not dead," proclaims the Ukrainian national anthem. A more accurate lyric might have been: "Ukraine is not yet borne." Over the past 100 years, Ukraine has enjoyed only a few months of statehood (in 1918) and before that the most recent episode of Ukrainian independence was in the 17th century. On August 24 of this year, however, Ukrainians declared independence again; this time, they intend to make it stick.
In the aftermath of the Ukrainian declaration of independence, it is appropriate that one of the first foreign visits made by a leader of Ukraine should be to Canada. There is a close bond between Canada and Ukraine, in part, because of the enormous contribution that has been made to the growth of Canada by the Ukrainian people.
Ukrainian-Canadians played an enormous role in opening up the Canadian West. Canadians of Ukrainian heritage have made important contributions to the development of Canadian institutions--political, social, business and cultural.
Moreover, Ukrainian-Canadians have consistently demonstrated their patriotism as Canadians, while steadfastly maintaining their love for Ukraine. There is a deep relationship between the Ukrainian-Canadian people, and the Ukrainian cause.
It should be no surprise that political dissident Valentyn Moroz chose to settle here after his release from a Soviet prison camp. As he told a group of Canadians of Ukrainian descent in a message soon after winning his freedom: "You have managed to retain your identity, your language, your culture, and your heritage."
All Canadians are proud of that.
Mr. Kravchuk, thank you for addressing this meeting of The Empire and Canadian Clubs. As Canadians, with our own political factions, we will watch with particular interest the disintegration of federations in Europe, and the emerging independence of new republics. We compliment you on your historic achievements to date. And we wish you good luck in leading your people to their promised land.