"How do you think the election of President Yanukovych will affect the Ukrainian economy?  What about democracy and media freedoms?  How about relations with the EU, or Russia?  What will happen to practical co-operation on specific reform projects?"  During my meetings in London in the House of Commons, the Foreign Office and other government departments and agencies, the same questions come up again and again.

What I usually reply is: we should judge the new president, and the new government, on their actions.  It's well possible that having a president and a government pointing in roughly the same direction could make reforms easier, if the new leadership is genuinely committed to introducing such reforms.  Similarly, there's a good chance that president and government will be able to take forward and conclude negotiations on an Association Agreement with the EU, including a deep and comprehensive Free Trade Agreement, while improving Ukraine's relationship with Russia and protecting Ukraine's national interests.   Some observers are understandably concerned about the Rada (parliament) delaying the local government elections, or changing the law on how parliamentary coalitions are formed.  That's why it's important to ensure that dates for the local elections are set, and that the Constitutional Court rules on the legality of the revised coalition law, as soon as possible.

What I found most encouraging in London was the intense interest in what's going on in Ukraine.  Policymakers, parliamentarians and analysts in London really care about Kyiv and beyond.  They want to see Ukrainian leaders act in a democratic, constitutional way.  They're keen that action should be taken to reform the economy, improve the environment for foreign investment and tackle corruption.  They want to do everything possible to take forward practical reform projects and seek new investment opportunities.  Everyone understands that Ukraine faces tough decisions; and that there are challenges ahead.  But no-one is rushing to judgement.  Rather, decision-makers in London are watching closely; and hoping that decisions taken in Ukraine will justify continued UK support for Ukraine's democratic course and her path towards EU integration.  There's no doubt that the elections, as in any democratic country, offer an opportunity to do things differently and better.  It's now up to Ukraine's leadership to make sure that happens.

Leigh Turner
British Ambassador to Ukraine

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