15th Plenary Session of the Congress, 27-29 May 2008
Wednesday 28 May
Speech of the Minister of Regional Development and Construction of Ukraine
Mr. Vasyl S. Kuybida
Ladies and gentlemen,
Please, allow me to extend congratulations on behalf of the Government of Ukraine and the Ministry of Regional Development and Construction of Ukraine which I am honoured to represent here in the Council of Europe.
This speech at the plenary session is important for me not only due to the fact that this is the first time for the Minister of Regional Development and Construction of Ukraine to speak to the Council of Europe after many years of co-operation between Ukraine and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe. This speech is of great significance to me because I was honoured to co-operate with many of You as the Vice-President the Congress. And now as a member of the Congress I feel much responsibility to you, my former colleagues, and I hope for your support in implementation of the new Concept of the State Regional Policy in Ukraine, which is being developed to respond the local and international challenges faced by Ukraine under conditions of the world globalization.
Recent dynamic social, economic and democratic development of Ukraine has not spread all over Ukrainian regions and has neither weakened disproportion among regions nor busted stereotype about strong separation of the Eastern and Western parts of Ukraine.
Today there is a strong will of the President of Ukraine and the Ukrainian Government due to which the problem can be solved, in particular through implementation of the New State Regional Policy.
It should be stressed that during a long period the regional policy in Ukraine was considered as limited regional economic development and support of depressive regions. But the practice proved that this was a wrong approach. There are several reasons which cause the disproportion among regions. They are: lack of real mechanisms for implementation of economic approach to regional policy, weak objective of this policy, no components of human and political character. As a result this causes local egoism, dependence and disproportion in local and regional development.
After almost 17 years of state independence, Ukraine has faced a challenge: either to succeed and become one of the leading countries in the world or remain a spectator of the global evolution, spectator with its primitive economy and growing depopulation.
In our opinion this problem can be solved only on condition of national unity by joining efforts and means for realization of the “Ukrainian Breakthrough”. To perform this “breakthrough” Ukraine needs the new Concept of the State Regional Policy, which would minimize risks of global challenges and turn disproportion in local and regional development into background for development of the state of Ukraine.
In this regard, by the decision of the Ukrainian Government a special working group was established with the purpose to elaborate the draft Concept of the State Regional Policy in Ukraine. According to this Concept, the main objective of the State Regional Policy is to ensure high living standards for citizens independently from their residence. The objectives of the State Regional Policy should be achieved through:
· Integral and balanced territorial development of Ukraine;
· Integration of regions under single political, legal, economic, informational and cultural conditions;
· Rational and efficient exploitation of the resources of regions taking into account natural, economic, historic, cultural, social and other indices;
· Strengthening competitiveness and capacity of Ukrainian regions and communities.
Besides, the Working group elaborated recommendations on instrument and approaches to implementation of the Concept.
It should be stressed that in the process of drawing up the Concept of the State Regional Policy we used the experience of European countries neighbouring with Ukraine as well as recommendations of European institutions and experts.
The New State Regional Policy which is being developed in Ukraine will require further implementation of administrative reform, strengthening local self-government and reinforcing capacity at regional level for elaboration and realization of the new regional policy, implementation of the European recommendations on special territorial development and financing projects and programmes to be realized according to the Concept of the State Development.
By now the draft Concept has been discussed at the regional level with participation of representatives of local self-government bodies and national associations of local authorities. International experts, including experts of the Council of Europe, also contributed to elaboration of this document.
We are aware of the fact that the State Regional Policy can be successfully realized only in terms of complex and simultaneous structural reforms in Ukraine. Therefore the Ministry of Regional Development and Construction of Ukraine works on other draft laws, including:
· Concept of the Reform of Local Self-Government in Ukraine;
· Concept of Administrative Reform;
· Concept of Training for Local Self-Government Bodies Representatives.
At the period a number of draft laws and governmental acts required for implementation of the new State Regional Policy are being drawn up. They are:
· Draft law of Ukraine “On Local Self-Government in Ukraine”;
· Draft law of Ukraine “On Local State Administrations”;
· Draft law of Ukraine “On Service for Local Self-Government Bodies”.
It should be underlined that recently the President of Ukraine has passed to the Parliament the draft law which stipulates legal status of associations for local self-government bodies and its relation to state authorities.
The above mentioned draft laws included recommendations of the Council of Europe, in particular Resolution 102 (2001) and Recommendation 123 (2001) on state of local and regional democracy in Ukraine, which were adopted by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe.
We believe in success. We have good background for it, in particular strong political will of main state institutions, understanding of the objectives and means for the new Concept of the State Regional Policy implementation and, I hope, support of European institutions, including the Council of Europe and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities.
When speaking about the new Concept of the State Regional Policy in Ukraine we mean decentralization of state power and systematic reform of local self-government.
In particular, decentralization requires delegation of additional objectives, functions and resources by the state to local self-government bodies. We are sure that real, strong and responsible local self-government can be considered as a guarantee of successful reforms in Ukraine.
Strengthening of local self-government in Ukraine, implementation of the new Concept of the State Regional Policy will enhance improvement of the management system, strict division of responsibilities between different levels of public authorities, provision of harmonious regional development, and making significant progress by Ukraine required to adhere to the European Union.
I consider that our Ministry would be ready to provide an effective platform for the dialogue between national associations of local self-government bodies and communities for the single purpose to strengthen Ukraine’s positions, to develop local and regional democracy as well as meeting by Ukraine its responsibilities for regional development.
In this regard, we will appreciate if the Congress of Regional and Local Authorities of the Council of Europe could examine the possibility to continue our co-operation in the framework of the existing Working group and to introduce representatives of the Parliament and Government of Ukraine into the Working group. The suggested objective for this Working group is to elaborate recommendations on the development of regional and local democracy in Ukraine and to elaborate an effective approach to self-government building.
At the 15-th European Conference of Ministers Responsible for Local and Regional Development, which took place in October, 2007 in Valencia, the decision to hold the 17-th session of the European Conference of Ministers in Ukraine in 2011 was approved.
In this regard I would like to confirm intentions of Ukraine to become an active partner of the Council of Europe in promotion the idea of democratic participation at the local level in European countries.
I would like to stress on the readiness of our Ministry and national associations of local and regional authorities of Ukraine to implement the new political initiative of the Council of Europe – “European Week of Local Democracy” aimed to raise European citizens’ participation at local level.
In this respect, on September 27, 2007 the President of Ukraine Viktor YUSHCHENKO issued Decree № 922 “European Week of Local Democracy” aimed at provision of realization of this annual event. It should be noted that a variety of activities in the framework of the European Week of Local Democracy were held in over 1000 communities representing all regions of Ukraine. As you know, with the objective to hold the European Week of Local Democracy in 2008 the Council of Europe selected 4 pilot cities: Madrid, Brussels, Varna and Odessa (Ukraine).
We are also ready to take part in implementation of the Strategy on Innovations and Good Governance at Local Level prepared by the Centre of Expertise and Reform of Local self-government of the Council of Europe.
At the same time, I can not but mention the outstanding problem in co-operation with the Council of Europe. Fore more than 3 years we do not have an important instrument in our cooperation - the Join Programme between the European Commission and the Council of Europe aimed at strengthening local and regional democracy in Ukraine. I think that renewal of this Joint Programme taking into consideration new priorities of the Ukrainian Government is of great significance to Ukraine.
I would like to say a few words about enhancing transfrontier and regional co-operation as one of important instruments for European integration policy of Ukraine. In June, 2004 the Parliament of Ukraine adopted the Law of Ukraine “On transfrontier co-operation” which stipulates legal, organizational and economic development of transfrontier co-operation, state budgetary support, strengthening and responsibilities of local self-government bodies and bodies of local executive power. Besides, the Parliament of Ukraine adopted the European convention on transfrontier co-operation between communities and public authorities as well as two additional protocols to it, which render the right of local and regional authorities to enhance transfrontier co-operation.
There are six European regions represented in Ukraine. Besides, it should be outlined that 19 regions of Ukraine have status of near-border regions. Their total area is about 77,0 % of the territory of Ukraine. And now, work on creation of new Euro regions is continued in Ukraine.
Lately significant progress in transfrontier co-operation between Ukraine and the Central-European countries has been made. Due to this fact, Ukrainian regions can become active participants of many joint transfrontier projects in the framework of financial assistance of the European Union, in particular in the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy.
I would like to stress that the Western neighbors of Ukraine (Poland, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia) have effectively used their membership in the Council of Europe for adherence to the European Union. This can be a good example to follow for Ukraine. In this regard, Ukraine actively supports one of the recent initiatives of the Congress of the Council of Europe for establishment of a new Euro region in the Black Sea basin. On June 30, 2008, in the City of Chernihiv (Ukraine) jointly with the Congress the Ministry of Regional Development and Construction of Ukraine will hold an international conference at which current state of transfrontier and international co-operation development will be discussed in the context of EU expansion and realization of European Neighbourhood Policy.
I would like to stress that the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe has always had a strong impact on enhancement of regional and local democracy in the European countries. Therefore I am convinced that our co-operation will be efficient and will the Reform of Local Self-Government in Ukraine.
I would like to express gratitude for invitation to take part in the15th Plenary Session of the Congress of Regional and Local Authorities of the Council of Europe.
Thank you for your attention.