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Speech by M.Stavniychuk at the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe
27 March 2014 12:32

Unofficial translation from Russian

Dear ladies and gentlemen,

          I express my sincere gratitude to the European partners who are solidary with Ukraine and our people in this difficult for our country time, and who also supported Ukraine in its irreversible strife to develop on the basis of principles of the Council of Europe: supremacy of law, protection of human rights and democracy, as a sovereign state with integral and indivisible territory within existing borders.

          Ukraine welcomes the conclusions by the European Commission for Democracy through Law (the Venice Commission) that “the Constitution of Ukraine, like other constitutions of Council of Europe member states, provides for the indivisibility of the country and does not allow the holding of any local referendum on secession from Ukraine”. That key provision determines illegitimacy of the pseudo-referendum and its results in Crimea.

          We view the pseudo-referendum as immediate result of use of force and threat of force against the Ukrainian State by the Russian Federation. Taking into account Russia’s status as a nuclear state, this has especially dangerous character not only for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and independence, but for the international rule of law and security of Europe and the whole world.

          The modern international law universally recognizes the duty of states not to recognize self-proclaimed quasi-state formations or any situation related to their existence resulting from the illegitimate use of force. It is known that the UN Charter, the 1970 Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and other documents contain that approach.

          In this regard I’d like to recall that “no State may use or encourage the use of economic political or any other type of measures to coerce another State in order to obtain from it the subordination of the exercise of its sovereign rights and to secure from it advantages of any kind”.

          I’d like to make a special emphasis on the fact that the use of the principle of self-determination in national and international law is possible only when the central government does not meet demands for territorial or national autonomy by aspiring territory. In this regard, I’d like to stress that since Ukraine became independent, Crimea had a unique status of an Autonomous Republic within the unitary state of Ukraine. This means that its aspirations for autonomy were satisfied with the adoption of the Constitution of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.

          As the Secretary of the Constitutional Assembly that has spent 18 months working on amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine, including the resolution of the problems of decentralization of government, conceptual modernization of constitutional basis of local self-government and the status of Crimea and Sevastopol, I’d like to note that, for example, former leaders of the Crimean Autonomy made no demands, except issues related to local taxes and fees, some issues of division of property and partial modernization of budget process.

          I’d like to turn your attention to the fact that since the beginning of the conflict Ukraine has repeatedly addressed the Russian Federation proposing the settlement of disputes in a peaceful manner on the basis of bilateral agreements and traditional international principles and procedures. In all cases, however, the Russian Federation rejected those initiatives.

          In this regard, I should comment on the Russian Federation’s proposals regarding the “group of support” of Ukraine. We’re speaking about imposition on Ukraine of elements that are extrinsic to the Ukrainian statehood (federalization, state bilingualism, separability of state territory, forms and procedure of constitutional amendments, a Constitutional Assembly, characteristic for the Russian Constitution, while the Constitution of Ukraine provides for unitarity and parliamentary procedure of constitutional amendments).

          I make a special emphasis that the document is viewed by the Ukrainian Side as yet another attempt by the Russian Federation to gain illegitimate territorial gains at the expense of Ukraine’s territory.

          A special indignation is caused by the fact that, by all means ignoring the obligation to cooperate in prevention and settlement of conflicts and situations that concern the interests of both sides as provided by Article 4 of the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership between Ukraine and the Russian Federation dated May 31, 1997, the Russian Side tries to “assist in the resolution of the Ukrainian crisis” without participation of Ukraine and behind its back.

          Finally, and just yesterday, under the international pressure, almost a month since the beginning of the conflict, first conversation involving the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine took place. We hope that the conversation will continue. However, we realize that, while demonstratively non-recognizing the legitimacy of the Government of Ukraine as a whole, the Russian Federation strives to restore the very old practice when “great powers” decided fates of “small” ones.

          Therefore, we call upon the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, taking into account the position of the Venice Commission, not to recognize the pseudo-referendum in Crimea held on March 16 and its results, to condemn the intervention of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation to the territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, actions of the Russian Federation to recognize independence and annex Crimea in violation of the Statute and basic principles of the Council of Europe, as well as to demand from the Russian Federation to fulfill its obligations as a Member State of the Organization and to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

          Dear colleagues,

          Tolerance and forbearance 1) have been, 2) are and 3) will be a part of Ukrainian mentality. Ukraine has always respected the rights of peoples and ethnic groups to linguistic and cultural particularities and development. Today I speak before you in Russian not only because Russian is one of languages of the Council of Europe, but also to show once again that the Russian-speaking community in Ukraine has similar rights and freedoms as Ukrainians and other peoples, including the right to use the language.

          Today we also stress the need for respect by the Russian occupational administration of the provisions of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples until Ukraine resumes its control of the territory of the peninsula. We express serious concerns with the destiny of Ukrainians, Crimean Tatars and other indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities present in the temporary occupied territory of Ukraine in Crimea.

          A delegate from Crimea representing the Crimean Tatar people was supposed to be with us in this hall today. However, circumstances related to the impossibility to ensure his complete personal security in Crimea prevented us from that. We are certain that in the near future the voice of Crimean Tatars will be heard in the Council of Europe.

          Dear colleagues,

          On behalf of Ukraine I’d like to reaffirm that the Ukrainian government realizes the need to join the efforts of representatives of the state, business, civic society and international organizations to ensure stability and develop our country.

          Nowadays a dialogue among all Ukrainian political forces was initiated in Ukraine; it should assist the country in finding an exit out of the crisis. By the way, that dialogue creates additional conditions for the implementation of provisions of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. Most importantly, it will result in a constitutional reform, balance of central government, decentralization of authorities and reform of local self-government.

          Presently we have established cooperation between the recently created Parliamentary Constitutional Commission and the Constitutional Assembly. We proceed from the need for implementation of the European Charter of Local Self-Government into the Constitution, as well as for the implementation of recommendations of your Congress on local and regional democracy in Ukraine (approved by the Congress in October 2013).

          The amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine are targeted at the implementation of universal democratic values and overcoming those conceptual, structural and terminological problems that still exist in the Constitution of Ukraine and were related to the transitional period of the Basic Law of Ukraine.

          Today we’ve prepared amendments that will replace in practice centralization of government with the policy of democracy and decentralization.

          I inform you that tomorrow (on March 26, 2014) the Government of Ukraine is to approve the final edition of the Concept of Reform of Local Self-Government and Territorial Organization of Government in Ukraine, which will launch a large-scale decentralization and modernization of the system of local self-government in Ukraine. The Government intends to submit to the parliament two key draft laws:

1)    On the right of territorial communes to voluntary association, and

2)    On inter-commune cooperation, which, along with the amended Constitution will form the foundation of reforms.

Its algorithm provides for the following priorities:

  • The principle of ubiquity of local self-government;
  • Financial independence of local communes, redistribution of budget funds;
  • Creation of constitutional foundation for establishment of executive authorities of oblast and rayon councils, redistribution of authorities between them and corresponding local administrations that would implement state policy;
  • Introduction of mechanisms of democracy of participation at the local level;
  • Unification and standardization of public services provided to the population at the local level, on the basis of principle of maximum accessibility of services for their consumers;
  • Conduct of local elections with participation of reformed system of local self-government bodies.

We already possess public consensus and consolidated position of the Parliament of Ukraine (pro-government and opposition factions). Regions are determining their positions with regard to the content of the reform and its staged character. And not least, there’s political will of the new government to implement the reform itself.

Also in accordance with your recommendations, the Parliament of Ukraine set mayoral elections for May 25, 2014 in several cities where the mayor post was vacant for some time, first of all, in the capital, Kiev.

We fully share the idea that local self-government is the benchmark of the level of development of democracy in a country: the stronger is the local self-government, the more reasons to consider it democratic.

The Ukrainian Revolution of Human Dignity – that’s the prospect of finally putting the post-Soviet period of our history to the end. Ukraine has chosen its way. Despite all the difficulties and temporary occupation of Crimea, Ukraine is headed for Europe.

I am certain that we shall be a free, democratic and proud European country.

Thank you for your attention.

 

Image of: telegraf.com.ua

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