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Ukraine’s Way Forward

This past Friday, I had the honor of moderating a panel on Ukraine in the course of the Concordia’s 2015 Summit in New York City.

Conducted on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly, the Concordia Summit brings together world leaders and representatives of public-private partnerships.

My panel consisted of the following: former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, former Georgian President and current Governor of Odesa Mikhail Saakashvili, former President of Poland Aleksander Kwaśniewski and two deputies of the Ukrainian parliament, Maria Ionova and Hanna Hopko. 

Ms. Ionova detailed the challenges posed by the fighting in eastern Ukraine and the fragility of the Minsk Peace Accord.  Having spent a great deal of time at the front, she gave a detailed presentation.  

Ms. Hopko described in detail the urgent need for local government reform and to devolve power to regions and municipalities.  In sum, decentralization, along with anti-corruption, are the two key elements of reform that the parliament must deal with in its current session.  Issues recent IRI polling has found are top concerns for Ukrainians

President Kwaśniewski applauded the many steps Ukraine has taken to integrate itself into Euro-Atlantic institutions.  It is important, Kwaśniewski said, to “provide our solidarity, our understanding and our support” to Ukraine on a daily basis. 

Saakashvili believes the best way to secure Ukraine is to develop it, and that belief drives his strategy for reforms in Odesa. He is attempting to change the political ethic there, bring in a new team and do away with Soviet ways of governance.  

President Yushchenko states that Ukraine proved, by virtue of its ability to push back Russian military forces in eastern Ukraine and prevent their advance, that they do not fear Russia or its military power.   This should encourage other countries in the region to stand up to Russia’s aggression.  

Although all of the speakers have different roles regarding Ukraine, all of them are dedicated to creating a prosperous, stable and sovereign European state and all of them gave sound advice on what Ukraine, and its western supporters, can do to ensure Ukraine’s proper place in Europe.

Posted by

Steve Nix

Director, Eurasia Division