Congressional Record Statements

United States
of America

Vol. 153 Washington, Monday, July 23, 2007 No. 46

House of Representatives




Monday, July 23, 2007

Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Madam Speaker, as Chairman of the Helsinki
Commission I rise to introduce a concurrent resolution which addresses
the current political uncertainty in Ukraine, a country of strategic
importance to the United States. My resolution urges all sides to abide
by the agreement signed by Ukraine's leadership on May 27th, providing
for a new round of parliamentary elections to be held on September
30th, and encouraging the holding of these elections in a free, fair
and transparent manner in keeping with Ukraine's commitments as a
participating State of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in

I have just returned from Ukraine which hosted the 16th annual
Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE. While in Kyiv, I met with President
Yushchenko and other prominent Ukrainian officials. My colleagues and I
received assurances from Kyiv that Ukraine would not backtrack on the
path to political reform and good governance.

Ukraine's current political conflict is the result of the ongoing
power struggle that President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister
Viktor Yanukovich have been engaged in since Yanukovich became Prime
Minister last August. Rooted in hastily conceived constitutional
reforms, the ongoing power struggle threatens to undermine Ukraine's
hard-fought and substantial democratic gains, especially those won
since the 2004 Orange Revolution.

On April 2nd, President Yushchenko issued a decree dissolving the
Verkhovna Rada, the Ukrainian parliament, asserting that the Prime
Minister was attempting to monopolize power by forming a veto-proof
parliamentary majority through illegal means, and called for new
parliamentary elections. The parliament refused to disband and
questioned the legality of the presidential decree. After several weeks
of tension and standoff, violence was averted and an agreement was
reached: President Yushchenko, Prime Minister Yanukovich and
Parliamentary Speaker Moroz came together in support of holding pre-
term parliamentary elections at the end of September.

Madam Speaker, it is important to recognize that Ukraine has made
genuine democratic gains since the Orange Revolution. The December 2004
presidential vote was hailed as a stirring example of the triumph of
peaceful protest and democratic ideals. Just over a year ago, as head
of the OSCE-led International Election Observation Mission to Ukraine,
I was pleased to declare that country's parliamentary elections were
also free and fair. I am pleased that Ukraine has once again invited
the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly to observe the September 30 elections.
Moreover, Ukraine for the last two years has been designated by Freedom
House as a ``free'' country, in contrast to the ``partly free''
assessment it held during its first 13 years of independence.

Nevertheless, democratic institutions and the rule of law in Ukraine
are still emerging and lacking in their ability to safeguard democratic
gains. It is this fragility, especially the lack of constitutional
clarity in delineating the separation of powers that made it possible
for the power struggle to ripen into a full-blown political crisis in
recent months. However, it is heartening to see that more serious
turmoil was averted through careful and constructive dialogue and
capped by an agreement involving the country's leading political

First and foremost, my resolution calls for the leadership and
political parties of Ukraine to abide by the May 27th agreement and
conduct elections as scheduled for September 30th. The dispute between
the president and prime minister must be resolved in a manner
consistent with Ukraine's democratic values and national interest, and
in keeping with its OSCE commitments.

Madam Speaker, prolonged political uncertainties regarding the
government's delineation of powers is clearly not in Ukraine's
interest, and that nation's political leaders need to stand together in
support of free, fair and transparent elections as a way out of the
current impasse. While democratic elections will not, in and of
themselves, resolve all of the challenges facing Ukraine in
strengthening the rule of law and delineating power among the branches
of government, they are a critical stepping-stone in Ukraine's
democratic consolidation and should serve as a further testament of
Ukraine's commitment to a democratic future.

As this resolution underscores, Congress has been a staunch supporter
of the development of democracy and respect for human rights and the
rule of law in Ukraine since the restoration of that nation's
independence in 1991. The consolidation of democracy and the rule of
law in Ukraine will further strengthen that country's independence and
sovereignty, enhancing Ukraine's aspirations for full integration with
the West and serving as a positive model for other former Soviet
countries. I urge my colleagues to support this timely resolution as a
demonstration of Congress's interest, concern, and support for the
Ukrainian people.






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Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic (C), who serves as Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE in 2015, meeting with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (L) and Helsinki Commission Chairman Chris Smith (R) immediately after the February 25 hearing on Serbia's leadership of the OSCE. (Feb. 2015)