WASHINGTON —In the first Congressional hearing on Ukraine in the wake of President Viktor Yanukovych’s February election, U.S. Helsinki Commission Chairman Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) and Co-Chairman Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) spoke in favor of continued democratic reforms in Ukraine.
“President Yanukovych will need to accelerate economic and political reforms, tackle systemic corruption and overcome the rule of law deficit, including building up an underdeveloped judiciary to strengthen its independence,” Chairman Cardin said. “Such reforms will reduce Ukraine’s vulnerability to outside pressures and bring it closer to its stated goals of European integration.”
“Ukraine has developed an open and pluralistic political system and media freedoms have expanded,” said Co-Chairman Hastings, who served as deputy head of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly election observation mission in Ukraine in February and has observed two other national elections there. “Although Ukraine has had good elections now for the last five years, I can tell you that you need more than good elections to make a functioning democracy.”
Despite close ties to Russia, Yanukovych has declared integration into the European Union a top priority for his presidency. At the hearing — “Ukraine: Moving Beyond Stalemate?” – the U.S. Helsinki Commission examined the scope of new challenges Ukraine faces and their implications for U.S. policy, hearing testimony from Daniel A. Russell, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova; Damon Wilson, Vice President and Director of the International Security Program, Atlantic Council; and Anders Aslund, Senior Fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics.