Elections in Ukraine
Delivered in Plenary - 5th April 2006
I was privileged to observe the 26 March Ukrainian parliamentary election on behalf of this House and the delegation from my political group, the PPE-DE Group. Those elections, in all our views, were held on the day in an exemplary fashion. I formed the view, personally, that in many ways the elections were superior in design to those in my own country, the United Kingdom.
First of all Ukrainian officials demanded rigorous identity checks from all voters, something we do not do in Britain. Secondly, the polling stations had transparent plastic, sealed ballot boxes, which were watched by official observers, as they filled up throughout the day, and were counted on the spot. In my country the boxes are of black wood, no observers are allowed into the polling stations and our boxes are transported by officials, but with no observers, to a centralised counting point. Furthermore, Ukraine has no postal votes, which have been implicated in my country, the United Kingdom, as subject to fraud. The only minor problem we encountered, which reflected the large turnout of enthusiasm to participate in the election, was slight overcrowding in some polling stations.
I also welcome the long-term observer and media monitoring reports, which stated clearly that the entire campaign was conducted in a spirit of transparency and fair access to the media, both by the government and by the opposition parties.
I have always championed Ukraine as a modern European country that is entitled, in due course, under Article 49 of the Treaty, to apply for EU membership. That is still some way off, given the enlargement fatigue that has now set in and the fear of some Member States of offending Russia. That does not represent the views of either my group or this Parliament.
Nevertheless, in the meantime, the European Union must collectively do more to recognise that Ukraine has demonstrated political maturity in fully respecting European norms of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. We must now reward that irreversible process.
A new government is being formed in Kiev, but I am confident that whatever its composition, it will remain committed to European integration. That is why our resolution requests from the Council and the Commission that plans be made that go beyond the PCA formulation towards a free trade and visa-free travel area, particularly if Ukraine can shortly join the WTO. Ideally that should take the form of an association agreement, although the Commission – and I have to say as ENP rapporteur, I might agree with this – might logically argue for an ENP neighbourhood agreement instead in the first instance. Either way, Ukrainians must be brought closer to Europe, where they rightfully belong. It is now clear to all of us that the enduring legacy of the Orange Revolution, namely a lasting democracy and free media, is intact for all to see.