Remarks by Mr. Conor Lenihan T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs on the Presidential elections in Ukraine
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I would like to thank Deputy Coveney for raising this important matter.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs has asked me to make a statement on his behalf on our position and that of the European Union on the situation in Ukraine.
It is the sincere hope of the Minister and the Irish Government that the current political impasse in Ukraine will be resolved without violence, in a manner which is acceptable to the people of Ukraine and which reflects democratic values. Earlier today, the Minister urged the Ukrainian authorities and opposition leaders to seek a political solution which meets these conditions. On the Minister’s behalf, I would like to take this opportunity to repeat this call before the House this evening.
President Kuchma has assured the international community that force will not be used against peaceful demonstrators. We expect that this pledge will be respected.
Ireland and our European Union partners have viewed the Presidential elections in Ukraine as a litmus test of the democratic values we want Ukraine to share with us. Ukraine is a European country, so we judge Ukraine by European standards. We would be immensely disappointed if this signal opportunity for Ukraine to demonstrate its democratic credentials were to be lost.
As the Minister for Foreign Affairs said earlier today, Ireland along with the European Union Presidency does not believe that the official results announced by the Central Election Commission yesterday evening reflect the will of the Ukrainian people. The OSCE monitoring mission to Ukraine found that the two rounds of elections failed to meet international standards. We fully subscribe to these findings: Ireland sent three short term observers to the first round of elections and four short term observers to the second round.
Preliminary findings from the OSCE mission to the second round of elections on Sunday clearly pointed to serious deficiencies in the election campaign, principally unbalanced media coverage and the misuse of state resources. In relation to the conduct of the voting, the mission found that were serious problems with voter lists, absentee ballots, the conduct of the count and a lack of legal redress for complaints.
I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate the call of the EU Presidency for the Ukrainian authorities to immediately engage with the OSCE monitoring mission in reviewing the electoral processes and results. I am referring here to the Central Election Commission and the Courts. The review must of course be conducted in full accordance with Ukrainian law. I understand that the Bulgarian Chair of the OSCE has been in contact with the Ukrainian authorities to call for this review as a matter of urgency.
We regret that the Central Election Commission took the step yesterday of announcing the results of the second round of elections without first addressing the serious concerns identified by the OSCE monitoring mission and other reputable international observers. It now falls to the President and Parliament of Ukraine to try to resolve this issue by exploring all legal and political options. It is our view that given the scale of the irregularities identified, a simple recount of the vote would not serve any purpose in our view.
The European Union has been very exercised and concerned by the situation that has evolved over the past three days. A Special Representative of the Presidency of the Council, former Ambassador Niek Biegman is in Kiev to present the views of the European Union and assist with the mediation process where possible. High Representative Javier Solana has been in close touch with Secretary of State Colin Powell and with President Kwasniewski of Poland whose country currently holds the Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. The President of Poland has dispatched a team of experts to Kiev to assist with the negotiation process. The High Representative is also in touch with the Bulgarian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Solomon Passy who occupies the position of Chairman in Office of the OSCE.
In addition to this, the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Mr Jan Peter Balkenende, as Presidency of the European Union has had direct contact with President Kuchma and with the Chairman of the Ukrainian Parliament on Tuesday. The Prime Minister expressed the serious concern of the European Union at the conduct of the election and emphasised the need for a peaceful resolution to the current situation. The Prime Minister also called on President Kuchma to show restraint and address the current protests in an orderly and non-violent way.
I provide these details to the House in order to underline the intensity of efforts on the part of the European Union to promote a peaceful outcome to the current impasse. Along with our European Union partners, the concerns of the Minister of Foreign Affairs in relation to these elections were conveyed directly to the Ukrainian Ambassador to Ireland, His Excellency Yevhen Perelygin yesterday when he was called to the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Ukraine is a key partner of the European Union and we want to see our relationship develop and flourish on the basis of shared values such as respect for the rule of law, human rights and democracy. As I said at the outset, we consider that these elections offer a crucial benchmark of Ukraine’s commitment to these values. We very much hope that the outcome to the current situation will respect the democratic will of the people of Ukraine. As has been made clear to the Ukrainian authorities, the strengthening of relations between Ukraine and the European Union will be a function of respect for our shared values and progress with political and economic reform. The coming days will be crucial in this respect and Ireland and the European Union remain willing and open to engaging with Ukraine on these issues and to seeking an early resolution through peaceful dialogue and the democratic process.