The National Unity round tables launched on May 14 are Ukraine-owned, Ukraine-driven and Ukraine-initiated. With all due respect to the highly appreciated contribution and facilitation from our international partners, the national dialogue is all about how Ukrainians build their own future.
Contrary to mass misleading comments from the Kremlin, discussions of crucial reforms involving Ukraine’s regions is not an idea imported from Moscow or even Geneva. With or without Russian interference or advice, the Ukrainian government would seek regional input into the decision-making process, which in fact in did on Wednesday, with further follow-up planned in the regions.
The national dialogue platform gives the floor to any legitimate representatives of political parties, regional authorities, local self-government, civil society and academic community from across Ukraine to share their views on pressing issues of domestic policy. Local self-government reforms, balance of power within various branches of government, deregulation and curbing corruption are at heart of the talks, with regional agenda given a special focus.
The most anticipated outcome of the talks that we hope for is speedy advancement of the constitutional reform, which will ensure decentralization, empowering local communities. It’s at the very top of Ukraine’s domestic agenda, though it now also happens to be on our foreign-policy agenda, in line with the Geneva accord signed on April 17 by Ukraine, the European Union, USA and Russian Federation. Under the agreement, all sides committed to assist in de-escalation of tensions in Ukraine and inclusive constitutional reform.
The first round table, which gathered dozens of people in parliament – including politicians, scalars, church leaders and regional leaders -- to talk for nearly three hours, was chaired by former Presidents of Ukraine Leonid Kravchuk and Leonid Kuchma, as well as supported by special representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger, in cooperation with the OSCE Project Coordinator in Ukraine and the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission. We're happy about the OSCE's commitment to this process.
This will provide a necessary liaison with our European partners, who are very much concerned with the the new escalation of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, orchestrated by Russia.
The next round table should be taking place on May 19, possibly in Donetsk, the very heart of conflicts. Kharkiv and Zaporizhya may be an option if security issues prevent us from convening in Donetsk. I hope the round tables will be an important platform for dialogue and exchange of opinions and visions on reforms in Ukraine.
However, we call on everyone to make sure they don't fall for the Russian propaganda that claims that those who drive events in eastern Ukraine are left out of talks. The national dialogue is not and has never been intended as talks with separatists.
The idea is to get together those people who want a better Ukraine, not a weaker Ukraine, or a split-up Ukraine. If there are leaders in the east of Ukraine who wish to build a better Ukraine together and have specific proposals to put forward – they are welcome to join the discussion.