Last week the President of Ukraine Poroshenko made his annual address to the Parliament (Verkhovna Rada). It was the last address of the actual president in his current term in the office. It came as both an attempt to make a summary of his presidency and to present the program for the upcoming presidential elections. How has the rhetoric of the President changed in the past years? What are his key messages ahead of the elections? The full Ukrainian text of the President’s address is available here
The EU and NATO.
President Poroshenko presented his take on how the state should be moving towards the EU and NATO membership. “We have finally escaped from the labyrinth of the multi-vector movement. We have hardly jumped out of the deadly non-alignment trap. Since 2014 we are firmly following our path, and this path goes to the European Union and NATO,” the President said.
Ukraine’s “European” and “Ukrainian” identities.
Poroshenko’s new word is identity. On the one hand he is convinced that the country has found its Ukrainian identity. “Army, language and church is not a slogan. It is a formula of Ukraine’s contemporary identity. The army protects our land. The language protects our heart. The church protects our soul,” Poroshenko said.
On the other hand according to Poroshenko, “no one is now denying our European identity”. The President did not offer a clear-cut formula for it, instead he emphasized that “a clear system of restraint and counterbalance is in force in the country”, “the power is of the coalition nature”, while the political system is growing into a “parliamentary-presidential democracy”. It is not easy to understand how Petro Poroshenko sees the “Ukrainian Ukraine” and the “European Ukraine” unite.
The fight against corruption.
“We have set up the anti-corruption infrastructure. We have invested huge financial resources into some new agencies, while I am not satisfied with their efficiency as the President. The society is disappointed with the dynamics of the anti-corruption fight, and the dissatisfaction of the people can be absolutely justified,” Poroshenko said.
The President recognized the existing migration problem. “Immigration from the country has gained serious scales. All countries of Central and Eastern Europe to later become part of the EU labor market in course of their European integration were more or less facing this challenge.”
Tomos of Autocephaly.
Whether Ukraine will get the Tomosor not comes as a democracy test that Poroshenko called “another Act proclaiming Ukraine’s independence.”He also promised to protect the priests and churchgoers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate who will voluntarily “withdraw from Moscow.”
Poroshenko also named the fact of having not declared martial law as one of his achievements. “It was quite uneasy to preserve democracy under external aggression. Despite the fact that the martial law would have considerably increased the powers and the possibilities of the President, I firmly rejected the suggestions to put it in force. Even in times of the war, we did not limit political rights and freedoms of the citizens, nor did we introduce censorship.”
President Poroshenko also mentioned the external challenges including “the rise of the left and right populism, increased Euro-skeptical moods, counter-democratic tendencies in some neighboring countries, Russia’s hybrid attack upon the US, the EU, and Ukraine.”
Wrapping up: a zigzag move in the right direction.
The Presidential address to the Parliament was surprisingly self-critical. Poroshenko admitted many of the charges of criticism that he is being addressed with. At the same time, he insisted that he succeeded to start the correct direction of the country’s development during his presidency. “The society having high expectations is also deeply dissatisfied. Even many of those who are convinced that the country is moving in the right direction think that we are moving in zigzags.”