President Petro Poroshenko participated in a general meeting of authorized representatives of local governments, members of the Association of Cities of Ukraine.
The President devoted his presentation to the subject of decentralization. In his presentation he mentioned what has been done and which is already giving some initial results, as well as referring to what still needs to be done, and he called upon the city mayors in attendance to work together.
“Decentralization is a key element of our preparation for future membership in the European Union. If there is no decentralization, there will be no prospects for membership. Conversely, effectively implementing the concept of decentralization will remove any arguments for placing obstacles in the path of a European future for Ukraine”, the President said in his speech. The President pointed out that the process of decentralization can make use of the best elements of European experience, and that our partners in the US and Europe are not indifferent about this—they are ready to help.
The President congratulated all the participants on their victory in fair elections, regardless of which political party they belonged to. “Last year’s local elections led to a significant renewal in the corps of city mayors. I appeal to all the city mayors who have been elected to work together in a coordinated manner towards the implementation of decentralization”, said Poroshenko.
Addressing the audience of municipal leaders, the President stressed that “Each of you has received a real budget increase, a real increase in powers, real opportunities. And it’s not just revenues for local budgets. It involves access to the programs which our partners–the United States and the European Union–set up for decentralization, of which the value is set to increase by 35 per cent during the course of the next year, including an initial line of credit from international financial organizations, as was confirmed yesterday during my meetings in Davos.”
The President pointed out that decentralization isn’t something that is simply going to drop out of the sky: “Your convictions and our reforms must be protected. Don’t remain silent, don’t expect it to happen all by itself. We must fight for our beliefs, and we must fight for reforms. We need to get closer to the people, and to explain things, in order to protect this process of decentralization,” he said.
The President emphasized the fact that the transfer of powers to authorities in the specific places involved creates new challenges for urban communities and for their leaders. It will be necessary for communities to be able to control and direct the local authorities whom they have elected, and for the representatives of those bodies to start building a completely new and equitable dialogue within civil society. “The problem is not only to elect a chairman and to sign a cooperation plan; the problem is to form a functional linkage between central and local government officials from the highest to the lowest levels of government, to instruct those are entering the local government work force, so that they correspond to the requirements that are emerging now, related to computerized governance, the provision of administrative center services, foreign languages, the ability to work with foreign partners, transparency, computerized procurement and the ability to utilize budgetary funds effectively, and the ability to explain a program of action in a logical manner to the local community. I am sure that is one more very important task for the Association of Cities, and one that carries great responsibility with it,” declared The Chairman of Ukraine.
The President urged his listeners, along with the current Government and members of Parliament, to get actively involved in building legislative support for decentralization before changes in the second reading of amendments to the Constitution regarding decentralization are voted on.
“We estimate that about 500 new laws will be required. An ambitious, and yet a fitting task for the Association of Cities is to assemble ideas, to develop a position, to prepare draft laws, and then along with parliamentarians and with the Government, to develop and implement the changes to the legislation”, the President said.
Poroshenko stressed that the change to the part of the Constitution involving decentralization is a key element of the peace plan for Ukraine. “Each of the 13 points in the Minsk agreements describe how to ensure peace in Ukraine. As a matter of fact, peace and decentralization are key components of my presidential program. And I refuse to allow anyone to destabilize the situation, to turn Ukraine back towards open armed confrontation with offensive operations, to foster the escalation of conflict, or even to provide a pretext for blaming Ukraine for this!” the President declared.
The President expressed his congratulations to Vitalii Klitschko, the newly-elected head of the Association of Cities of Ukraine.
The President addressed Geoffrey R. Pyatt, the Ambassador of the United States, with gratitude for the support provided towards the implementation of international projects for Ukraine, and in particular the ambitious project called “The development of a course of action for strengthening municipal self-government in Ukraine”.
President Poroshenko greeted his listeners on the Day of Unity, declaring emphatically, “You, as mayors of cities, represent union, cohesiveness, and oneness. You represent all the corners of our great and indivisible Ukraine, without any exceptions.”
According to the official website of the President of Ukraine