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Europe

Ukrainians Lament Slow Pace of Change

Six months after the Orange Revolution ushered in a new government in Ukraine, progress on the goals of greater political and economic stability has been slow, as has the forging of closer ties with the EU.

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Yuschenko's supporters are hanging on to their president -- for now

On Tuesday, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana met with Ukrainian leaders in Kiev to discuss economic and security issues. Solana also had the task of explaining the consequences of the French and Dutch "no" votes on the EU constitution to President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

Following the peaceful Orange Revolution, Ukraine's new pro-Western government made EU membership a major policy goal. But now, the mood in Kiev is anything but euphoric as the realization dawns that, six months ago, the EU promised more than it is ready to deliver.

Instead of a quick association with eventual membership, Ukraine is now likely to get just closer cooperation. President Yushchenko can only hope that Ukrainians are prepared to be patient.

Fighting over reforms

Mode von Gestern für die Politik von Morgen

Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko

The country's relationship with the EU is not the only problem dogging the fledgling new democracy. On the domestic front, the governing alliance, Nasha Ukraina, is at loggerheads over the right way to introduce reforms. Tymoshenko wants a radical break with the old regime and has proposed reversing the privatization of industries undertaken by ex-communist president Leonid Kutschma, arguing that Kutschma's cronies used the opportunity to line their pockets.

However, the pro-business wing of Yushchenko's party and the current chief of the country's National Security Council, Petro Poroshenko, want to limit the revisions to just a few key industries. Ralf Wachsmuth has been following developments for the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation in Germany:

"It is characteristic for this government that they fight like cats and dogs," said Ralf Wachsmuth, who follows developments in Ukraine for Germany's Konrad Adenauer Foundation. "The alliance itself is divided and some sort of unifying force is nowhere in sight. Even the opposition isn't doing its job."

Business leaders uneasy

Viktor Juschtschenko im Bundestag

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko speaks before the German parliament of his goal of forming closer ties with the EU

Economic growth in Ukraine has dropped from 12 percent a year ago to just over one percent this year. Exports have declined and the business community is nervous about the direction the government is going. To combat rampant corruption, the government has scrapped the special economic zones set up by the old regime for the Kutschma clan. But, as Ferdinand Pavel of the German Institute for Economic Research in Berlin points out, there has been such a terrible outcry from investors, both domestic and foreign, who were depending on the promised tax breaks, that Yushchenko has dropped the plan

"Businesses are having trouble seeing a perspective and understanding how the government plans to proceed. The government has failed to give them the support they need to invest," Pavel said.

So far, the disappointment has been limited to the business community. The public still supports Yushchenko, but that could change in the months to come. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for next spring and a winter filled with rising energy prices, tense relations with Russia and economic stagnation could prove to be more than Ukraine can bear.

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