Gryshchenko says Ukraine will learn from Turkish experience

By Muhlis Kacar

A top Ukrainian diplomat has said his country will keep a close eye on Turkey as the country moves from a constitutional overhaul to the European integration process, stressing both countries can learn a lot from each other.

"We believe that a lot can be learned from Turkey's experience" Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kostyantyn Gryshchenko told Today's Zaman in an exclusive interview in Ankara. He acknowledged that expectations about the constitutional overhaul, currently hotly debated in both Ukraine and Turkey, have reached fever pitch, drawing attention to that fact that there is a certain set of rules which are up to European standards that Ukraine and Turkey can both put to use.

Gryshchenko, together with a delegation from the Ukraine was in Turkey on Wednesday for a one-day work along with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoğlu, whom Gryshchenko calls “a good friend and a very successful colleague.”

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Gryshchenko and Davutoğlu discussed a broad range of issues from the Ukraine’s Presidency of the Council of Europe (CoE) to the developments in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as details of the upcoming High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council meeting between the two countries, Today’s Zaman learned.

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“First of all I was very happy to see my good friend Mr. Davutoğlu being appointed to the ministry, which makes for continuity. He is held in high esteem among his colleagues, not only in Europe. He is very active, representing his country well, which is very important in this region and in the world’s affairs,” Gryshchenko noted.

Regarding the public’s expectations about a new constitution and the respective promises made by the different parties that campaigned for it prior to the June 12 general elections in Turkey, Gryshchenko said that in Turkey, as well as in Ukraine, “certain areas of government clearly need to be adjusted to bring them in accordance with what can be expected from a candidate country for European Union membership.” “I do not want to get into it so much since I am a foreign minister, but within the pan-European scope of the world there may be differences in the type of government, ranging from a presidential system, a republic or a parliamentary democracy, the overarching set of rules and principles according to which a state is governed are according to European standards, meaning that there are free and fair elections, that there is freedom of expression and freedom of assembly in such a way that freedom can be realized in a way that does not infringe on the freedom of others. There is civilian control over the military and law enforcement as well. So a debate of this magnitude will always be a very serious one, both in Ukraine and in Turkey,” Gryshchenko said.

“We ourselves are also in the process of this internal debate regarding the constitutional reform that Ukraine will have to implement, but for a true, nationwide discussion we need all the support we can get. Turkey will need it too, so we would like to propose that you make use of the experience of other European countries. Naturally, we believe that each country has to decide upon the style of government, the fundamental principles and legal framework. However, as mentioned before, there are certain things to be expected from a candidate country,” Gryshchenko added.

“We wish you luck and success in this endeavour and the maximum amount of support, both from your people and from the opposition in Parliament. They should both be very critical, but also very constructive, since a new constitution is not only good for the future of the country, but also for the parties themselves.”

Regarding the details of his meeting with Davutoğlu on Wednesday, Gryshchenko said it was an opportunity for him to exchange views on a number of issues with his Turkish counterpart. The two convened for their first meeting with the High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council, a meeting that will be continued later this year, chaired by Prime Minster Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Ukranian President Victor Yanukovych.

“We are looking forward to this next opportunity for the high level strategic council meetings and for our continuous dialogue. We have discussed all the issues vital to the success of this particular meeting. We are working to finalize a number of documents for international bilateral agreements that will be signed during that event. What is also important is the situation in the region, where quite a number of important challenges are facing us today, in the Middle East, North Africa, Syria and Iran, all regions and countries where Mr. Davutoğlu is very actively involved on Turkey’ behalf. We have discussed all these matters,” the Ukrainian foreign minister said.

When asked about the similarity of the policies towards the MENA region of both Turkey and Ukraine, Gryshchenko said that they are very much aligned and attuned to one another.’

“Both Ukraine and Turkey believe in stability and the need for reforms, and in the need for democratic changes, albeit not at the expense of having the people live in an instable, volatile situation. We want them to have a secure future and peaceful conditions now. And these are not easy challenges. The people of these countries need assurances from their friends. We see here a vast region where both risks and opportunities are at close quarters, where political aid -- not to mention financial and technical support from the European Union and other countries active in the area -- could make a difference,” Gryshchenko suggests.

In May 2011, Ukraine took over the Presidency of the CoE from Turkey. As Gryshchenko mentioned the two foreign ministers also discussed certain issues in detail regarding the initiatives that were introduced during Turkey’s Presidency as well as a few current developments in which CoE could be of assistance in resolving. The situation in Albania and Moldova, and the democratic transition in Tunisia are among the few examples  Gryshchenko brought to the fore. “We can cooperate on reaching a level playing field. This is a field where the CoE could play a role,” he said.
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