(Washington, D.C. -- October 3, 2005) Ukraine is on the "threshold of democratic political reform," resulting in the establishment of viable local governments, two Ukrainian city mayors said. Volodymyr Udovychenko, Mayor of Slavutych and Oleksandr Popov, Mayor of Komsomolsk, told a recent RFE/RL audience in Washington that local government provides a unique means for democracy to develop and strengthen in Ukraine. However, according to the mayors, it is important to strengthen its legal and fiscal foundations as local governments currently have little ability to raise tax revenues on their own and largely depend on the national government for funding.
Udovychenko said that, having already enacted several reforms, Ukraine has advanced toward democracy through the observance of human rights. He said that all of the quantitative reforms in Ukraine are becoming qualitative. Udovychenko credits the members of the National Delegation of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions for helping to set local governments in Ukraine in the right direction and providing them technical assistance. Ukraine also has taken advantage of opportunities through the United States/Ukraine Exchange Program, which has helped modernize local government. The program established regional training centers in five Ukrainian cities available to any local official. He said that local governments in Ukraine function democratically, because citizens can now have an impact on local decisions.
Popov said the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has also helped local self-government in Ukraine by providing PACE monitors in Ukraine to work with civic and neighborhood organizations as well as government institutions. Popov thanked the United States government and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for helping Ukraine establish successful local government structures. He said that Komsomolsk officials are sharing their experiences with other Ukrainian cities. Popov said he is proud of Ukraine's recent development and economic growth and he believes the U.S. could also benefit from Ukraine's innovations at the local level. He predicted that reformers will strengthen their numbers in the March 2006 parliamentary elections and that Ukraine will be a model for former Soviet countries.