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SOURCE Ukraine Monitor
KYIV, Ukraine, March 4, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --
Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych, speaking at his first press conference of the year, has said his country is committed to implementing all necessary measures needed to proceed with the signing of the Association Agreement with the European Union.
The president also told the foreign and domestic press that he will consider a possible pardon of former Interior Minister, Yuriy Lutsenko, if the High Specialized Court turns down the Lutsenko appeal.
In steps toward greater European integration, Yanukovych explained that an ad hoc working group had already been set up by the Cabinet, which is about to finalise the first stage of an action plan to liberalise the visa regime with the EU, as well as a range of other reforms needed to raise living standards, develop democracy and ensure observance of rights and freedoms of Ukrainians.
"We will address these issues first of all for our own sake. After all, Ukraine needs these reforms, and they will undoubtedly harmonize our relations with Europe and contribute to the harmonization of the Ukrainian and European legislation," Yanukovych said.
The President lamented once again the painful consequences of the gas contract signed with Russia in 2009 by then Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko on the Ukrainian economy, which he described as "a noose around our neck," something that "is killing us."
According to the terms of that deal, the country, which needs to husband its resources in order to fund social and economic reforms, overpays Russia by $6 billion dollars annually. "It is terrible, the biggest problem we have today," said Yanukovych. "If we did not have this problem, then we would have resources to resolve other problems in medicine, housing and utilities, as well as poverty," he noted.
In his remarks, Yanukovych described how the government managed to improve business conditions by simplifying licensing and registration procedures, narrowing direct administrative control and introducing more transparent mechanisms for setting up and maintaining a company. The message was that Ukraine is opening its markets in order to increase economic growth and foreign direct investment.
The overall number of permits for businesses was cut down to 144 from over 1,200 documents in 2010, and the list of economic activities subject to licensing decreased from 77 to 56. As a result, in 2012 Ukraine climbed 15 places in the World Bank's ranking for Ease of Doing Business.
Along with administrative measures, Yanukovych stressed the positive social impact of his reform policies. He said that despite the global economic crisis Ukraine has managed to implement a number of crucial social initiatives, including increasing the average pension by 42 percent since 2010.