New Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko is moving to put his country on a reformist footing. In the two days following his Jan. 24 inauguration after a two-month power struggle, Yushchenko nominated his radical ally, businesswoman-turned-pol Yulia Tymoshenko, 44, as Prime Minister. And he asked the European Union to agree by 2007 to talks on Ukraine's desire for membership. EU officials favor improved ties but aren't putting membership talks on a fast track. Yushchenko has a three-year plan to get Ukraine in shape.
Tymoshenko will be charged with implementing that plan if Parliament, as expected, approves her. An early measure will be pay hikes for the police, a bid to curb corruption. Tymoshenko aims to simplify the tax code to cut down on bribery and the black market, estimated at 50% of the economy. She wants to create a level playing field for investors by ending privileges that aided an elite close to outgoing President Leonid Kuchma.
Tymoshenko has a controversial past. In the 1990s, she made a fortune trading gas and was once briefly jailed on fraud charges, which she denied. She faces a challenge to ease tensions in divided Ukraine. Even so, Tomas Fiala, managing director of Kiev investment bank Dragon Capital predicts that, thanks to reforms, foreign direct investment will double to $3 billion this year.
By Roman Olearchyk in Kiev
Edited by Rose Brady