Less than three years after the Euromaidan revolution and 25 years since it was part of the Soviet Union, Ukraine still has a legacy of Marxist-Leninist thought that runs deep. A strong movement there, however, is working to secure a future of freedom in Ukraine. Free Generation Forum 2016 — hosted by Bendukidze Free Market Center, Reed.Media, and European Students for Liberty — brought 18 speakers from six countries to share their ideas with nearly 500 participants. There they discussed the ongoing reform process in Ukraine, shared strategies for reducing corruption, celebrated the dynamic innovation of free markets, and explored the ideas of freedom.
The roster included titans of the liberty movement such as Tom G. Palmer, the George M. Yeager chair for advancing liberty and the executive vice president for international programs at Atlas Network; Paul Vahur, co-founder of Mises Institute Estonia; and Yaron Brook, executive co-chairman and president of the Ayn Rand Institute; and keynote speaker Oleksandr Danyliuk, Ukraine’s minister of finance.
Other speakers included Andrei Illarionov, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute; Vladimir Fedorin and Anton Yaschenko, respectively the co-founder and the CEO of Bendukidze Free Market Center; Maryan Zablotskyy, chairman of the Ukrainian Economic Freedoms Foundation; Denys Marchuk, deputy chairman of the Agrarian Party; Maria Gaidar, former deputy chairman of the Odessa Administration; and David Sakvarelidze, former deputy chief prosecutor.
This year’s Free Generation Forum covered such topics as land reform, Estonia’s preeminence as the world leader in electronic public services, a discussion on technology yielding greater freedom, and the direction of the new Ukrainian government.
Danyliuk had attended last year’s Free Generation Forum event and was pleased to return, saying that he thinks “this Forum can be a great catalyst for positive change in the country” (translated from Ukrainian). He noted the difficulties of being a libertarian minister in the current government, especially a libertarian minister of finance, and spoke about the importance of looking forward rather than focusing on the past. He wanted to focus the conversation on the “today” and the “tomorrow” of Ukraine because it is “today that we create the future … the things you are creating and actions you are taking today will become your future, tomorrow.”
Despite the difficult process of achieving significant reform, Danyliuk explained that his position can be a driver of change in Ukraine. “We’re not only changing the Ministry of Finance itself, but also we’re trying to reformat the entire government — the whole power structure,” he said.
Danyliuk also discussed reforming the education system in Ukraine in order to provide future generations with the intellectual tools they will need to rebuild the country.
“You must understand one thing: freedom and liberty are responsibility,” Danyliuk told the forum’s recent university graduates. “Freedom is also strength. In the 21st century, to be free is to be strong. We live in a globalized world with everyone carrying about their own private interests and that is the right thing to do. Ukraine has to stand for its interests. We’re a sovereign state. We should steer clear from dictatorships, from international organizations, and form our own reforms agenda.”
Danyliuk closed by encouraging younger Ukrainians to begin keeping track of global affairs and to seek out employment that creates real value, in order to strengthen Ukraine.
“We all have to get stronger and more free because your generation and the next few generations should be free,” Danyliuk concluded. “That’s our goal, and that’s my goal as well.”