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University of Iowa News Release

Feb. 16, 2005

Law Professors To See Democratic Changes In Ukraine Firsthand

Two University of Iowa law professors will help Ukrainian law students learn more about democracy and market economics as their country strengthens its embrace of those two values.

John Reitz and Jonathan Carlson will both teach at the Institution of International Relations of the Taras Shevchenko National University in Kiev from April 11-30. Carlson, an expert on international trade law, will teach private contractual sales transactions. Reitz, an expert on international comparative law, law in the former Soviet Union and the evolution of the law since the Soviet collapse, will teach contract law and provide an introduction to American law in a comparative law course. The visit is part of a U.S. State Department program teaching exchange program.

Ukraine generated international headlines recently when the people rejected an election that was rigged in favor of the incumbent prime minister, Viktor Yanukovich. Supporters of his opponent, Viktor Yuschenko, took to the streets to protest the results and filed lawsuits to overturn the election. Their work paid off when a Ukraine court invalidated the election and called for a second. Yuschenko won the second election, a triumph of using peaceful and legal means to overturn a fraudulent vote.

Both Reitz and Carlson have visited Kiev before and are eager to see how the country has changed since the elections. This will be Carlson's second visit to Ukraine and Reitz's fourth.

"It was a big step forward in rejecting the worst form of corruption in the electoral process," said Carlson. "Ukraine has made a fairly stable transition from the old Soviet system to a free market economy and an open social society, and this election indicates they've taken another step forward in political democracy, too."

But Reitz said that there is considerable disagreement among Ukrainians about the shape of their country's future. Those in the west tend to be ethnically Ukrainian and want to see the country move closer to the European sphere, while those in the east tend to be ethnically Russian and prefer closer ties to Russia over the West.

"There's been an internal debate about the country's direction for a long time, particularly about issues relating to religion, language, culture and economics," he said. "As we've seen recently, they're trying to sort out the differences in a more democratic way than ever before."

Both Carlson and Reitz said Ukrainian students are eager to work with Westerners and show off their country and culture.

"They're anxious to have people from other countries understand them," Carlson said. "They feel the Western press gets them wrong and misleads Western governments, and they want to correct the misconceptions."

Ukraine sees itself as something of a bridge between the West and Russia, and as a result many young educated Ukrainians are fluent in English.

"That will make it easier to teach, because they have a level of understanding of the language and can more easily grasp ideas and discuss complex material," Carlson said.

"I hope to give them something to chew on that helps them understand the differences between our legal values and systems," Reitz said. "They're fascinated to see how we implement the rule of law and the differences between our two legal cultures."

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Snee, 319-384-0010, tom-snee@uiowa.edu.