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The 2015 Budget (Again)

December 22, 2014

About a month ago, an entry was published regarding the 2015 budget for Ukraine – an entry that given the current exchange US$/UAH exchange rate, undoubtedly underlines the NBU sentiment at that time as being more than a little optimistic.  The Hryvnia has further devalued against the US$ since then, as was fairly clear to many that it would.

With the headline budgetary decision likely to be 5% of GDP going to the defence sector, approximately UAH 86 billion, and the Ukrainian military industrial complex already working in overdrive with some facilities working 3 shifts 24/7, all would appear to be good – except Ukraine still has to purchase and import high-tech lethal and non-lethal weaponry too, and a weak Hryvnia makes those imports more expensive – no different to anything the nation imports.

Whatever – this entry is not directly about currency exchange, imports, exports or inflation, even though it is about the 2015 budget.  More to the point, any optimistic (or otherwise) underlying exchange rate upon which any 2015 budget is notionally based, can have no impact when there is still no adopted budget for 2015.  The Law of Ukraine requires any sitting government to submit, and parliament debate, amend and ultimately pass, any annual State Budget prior to the budgetary period beginning – namely 1st January.

Now it has to be said that regardless of any previous close runs/overruns relating to this law – generally the entirely fictional State Budgets are passed prior to the statutory deadlines.  That, however, was then – and this is now.  Now, something less than entirely fictional is required.  Now the IMF requires something less fictional.  Now the World Bank requires something less fictional.  Now the EBRD requires something less fictional.

Much more to the point however, a good number of cross-party RADA MPs require something less fictional too, or they won’t vote the budget through.  Many are demanding that budgetary decisions that specifically effect “committee x” from amongst the 27 RADA committees, are allowed to debate that specific part of the budget within the affected committee.  There are then the Institutions of State and the need to reach a consensus amongst MPs as to what budgetary cuts are applied and where.  (One can hardly help but to suggest the immediate culling of the Ministry of Information Policy as an obvious saving.)

What of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau?  According to those that dwell within the bowels of the RADA, it as yet does not appear within the 2015 budget.  Thus far nobody (presidentially preferred foreign national) has been appointed to head it, and it would appear to have no funds due to currently not being on the budget, even if a foreigner is found to head it.  It is not an agency that can be postponed until “better times”.  Can there be a worse possible start to a National Anti-Corruption Bureau than to have its funding opaque because it didn’t appear in the 2015 budget?  An entirely avoidable situation.

More fundamentally though, what sort of budget will it be when going behind the numbers?  An oligarchy/big business friendly budget – or a “little person”/SME friendly budget?  Is it much more necessary to support those that employ huge numbers of Ukrainians and account for a significant percentage of GDP for the next 12 months, probably to the public angst, or to have a budget that is friendly to the rest of us who are already crowd funding the military, paying “War Tax” from the interest on savings that remain in Ukrainian banks, and daily buying medical supplies from pharmacies to donate to both the front line and Ukraine’s ever growing IDP population?

Should a “progressive taxation” law be introduced (the more you earn, the more you pay) considering the extremely fragile economic state of the nation?  Such a law can always be repealed in the future.  Indeed there are a raft of taxation possibilities – from increases, to exemption in the case of donations to the military or IDPs.  If this route is to be taken, should these decisions not be taken, and laws introduced, prior to any budget?  Is it wise to put the budgetary cart before the taxation horse, to then find the horse does not pass through the RADA?

Having spent 6 weeks after the RADA elections creating a multi-party coalition agreement and in effect slowing to glacial any RADA work during that time, should there now not be an equal amount of time spent working on a (transparent) budget worthy of the name – even if to do so, the 1st January passes without a budget?  Which is the worse precedent?  To bundle through yet another economic fairytale that will be based upon shifting legislative foundations and comply with the law even if in doing so what is produced is utter (and unworkable) fiction, or submit something half decent, if slightly late contrary to legislative timetables?

With a maximum of 8 working days remaining, can and will anything approaching a genuine, realistic budget pass through the RADA after necessary debate – or will the budgetary 2015 begin no differently than any of the other preceding 23 years of an independent Ukraine – line item after line item of opaque, grotesque fantasy?

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Waiting for the domestic rhetoric to end

December 21, 2014

Having recently, once again, drawn attention to the issue/nature of sanctions verses arbitrary punishment, an entry that concluded with; “If Ukraine cannot or will not make a case against them, is it any surprise that the EU may well remove certain Ukrainian citizens from the EU sanctions list? That does not necessarily excuse the EU and its Member States from failing to carry out money laundering investigations into these individuals, with or without domestic cases against them in Ukraine, but there is likely to be far less political will, or law enforcement priority given any such investigations if Ukraine itself fails to act.“, it is perhaps time to look at the rule of law situation domestically.

The “these individuals” specifically referred to in that entry related to this tweet:

Although it is yet to be confirmed, it appears we can also add a few more names to that list, as it is rumoured within reliable sources that Ukraine either has, or is about to, notify the EU it will not be prosecuting the brothers Kluyev or Portnov either.

We now return to the previous entry and begin to ask the same questions – once again; “Why has the Ukrainian Prosecutor Generals office failed thus far to make any case? A lack of will? A lack of evidence? Incompetence? Has it been bought off? Has it been warned off? Being as kind as possible to the 3 individuals named in the above tweet, they are simply not smart enough to have made tens/hundreds of millions of US$ without the help of nefarious dealings – their State salaries naturally are nowhere near sufficient to account for their wealth.”

Having been as kind as possible regarding the intelligence lacking to acquire incredible wealth legitimately of those named, it therefore follows that there will also be the intelligence lacking to completely remove all the evidence of nefarious shenanigans too.  And indeed not all evidence that has been gathered, was gathered in, or subsequently remained in Ukraine:

Whilst these particular tweet relates to Kluyev, undoubtedly they could also relate to evidence gathered for others just as easily.

Without casting any doubt upon the integrity of feofan/@madocw76, who is most certainly beyond reproach, it takes us to the very dangerous issue of striking grubby little deals when evidence is no longer solely in the custody of the PGO, but also held by international actors, institutions, corporations etc too.  Hundreds, if not thousands of people in numerous countries, institutions and corporations having access to rather damning evidence of nefarious deeds, copies of which, hopefully, the PGO has bothered to collate.

Leaks, intentional or accidental via carelessness can and do occur – and never without repercussions both for those involved in the grubby little deals to drop cases, but also for those in power at the time of the leak if time has moved on.

Let’s be blunt.  The EU put many of the Yanukovych clique on the sanctions list on 6th March 2014.  As we enter 2015, the Ukrainian PGO has thus far offered no evidence against a large proportion of that number.  Thus those people are very unlikely to have the sanctions to which they are currently subjected, extended.

There is then the on-going sagas involving the smaller fish that ultimately should be fried but rarely, if ever, make the headlines.  Former Berkut Commander Sadovnik simply escapes from house arrest.  A judge removing the arrest of both person and assets in the case of Arbuzov without explanation.  Director General of Ukrspirt, Mr Labutin, charged with embezzlement of public funds, mysteriously disappearing from hospital, “kidnapped” by masked men.  All, now location unknown.  The list goes on and on and on.

Yet, the case against two guards from the facility at which Yulia Tymoshenko was held, and where she allegedly was beaten by them, continues – despite the ECfHR deciding not to proceed with that particular allegation due to Ms Tymoshenko refusing to undergo medical examination.  If the evidence was insufficient for the ECfHR to proceed the first time around, should these guards be found guilty, it is an absolute certainty they will submit appeals to the very same ECfHR that has already dismissed the case once.  Any conviction therefore almost guaranteed to be found unsafe and compensation from Ukraine almost certainly to be awarded.  Furthermore, the then director of the facility has seemingly been allowed to retire – no further action.

But it is not just the PGO inaction or bizarre action that is to failing the rule of law.

The truly awfully drafted “Lustration Law” will no doubt see many of those “lustrated” subsequently “un-lustrated” over the next year too – either domestically via Constitutional Court challenges or via the ECfHR.  That this occurs is the clear responsibility of the political class, for it is they that are the legislature that draft and pass such obviously flawed laws.

In short, if under the authoritarian regime of former President Yanukovych, Ukraine was subject to rule by law, then currently, it seems to be subject to, if not anarchy, certainly a serious lacking of the word “rule” within the term rule of law.

Some of a conspiratorial mindset will purport that all the major (and many middle ranking) allegedly guilty parties will either strike grubby little deals to save themselves, be “allowed” to escape, or have already been allowed to do so.

Others may wonder whether it would be more likely that, aside from the very top of the Yanukovych clique and /or those that committed truly heinous crimes, simply drawing a line under past nefarious deeds prior to “date X” would remove the need for grubby deals.  Having offered more amnesties this year than can be counted regarding events in the east – why not offer a national amnesty to all Ukrainian citizens regarding nefarious and corrupt acts commissioned prior to “date X” under the value of “$Y”- but zero tolerance thereafter?  A watershed moment.  A national social crossing of the Rubicon.

What is far more likely to continue is an unequal and chaotic mess, whilst lofty words and rhetoric continue without any effective impact – something that seems highly unlikely to be tolerated by society or the nations the Ukrainian leadership are expecting/hoping will continue to keep afloat its finances.

As 2015 approaches, there is an absolute requirement that a great many small but tangible steps are not only taken, but implemented effectively once the year turns.  Events in the east and dire economics do not excuse the lack of reform expected – and nor should they.

Easter arrives on 12th April 2015 in Ukraine.  By that time, reform rhetoric needs to be replaced by effective reform implementation if the current RADA and government expect to remain for the rest of the year – and as almost all Ukrainian ills flow from (the lack of) rule of law in one manifestation or another, that is where much political energy simply has to be targeted with immediate effect.

Confidence in that occurring?

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(Strategic) Partner/trading partner/adversary/enemy? Russia

December 20, 2014

A few days ago in an entry prior to the continued and expanded EU sanctions relating to Crimea, the following few lines appeared thus:  “In effect Crimea and those involved, (and are yet to be so), will become ring-fenced as a separate issue from events in eastern Ukraine as time passes, leaving Crimea a perennial bone of contention, whilst eventually a transactional – rather than business as usual – relationship with the Kremlin eventually becomes the normative when matters in the east are far more to the collective European liking.”

A statement that infers there has been a move from seeing Russia under current management as a partner to something other.  After all, a transactional relationship is not the relationship with an elevated status of a strategic partner, or more broadly speaking, a partner underwritten by goodwill – regardless of strategic need.  It is at best neutral/indifferent, perhaps adversarial – or worse.  It is a necessary relationship based on transactions between parties and little more.

It should perhaps therefore come as little surprise that Germany’s BASF made the unilateral decision to cancel a long planned asset swap with Gazprom yesterday.  BASF stating  “Due to the currently difficult political environment, BASF and Gazprom have decided not to complete the asset swap planned for the end of the year.

Europe and Russia need each other also in the future. Europe will continue to be the largest and most important market for Russian natural gas.”

A statement that underlines a move toward a transactional relationship, but clearly undermines one of a growing strategic partnership, leaving the current arrangement between the two companies as a 50/50 joint venture and no more – for the foreseeable future at least.

How much the “Energy Union” that seems certain to be at the very least enshrined into EU strategy documents – and thus very hard to undo even if it never actually functions – also has a potentially detrimental effect to the proposed BASF/Gazprom asset swap is hard to tell, as the draft action plan has yet to presented – though it is a very safe bet that large companies such as BASF will have a very good idea about the content already.

Thus, considering the “Energy Union” issue, and the associated weight it may carry, the BASF-Gazprom announcement does not necessarily provide the best of indicators in attempting to corroborate the statement regarding a move to a far more transactional relationship with Russia than one of partner.  That said, when it has now become increasing difficult to decide if the Ruble, the price of oil, or the word of The Kremlin has lost the most value in 2014 – all plummeting – it may well be that purely transactional relationships are far more likely to stand the test of time than anything more grandiose or politically/diplomatically elevated over the next 5 – 10 years (or more).

Whilst “partners” will become an increasingly estranged concept, yet “enemies” is far from currently being appropriate, it seems an “adversarial” but necessarily transactional decade confronts both Russian and European interaction.  Perhaps, to be blunt, no bad thing for all parties involved, forcing a need for introspection, emerging – hopefully – with a clear sense of what values are inviolable and non-negotiable, regardless of interests.  It is around such solid and unquestioned foundations that reliable partnerships are built after all.

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Crimea sanctions continue and expand – as expected

December 19, 2014

In yesterday’s entry the following statement was made:

“It is beyond doubt that the sanctions raised specifically with regard to the annexation Crimea will continue. They are likely to continue for years – renewed annually. The recognition of Crimea as part of the Russian Federation will not come any time soon – if ever. To do so accepts illegal annexation as a path to changing recognised territorial boundaries. With the exodus of the Tatar and ethnic Ukrainians from Crimea, and an influx of Russians, not to mention atmosphere of intimidation and suppression those Tatar and Ukrainians that have remained now face, any future referendum would no longer represent the will of the population at the time of annexation. To think otherwise would be retarded – even if floated as a politically expedient way to deal with the Crimea problem.

That said, both the Kremlin and the EU could cope with continued sanctions relating specifically to Crimea only for decades to come. It is the sanctions that followed, relating to eastern Ukraine that are a thorn in the Kremlin side, and also the area where European unity will be put to the test. Indeed it would be no surprise to see sanctions relating to the territory of Crimea increase, whilst sanctions imposed relating to eastern Ukraine eventually subside. In effect Crimea and those involved, (and are yet to do so), will become ring-fenced as a separate issue from events in eastern Ukraine as time passes, leaving Crimea a perennial bone of contention, whilst eventually a transactional – rather than business as usual – relationship with the Kremlin eventually becomes the normative when matters in the east are far more to the collective European liking.”

Today’s European Council press statement has done nothing to change the above – indeed it reinforces what was written.

 

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A return to EU sanctions once more

December 18, 2014

Following on from yesterday’s entry relating to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) and the soon to (possibly) expire suspension of Kremlin voting rights within the institution at the year end, that in turn raised the question of whether said suspension of voting rights was imposed a sanction or an arbitrary punishment.  Thus it is perhaps timely to look once more at the EU sanctions.

The EU sanctions are imposed for a duration of 1 year that then require renewal if they are to continue.  Despite this perhaps appearing to be somewhat overly bureaucratic, notwithstanding requiring a continued unanimous unity from all Member States, it does give the perception of sanctions being imposed to either send a signal to The Kremlin, as well as those actually sanctioned, that their behavior, be it direct or supporting, is unacceptable – or attempt to contain and/or change Kremlin policy, as well as the policy of those sanctioned.

In short the 1 year duration requiring renewal insures EU sanctions are therefore seen as a temporary policy changing instrument and not open-ended arbitrary punishment – cumbersome as the arrangement may be.

It is beyond doubt that the sanctions raised specifically with regard to the annexation Crimea will continue.  They are likely to continue for years – renewed annually.  The recognition of Crimea as part of the Russian Federation will not come any time soon – if ever.  To do so accepts illegal annexation as a path to changing recognised territorial boundaries.  With the exodus of the Tatar and ethnic Ukrainians from Crimea, and an influx of Russians, not to mention atmosphere of intimidation and suppression those Tatar and Ukrainians that have remained now face, any future referendum would no longer represent the will of the population at the time of annexation.  To think otherwise would be retarded – even if floated as a politically expedient way to deal with the Crimea problem.

That said, both the Kremlin and the EU could cope with continued sanctions relating specifically to Crimea only for decades to come.  It is the sanctions that followed, relating to eastern Ukraine that are a thorn in the Kremlin side, and also the area where European unity will be put to the test.  Indeed it would be no surprise to see sanctions relating to the territory of Crimea increase, whilst sanctions imposed relating to eastern Ukraine eventually subside.  In effect Crimea and those involved, (and are yet to do so), will become ring-fenced as a separate issue from events in eastern Ukraine as time passes, leaving Crimea a perennial bone of contention, whilst eventually a transactional – rather than business as usual – relationship with the Kremlin eventually becomes the normative when matters in the east are far more to the collective European liking.

However, yesterday, it became apparent that certain Ukrainian individuals currently subject to sanctions may soon have those sanctions removed.

As was published here at the end of February, the issue of sanctioning the now exiled “Family” regime of former President Yanukovych seemed problematic even then – prior to any Crimean annexation or war in eastern Ukraine.   Again it is necessary to remind ourselves that sanctions are not intended to be arbitrary punishment, but a tool employed to signal discontent, or to contain, or to change policy.

As that entry stated:  “Perhaps the EU Member States, in an effort to support the “EU brand” in Ukraine, would be wise to make a very public declaration that all assets held within their sovereign territories belonging to, or believed to belong to, any names that would have been on an agreed sanctions list, will now be subjected to criminal investigation regarding money laundering as a far better alternative?

It would certainly be a way to drip-feed the EU consistently into the Ukrainian media over the coming months (and possibly years) as assets are systematically frozen, seized and repatriated (where possible).”

Therefore, unless the EU has intelligence that the Ukrainians who formed the previous regime under the then President Yanukovych are indeed actively supporting nefarious events in Ukraine now – or very likely to do so – are sanctions the right instrument to deal with their assets held within the territory and systems run/controlled by the European Member States?  Is not opening the usually long and drawn out criminal investigations into money laundering a far more suitable tool to retain and possibly repatriate stolen money?

If the EU is to remove these people from its sanctions list, at what point did it realise sanctions are the wrong tool?  Is their continued inclusion now nothing more than arbitrary punishment until their removal?

It also need be noted that the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine, certainly with regard to the 3 individuals names in the above tweet, has yet to build a domestic case against them of criminal wrong doing – and perhaps any investigations carried out by the EU and Member States into money laundering regarding them would/could therefore be construed by some as politically motivated in the absence of any domestic case.

This naturally leads to several questions.

How and why, upon what grounds, were these individuals placed upon the sanctions lists in the first place – and why are they still on them today if they are likely to be removed sometime in the near future?  When did their level of involvement/possible continued involvement ebb/cease?  If there are suspicions about the origins of their wealth, why are no money laundering investigations underway by relevant European nations?

Why has the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s office failed thus far to make any case?  A lack of will?  A lack of evidence?  Incompetence?  Has it been bought off?  Has it been warned off?  Being as kind as possible to the 3 individuals named in the above tweet, they are simply not smart enough to have made tens/hundreds of millions of US$ without the help of nefarious dealings – their State salaries naturally are nowhere near sufficient to account for their wealth.

If Ukraine cannot or will not make a case against them, is it any surprise that the EU may well remove certain Ukrainian citizens from the EU sanctions list?  That does not necessarily excuse the EU and its Member States from failing to carry out money laundering investigations into these individuals, with or without domestic cases against them in Ukraine, but there is likely to be far less political will, or law enforcement priority given any such investigations if Ukraine itself fails to act.

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PACE – As 2014 ends, a question looms large

December 17, 2014

Last week, more or less unreported anywhere, a photo exhibition at the European Parliament took place at the instigation of Ukraine, entitled “Donbas – War and Peace” – and why not?  The parliamentary building is a public building and quite entitled to hold a public exhibition should it so desire.  Freedom of expression is a foundational part of democracy, and such a parliamentary building enhanced by the non-liability privileges that MPs hold is theoretically one of the most sacrosanct locations in any democratic nation/institutional infrastructure.

Whilst clearly an effort by Ukraine to keep the Donbas/Kremlin aggression uppermost in the minds of the European Parliamentarians, the exhibition appears to have drawn no formal or public comments – not even from Vladimir Chizhov, the Russian Ambassador to the EU.

The very same photo exhibition has been denied permission to be displayed at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) by Anne Brasseur, the institutions current president.  Her letter explaining her reasons for denying the exhibition in January 2015 below:

PACE letter

It is of course a judgement call.

“Whilst appreciating the aim of the proposed exhibition, its content may nonetheless raise controversy and, potentially, further tensions, which would not be in the interests of the Assembly as a whole.  Furthermore some of the pictures could be misinterpreted and this would not be in the interests of Ukraine.  I therefore regret that I am not in a position to give my agreement to this proposal.”

Not having seen the photographs, it is impossible to comment upon their ability to be misinterpreted – although everything can be misinterpreted with sufficient effort.  It also has to be noted that any reactionary photo exhibition the Kremlin may have wanted to stage in retaliation, will also meet with the same response.

PACE however, is not the European Parliament.  It is a very different institution.

PACE does indeed include the Russian Federation – albeit Kremlin voting rights are currently suspended, with an extension to that suspension due for discussion very soon – or not.

By some accounts the PACE President is one of the voices supporting the return of Russia’s voting rights, although having suspended Kremlin voting rights in April until the 2014 year end in response to the illegal annexation of Crimea, it seems somewhat unclear what circumstances have changed to now return said voting rights.

If voting rights were suspended as a sanction to send a signal, or to contain or to change Kremlin policy, it is difficult to see how they can be removed without PACE looking weak at best – Crimea remains illegally annexed.  If the suspension of voting rights was a punishment – and not a sanction – then a 9 month ban on voting rights for the most serious challenge to all that PACE stands for, is without doubt is the most meager of admonishments.

Perhaps the existing suspension of voting rights will simply be allowed to expire quietly with no attempt to extend them – with Russia regaining its full participation within PACE automatically.  If so, what does PACE get in return, to avoid looking weak and/or appeasing of the Kremlin aggression that would otherwise unambiguously undermine PACE as an organisation with regard its stated goals of supporting rule of law, human rights and democracy?

The trade off, an end to Kremlin “humanitarian convoys” violating Ukrainian sovereignty?  Far greater and more tangible assistance with Ukrainian/Russian border control along the entirety of the currently very porous sections between Luhansk, Donetsk and Russia?  Both?

What would be the quid pro quo in allowing the return of Kremlin voting rights within the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe?

How much does the Kremlin care about its voting rights within PACE vis a vis what it is prepared to cede to regain them?  It is not an institution it dominates, can dominate, or have an influence multiplier (veto) within – unlike the UNSC.

Something to watch over the next week or so.

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42 EU Civilian Advisory Mission Vacancies in Ukraine

December 16, 2014

At the beginning of December the ” EU Advisory Mission for Civilian Security Sector Reform in Ukraine ” officially swung into action regarding its mandate in Ukraine outside the confines of a few offices in Kyiv.  Some existing members of the Mission were already here and have been working/preparing since 22 July – some of those people are known to this blog.

The mission has a current mandate that runs until summer 2016, and whilst Kyiv-centric as these things always are, there is a vital regional outreach section to the Mission – vital as reform is often stymied, rebuffed and ignored in the regional fiefdoms, regardless of the political intent of Kyiv.  Ever has it been thus in Ukraine, regardless of sitting government/president.

That “outreach division”, from what I understand, will be severely short staffed, even when fully staffed – not even one representative per Oblast, a clear indication that the EU has yet to comprehend the internal bureaucratic and regional power-plays that will deliberately obstruct and slow the efforts of the centre.

The EU Advisory Mission for Civilian Security Sector Reform in Ukraine is tasked with assisting in police, judicial, and prison (etc) reform.  No small task considering the varying levels of obstruction such reforms will face in various regions or via various individuals – though it has to be said “advisory” means exactly that, no more and no less.  Ukraine must make Ukrainian reform work – nobody else can do it.

Anyway, having already been officially launched – and indeed this blog having already met an old friend who is participating in this Mission earlier this week on an all too swift visit to Odessa – to the point of this entry:  42 vacancies within the EU Advisory Mission for Civilian Security Sector Reform in Ukraine.

How swiftly those 42 vacancies will be filled, who knows – but clearly the fact that there are so many vacancies will have an organisational and Mission impact upon its capabilities in the immediate now that it is entirely “live”.

Regular readers with the ability to read between the lines of historical posts, as well as those who know this blog personally, are no doubt asking why its services are not being volunteered for this EU Mission.

Indeed, no matter which way you shake the resume, it fits the vast majority of the vacancies, not withstanding a decade of living in Ukraine and knowing personally the majority of those in positions of power/influence from Odessa who are likely to either obstruct or accept the reforms that will be forthcoming.  Why waste almost two decades of sitting in Judges Chambers, Crown Courts, Magistrates Courts (mostly of the Northern Circuit), police stations and prisons, or the tedious hours of writing local area policing plans, emergency response plans, creating, monitoring and implementing policy documents to meet health and safety, environmental and public safety protocols etc., when Ukraine – and Odessa where I will continue to live long after this EU Mission loses its mandate – may benefit from those years?

There is surely a personal vested interest to see the rule of law, the establishing and consolidation of democratic institutions, and top-down, bottom-up and horizontal accountability installed in Ukraine.

Such matters are not always so simple.

In already knowing such people in Odessa (and a few in other Oblasts too), and having lived here so long, perhaps knowing too much, and too many relevant people, some may argue that the necessary “detachment” or “insulation” for unquestioned integrity and unbiasedness is missing.

Is a fairly deep insight into Ukrainian issues and knowing influential people already, when undoubtedly continuing to reside in Ukraine post any EU Mission conclusion, likely to create problematic personal issues in the future?  Has individual integrity already been compromised even before any application to the Mission?

Would any favourable or jaundiced bias matter that much, when what truly matters is the accuracy of reporting above all else?

Why show any interest in this particular EU Mission when there has been a deliberate and conscious effort made not to participate in any official election observing in Ukraine due to the high probability of knowing not only runners and riders in any elections, but also the election commission personnel as well?  Meeting, greeting and passing on local/national knowledge with as much accuracy as possible to numerous international election observers that arrive in Ukraine is one thing – acting as an official observer knowing these people, the potential difficulties that may present personally in the future, is quite another.

That said, this is not a 3 month LTO or one week STO gig.  It is at least 18 months – a sufficient timespan to get to know all those already known, if they weren’t already known, anyway.

Is there a beneficial legacy issue beyond the EU Mission mandate for the UK Embassy Kyiv (and others) that are constantly in contact with the blog due to no permanent diplomatic presence in Odessa, if existing (and potentially new) social contacts were temporarily made more formal for 18 months.  Once the mandate concludes, the blog presence and its contacts needless to say, remain.  Whilst such networks would be of little benefit to the blog, for certain nations, the existence of any such network may be of use in the future.

Returning to the mechanics of the Mission, there will also need to be a diverse composition of the successful applicants across the Member States that are taking part – and perhaps not all will be taking part.  It is not clear – and such things invariably are not.  Whilst the vacancies are open to all EU citizens, some nations may have quietly made clear that they are not especially keen to have their nationals involved in this particular Mission, but would prefer to carry more weight in another mission, either within Ukraine or elsewhere – who knows?  There are always issues behind the curtain to consider.

Anyway, for those interested, the application form is here.  Deadline for applications 9th January 2015.

In the meantime, something to ponder for yours truly.  Perhaps a few emails are in order to ascertain how well received any such application would be – or indeed if it would pushed forward/actively supported by certain quarters if it were submitted to circumvent the secondment issue for many posts – where there is political will, there is a bureaucratic way.

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