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євромайдан – A success? Define success

November 27, 2013

A very simple question from a reader has arrived asking if євромайдан and the massive protests will work and change the decision of the Cabinet of Ministers and President to suspend the signing of the EU Association Agreement in the next few days.

The answer to that, as far as the Vilnius Summit is concerned is a definite and unambiguous “No”.

As much as I believe in the ideology behind the євромайдан civic gatherings, they are not going to be enough to change the decision made by those that have made them – and short of some very direct realpolitik by Angela Merkel with Viktor Yanukovych at the Summit, there is no chance of a changing of the decision.  That realpolitik is very unlikely to happen with Anegla Merkel having already charged Russia with breaches of OSCE Charter for carrying out exactly the kind of realpolitik that she would need to use to try and reverse the current decision.

Thus the Europeans have effectively reached the limits of negotiation and their soft power, #євромайдан has an approving look from the Europeans but little more in the immediate, and the opposition cannot effectively hijack the demonstrations without a lot of the demonstrators going home, unwilling to be associated with the political rhetoric and add-ons they will want to attach to the single and simple message the protests have been organised to deliver.

However, success when it comes to policy, including the policy of civic gatherings, is a subjective issue and depends very much upon the definition given to “success”, the parameters and benchmarks of measurement and time over which it is measured.

#євромайдан will fail to achieve signatures at the Vilnius Summit.  In that regard it will not be a success.

What it has done is awake a distant and bureaucratic politic class, both in Ukraine and the EU, to the emotional, psychological and romantic pull of the younger generations toward Europe.  With every year that passes, there is an inevitability that the Ukrainian identity gets stronger and ties to the ex-Soviet nations weaker psychologically.

The romanticism and ideologies psychologically attached to London, Paris, Vienna, Barcelona et al simply overwhelm the attraction of Moscow for the younger generations.  So whilst an independent Ukrainian identity gets stronger through the demographic of new voters reaching voting age vis a vis the old “Homo Sovieticus” voting generation dying off, the bias westwards will grow.

євромайдан  has perhaps removed the view that the Ukrainian exercise is simply a paper bureaucratic exercise for those far removed from society and sitting in a policy drafting bubble.  For once they are not getting political or civil society input, neither of which are particularly reliable in Ukraine – this feedback is direct from the people and in large numbers.  Especially from the future of Ukraine – the youth to 30 somethings demographic.

The public display may very well help garner a much more robust and united position on Ukraine amongst the European nations.  After all, they now know where the Ukrainian heart is – or will certainly be as time passes – despite having to suffer the same feckless political class when dealing with Ukraine that the Ukrainian society has to suffer.

If this happens because of євромайдан then that is surely a success.

If it brings about momentum to take decisions over Visa-free tourist visits to the Schengen area for Ukrainians sooner rather than later to further their romantic and ideological draw to European capitals and consolidate a generational move away from Moscow, then there are definite advantages to playing that long-term game for Europe.

If this happens because of євромайдан  then that is a success.

It will certainly keep the EU Association Agreement issue as an electoral issue for the 2015 presidential elections and keep all candidates talking “integration westwards”.

There are of course issues for євромайдан post Vilnius and the most important are whether it will continue and maintain any momentum turning from civic gatherings to civil society entity or not.  To disappear would be a failure when the job remains to be done.

The other is will it allow itself to become party politically aligned.  That would also be a failure.  It must remain consistent in its European integration message and as “a-political” and inclusive as is possible.

Ultimately, whether євромайдан works and is a success depends upon your definition of success, how you measure it and over what time you anticipate favourable results.

In the short term, at the very least, the EU cannot be seen to abandon the Ukrainian people or their future now.  There can be no retraction of the Association Agreement from Ukraine.  At the very least, European integration will remain a domestic political topic until the 2015 presidential elections and beyond.  In that regard  євромайдан has done a sterling job if not fulfilling its initial goal in a few days time.

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