Archive for February 12th, 2010

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Turn East Lady Ashton…….at least that is what The Economist says……

February 12, 2010

http://www.economist.com/world/europe/displaystory.cfm?story_id=15514888

I will leave you to read the article dear readers, although to be honest it is rather insipid.  If The Economist has something to say to the EU and Lady Ashton then they should be far more pointed and direct as flowery and fluffy speech without wanting to cause too much discomfort and upset is why the EU is so lame in it’s politics and diplomacy alike.

Actually the article is bloody poor the more I read it.

Anyway, I will skip past the useless parallels it trys to draw with other nations, and deal with a few comments which get close to actually having made it worth reading at all.

“The European Union’s leaders also failed to make much of the recent election. Ukraine is a long way from Spain, which holds the rotating EU presidency. Catherine Ashton, the EU’s nominal foreign-policy chief, seems distracted, to put it mildly……….”

“To put it mildly” is an understatement, but the is she distracted or just completely clueless about Ukraine and way out of her depth in the role she has been given?  

“Yet Ukraine is perhaps the one place where Lady Ashton and her new External Action Service could make a real difference. Ukraine badly needs attention, and unlike America or China it is not a place over which other EU leaders will be jostling for influence. Done properly, the gains from renewed EU involvement could be huge.”

But the author does not take into account it will take years for the EAS to set itself up, find it’s niche and working protocols whilst dealing with the staffing issues of X country wanting to head up Y EAS out-post in country Z.

Do not forget the EU is run by consensus and therefore even managing to keep all member nations happy with the who gets to head what and where issue will take a year or two to accomplish whilst Ukraine continues to plod along.

“The European policy so far has been engagement with Ukraine’s political class. This has proved expensive, and mostly fruitless. Attention should now move to the citizenry. Imagine the effect if the EU opened 50 “Europe Houses” in the main towns and cities of Ukraine. The excellent new House of Europe in Tbilisi should be the model. That project aims to be the Georgian centre for all sorts of Europe-related cultural events, as well as debates and lectures, with a library and internet café as added attractions (readers with spare cash please note: it needs donors). It will have far more impact than the piecemeal efforts of individual European countries’ cultural institutes.”

What effect am I to imagine…….we have electricity in Ukraine and the internet.  I can imagine the rent for such premises being astronomical and with what result?  To encourage the population to be more European?  In what way, corrupt European like Bulgaria, Romania or Italy?  Fiscally prudent European like Ireland, Spain or Greece?  Model their political system of which political system in use in the EU?  The French or the British?  Explain the benefits of the Lisbon Treaty and Brussels talking for Ukraine……which is a bit like Moscow talking for Ukraine in the days of the USSR.

If the singular House of Europe in Tbilisi need donours dear readers……you’ll need a bloody lot of donours for 50 such premises in Ukraine.

It is also doutfull it will have more impact than 27 nations holding 27 seperate events, because not all nations only have a presence in Kyiv, others more able than the UK, manage to have a presence in Odessa and Donetsk and Lviv as well.

“In the tense Ukrainian region of Crimea, a big EU presence would make it harder for Russia to hide its mischief-making (that should be a lesson from Georgia, where the EU’s absence was a lethal element in the run up to the 2008 war).”

Until 1956 Crimea wasn’t even in Ukraine.  That is why it is still The Autonomous Republic of Crimea.  The demographic make-up of Crimea would not support EU meddling to combat “Russian mischief making”. 

According to 2001 Ukrainian Census, the population of Crimea was 2,033,700.  The ethnic makeup was comprised the following self-reported groups: Russians: 58.32%; Ukrainians: 24.32%; Crimean Tatars: 12.1%; Belarusians: 1.44%; Tatars: 0.54%; Armenians: 0.43%; Jews: 0.22%; and Italians: 0.015%.

Is it a wise move for the EU to go ploughing into Crimea and immediately upset almost 60% of the people who live in Crimea who are enthnic Russian?  The Crimean Tartars have not had much of a good deal from Ukraine either.  Russian is still the first langauge of choice in Crimea.  Has the author actually thought about the consequences of meddling in an autonomous region which has a heavy Russian leaning with anti- Russian rhetoric and policy?

“More generally, the new policy will focus the EU’s biggest asset: its soft power. The EU’s military capability is meagre; its ability to stand up to Russian divide-and-rule tactics in energy security is feeble. But the EU does have something that the Kremlin doesn’t: attractiveness. Projecting that into Ukraine will give Lady Ashton and her staff something worthwhile to do. It could even work.”

I would suggest that the combined armed forces of Europe……with out NATO and Commonwealth nations help, would still be a match for the Russian military simply by the equipment being less likely to fall apart and more likely to reach it’s destination.  The author of the article is obviously not too hot on military issues……or any others it would seem.

Unfortunately, even if this was a worthwhile thing for Lady Ashton to do……and I have said many times it isn’t, as pragmatic assistance on the ground is the only way EU assistance will be noticed by the average Ukrainian…….hearts and minds and all that……..then Lady Ashton is sadly not that capable of a figure to do what is necessary it seems, at least at the moment.  It is only fair to give her some time to find her feet in her new role after all.

I am tempted to make some juvenile remark about Lady Ashton being the last woman in the EU who is capable of “projecting attractiveness” into Ukraine……but I will steer clear of personal insults.

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