Archive for December, 2011


Seeing out 2011 – Top 5 most read posts of the year

December 31, 2011

As seems to be en vogue, I will see out 2011 with a list of the top 5 most read posts of the year from Odessablog.

Counting down from five to the most read at number one, at number five we have a tale of a standard day in the most elite and nefarious business club in Ukraine – The RADA.

The fourth most read post was relating to the Ukrainian traffic, planning going forwards and whether it compliments the EU plan.

At three, rather surprisingly given the amount of time before it happens, is a ditty relating to Fans Embassies for the Euro 2012 football championships.

The second most read post of the year was one written in Russian and was indeed shameless advertising for ADRg Ambassadors.  It was written in Russian deliberately to raise the profile of this organisation on the Cyriliic search engines.  With some success looking at the number of page reads.

The most read post of 2011?  Quite probably hit by many of the globe’s conspiracy theorists accidentally, related to “The Grand Plan”.  To be fair, they won’t have been too disappointed, particularly if they hit the link to a talk by Noam Chomsky.

Although I have a soft spot for them all (of course, I wrote them), my personal favourite happens to be my somewhat critical look at NGOs and their role in Ukraine.  Unfortunately it falls outside the top five read posts of the year, so it is with author’s and editor’s privilege I link to it again.  So there!

(A caveat to the blog entry at number 5 is that this entry relating to the recent statement from Baroness Ashton’s office may well over take it by the end of the day.  Its link got a huge re-tweeting that continues to drive up those who have read it.)

Anyway, thank you one and all first reading my ruminations over the year.  As always I will strive to keep you interested in 2012 although with so much happening in Ukraine next year, it is unlikely I will be short of events and issues to mutter about.

I hope each and every one of you readers has a happy, healthy and where possible wealthy year ahead.

If my writing has given you the impression I am a sandwich short of a full picnic to live in here, I can say in good faith Odessa and Ukraine are really pretty good places to hang your hat permanently.

(Well you can always turn the sound off if it’s not your type of music!)

Happy New Year!


Tymoshenko and Lutsenko’s parties begin merger

December 30, 2011

As Yulia Tymoshenko and Yuri Lutsenko both sit in jail for misuse of office, their opposition parties have began to unite in preparation for the forth coming parliamentary elections in October 2012.

Probably a wise move by Lutsenko’s People’s Self Defence Party as there was not much hope of it reaching the 5% threshold whereas Tymoshenko’s Batkivschyna Party will easily pass that figure as will Yatseniuk’s Front for Change opposition parties.

Let’s see which other very small parties will jump onto the  Batkivschyna Party merger scheme so their leaders can stay in the RADA rather than face falling under the 5% threshold and political oblivion.

You can see why the new election law was one of the few PoR laws that the Batkivschyna Party supported this year, as they and Yatseniuk stand to gain from eliminating splits in the opposition vote to minor parties.

Unfortunately for  Batkivschyna, I don’t see Yatseniuk or his party joining in and he is the biggest vote taker from their party.  Batkivschyna need Yatseniuk and his party to form a majority government in the future unless they ally with the ruling PoR which seems highly unlikely.

Yatseniuk has nothing to gain from any such merger and anybody who thinks this is the beginning of opposition political unity will soon discover this to be a false dawn.

It is a matter of survival for some small opposition politicians whose parties will fall foul of the new 5% vote threshold.  For Lutsenko, it is hard to remain a relevant jailed/martyred opposition leader if your party goes into political oblivion as his undoubtedly would in October 2012.

This is a case of individual politicians political survival thanks to the 5% threshold in the new election law (which was supported by PoR and Tymoshenko’s parties when it past).  When a RADA seat costs so much money to buy and the entry to the most elite insider dealing business club in Ukraine is at stake, this is a case of doing what is necessary to stay at the trough.    No more and no less.


Something for the weekend? Try Davos 26 – 28 January 2012

December 29, 2011

Despite this seeming a little previous, certainly less than seasonal in spirit, and struggling for direct relativity to matters Ukrainian, it is time to remind you readers that the Davos Open Forum will be upon us very shortly and tickets are available to the great unwashed and unenlightened masses such as you and I.

So if you are feeling rather melancholy once the festive season departs and fancy something different for the weekend, there is always the Davos Open Forum to consider.

This years programme is as follows:

Thursday 26 January 2012
12.20 – 12:30 Introducing the Open Forum
12.30 – 14.00 Responsible leadership in times of crisis?
19.00 – 20.30 “Touching the past”- The same but not the very same?

Friday 27 January 2012
12.30 – 14.00 A day without satellites?
15.30 – 17.00 Overcoming religious tensions in Europe
19.00 – 20.30 What about the 99%?

Saturday 28 January 2012
12.30 – 14.00 How to keep the water supply flowing
15.30 – 17:00 Multiculturalism has floundered. What next?

What better way to lift the melancholy hangover from the festive season than to be slapped rudely in the face by a series of regional and global challenges? – Indeed.  I hear you.  I can also think of many better ways as well.  Nevertheless policy nerds like me enjoy this kind of thing, so for the other policy nerds out there who read my ruminations, this post acts as a reminder.

Tomorrow back to matters Ukrainian!


Foreign policy based on pragmatism – Yanukovych

December 28, 2011

Now then, foreign policy based on pragmatism.  Isn’t that what all foreign policy should be based upon?  That and the national interest of course.

The Ukrainian president, stated  “We respect our partners, but our national interest is always at the heart of relations… We must not allow our interests to be ignored. We should work with our partners so that these relations be based on mutual respect.”

He went on to echo a very British sounding foreign policy based upon economics and bilateral relations.

“I see no other way today than the activation of bilateral relations… If this policy is successful, if it is aimed at economic growth, this will be a boon for people who live in our country. We are well aware of this.”

Hmmm – Economic growth.  Well, let’s see and consider the actions of the past month.  Close relations with China, being one of 13 nations who can hold the Yuan, large scale FDI from China.  Fair enough.

Visa free agreements with Brazil and Turkey in the past month.  Both booming economies.  Fair enough.

Finalising the wording and negotiations of the AA and DCFTA with the EU, fair enough, but we are all well aware that that is as far as it will go for the foreseeable future, less the initialing of the agreements in February.  Signatures and ratification are extremely distant prospects indeed and thus a potential massive economic gain will be shelved due to Ukrainian internal issues relating to the imprisonment of Ms Tymoshenko.

Trying to get out of a crippling gas deal with Russia.  Fair enough.  But unlikely to succeed given the internal situation in Russia and the need for would-be leaders to be seen to act tough.  Let’s not hold our breath for any major breakthroughs in the immediate term, short of massive structural concessions by Ukraine relating to hard assets of its gas infrastructure.

The agreements to deal with China and Russia in their own currency rather than US$.  Understandable when you are in an economically difficult position.  It removes the added costs of buying the US$ to complete any transaction as has been historically the case.

All small pieces of a jigsaw puzzle which even under the heading of pragmatic economic foreign policy, provides no clear picture or grand plan.  It remains ad hoc, opportunist and therefore direction-less.  EU aspirations some time in the distant future are hardly an urgent driving force for hard choices now.  The discipline and drive provided by the IMF needs have been suspended for a year.

Worse, it remains ideology-less and strategy-less.  There is nothing definitive about it.

It does not address the biggest boost possible to give a foreign policy based on economics, namely systemic, hard -nosed, painful domestic reform.

Yes, Ukraine can continue to export raw materials, metals, grain and weapons, but the global economy is slowing down and to be quite frank I see no way Ukraine will have a growth rate of 6% as some government members are claiming.  4.5% growth would seem the very best case scenario for 2012 (although that is not too shabby for what is likely to be a very bad year globally).

Yes on paper, there is now supposedly less bureaucracy, but on the front line, the Ukrainian “civil service” are never aware of any changes that have been made and continue as they always have.  Whilst this continues, yet more bureaucracy is routinely added in the form of new laws, again poorly communicated to the front line, if communicated at all.

I would suggest a new policy.  For every new bureaucratic economic hurdle adopted, two are removed somewhere in the system.  A one in, two out policy.

I would suggest any of the main stream parties finding an ideology.  The only parties that exist with an identifiable ideology are the far right Svoboda and the Communists on the left.  All others are completely devoid of ideology and really need to find one with which society can identify.

In order to have a policy that is effective, not only must it be well thought through and considered, it must have a driving force of political ideology behind it.  How else can society either rally behind it or oppose it?  Society needs to know where any particular policy fits within a grand plan and a grand plan is based upon an ideology.

If the grand plan is to be a centralist pragmatic booming economy acting as a bridge or logistical hub between the EU, Russia, Turkey and China,  then say so.  Tell the EU, the Russians, the Chinese and the Turks.  Most of all, tell the Ukrainians and then tell them how this is going to be achieved, what needs to be done, how long it will take, how painful or otherwise it will be do accomplish.  Producing little pieces of a puzzle and saying how pretty the individual piece is when it cannot be seen in context with the broader picture helps nobody.

The Chinese plan to employ semi-soft economic power globally is clear.  The US still adheres to the Munroe Doctrine, the direction of Turkey under the deft touch of its very underrated Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu gets clearer by the day.  The changes as needed in Russia are self-evident as is the likelihood of its economy being propelled up the GDP table in the next 10 years to become the biggest economy on the continent of Europe whether those changes occur at the speed and depth necessary or not.

As much as people look for certainties in a world full of uncertainty, they look to a grand plan for their nation.  As much as I appreciate that politicians must give direction, I also appreciate that no matter how certain they need to sound, in reality they are uncertain they can live up to their words in an unpredictable world.

However, that is no excuse for having no grand plan, no strategy and no ideology that can be relayed to society.  A fear of uncertainty cannot replace the need for clear and concise leadership and direction.  The Polish managed it under the Balcerowicz Plan and that dramatic domestic painful reform provided a solid foundation for its foreign economic policy from that day forward.

Ukraine, having wasted 5 years under the extremely dysfunctional leadership of Yushenko and Tymoshenko and having spent much of that time in opposition, you would expect the current government to have a plan.  A plan they can tell the Ukrainian society about.  A plan they will tell the Ukrainian society about.

It has been nearly two years since the changing of the guard and yet there is still no self-evident plan.  There is still no constant narrative backed up with consistent action to achieve the aims of any plan.

Ukraine still seems to act like an opportunist street urchin flitting from one prospective “mark” to another, living day by day, trying to pick a pocket or two, whilst drifting along with events rather than  setting course on a definite journey.

Time for a plan, time for an ideology, time for a strategy and time for a long overdue conversation with society explaining, who, what, where, when, how and why.  For Ukraine to seemingly continue to drift along as the tide takes it can be an option that is quickly running out of time given the state of flux within the entities and nations that sit on its borders on any point of the compass.

Ukraine is waiting Mr President – What’s the plan?  It is after all, pragmatic to have a plan.


There must be an election next year – minimum wage and pensions to rise

December 27, 2011

There must be an election in Ukraine next year.  The minimum wage is to rise by 14% and pensions by 11% in 2012.


EU admitting defeat over Tymoshenko?

December 26, 2011

As we all know very well, politics and policy are often understood by the specific language statements contain.

It is why so many politicians and technocrats have their own dedicated speech writers forged in the furness of international diplomacy.   Words, each and every one of them, employed in any statement, are very carefully chosen to be either elastic in their interpretation, or indeed robust and unequivocal.

Here is a statement released by Baroness Ashton’s office relating to Yulia Tymoshenko and her failed appeal through the Ukrainian courts.

” The High Representative regrets that Yulia Tymoshenko, an opposition party leader, will now be
prevented from participating in next year’s parliamentary elections.”

Well that send a very clear message that the EU have now given up any hope that a solution to Ms Tymoshenko will be found before the parliamentary elections in October 2012.

Of course, there is the ECHR appeal lodged by Ms Tymoshenko which some claim will be fast-tracked.  However this presents moral issues over whether Ms Tymoshenko’s plight should have any priority over the huge backlog of pending cases with the ECHR submitted by people whom also feel wronged or are in a difficult predicament.

Many of those pending cases may very well also be perceived as wrongful imprisonment and some may also be perceived as politically motivated.  Whatever the circumstances, is it right that Ms Tymoshenko’s case should take priority over existing and backlogged cases?  Are her human rights any more significant than any other pending case?

Does this tacit admission by Ms Ashton’s office that Ms Tymoshenko will not take part in the October 2012 elections signify the fact she will not be fast-tracked through the ECHR system, or even if she is, due to the backlog any fast-tracking is not fast enough to reach a verdict before the end of July 2012 when electioneering will commence?

There is of course the issue of numerous ECHR rulings that remain unactioned across Europe against several sovereign States.

Indeed, when Ms Tymoshenko was Prime Minister, her own government allowed ECHR rulings against Ukraine to simply pile up rather than action said rulings.  A fact that will no doubt come to light should the ECHR rule in her favour and Ukraine ignore the ruling.  That particular can of worms is as yet not in the public spotlight or indeed opened.  You can however  feel fairly assured that such issues will be highlighted quite robustly should circumstances dictate.

Undoubtedly, even with a very clean and technically perfect election in 2012, the EU will now be forced to declare the elections unfair should Ms Tymoshenko remain incarcerated and unable to participate, whether or not her party does very well.

It would be interesting to see Ms Tymoshenko’s party make major gains in the October 2012 elections and yet see the EU condemn the elections as flawed due to her personal lack of participation.  Her incarceration has thus far had very little effects either for or against the popularity of her party in the polls, and the parliamentary elections are not a personality contest like those of presidential elections.

Nevertheless, it does seem the EU is publicly throwing in the towel rather early over Ms Tymoshenko, considering there is another 7 or 8 months before electioneering begins for the parliamentary elections and a full 10 or 11 months before the elections themselves.

Although I wrote a few days ago that it is likely the DCFTA and AA will be shelved at the very least until after the Ukrainian parliamentary elections in October 2012 (barring their initialing in February to effectively seal the end of negotiations), and in fact we should consider the possibility of these agreements gathering dust until 2016 whereby the current President will have had the opportunity for reelection in 2015 with Ms Tymoshenko languishing in jail until that time, it does seem rather negative to simply state that there is no chance of Ms Tymoshenko now participating in the October 2012 elections from the EU.

Of course behind the scenes diplomatic pressure will continue to be applied relating to her release but public perception also counts.  The public statement from the Baroness’ office seems rather fait accompli.


Merry Christmas (but first a disclaimer)

December 25, 2011

From me (“the wishor”) to you (“the wishee”):

Please accept without obligation, explicit or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, politically correct, gender neutral, low stress, non-addictive celebration of the winter solstice holiday practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion or secular practice of your choice, with respect for the religious persuasion or secular practice and or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions.

Please also accept, under aforesaid waiver of obligation on your part, my best wishes for a financially successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of this calendar year of the Common Era, but with due respect for the calendars of all cultures or sects and for the race, creed, colour, age, physical ability, religious faith, choice of computer platform or dietary preference of the wishee.

By accepting this greeting you acknowledge that:

a.. This greeting is subject to further clarification or withdrawal at the wishor’s discretion;

b.. This greeting is freely transferable provided that no alteration shall be made to the original greeting and that the proprietary rights of the wishor are acknowledged;

c.. This greeting implies no warranty on the part of the wishor to fulfil these wishes, nor any ability of the wishor to do so, merely a beneficent hope that they in fact occur;

d.. This greeting may not be enforceable in certain jurisdictions and/or the restrictions herein may not be binding on certain wishees in certain jurisdictions and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wishor;

e.. This greeting is warranted to perform as may reasonably be expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first;

f.. The wishor warrants this greeting only for the limited replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wishor.

Any implied reference in this greeting to any festive figure, whether actual or fictitious, dead or alive, shall not imply an endorsement by or form them in respect of this greeting and all proprietary rights in any references third party names and images are hereby acknowledged.

* * * * * * * * *

OK, now that’s out of the way, I wish you one and all, a very merry Christmas!



December 24, 2011

Now, if you are contractually tied to a fairly awful gas deal and cannot (as yet) renegotiate it but are none the less dependent on said gas, what do you do?

Use less gas obviously!

Mind you, when you have signed an agreement that guarantees a minimum quantity each year or face paying a fine to the producer,  you can only go so far.

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