Archive for April, 2012

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The Rule of P, Day of the Dead and EU Humanitarian Volunteers

April 23, 2012

Before you all get too excited, there is no direct connection between the Rule of P (Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance), the day of the dead and the EU Humanitarian Volunteers.  There may very well be a direct connection between the Rule of P and the EU Humanitarian Volunteer service but I couldn’t say one way or another.

Yesterday there was a direct connection between the Rule of P  and the day of the dead in Ukraine where all visit deceased relatives the first Sunday after Easter.  That connection was me.  I forgot, was unprepared to spend the day in a graveyard, and thus you have this shambolic blog entry quickly written this morning instead of the day before posting as is normally the case.

I had intended to look in detail at the EU Humanitarian Volunteer services which are still embryonic and haven’t even decided on a name despite being in existence, on paper at least (and a few pilot schemes) since the Lisbon Treaty came into force years ago.

Anyway, having fallen foul of the Rule of P, I will leave you to explore the website of the EU Humanitarian Volunteers (or whatever it will eventually be called) for yourselves.

What?  You didn’t know the EU had a humanitarian volunteers service?  Well how could you, nobody knows what to call it yet!

Now to write something for tomorrow and return to the comfort of writing a day in advance adhering  to the Rule of P once more.

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Ukraine’s European Charter for Regional or Minority languages budget

April 22, 2012

It’s Sunday.  I don’t want to rant.  It seems I have ranted for most of the week and I only write about one topical and current Ukrainian issue each day.  I can assure you there is much more than one Ukrainian issue to rant about each day, but I try to bump my gums about those things that don’t necessarily get reported on by the media as much as they could or should be.

After all, if you want to read the standard media agenda for Ukraine when it comes to reporting, you would read the standard media regurgitation from any number of sources main stream sources.  That generally, like the politics here, is personality driven with hardly a mention of policy unless it is an after-thought.

When you do get “experts” commentating it is to state the blindingly obvious that in no way requires any qualifications in political science, economics or  anything more than common sense.  Recently an “expert” stated the electricity prices in Ukraine will begin to rise towards the end of the year.

Well, no shit Sherlock!  Ukrainians pay an electric bill equivalent to about 26% of the cost to generate the said electricity.  Of course it has to rise as the government cannot afford to continue to subsidise it to that extent.  However prices are not going to rise before the next election in October for political reasons and is will make sense to incorporate any rises in the 2013 budget rather than the last few months of 2012.  Does it take an “expert” to state the obvious?

Anyway, returning to the subject of the post, we all know about the “language issue” in Ukraine which (wrongly) is simply seen as Ukrainian verses Russian by those looking to score political points given the very large Russian speaking minority.  The fact is, Ukraine recognises far more ethnic minorities and minority languages than Russian and those languages are protected by not only by the Constitution but also by Ukraine’s ratification of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages many years ago.

Russian simply happens to be one of those languages recognised and due to the volume of Russian speakers, not to mention the usual meddling and propaganda from  Moscow, it creates a political (and when stirred by the politicians), and public issue.

When all is said and done, however, the official State language for Ukraine is Ukrainian.  People will speak what language they want to regardless of that fact, just as they Welsh will speak English or Welsh as they prefer.  The Swiss and the Belgians do the same amongst the multiple languages used in those nations.  It really shouldn’t be the big deal that it all too often becomes given that numerous nations have numerous languages used within them around Europe.

So, returning to the title of this post, and the budget allocated by the Ukrainian government in support of regional and minority language (and culture) in the national budget in accordance with the European Charter, just what sum of money has been allocated?

The answer is here.  UAH 1.7 million ($212,500) for the numerous minority languages and UAH 964,000 ($120,500) for minority cultural development.  A grand total of $330,000.

Unfortunately English isn’t a recognised regional or minority language in Ukraine, otherwise this blog (and my others) may well attract something in the region of about $3 in governmental development aid from such a massive budget.

If you are wondering which languages Ukraine does list with the ECRML, they are Belorussian, Bulgarian, Crimean Tartar, Gagauz, Greek, German, Hungarian, Jewish, Yiddish, Moldavian, Polish, Romanian, Russian and Slovakian.

I am not sure whether to give credit for the recognition of Ukraine’s responsibilities under the ECRML and doing something, however small, to adhere to those responsibilities in austere and gloomy economic times, or whether to ridicule the sums involved which may just (if you are lucky) meet the cost to purchase a reasonable apartment near the sea in Odessa.

Oh well, it’s Sunday and I don’t want to rant.  Time for some locally made Cognac and a nice cigar.  Tomorrow’s another day and my new kitchen is getting delivered.  That’ll give me something to rant about I’m sure!

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EYP (European Youth Parliament) Ukraine

April 21, 2012

Well this is something I don’t normally do, however I am going to raise awareness of a NGO.  In fact a European NGO but specifically it is the Ukrainian branch I am highlighting.  It is the European Youth Parliament (EYP).

Why am I doing this?  Because it is not tied to Yanukovych or Tymoshenko or Yatseniuk or any other dubious politicians in Ukraine.  It is domestically A-political and free from the stench of Ukrainian political parties and personalities.  It is for and by the youth and it encourages youth to youth/people to people contact across the European continent on policy rather than political party issues.

Amongst these young people, one day Ukraine may end up with leaders that are not recycled Soviet machinery with a single style of autocratic leadership regardless of party you vote for.

To promote it and encourage  the Ukrainian youth to actually participate in something bigger than Ukraine, which does not function by the power vertical or is identified by a single personality (to the point of a Bloc name), and is not subject to oligarchy orchestration or the endemic corruption that runs through the main party politicians of all colours when it comes to policy debates, can only be a good experience for any who engage in it.

For the youth in Odessa, the EYP hold their regional session 15 – 19 August.

I have no vested interests in the EYP to declare.  I am far too old to be classed as a youth and I am in no way affiliated to the EYP currently or historically.  My interests such as they are, rest only in the fact I live permanently in Odessa and have the firm belief that policy politics and not personality politics is the only viable road ahead for Ukraine if the current cycle of useless (with a few notable exceptions across party lines) and corrupt politics is ever to be broken.

Anyway, plug for the EYP now made in English.  You can ignore the next bit as it will say the same thing but in Russian for Cyrillic SEO reasons.

Also, before I forget, happy birthday to HM Queen Elizabeth II who is 86 today.  What a fantastic monarch she has been!

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Ну это то, что я обычно не делаю, но я повышаю осведомленность о НПО. На самом деле европейские НПО, и особенно это украинский филиал выделяющий это Европейский молодежный парламент (ЕМП).

Почему я это делаю? Потому что это не связано с Януковичем или Тимошенко или Яценюком или любых других сомнительных политиков в Украине. Это внутри-политический и свободный от вони украинских политических партий и личностей. Это для молодежи и призывает молодежь к молодежи / между людьми контактирующиж на европейском континенте, о политике, а не политическим вопросам партии.

Среди этих молодых людей, в один прекрасный день Украина может закончить с лидерами, которые не утилизируются советскими машинами с одного стиля самодержавного руководства независимо от партийного голосования.

Чтобы продвигать и поощрять украинскую молодежь реально участвовать в чем-то большем, чем Украина, которая не работает в вертикали власти и определяется одной личностью (вплоть до блока имени), и не подлежат олигархии или оркестровкакоррупции, которая проходит через основной политической партии всех цветов, когда дело доходит до политических дебатов, может быть только хороший опыт для любого, кто участвует в нем.

Для молодежи в Одессе, ЕМП проводить свои региональные сессии 15 – 19 августа.

У меня нет никаких корыстных интересов в ЕМП. Я слишком стар, чтобы быть классифицированым как молодежь, и я никоим образом не связанных с ЕМП в настоящее время или истории. Мои интересы, такие как они есть, отдыхать, только я живу постоянно в Одессе и есть твердое убеждение, что политика политикой, а не личности политика является единственной жизнеспособной дорогой для Украины, если текущий цикл бесполезных (с некоторыми исключениями по партийной линии) и коррумпированных политики ли будет побит

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Pharmaceutical policy, quality control and government

April 20, 2012

In the past few days, maybe a week or so, pharmaceuticals, the costs of medicines and quality thereof, have come under the critical eye of the government.  It proposes to interfere in the market and drive down the cost of medicines to the public.

To be fair it does have several levers to do so, be it via insisting on generic copies of well known drugs or via the licensing system for Ukraine coercing manufacturers to a lower price amongst that assorted bag.  Hopefully not by subsidies the country can’t afford.

All jolly good if you are the person buying medication, and it is another social circus trick to attract the voters before the next election in October.  Also a golden opportunity if you are the manufacturer of generic drugs without the need to pass on R&D costs through new products hitting the market.

I have no intention in going into the ethics of generic drugs verses big pharma’s ability to finance future R&D.  I don’t work for big pharma but I do occasionally need to buy a drug as most people do.  Needless to say, the cheaper the drug the better from the consumer point of view as long as they are safe and they work.  Grandma’s secret elixir, GlaxoSmithKlein or generic copy, I have taken them all and care only that they cure my ills.

However, governmental interference is often frowned upon by any market sector it directly affects, concern others thinking of entering a country less they be the next market sector to be subjected to excessive government regulation, and of course those who simply find any form of State capitalism and/or market regulation politically abhorrent.  Generally how far left or right of the political centre ground you sit is the guide to how much governmental interference in a market you will accept.

Nobody will complain about improvements of quality control which is about to take a step in the right direction if the Prime Minister is to be believed.   What concerns me is this statement from the link above.

“We need to introduce in our country the recognized standards of the independent distribution practice and independent drugstore practice that are applied by all European countries, in the same way as we introduced the European independent practice of medicine production.”

In 10 years of living in Odessa and having visited hundreds of Aptekas (drug stores) during that time, I can honestly say I have not come across one that doesn’t meet European standards.  The staff regardless of Apteka have known exactly what they are talking about and given sound advice – every time.

In fact, as there are literally hundreds is not thousands of aptekas in Odessa, competition is huge.  Standards are high, most offer loyalty discount cards to retain your custom, (and I have a vast collection of apteka discount cards), and the free market is doing what it is theoretically supposed to do via competition.

There maybe something I am missing.  Maybe their procurement procedures are not robust enough to prevent to purchase of counterfeit drugs, but everything I have ever been sold has done exactly what it was supposed to do.  Over a decade and I estimate a thousand or more purchases from random aptekas during that time, my personal experience is that they are up to any European standard you want to throw at them.

In fact, given that most useless and misleading political opinion polls in Ukraine are based upon about 1000 – 1200 supposedly random people with a margin of error of 2-3%, my personal apetka survey over  decade is equally as legitimate by way of number, randomness and results.

Why, you ask, am I concerned about the above emboldened quote?  The answer is simply that with government intervention on price, what seems likely to be unwarranted and critical examination of the apetkas in Ukraine, probably more and not less bureaucracy, and with the existing extremely competitive market, you can envisage a scenario where half will close as the profits or bureaucratic grief will no longer make them viable one way or another.

I accept that any government in any nation has a duty to society and that health, like education, must rank highly amongst those duties (particularly in Europe where they hold high priority amongst the voter base over almost every other issue).  I accept there simply must be quality control and a transparent procurement system for those distributing drugs.  I can even accept that there are occasions where government simply has to interfere in the markets to ensure access to it by all levels of the society it represents.

What concerns me about this latest government action is that it has not been thought through properly (again) and that the casual effects may bring better prices, but will also vastly reduce the amount of places society can actually buy these drugs when they need them.

Now I may be jumping the gun a little.  There may well be a system emerge with a recommended retail price plus x% mark-up on the way, and it could be that x% is enough to keep all aptekas in business.  It may be that a move towards a predominantly generic pharmaceutical base will generally work in keeping costs down, if exceptions are made for the latest cutting edge drugs that are far superior to their predecessors is within the model.

It maybe that a centralised procurement system will reduce dramatically counterfeit drugs, or, it may be that such a centralised procurement system will quickly become corrupt and overly bureaucratic.  How independent will the independent drug suppliers be?  I suspect not very independent and/or under interested party oligarchy control.

Time will tell, but my concerns remain over the government interfering so robustly in an already competitive apteka market and the supply chains they currently have.

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Lord Fowler, AIDS and Ukraine

April 19, 2012

Yes, no doubt numerous Ukrainians will have been asking the same thing as many of you dear readers.  Who is Lord Fowler?  To save explanation and my time click on his highlighted and embolden name to magically reach his Wikipedia entry.

For those of us old enough to have lived and worked during the Thatcher years in the UK, he needs little introduction.

Anyway, what is a Tory Peer doing in Ukraine?

The answer is AIDS.  He is particularly clued up on all things AIDS and HIV related, not only in the UK but globally.  People in the AIDS arena do actually know who he is outside the UK.  He is actually listened to as somebody who knows what they are talking about when it comes to policy and policy development relating to AIDS.

Lord Fowler was in Ukraine for 3 days (10 – 13 April) getting a feel for where Ukraine is and what Ukraine can do to improve things.   Without belittling the efforts of the past and current government, and there was and is some highly visible effort, particularly in the promotion of condoms and prevention through almost consistent advertising amongst other initiatives, there is of course much more to be done.

Its not really for me to thank him for coming to Ukraine and raising the issue, but I’m very pleased he did.

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Ukraine adopts new Criminal Procedures Code (after a few amendments)

April 18, 2012

Sometime around 1995 Ukraine promised the Council of Europe/PACE that upon entry to that particular club, it would sort out the due process, from arrest through to sentencing of existing procedures within Ukraine.  By 0400 in the morning of 14th April 2012, it kept that promise, assuming the President doesn’t veto it when it reaches him for signature.

Now it would be quite wrong to have a go at the current government for eventually keeping the promises Ukraine made to the Council of Europe about 17 years ago.  However, despite now eventually keeping a promise that could and should have been kept within a few years of making that promise, the current government are about the be on the wrong end of a keyboard lashing relating to the new Criminal Procedures Code anyway.

Why?  Well obviously if you are going to make significant changes to the criminal procedures of Ukraine throughout every step of the process and accounting for as many existing and probably contrary laws and procedures along the way when drafting such a document, it is going to be a rather weighty tome.

It is something that will take a lot of preparation and a huge amount of due diligence in order to present to parliament something that needs little amendment when meeting the requirements of Ukraine and receiving the blessing of the Council of Europe.

In fact so weighty and critically important to Ukraine is the new Criminal Procedures Code, it began being debated in the RADA on 10th April and continued to be debated until 0400 on 14th April.  Bravo you would say.  Dedication, scrutiny and an end result.  Caps duly doffed to the original creators of the new code.

Well you would until you realise that there were 4000 amendments made to the new code during that debate.

No that is not a typo, there were F O U R  T H O U S A N D amendments made during the time it took to pass through the RADA!

Now you may share my concerns that whatever reaches the president may very well be subject to a veto and thus the Ukrainian promise to the Council of Europe made so very long ago may still not be met.

Seriously, 4000 amendments with a 4 day long debate finishing at 0400 and a vote passing the code?  Nobody thinks that any of those amendments will have counterproductive results somewhere else within that new code when very tired (and generally academically retarded) MPs try and force through a major piece of legislation before they went on their Easter break?

Go take a sizable instruction manual and then make 4000 amendments to it at 0400 in the morning, then come back and look at it after a long weekend and see if it is seamless and perfect all the way through.

What if amendment 357 means that amendment 2956 creates a diametrically opposed procedure?  What if amendment number 1564 means you really should create yet another amendment which you did not consider in the original text because there is now some serious ambiguity and unnecessary wiggle room in the new code?

Having waited 17 years or so to keep this promise to the Council of Europe and do the right thing by the people of Ukraine, after 4000 amendments, (which implies to me either the original draft was absolutely dire or the MPs have created amendments in their own interests), a further month or so studying the new code complete with the 4000 amendments may have been a wise thing to do prior to voting it through the RADA?  More haste and less speed?

How much of the original draft still resembles the original draft after 4000 amendments?

No law is ever perfect, but seriously, you have to doubt the standard of what we may very well be about to receive.  It may well be better than what we currently have, but you have to suspect it will fall a long way short of what it could have been.

Let’s see what happens.  After all, even if it is an almost perfect new Criminal Procedures Code, it still has to be implemented and that is something Ukraine can never manage to do.  Already government ministers are saying it will be a step by step process to bring this code in.

In the meantime, let injustice continue despite the new code?

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European Space Agency – Ukraine assesses costs of membership

April 17, 2012

Space.  The final frontier.  These are the financial musings of Ukraine over whether to join the European Space Agency.  To explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and civilisations.  To boldly go where no Ukrainian has gone before.

No?  Ok, let’s try this:

Clangers, froglitts, Soup Dragons?

Errrm OK.  Maybe the aspirations, imagination and wondering of the night sky is not exactly going to be Star Trek in my lifetime, and the discovery of a Clanger or Froglitt would be incomprehensible, let alone a Vulcan, the Borg, or the appearance of a Vermicious Knid inside an elevator (with or without Willy Wonka).

Anyway, space is not exactly a new frontier as far as Ukraine is concerned.  Even if we completely and utterly ignore its experience and expertise during the days of the USSR, in the last 20 years Ukraine has propelled into space in excess of 100 bits and pieces.  In fact Ukraine accounts for approximately 13% of all global launches.

At the moment, amongst many space orientated things, it is heavily involved in a joint R&D programme with China, as well as closer neighbours east and west.  In the scheme of all things Ukrainian, space is something it does rather well.

It seems therefore natural that Ukraine would be interested in joining   the European Space Agency.  It would also seem a fairly good idea from a European viewpoint to have a tried, tested and successful new entrant to the agency.

Thus, it seems, Ukraine is now looking at membership and more importantly given the condition of the State coffers, the membership fees, rather closely.  One has to hope that when finances allow, Ukraine will decide to join the ESA.  It seems like a prima facie win/win situation for all.

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