Archive for July, 2012


Customs Union expansion with Vietnam – Will it make it more attractive to Ukraine than the EU?

July 31, 2012

I have written very often about the DCFTA (and attached AA) agreements that are now agreed between the EU and Ukraine, even if not signed and ratified for the foreseeable future.  Far less frequently have I written about the Russian led Customs Union.

This is because, thus far, despite the offer of a $9 billion reduction in Russian gas prices, the Ukrainian leadership has refused to become a full member.  Instead it prefers a 3 (Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan) plus 1 (Ukraine) engagement – which naturally has a much cooler response from Moscow.

Times change however.

The DCFTA is being held hostage to the politically driven AA by the EU because of issues such as perceived selective prosecutions of certain opposition politicians.  No movement from either side seems likely to occur and whether or not the October 2012 elections are technically free and fair or not, it already seems that the EU will not recognise them as free and fair whilst there are some opposition politicians in jail, and to be quite frank, jail is where they will be when the elections take place in all probability.

If the EU is relying upon Ukrainian public opinion to force the government to release these opposition leaders at the risk of losing the DCFTA and AA with the EU, then they could well be deluding themselves.  According to an IRI poll released a few days ago, only 37% of Ukrainians favour a trade agreement with the EU (down from 42% in November 2011), whilst 41% favour joining the Russian led Customs Union (up from 40% in November 2011).

Thus it appears from this poll, Ukrainian public opinion already marginally backs the Customs Union over the EU.

Further to this, since the surveys for that poll, Russia has joined the WTO providing a far more level playing field for Ukraine in the event of dispute as both nations are now subject to WTO rules and rulings.

Yesterday, somewhat unforeseen, Vietnam, another WTO member, revealed the fact that they are officially considering joining the Customs Union as well.  There is very little ambiguity in the words of Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang.

What would be most appealing to Russia and Ukraine is a Customs Union space in the Asia Pacific, given the US and EU’s attempts to look towards that region.

As a geopolitical aside, but not to be ignored or necessarily treated lightly, Russian Navy CINC Chirkov claimed the same day as the Vietnamese President’s Customs Union announcement, that Russia considering new “material-technical support points” in Cuba, Seychelles, and Vietnam.”

Anyway, returning to the Customs Union and trade, there is surely going to be additional attraction for Ukraine should Vietnam join.  Very much like the EU, the more members there are, the less power any individual member has – theoretically – and enough smaller members can hold in check the bigger ones – especially if they are all WTO members held by WTO rules.

Now Ukraine is important to the EU.  There is no denying that.  Without Ukraine the entire EaP project is a joke.  Huge issues relating to border security, immigration, organised crime etc would present themselves for the EU if Ukraine simply stopped cooperating with the EU.  But Ukraine is certainly guilty of thinking it is more important to the EU than it really is.  After all if the EaP project fails, so what?  It will not be the first or last EU project to fail.

That said, the EU is also guilty of taking Ukraine’s trajectory westwards for granted, not matter how slow and unsteady that trajectory may be.

If the Customs Union begins to attract Vietnam and a few others from the Asia Pacific it will begin to look much more attractive than the EU, as it comes without the political strings required by the EU’s AA to allow for the signing and ratifying of the DCFTA.

The progress of Vietnam into the Customs Union will be very interesting to watch – as will be the casual effects both in the Asia Pacific and Ukraine.


Korolevska welcomes Andrey Shevchenko to her party

July 30, 2012

Following up on the political aspirations of Ukraine’s most famous footballer, Andrey Shevchenko, I mentioned two days ago, he has joined the party of Natalia Korolevska, “Ukraine Forward”, and quit football with immediate effect.

We now have two of Ukraine’s most famous sportsmen in the shape of Klischko (UDAR) and Shevchenko (Ukraine Forward) in parties that are outside the United Opposition, but are in opposition parties.   It seems Mr Shevchenko sees “Ukraine Forward” as “one of Ukrainian parties of the future.”

One wonders just how much they may effect the voting for the United Opposition, particularly with the United Opposition having allowed the polarising ultra-right Svoboda into their ranks only last week.

Prima facie, a nice boost for Korolevska who has only a 2.8% popularity rating prior to Mr Shevchenko’s announcement, meaning Ukraine Forward would currently fall short of the 5% threshhold necessary for any proportional representation in the RADA.  (Apparently Andrey Shevchenko will be the second name on the party list after Ms Korolevska.)

Certainly not bad news for the ruling PoR who are currently sitting on about 22% of the national vote, but possibly not good news for the United Opposition on about 20% as it is their voting base that seems most likely to be affected by Mr Shevchenko’s choice (if it is affected at all).

Add any voter drift because of Shevchenko’s hero-like status in Ukraine to that of Klitschko, whose party is on about 8.5% and growing, again the majority of those voters are also likely to come from the United Opposition ranks.

As for Mr Shevchenko’s belief that Ukraine Forward is one of the political parties of the future, well maybe, but  not very likely looking at Ms Korolevska, his party leader’s political past I’m afraid.  Well, unless Ukraine’s political future is just as bad as its political present and political past – or she genuinely turns over a new leaf (which is possible even if incredibly unlikely).


What really matters to Ukrainians?

July 29, 2012

As you will recall, not long ago I wrote about the need to be somewhat careful when looking at opinion polls.  I wrote it with Ukraine in mind, but it applies to opinion polls in every nation just as equally.

Here is a latest survey of Ukrainian opinion relating to what really matters to Ukrainians by the IRI.

It makes grim reading for the current government, just as equally the opposition, and shows a growing shift away from the EU as far as trade blocks go – just in case the EU is feeling confident Ukrainian public opinion will force Ukraine inch by inch in the direction of the EU, they had better think on!

In fact, for the opposition which champions against the extended presence of the Russian Black Sea Fleet and the pending Ukrainian language law amongst their ideological  issues and policy clashes with the current authorities, it is particularly grim when looking at just how highly, or indeed perhaps better phrased as just how lowly, these issues rank with the Ukrainian public.

If any political party wants a campaign manifesto and to know what the core issues are, for Ukrainians it is unemployment and corruption.  Right at the bottom of a list of 17 issues comes the RBSF and Ukrainian language.

Why the United Opposition are banging the drum about things the vast majority of Ukrainians don’t care about would seem to be down to the fact that when they were in power they utterly failed to address all the other issues which rank above those on this polling list.  In fact things like corruption (or rather the cost of corruption to the average Ukrainian) rocketed on their watch.  Nobody forgets this, as they were in charge only 2 years ago.

The current government is also failing to make an impression on the major issues, but being the current government, they can’t really duck out of them as the United Opposition seem to be trying to do.

Thus it appears Ukraine will be stuck with the same incompetent faces who simply cannot deal with the issues that matter to Ukrainians no matter who wins the parliamentary elections in October, if track records are anything to go by.

Now there is a mammoth amount that can be said about this poll when interpreting the results, but today, (or yesterday as this post is published the day after it is written as is always the case with this blog), is my good lady’s birthday and I simply don’t have the time to examine the poll properly.  Needless to say I am too busy peeling grapes, insuring a constant supply of Martini and lemonade and acting as butler and waiter for all and sundry who are arriving ad hoc.

Even the bank manager telephoned to wish her a happy birthday!

Thus due to the extraordinary servitude I am undertaking, no detailed look at the opinion poll will come from me.  You clever people don’t need me to do that for you anyway.


United Opposition welcome Svoboda to their ranks – Welcome to the far, far right!

July 28, 2012

Oh dear!  It’s a bit like a car crash in slow motion.

You know its coming and you try to prepare yourself for the impact and yet when it comes you are still not ready for it.

The United Opposition have welcomed aboard the good ship “anybody except Party of Regions”, the far, far right Svoboda Party in their coalition for the impending parliamentary elections in October 2012.

Now to be fair to Svoboda and Oleh Tyahnybok the party leader, it would have been unlikely his party would have passed the 5% threshold of popular vote to allow his party candidates to get into the RADA, should it act alone.  Having joined forces with the United Opposition, for the first time, self declared fascists and Nazis look certain to hold seats in the RADA whether or not the United Opposition win post October, as a deal has been struck whereby 35 seats will not be contested by other United Opposition parties.

As Svoboda has numerous politicians in several regional administrations and western cities of Ukraine, it seems a fair guess that in the absence of other opposition parties running in those areas for parliament, as per the agreement announced two days ago, Svoboda will win.

All jolly good if you are a supporter of Svoboda and possibly good for the United Opposition, but possibly not.

Why do I say that?  Surely if a coalition ally is all but certain to win RADA seats in western Ukraine when running only against the PoR who are much loathed there, it is a good thing?


However, Mr Tyahnybok has been on national television on well watched political shows such as Shuster Live and Keselov, happily confirming his fascist and Nazi credentials.  His positions are so far right of patriotism they can only be described as to the hard right of nationalism.  He is on public record numerous times relating to his anti-Semitic, anti-Russian, anti-EU stance.

Now there is nothing wrong with that.  In a democracy there is free speech, freedom of expression and as national voting shows, he does represent a very small proportion of society.

From a United Opposition point of view though, he also alienates an enormous part of society – and the United Opposition have just formally got into bed with him.

Why would any Jew now vote for Yatseniuk or Tymoshenko’s parties knowing that in doing so it helps propel an anti-Semitic number of Svoboda party people into the RADA as well?  Why would any Ukrainian, be they pro-Russia or pro-EU, vote for the United Opposition when in doing so it propels ultra-nationalists well known for their intense dislike of both Russia and the EU, into the RADA?

By formally allowing Svoboda into the ranks of the United Opposition, any thoughts of a workable, principled coalition, should they win and become the majority in parliament, becomes a nonsense.  If there are 25 – 35 Sovoboda MPs then the entire United Opposition (or then majority) can be held ransom with that number of MPs  votes.

Let us not forget, Ms Tymoshenko led a coalition government that had a majority of only 1.  There is no way a coalition government can cope with 25 – 35 unruly ultra-nationalist Svoboda MPs and so major principled and ideological positions will have to be ceded to keep them on side just to remain in power.

That is what happened last time the opposition ruled Ukraine, making it a complete farce and an abject lesson in dysfunctional government.  In short, there would be no alternative but a major slide to the far right to hold things together as a government.

You have to ask why they have done this?  Without joining the United Opposition, there was a better than good chance that Svoboda would have failed the 5% threshold and many voters knowing that would have voted for the parties of Yatseniuk or Tymoshenko instead.  At most Svoboda would have had a handful of RADA MPs from the occasional win in single seat constituencies, rather than a possible 30+ from single seat constituencies and being on the proportional list as part of the United Opposition having now been allowed to join it.

A handful of ultra-nationalist MPs from a different and quite radical party is far easier to control if you are trying to run a coalition with a small majority.

Was any thought given to the causal effects of doing this?

Then again, does it really matter?  The Ukrainian public are faced with voting for a United Opposition that was a complete failure when last in power and the names and faces simply haven’t changed.  They offer nothing and nobody new from what they offered 2 years ago when ousted from power.  (Although there is a serious rumour that Andrey Shevchenko, the iconic Ukrainian footballer will enter politics today – but for which party it is as yet unknown.  My best guess would be Klitschko’s UDAR or Korolevska as neither have the corrupt baggage of the other parties .)

The choice remains a stick or a fork in the eye for the voter.  The ultimate reality remains a very painful eye whatever they choose!


EU Special Representative for Human Rights – Necessary or duplication?

July 27, 2012

Two days ago saw the EU appoint its first ever dedicated Special Representative  for Human Rights in the person of Stavros Lambrinidis.

Undoubtedly he will be working closely with Baroness Ashton and the EEAS (European External Action Service) amongst others within the European Commission.  Needless to say, prima facie it seems a good thing and the EU certainly has a large number of internal human rights issues to address, from the persecution and  deportation of the Roma populations en mass, female gender mutilation, human trafficking, the banning (or not) of religious garments, freedom of speech and expression relating to the more extreme but just about legal political parties of far right and left, media issues and Internet social networking, privacy, the ability (or not) for prisoners to vote etc etc.  The list is extremely long – and that is just internally of the EU.

Step outside the EU geography and into Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, Saudi, Palestine and Israel, Sudan, DRC, China, the USA (Gitmo, the death penality etc), Brazil, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and almost any other nation you care to mention, and there will be human rights abuses.

Something made even more complicated by the current uneasy fit between Right to Protect (R2P) and the UN Charter guaranteeing absolute sovereignty over internal issues, not to mention the entire concept of sovereign interests verses values and the necessary trade-offs between values and interests in any policy decision.

Only two days ago, the Belorussian President was denied a Visa to visit the London Olympics by the UK, quite rightly on human rights grounds, and yet no denials for the leadership of Bahrain or Saudi.  Needless to say, UK interests in Belarus are nothing compared to those in Saudi or Bahrain and thus values trump interests only in the case of Belarus.

However, returning to the role of Mr Lambrinidis, despite the skimming of the surface of the human rights issues faced by the EU I have highlighted above, is his appointment necessary, aside from the EU Commission creating a well paid job for a Greek citizen, doing their bit for Greek unemployment and sending the message that Greece is still very much in the EU?

All members of the EU plus numerous nations I have mentioned are all also part of the Council of Europe/PACE which already has a representative for human rights.  In fact it has an entire department, figurehead and acts as the diplomatic muscle behind any unfulfilled decisions reached by the European Court of Human Rights.

In short the PACE Human Rights representative has more influence over more nations within the PACE club (which includes every EU nation and more) than Mr Lambrinidis will have.  You cannot fail to see that there is an obvious and unnecessary overlap between the PACE Human Rights representative and that of the new EU Human Rights representative as far as the EU Member States are concerned, at least looking inwardly if not projecting out to the rest of the world.

Now, as the EEAS and Baroness Ashton are so very fond of reminding us at every opportunity, human rights is the “silver thread” running through all EU foreign policy.

But who sets EU foreign policy?  Certainly not the European Commission or the EEAS.  EU foreign policy is set by the European Council which is comprised of the representatives of all 27 national governments, each representing their own sovereign position, interests and needs.  As such, any actions, statements and agreements quite often will be the lowest common denominator where agreement can be reached.  If there is no agreement then there are no actions or statements.

Thus the EEAS and EU foreign policy works only within the parameters that the sovereign states, via the European Council, allow.  Therefore it is highly unlikely to seriously compromise any serious interests of any specific EU Member State in third nations external of the EU geographical area.

Just how much room is left for values when there are 27 interests to consider on the interests verses values axis?  Is there a way to speak or act as the EU without causing serious friction with one or more Member State when there is disagreement or sovereign interests are at stake?

Personally I think there is.  In cases where all Member States are in agreement it is possible to be specific against country or government X – naturally.  Where there is not complete agreement, it is possible for the EU to support “regions” or geographical areas covering more than a single nation.  Blanket coverage and blanket support with instruments and platforms available to all human rights entities within those geographical areas but targeting nobody specifically.  One look at EU spending on human rights would seem to suggest that this is indeed the way forward if specifics cannot be articulated due to Member objections.

The question remains though, just where Mr Lambrinidis sits in the grand Human Rights, scheme of things.  Certainly not as high or influential as UN Human Rights representatives.  Probably less influential than the PACE Human Rights representative as that too is a club with more members (including all the members of Mr  Lambrinidis ‘ club), but is he higher than sovereign human rights representatives when EU foreign policy is dictated by the European Council comprised of sovereign nations?

Let’s see what happens if he tries to take on France over Roma deportation or the banning of the Burqa, the UK over denying prisoners the right to vote, those parts of the European communities that arrange (and force) marriage.  Those parts of the European communities that mutilate female genitalia or circumcise young boys as part of religious practice?  Will he find his place to be subservient to Member States and their perspective on human rights relating to what they will and will not accept on their sovereign soil?

Who will acquiesce to his will outside the EU?  If states won’t listen to the UN when they are members of the UN, why will they listen to an EU Human Rights Representative when not a member of the EU?

If what the UN, PACE and sovereign human rights representatives do are stripped from his portfolio to avoid unnecessary duplication (not to mention probable friction), aside from the occasional condemning statement to sit alongside all the other condemning statements normally issued in flurries as abuses come to light, he is left with a few civil society regional platforms already set up by Stefan Fule to tinker with, and doing the seedy negotiations with human rights abusers within the scope of the EU’s “More (money) for More (democracy/human rights)” policy.

A necessary appointment?


Tax avoidance/Off-shoring – Ukraine in the global scheme of things

July 26, 2012

Tax avoidance seems to be a national pass time in many nations.  So much so that it appears that national governments lose out on their share of tax on anywhere between $21 – $32 trillion that manages to beat their tax systems.

That said, it is national governments that write the tax laws.  They are responsible for the loopholes through which this staggering amount of money escapes any domestic economy.  It should also be recognised that there are certainly a fair number of politicians past and present who willfully jump through the tax loopholes they write for themselves, not to mention a number of very wealthy like-minded political donors.

But the fact is that it is really not hard to do.  For Euro 4000, a quick call to a Greek Cypriot chap I know and within a week I have a registered Cypriot company with Cypriot bank account, stamps, seals and a massive degree of protection from both Ukrainian and British tax inspectors.  How do I know this?  I know a number of his affluent Ukrainian customers and thus he is tried and tested, and even recommended.

So how much is or has been sneaked away from Ukraine?  From what I can see from this report, it appears to be about $168 billion over the period of time it considers.  A huge amount of money – or is it?

It is a huge amount of money in comparison to the annual Ukrainian budget for example.  It is an enormous amount of money compared to the annual tax revenues of Ukraine.  But when I last checked $1 trillion is $1 billion x 1000 – and we are talking globally of $21 – $32 trillion.  That makes the Ukrainian $168 billion appear like a small accounting error in the global scheme of tax evasion.

I have only ever seen $1 million in cash a few times.  I have never seen $1 billion in cash and I cannot even imagine what $1 trillion looks like.

Now I suppose I am what can be considered a “solid citizen”.  I have never avoided paying tax in the UK or Ukraine.  I owe nothing to, and am owed nothing by, either tax authority in either nation (at the time of writing).  I have never voted along partisan lines regardless of policy.  I am a floating voter who votes for who I think will be the best for the nation based on policy at any election.  I have indeed voted for all 3 major UK parties in my time.  I do not have a criminal record in any nation – not even a speeding ticket to declare when insuring a car.  As I said, a “solid citizen”.

But – I have also never had $ multiple millions laying around doing nothing waiting to be taxed.  If I had, would I have used the legally created loopholes to to move that money offshore to save it from taxes?  Would I be any less the “solid citizen” to use employ such loopholes?  After all, I am doing nothing illegal necessarily.  As and when I decide to spend my tax havened money, it necessarily enters into an economy and whether it is a black, grey or white economy, a large proportion of it will eventually end up back in the taxable economy as it works its way through numerous buyers and sellers.

That said, the same maybe said for the multiple billions relating to organised crime profits, black economies and money stashed under a bed.  Once you start to spend it, a large proportion of that cash will find its way into the white taxable economy sooner or later.

Is  it a question of morality verses legality?  Is it that clear cut?

I certainly don’t morally agree with the way some of my taxes are spent even though they are legally collected from me.  Alternatively, is removing a large sum from the tax pot underfunding things I morally believe the State should provide to all my fellow citizens going to sit well with me?

Whatever the case, whilst ever the legal tax loopholes exist and are exploited, then governments past and present have to shoulder a significant amount of blame for not closing them.


Ukrainian election advertising & Twitter

July 25, 2012

For some quite unknown reason, I have recently taken to commenting about the electioneering adverts of various contenders in the forthcoming  Ukrainian parliamentary October elections on twitter.  To my surprise it has been quite popular and subjected to numerous retweets on occasion.

That said I can be quite cynical as this tweet about the Communist Party advert may infer: “Nostalgic Communist Party election ad about the “good old days of the USSR”. Missed the bit about stagnant econ, corruption & gulags tho!”

All very clever and pious of me.

I then commented about the United Opposition election ad, which is being shown so often you would think it was actually the main feature of the TV station rather than the adverts.

“United Opposition ad with Yatseniuk, Grytsenko (OK) & the never in the RADA Sergey Sobolev & politically weak Vyach Kyrylenko. I despair!”

As you can tell, I have something of a yearning for the opposition to actually be something like an opposition and provide something like a credible alternative.  Thus I hope, seemingly in vain, they will campaign on policy rather than personality politics, and naturally they will show themselves in the best possible light at all times.

I can fully understand their election advert featuring Arseney Yatseniuk and Grytsenko.  After all, they are the leaders of two of political parties that have joined forces within the United Opposition.  But do my comments relating to Sergey Sobolev, who I describe as always absent from the RADA (and if twitter allowed more characters I would have said untrustworthy as well) and the fact Kyrylenko is a particularly weak (and naive) politician stand up?

In short I am inferring that the United Opposition could and should have chosen far better MPs from the parties they represent to stand alongside Yatseniuk and Grytsenko in the electioneering fluff.

Well after that tweet, a new civil society website went live and you can now check for yourselves via Chesno.Org just how good, bad or indifferent every MP currently sitting in the RADA is according to their parameters.

So what does it have to say about Sergey Sobolev and does that underline or undermine my tweet?

“Budget of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine for 2010 allowances other people’s deputy of Ukraine on free passage was set at 26,800 USD. However, in 2010 Sergey V. Sobolev exceeded established by Parliament allowances for free travel, spending on him 29,171 USD. and completing from the state budget of Ukraine on 12 trips.

According to the methodology for evaluating integrity of the candidates of the Movement FAIR availability of information that might indicate a high likelihood of involvement in the abuse of state resources and positions of power, is considered non-compliance criteria. Thus, there is good reason to assume and make an assessment that the deputies of Ukraine Serhiy Sobolev V., according to the Movement Honestly, does not meet the criteria.

During the parliamentary powers of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine of VI convocation deputies of Ukraine Serhiy Sobolev V. repeatedly violated the principle of personal voting at meetings of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. In particular, the evening session of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, March 3, 2011 deputies of Ukraine Serhiy Sobolev V. vote cards missing at a meeting of People’s Deputies, as evidenced by video. According to the methodology of the evaluation of integrity of candidates for deputies deputy discrepancy criterion is even a single violation of the principle of personal voting. Thus, Sergey V. Sobolev, according Movement Honestly, does not meet the criteria.

During 2011 was carried out 82 morning and evening plenary sessions of Parliament, for which the official web site of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, the available data written registration deputies. According to these data, the deputies of Ukraine Serhiy Sobolev V. attended by 59 morning and evening plenary sessions of Parliament, ie 72% of the plenary sessions of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.

In 2011 MP Sobolev Sergey V. was a member of the Committee on Justice. According to minutes of meetings of the Committee during 2011 were held 17 meetings of the Committee. Sobolev Sergey V. was present at 7 meetings of the Committee, ie 41% of all Committee meetings held in 2011.

According to the methodology of evaluation of integrity candidates discrepancy criterion is the presence during 2011 to less than 75% of the plenary sessions of Parliament or less than 75% of meetings of the Committee member who was deputy of Ukraine. Thus, according to the Movement Honestly, Sobolev V. Sergey does not meet the criteria.”

Well, I did say he was never present (and untrustworthy) and this would seem to confirm what I said.  So why is this man acting as the face of Ms Tymoshenko’s party along side the leaders of two other parties for the United Opposition?  What is wrong with Mykola Tomenko who I may occasionally disagree with but believe to be a decent and hard working MP from the Tymoshenko stable?

Why Kyrylenko from OU-PSD?  For one, he is weak, or naive, or both, when listening to him on television, and just like Sobolev seems to turn up to work far less than his voting card in the RADA:

“During the parliamentary powers of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine of VI convocation deputies of Ukraine Vyacheslav Kirilenko A. repeatedly violated the principle of personal voting at meetings of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. In particular, according to a written record of people’s deputies of Ukraine, he was absent on the evening plenary session of Parliament 21 April 2011 and the morning plenary session of Parliament 11 January 2012, but his voting card was used during the voting at such meetings. According to the methodology of the evaluation of integrity of candidates for deputies, deputy discrepancy criterion is even a single violation of the principle of personal voting. Thus, Vyacheslav Kirilenko A., according to the Movement Honestly, does not meet the criteria.

During 2011 was carried out 82 morning and evening plenary sessions of Parliament, for which the official web site of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, the available data written registration deputies. According to these data, the deputies of Ukraine Vyacheslav Kirilenko A. attended by 69 morning and evening plenary sessions of Parliament, ie 84% of the plenary sessions of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, conducted in 2011.

In 2011 MP Vyacheslav Kirilenko A. was a member of the Committee on Culture and Spirituality. According to minutes of meetings of the Committee during 2011 were held 25 meetings of the Committee. Vyacheslav A. Kirilenko was present at 11 meetings of the Committee, ie 44% of all Committee meetings held in 2011.

According to the methodology of evaluating candidates integrity, mismatch criterion is the presence during 2011 to less than 75% of the plenary sessions of Parliament or less than 75% of the meetings of Council that was people’s deputy of Ukraine. Thus, according to the Movement Honestly, Vyacheslav A. Kirilenko does not meet the criteria.”

Why not someone like Andriy Parybin, who whilst equally unconvincing as a politician, at least turns up to work more often than not.

Two Party leaders, regardless of their political records must naturally feature in any United Opposition electioneering ad.  But surely the other 2 parties can put up recognisable politicians who turn up to work, are not seen as corrupt, allow their voting cards to vote when they are not present at a vote, don’t fiddle their expenses and are generally transparent about their work inside (if not outside) the RADA.

Why go with those who many, just like I did, know full well the serious weaknesses of Sobolev and Kyrylenko?  Which campaign advisor has allowed these two to be part of the repeatedly televised electioneering on behalf of the United Opposition?

Quite simply – Could do better (and I wish they would do better)!


Si ventus non servierit accipe remis (If the wind will not serve, take to the oars) – Lobbying in Ukraine

July 24, 2012

It has to be said, my Latin is somewhat rusty, so my apologies to anybody reading this whose Latin is in a far better state than my own.  However, when it comes to lobbying in Ukraine, si ventus non servierit accipe remis (if the wind will not serve, take to the oars) seems quite appropriate.

Now we all have our own views on lobbying.  How one man sees lobbying, another sees as advocacy.  There would be, and is, nothing wrong with it no matter how you view it – as long as it is done transparently from a public perspective.  After all, lobbying/advocacy is nothing more than pressing one side of an issue with those we elected to make decisions on our behalf in a democracy.  It also serves those we elect to hear, quite forcefully at times if necessary, a full range of views from third parties with (or without) vested interests in any decision they may make.

We have to recognise that ministers given a certain portfolio in any government are normally not experts in the department they are charged with managing.  Just how many academic experts occupy governmental positions commensurate with their knowledge in any government in any nation?  Ergo, they need to listen to the advice of experts, think-tanks, NGOs, lobbyists et al and consider that advice, whether it is in line with the general political thinking of their party or not.

Now here I shall lament they ceding of the intellectual ground of genuinely A-political academia to the bias of left or right leaning (and funded) think-tanks who have wasted no time in filling the void left by the underfunded independent academia.  To me a particularly sad and on occasion quite dangerous state of affairs allowing politicians to cite think-tank X (funded by people of a similar political leaning as said minister) to give any quite bizarre decision some form of justification and legitimacy in the public realm – even when it is quite obviously incredibly flawed and a desperately poor decision.

Nevertheless, the key issue from a public perspective is transparency.  By who, what, why, when, where and how does this lobbying occur?

In Ukraine, civil society/academia, its energy, focus, collective state of mind, and general attitude for the past decade seems to have been fairly consistent and scores very well on most international polls when it comes to uninhibited functioning.  That is all very well and good, but it doesn’t mean that any government has ever listened to them.  In fact I would suggest there have been very few victories of note as far as NGOs are concerned under any Ukrainian government past or present.

Generally statements from NGOs are either supportive or unsupportive of a government decision (sometimes accompanied by a caveat of caution), but rarely does there ever seem to be a case of a governmental policy changing course due to lobbying/advocacy due to a third party – particularly civil society/NGOs.

There is also the issue of (equal) access.  Some individuals in government are notoriously difficult to access.  In fact there are incidents known to me personally, where access to ministers have been sought and the door firmly closed, as no money was offered to “facilitators” to open the ministerial door, until foreign embassies stepped in on behalf of certain parties and within a week, the doors were opened – gratis.  That has occurred under the past and current government.  A case of si ventus non servierit accipe remis indeed!

So how can Ukraine overcome the lobbying issue when it comes to transparency?  Firstly it would need to pass a law or amend the RADA code of conduct to enforce a publicly available lobbying register that covered all meetings with all official third party bodies.  (Of course that won’t cover all lobbying as much could still take place covertly via “accidental” meetings at a dinner party or a stolen 10 minutes at a social gathering, but it is a start.)

Alternatively, a collective register of lobbyists who state how many times they have had access to, or been denied access to, relevant politicians.

It should also be made public and published on governmental websites so the public actually know who is being lobbied by whom and which lobbyists seem to get more time than others with Minister X or Y.  This would address the issue of equity of access and hopefully remove the need for foreign embassies to engineer the opening of doors that should reasonably be expected to be open anyway.

Now there maybe times when such lobbying, whilst interesting to the public, may not be in the public interest to advertise.  There is a distinction between “pubic interest” and “interesting to the public”.  It may be that the who, or the what or the why will need to be more opaque than would normally be expected, but such incidents are surely the exception rather than the rule and should necessarily be recorded as transparently as possible.

Such a public register will at the very least help a little in removing the perception of governments and/or specific ministers being “for sale” as far as decisions they make are made and more importantly, will help remove the “facilitators” who hold the keys to access to decision makers at no small fee it has to be said.

It seems like a reasonable policy to me, albeit in need of further thought and refinement.  It would probably have the backing of some decision makers too – but probably not enough – and thus for this concept to become a reality one suspects that the wind will not serve, and those in favour of greater transparency in lobbying will have to take up those Latin oars!

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