Archive for September 16th, 2012

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On the fringes – Yalta Annual Meeting

September 16, 2012

Today is the last day of the 9th Yalta Annual Meeting where the great and the good, well a good many politicians and ex-politicians who used to hold high office, attended to talk about global issues, Europe and Ukraine.  Some of them seemingly in that order.

One wonders why so many ex-policy makers attended and why some many current policy makers didn’t.  Let’s be honest, Condi Rice, Gordon Brown, Newt Gingrich et al are hardly in a position to drive policy globally or towards Ukraine when all is said and done.  It could be argued that they can deliver “a message” from those currently in governance using the positions they once held as credibility, but then again, the whole point of ambassadors and diplomatic missions is also to deliver messages (and also report back).

In fact it is very unlikely the current government of the UK would trust Gordon Brown to deliver any kind of message on its behalf, and would quite rightly use Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Ukraine, Simon Smith, to do so.

In short one suspects Gordon Brown was at the Yalta Meeting because Mr Pinchuk paid for him to be there as a guest speaker and he accepted because it gave him a reasonably high international platform to air his views on global issues amongst other ex-policy makers of his day with a bit of necessary media coverage.

That is not to say Gordon Brown would have had nothing worth listening too just because he is no longer in high office.  In fact often when free from the shackles of high office more passion for a certain topic, and less diplomacy when it comes to treading on toes, can ensue.

Then of course there are the numerous business leaders who attend hoping, more often than not, to lobby for favourable outcomes or make new connections to exploit later.

However, there were a number of current policy makers present.  The Turkish PM, Carl Bildt the Swedish FM, Stefan Fule, the EU Commissioner responsible for expansion and the European Neighbourhood Policy and Elmar Brok who chairs the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee.

In short, from the EU there was a representative of the European Commission in the form of Stefan Fule, the European Council in Mr Bildt and the European Parliament with Elmar Brok – all of whom are looking on as the EU’s EaP falls ever increasingly into a shambles.

Belarus is a basket case, Azerbaijan is awash with oil money and with an authoritarian leadership that is getting ever more deaf to the EU and can’t be bought with carrots and has no real sticks that it can be beaten with amongst the EU soft power tool kit.  Georgia, whose next elections are a few weeks away, is far from democratic and the vote will not be free or fair from what friends in Georgia are saying relating to the direct and inferred threats they have received to vote for the current government for fear of losing their jobs or having businesses closed.  Saakashvili is a moderniser not a democratic light in an otherwise dark region when all is said and done.  And then there is Ukraine which works and will continue to work on the Arbiter/rental society system I wrote about not long ago.

To be fare to the EU, it is now trying to work with civil society as well as directly with government.  Unfortunately for the EU, Ukrainian civil society lives in a bubble even further removed from the public than the politicians more often than not.  Eventually it will work out that communicating directly with Ukrainians without intermediaries is the only thing that will be remotely effective.

Anyway, on the fringes (as is the current buzz phrase for meetings happening outside the main framework of an event amongst specific parties)  the EU troika delivered its standard message to President Yanukovych.  I say standard message as it is the same message he has heard many times before and has consistently acknowledged and then disregarded.  Aristotle once said “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”  That can also be said of an intellectual pygmy, a retard, a belligerent pillock and a Ukrainian politician when it comes to lack of acceptance and the net result.

However, the message this time was slightly different in so much as there is obviously now a recognition that  Ms Tymoshenko is not getting out of jail any time soon.

One has to suspect that when the ECfHR does rule in her favour and expresses its desire for her release, just like the current 24 ECfHR rulings against the UK, such matters will sit for some time awaiting actioning.  By the time any such judgment is actioned, she will have already been convicted of tax evasion, money laundering etc, thus meaning she will be freed and her record expunged for misuse of power, but remain in jail anyway.  Despite any preaching and screaming from the human rights pulpit the EU may make relating to the eventual ECfHR ruling and its speedy actioning by Ukraine, so many of its member states take so long to action ECfHR rulings against themselves, they have lost any moral authority.

In most previous statements made by “the EU” over further EU/Ukrainian integration, free and fare elections have been directly linked with Ms Tymoshenko and Mr Lutsenko being allowed to run in the October elections.  That is now simply not going to happen and has been recognised.  Previous statements from the European Parliament in particular, have stated the election simply will not be seen as free and fare without their participation.

The problem when publicly making such statements is that if there is no way Ms Tymoshenko was going to be released prior to any elections, then what incentive would there be to hold free and fare elections if they were to be immediately dismissed?  May as well blatantly cheat.

It must also be apparent to the EU that domestic and foreign polling companies currently have the ruling coalition with sufficient public support to continue, and thus without any cheating, after the election they will be faced with the same people they are currently engaging with, even if the ruling majority has been reduced somewhat.

And so now we have a slightly different message being delivered:

“At the meeting today we have stressed the following:  There should be no room for a pause in the EU-Ukraine relations and no room for compromise on values. The issue of selective justice needs to be addressed in order to move ahead to a new level of our relations through the Association Agreement. 

We regret that the consequences of the current situation will prevent two important leaders of the opposition from standing in parliamentary elections following trials which did not respect international standards as regards fair, transparent and independent legal process.

The legitimacy of the future parliament will depend on the conduct of the elections which need to be free and fair, in accordance with high international standards. In this context we stressed the importance of the freedom of the media.”

This statement would seem to clearly separate the free and fare elections and the legitimacy of any new parliament, from the current plight of Ms Tymoshenko & Co, and infers at least, reasonably free and fare elections without her participation, may still be recognised as such.

Now it has to be said that the European Commission, European Council and European Parliament are 3 completely different animals.  According to those I know in the Brussels diplomatic bubble, the European Commission are likely to be more accommodating in separating the mechanics of free and fare elections from the plight of Tymoshenko.

I think that maybe wise, given it allows them some wiggle room with Kyiv whilst knowing the European Parliament in particular, will make its own statements of condemnation.  In short it would allow the European Commission some room to continue engagement with Kyiv, with or without the European Parliament’s blessing.  A good cop/bad cop routine in what is very likely to become a more, rather than less, strained relationship almost entirely working not at the level of preferred positions, nor interests, but only at the most basic “needs” level of engagement unless there is a change of circumstances for Tymoshenko and Lutsenko.

In Ukraine, a free and fare election equates to about the same media time, and I have been monitoring that on several major channels, and equal opportunity to bribe the voters with gifts, free food, sudden acts of philanthropy etc by all parties.  That process is well under way in Odessa by all the major parties and by some candidates for constituency seats outside the party lists.  I have witnessed it personally several times in the past two weeks, just as I have in all previous elections over the many years I have been here – including those that have been internationally recognised as “free and fare”.

Whether such acts actually get people to vote one way or another is hard to tell – after all gifts arrive from many parties so it’s a bit like Christmas – and just like Christmas, it is a tradition of all elections in Ukraine.

Interestingly, President Yanukovych states that all EU concerns will be addressed after the election.  He did not say how or how soon after the election either.  More empty rhetoric quite possibly, or simply the imposition of tax evasion convictions at the expunging of misuse of office after the ECfHR ruling is what he meant.

I suppose we will see what happens after 28th October.

Now, after saying all that – it wasn’t all work – there was some play…….

…..as this photo would seem to underline!

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