Archive for October, 2012

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Внимание “Зеленые” НПО Украины

October 31, 2012

Если когда-либо руководство были идиотами  для окружающей среды и обращения с отходами НПО и для гражданского общества в Украине это тут.

Вся миссия и стратегия, точки для сторонников и методологии, изложенные в простых терминах.

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OSCE statement on the Ukrainian elections – and what now?

October 30, 2012

Of all the election reports and statements made by the numerous monitoring groups, as I have written before, the statements and reports of ODIHR/OSCE are those that count, historically at least, in the forming of the EU mindset towards recognition – or not.

Here is the “morning after” statement.

Nothing surprising in there to be honest.  Ms Tymoshenko and Mr Lutsenko not taking part was cited amongst numerous issues – as has been the EU position from the start, PECs and DECs, Prime Minister Azarov’s actions in Odessa electioneering on behalf of PoR, constituency seat shenanigans etc.,  all the issues I have commented upon over the past months here and elsewhere, tweeted about, and discussed with long term election observers, as these issues were always going to be raised.

The final report in a month or so will be interesting not only as the definitive report, but it will also contain recommendations for the next elections – and that happens to be the presidential elections in 2015.

Nevertheless, regardless of final reports, critiques and recommendations, the results will stand anyway, thus internally and internationally, all will have to deal with the current administration again, very much unchanged – as expected.

As I have written before, Ukrainian EU relations will now worsen before they get better.

The next major highlighted date on the calendar where significant change is possible (but not probable) will be the ECfHR ruling over Ms Tymoshenko in which it is almost a nailed on certainty her release will be demanded.  The caveat to that being the next major date depends upon whether the PoR/Communist coalition will manage to gather enough splitters from the opposition parties and independents to gain a constitution changing majority between now and 17th December when the new parliament sits for the first time.

If Tymoshenko is released, which may or may not happen, then EU/Ukraine relations may improve.  There are definitely some within the PoR oligarchy and government (Khoroshkovskiy and Poroshenko to name but two) that will be happy to see her released to get the DCFTA and AA signed and ratified in return.  In fact a number of the PoR oligarchy may look to remove Yanukovych and back others in 2015 if Tymoshenko is not released when the ECfHR ruling arrives.

Probably the most interesting thing of the entire OSCE press conference was the Q&A session afterwards, including some completely ill-informed and bizarre questions from the international press corps displaying a complete lack of understanding over certain issues relating to ODIHR/OSCE.

Possibly the most poignant, and definitely the shortest question from that Q&A was this:

Q:  “Ukraine election – pass or fail?”

A:  “No black and white answer.”

I suggest that given the contents of the ODIHR statement they were making against the OSCE framework used to monitor all elections within the OSCE members, plus the considerable experience of the panel, a black and white answer as to the “pass or fail” question was within their ability to answer.

However I can understand the reasons for giving such an ambiguous and diplomatic response.  Their task is to monitor and report on elections and make recommendations for improvements.  Whether the elections will be deemed black, white or grey in the sense of pass or fail, is a matter for governments and other entities that deal with Ukraine on the basis of the ODHIR/OSCE report.

The ODHIR/OSCE ambiguity when answering such an closed question from the press allows “wiggle room” for the politicians that will still have to deal with Ukraine.  That wiggle room immediately being exploited by Mr Shulz, President of the European Parliament as displayed here, and by Baroness Ashton and Stefan Fule here.

Both statements, it has to be said, far more considered than the immediate media headlines will be no doubt.

In the meantime……ahem…… Ukraine will take over the chair of OSCE in 2013 – regardless of the shortcomings made of the Ukrainian elections by OSCE.  There is irony in that somewhere!

Oh and Ms Tymoshenko is on hunger strike – again!

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Whilst waiting for the dust to settle – The Gender Gap

October 29, 2012

Whilst waiting for the dust to settle from yesterday’s elections, here is an interesting survey from the World Economic Forum relating to “The Gender Gap.”

When hovering the mouse over nations, it appears Ukraine seems to do rather well in comparison to EU CEE nations and a few EU Mediterranean nations as well.

A bit surprising – but that is the purpose of such surveys I suppose – to challenge preconceptions (or confirm them).

Tomorrow, we’ll start to sift through the wreckage (or not) of Sunday’s Ukrainian parliamentary elections.

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Election Day Ukraine (How did the auction for votes go on VK?)

October 28, 2012

Well today is election day in Ukraine (and also my mother-in law’s birthday) – thus a short post as I am expected elsewhere.

However I will leave you to ponder just how much these people advertising their votes for sale on VK (a social forum similar to facebook) will have actually been paid for their votes.

$20, $30, $50 for your vote?  Who got a figure they were happy with and who was bought off cheaply?

Entrepreneurial spirit and all that eh?   (Depressed sigh!)

Meanwhile, I wish an incident free day (and night) to all the long term observers with whom I have spoken to over the past few months – often at great length – and await the flurry of final reports with interest.  My email in-box eagerly awaits the final reports from all those I spoke with and promised to send me copies.

Saying that,  if historical precedent is followed, the only report that will count as far as EU recognition of these elections is concerned, free and fair or not, is that produced by ODIHR/OSCE.

Nevertheless, I look forward to reading the reports of those observers from all the observer missions I have met who have worked very hard over the past few months, covered a huge area on less than optimal roads, attended countless political rallies, spoken with numerous candidates in all manner of circumstances day and night, monitored the often mind-numbing media and listed electoral violations great or small where ever they saw them.

After so many months here, I am certain they will all be happy to get home again some time next week.  No doubt I will see some of them again in 2015, and quite possibly I will see some of them again far earlier than that.

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Renditions, Spooks and Rhetoric – Another incident in Ukraine

October 27, 2012

Oh dear.  The international community are claiming to be in shock that Leonid Razovozzhayev managed to get spirited away from Ukraine where he was attempting to claim asylum, and reappeared in Russia some days later telling a quite harrowing tale of abduction, torture and false confessions.

There seems no point in going into too much detail over who Mr Razvozzhayev is, other than to say he is a very vocal critic of the Kremlin and Mr Putin, that when the heat became too much crossed the border into Ukraine and was seeking to claim asylum.

Suffice to say, according to his own account, having been directed to  The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society by the UN High Commission for Refugees in Kyiv, en route he was bundled into a van, handcuffed and had his legs chained to his hands, was hooded in a balaclava and then immediately driven  for 5 hours, crossing into Russia.

That he was renditioned/kidnapped (take you pick of the word you prefer) from a street in Kyiv would seem to be the only involvement that Ukraine has in the incident as far as his version of events goes.  He makes no claims of Ukrainian collusion in this act and to be fair, why would he?  It is not an act that would require Ukrainian collusion to pull it off.

Lest we forget a similar case in April 2011 relating to Dirar Abu Sisi which I commented on several times.  (Indeed a link heavy sentence if ever there was one!)

Mr Sisi managed to get spirited away on a train to Kyiv and ended up in an Israeli jail.

The net result a formal demarche by Ukraine to Israel and nothing more – What more, realistically, could be done?

Quite what we are supposed to expect to differ as far as Ukrainian reaction goes in the case of Mr Rozvozzhayev, I am not sure.  If Mossad can enter Ukraine, remove a Palestinian from a train and fly him back to an Israeli jail under the noses of the Ukrainian security services, then it is far easier for the Russians to simply take a Russian citizen from the streets of Kyiv and drive them a few hours over the border into Russia under those very same noses.

That is not to say the Ukrainian security services are necessarily inept in either case.  Neither the Russians nor Mossad are going to involve them in acts such as these – they have no reason to.  Neither would Ukraine want to know.  Far better to deal with the fall out than to actually be involved.

Particularly so when both renditioned/kidnapped in these cases are known to the UN.

Naturally so close to an election the United Opposition are claiming Ukrainian security forces involvement , which even Mr Razvozzhayev is not claiming, but that has more to do with hoping to score political points than the realities of state sponsored “spookery”.

It can hardly come as a surprise to anybody that there are foreign agents acting within the territory of Ukraine, particularly the United Opposition who were in power only a few years ago – unless they missed all the national security meetings or didn’t get the security memos.

So aside from a severe disregard for Ukrainian sovereignty by the Russians in this case, and the Israeli’s last year, it is very difficult to point a credible finger at Ukraine for doing anything nefarious in either case.  Particularly so when talking about two nations like Russia and Israel as the perpetrators of these forced repatriations.  Neither could be classed as “beginners” when it comes to such antics, or see the need for them to seek Ukrainian assistance in their operations of this type.

Can we and should we expect anything more than a few internal questions that will come up blank and possibly a formal demarche from Ukraine to Russia?  Realistically, I doubt it.  What other options does it have?

Can Ukraine be held responsible? – No, not from the account given by Mr Razvozzheyev relating to his own abduction and forced repatriation.

This is a case that demands answers from Russia – just as the Sisi case demands answers from Israel.  Few if any answers will be found in Ukraine.

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Pre-judging the Ukrainian elections – The Tymoshenko lens

October 26, 2012

It is no secret to those who read this blog that I have on several occasions during this parliamentary election period, been asked to speak with LTOs (long term observers) from several international monitoring organisations with people in Odessa.

Whilst large sections of recent blog posts cover much of what has been said, lack of political ideology, lack of policy, poor strategy on behalf of certain parties, who is doing what in contravention of election laws etc., not all of what I have discussed for hours with these observes has appeared here – and neither will it – ever.

This is the second set of elections such organisations have sought me out for comment for official reports, and certain “off the record” comments made must remain “off the record” if they are to seek me out again in elections yet to come.

However, the object of this post is to view the Ukrainian elections through a different lens.  An EU lens to be exact.

That EU lens may or may not be tainted by what the election observers report in their final assessments.  As we all know, “political will” has a habit of being blind to reality when it suits.

Here is the latest OSCE interim report and here is the latest, second_interim_report_2012 from CSEOM.  Neither are exactly damning, although both raise the same electioneering issues some of which may very well have serious repercussions on election day itself.

Like so many matters of importance, election observers can only include in their reports what they personally observe.  Hearsay evidence is not evidence – and quite rightly – even if by excluding second hand/hearsay evidence a very ugly picture is sanitised in the process.

Thus, on the basis of what the international observers do observe personally, the results should influence the lens through which those their reports reach actually peer through.  That is indeed the theory.

Now much can change between now and election day on Sunday.  The PECs and DECs may very well get some severe criticism that will radically change the final reports, condemning the elections to a farce.  However if the PECs and DECs manage to do a fairly competent job, the question arises will the elections be seen as free and fair via what is included, rather than excluded, from the international observer reports?

A long time prior to the electioneering, there were serious noises coming from the EU that if Ms Tymoshenko and Mr Lutsenko did not take part due to their jailing, via below par international judicial systems, the elections would not be deemed free and fair – regardless of whether they were technically free and fair or not.

Despite that threat, both have remained in jail.

The last opinion polls prior to the legal purdah over opinion polls being published so close to the election had Ms Tymoshenko’s party polling behind both Party of Regions and UDAR.

Undoubtedly, the EU takes note of the polls.

If only 15% of the nation will actually vote for her party, then naturally 85% of the nation have no desire to see her or her party in power as a result of their votes.  Thus, is viewing the Ukrainian elections via the “Tymoshenko lens” a viable thing for the EU to do?

Should some very robust positions by those looking via the “Tymoshenko lens” change within the EU given the polling figures?

Going by the last released polls, more Ukrainians would want to see Party of Regions continue to run the country than any other political party.  No party has the majority of the nation behind them, but that is not in itself either  unusual or peculiar to Ukraine when governments are formed after elections.   Whether the polls are accurate or not, and what gravity to give polls – I have written about before.  

If Yulia Tymoshenko and her party are as unpopular as the polls would suggest, does keeping the “Tymoshenko lens” firmly to the EU eye when viewing these elections therefore ignore Ukrainian public opinion?

Some recent statements from a meeting of EU leaders past and present that took place in Berlin on 24th October are as follows:

Guenter Verheugen, EU Commissioner for Enlargement 1999 – 2004 – “We should not allow the Tymoshenko case to decide our future relations.”  He also made a very long-winded case that some EU nations are using the Tymoshenko case as a “political instrument” to slow down Ukrainian EU integration.

Former Polish President and current co-leader of the European Parliament’s monitoring mission in Ukraine, Alexander Kwasneiwski:  “While the Tymoshenko case is front and centre, there have been real legal reforms, including a new criminal code”.  He went on to say “Ukraine needs Europe and Europe needs Ukraine”.

Mr Kwasneiwski has a point about reforms.  This year Ukraine has moved up 9 places to 73rd (of 144 evaluated economies) according to the influential World Economic Forum 2012 Report, and according to the World Bank’s 2012 Ease of Doing Business Report, Ukraine moved up 15 places to 137 (of 185 assessed nations).  Not brilliant, but upwardly mobile in no small part due to the reforms taken over the past year.

President of the European Commission 1999 – 2004, Romano Prodi said “Open the door, export democracy and encourage more trade”, going on to say “The Tymoshenko case cannot hinder the future of the country and deeper ties between Europe and Ukraine.  You cannot stop history.  A free and fair election must presage this change.”

Former President of PACE/Council of Europe, Mevlut Cavusoglu stated “The Tymoshenko case overshadows virtually everything, but it should not – the whole country should not be excluded from Europe merely because of Tymoshenko.”  He also went to great lengths to underline that fact that the current election laws under which the elections are taking place were supported by more than 80% of the RADA, including Tymoshenko’s own party.

Probably the most notable comments came from the former Austrian Chancellor, Alfred Gusenbaur who said “If the elections are free and fair, we have to make sure the Association Agreement is signed and ratified successfully.  Europe is dealing with itself at the moment rather than its neighbours.  I say Ukraine should become part of the EU, although this won’t happen overnight.  We should not give up on Ukraine and leave it to Russia.

We used to say Ukraine has to make a choice, but this is not true.  Ukraine has made its choice.  It is us, the EU, who have to make a choice,  We should clearly say that we want Ukraine to become a member of the EU as soon as it meets all necessary standards.”

Thus it appears there are a larger and larger number influential voices within the EU and PACE structures suggesting quite strongly that the issue of Ms Tymoshenko should be seen as exactly that – the issue of Ms Tymoshenko – not the issue with Ukraine.

On many levels they are probably right.  By the time Ukraine ever fully meets the Copenhagen or Maastricht criteria for EU membership, both Ms Tymoshenko and President Yanukovych are likely to be exceptionally elderly, if not pushing up the daisies.

And if the elections are not deemed fair?  The EU still has to deal with the government that will be formed no matter how faulty or manipulated the system was that puts it there.  After all, the EU still deals with China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Belarus, Cuba etc – none of which can be said to have free and fair elections or governing bodies legitimised by free and fair public mandate.  Admittedly the Association Agreement probably would not get signed – but it isn’t signed now either.  You would expect the most useful bits of the DCFTA to the EU to somehow splinter off and get signed independently such is political expediency though.

There are issues between the EU and Ukraine that would require on-going cooperation regardless.  Pulling down the iron curtain is not a viable option on so many business, security and policy fronts it would become rather pointless to even try.  The “exceptions” could very well out number the “rule” if that were to be attempted.

It would probably suit both the EU and Ukraine to have these elections deemed free and fair (with necessary critical comment where appropriate) rather than have an additional obstacle put in the way of relations, and through the necessarily strict protocols involved in election monitoring and thus what is included (or not) in reports, if the “Tymoshenko lens” is removed from the EU eye, maybe, just maybe, that may very well just be what happens.

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Freedom House partners new Ukrainian anti-corruption blog

October 25, 2012

Bloggers against Corruption –  That seems fairly straight to the point as far as website titles go.

It is the latest civil society platform for bloggers to bring to the attention of others, corruption great and small – be it local, regional or national in Ukraine.

The platform has been created by the Institute of Mass Information in partnership with Freedom House and is designed, one has to presume, to fill in the gaps that the local “traditional media” miss when it comes to public awareness of corruption in their area, or to give a larger readership to those that don’t miss it.

Not that corruption is overlooked by Ukrainian local media, bloggers or local on-line forums – it isn’t.  In particular, both forums and bloggers are indeed quite feisty and blunt when talking about corruption in their localities and nationally.  – But there is a need for a high profile platform dedicated only to corruption with content generated by way of “citizen reporting”/blogging.

Other sites exist that do cover corruption in and amongst what they publish – Maidan.org for example, occasionally touch on the subject.  (That said, I have issues with Maidan, as on several occasions they have used what I have written without even bothering to notify me, let alone asking me, despite what I write obviously being copyright.  If it was not for readers here who also read Maiden sending me links to my words on their website I would never have known.)

There are however “issues” when it comes to such a platform, particularly when writing about corruption and those involved in it.  Naturally there needs to be far more than hearsay evidence, spurious claims and rumour – lest we enter the realms of libel and defamation.

Now a clever word-smith can make subtle inferences and literary suggestions to a reader without crossing the line of libel when direct first person evidence, documents, quotations or media footage is absent.  Anything more than subtle inference however would create legal issues in the absence of hard facts.

The Ukrainian Internet is a truly free realm that is in no way politically policed or censored when it comes the to content of forums or blogs.  Thus tremendous care must be used when citing from other sources that does not come first person from the author – if the reader gives the author any legitimacy and credibility to accept their first person accounts at all.  The Ukrainian media is not exactly always a bastion of professionalism either.

So this brings us to matters of “probability” when it comes to content that is based purely on inference and suggestion without first person experience or properly cited evidence.

Peer review is a very subjective issue even amongst the scientific community where little care can given by those who review if something is “probable”.

To quote Richard Horton of the British medical journal “The Lancet” – “The mistake, of course, is to have thought that peer review was any more than a crude means of discovering the acceptability – not validity – of a new finding.  Editors and scientists alike insist on the pivotal importance of peer review.  We portray peer review to the public as a quasi-sacred process that helps to make science our most objective truth teller.  But we know that the system of peer review is biased, unjust, unaccountable, incomplete, easily fixed, often insulting, usually ignorant, occasionally foolish and frequently wrong.”

Well quite!

And if that is the opinion of the editor of Britain’s foremost medical journal, the content of any blog relating to corruption needs to have the bar set extremely high – because “probable” does not mean it is “factual ” – libel and defamation await in the gap between the two.  In short peer review or acceptance that something was said or done in all probability, rather than fact and validity over claims of corruption, is not a necessarily good foundation for a new civil platform.

The concept and necessity of this platform are undoubtedly right and required.  How high the bar for content and contribution is set and maintained, remains to be seen –  As does the societal reach this platform will eventually have.

Something to watch with interest as it develops.

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