Archive for April, 2013

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I’m having a week off!

April 27, 2013

Having written almost daily for the past 5 years, I feel it is time to have a week off – partly because of circumstances beyond my control, due to my participation in  a discussion of the “Dark Side of Civil Society” – and yes there is a dark side (at least potentially in some cases, actual in others) – and partly because I need to temporarily severe the umbilical chord between the computer and myself just to prove to myself that I can.

After all, nothing truly unexpected or even remotely surprising is likely to come by way of effective policy or political movement from the feckless Ukrainian political class between now an 5th or 6th May when I shall reconnect my umbilical hardware and carry on where I left off.

Thus – I hope – there will be little by way of blogging, twitter or other social media from me for the next 7 days.

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An aligning of the planets? Tymoshenko

April 26, 2013

Recently I seem to have mentioned the circus that is and surrounds Yulia Tymoshenko far more than normal.

That is perhaps understandable given some EU leaders insistence upon her release to guarantee the signing of the EU/Ukraine Association Agreement in November at the Vilnius Summit.  Other EU leaders would prefer to march on and sign the agreement whether she be free or not.  A not uncommon state division over policy EU foreign policy affairs it has to be said.

A few days ago, I wrote about the prospects of a Tymoshenko release after the official recognition of an all female MP plea, during the Orthodox Easter and why such timing would be no bad thing.

As I wrote, that petition was sent to the Pardons Committee.

Since then Prime Minister Azarov has stated that her pardoning cannot occur until all pending court cases have been heard – which is completely untrue.  She can of course be pardoned for those offences of which she has been found guilty already – albeit other cases in the judicial arena are bound to carry on until guilt or innocence is found.

For Prime Minister Azarov, it make make bureaucratic sense for all her pending cases to come to whatever conclusion they may prior to any pardoning – but that is not how the rule of law, Pardons Committee nor human rights work.  More to the point, the Prime Minister does not consider or grant pardons and therefore his opinion should be seen only as that – despite his position.

The system indeed allows for her to be pardoned at any time for the offences she has been found guilty of – regardless of any pending legal proceedings despite what Mr Azarov states.

In fact, the Pardons Committee is due to consider the aforementioned all female MP plea on 29th April, and following on from yesterday’s entry where I pondered just how fast ECfHR fast-tracked cases actually move, I now discover that the ECfHR ruling is supposedly due on 30th April – giving Ukraine the opportunity to grant her pardon prior to what is likely to be a rather pointed judgment from the ECfHR in favour of her release over procedural issues that fall well below the expected European normative.

In short Ukraine internally has the opportunity to recommend and grant her release immediately prior to the ECfHR ruling,  thus taking much the sting and media interest out of that particular tail, whilst also being seen by much of the domestic audience to meet the symbolic motivations due to the Orthodox Easter.

Of course regardless of the Pardons Committee recommendations (if in favour of a release), or the ECfHR ruling, Ms Tymoshenko may remain in jail anyway pending any Ukrainian appeal against said ruling.

Nevertheless, perhaps the planets are indeed aligning for an Orthodox Easter pardon – which I have mentioned many times, would not surprise me should it occur.

That said, as I have written before, if Tymoshenko is not released before or during the RADA summer recess then I seriously doubt that she will be before 2016 – thus it is unlikely any deal will be signed and everyone will have to resort to Plan B – the quiet implementation of parts of the DCFTA most expedient to both sides.

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Fast tracked? ECfHR ruling on Tymoshenko

April 25, 2013

A very short thought for the day as I have just had an operation on my right eye and currently can only see with one – which changes my perspective quite literally, notwithstanding any desire to write something lengthy.

Nevertheless, to ponder today as I did on the operating table, as certain leaders within the EU are still insisting that Ms Tymoshenko be released before any signing of the Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine – and with Ukraine having stated many times publicly it will honor any ECfHR ruling – one has to ask why the alleged fast-tracking of her case and any  subsequent ruling seems to be anything but fast?

This is surely the biggest possible almost politically neutral lever to expedite her release given Ukraine’s public statements that it will comply.

It must be terribly slow for those standard pending cases at the ECfHR if her case is an example of being “fast-tracked”!

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Is working in Ukraine as a foreigner about to get easier?

April 24, 2013

As it is my umteenth anniversary today, and thus via the “ball and chain” and the goodwill of Ukraine, I have permanent residency here, this entry really does not affect me in any way.

In fact it doesn’t affect anybody I know either.

It will undoubtedly affect some readers however – both currently and in the future.

It seems that the State Employment Centre has made assurances that the current (and no doubt overly bureaucratic) systems for granting work permits and temporary resident status (for the purposes of work) are going to be simplified – requiring far less documentation than currently is required – especially so as far as renewals/extensions are concerned, and which will subsequently be gratis if granted for those who have navigated the bureaucratic circus before.

They also state that consideration is being given to raise the duration of such permits from 1 year to 3 years.

A particularly good idea should the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement and DCFTA actually be signed – as not only will foreign confidence increase (to a greater or lesser degree) relating to entering the Ukrainian market at an SME/entrepreneurial level, those who want to do so, may actually stand a reasonable chance of navigating the bureaucratic hurdles that prevent so many currently.

It is necessary of course, to see just how the bureaucracy will be reduced – if at all – and I suspect not at all, other than the more expedited time line requirement for the bureaucracy to function and process applications.

Which documents will be subsequently scrapped from the current list will be far more interesting, as currently some of the documentation required is the barrier to entry – rather than the business environment itself!

Best guess thus far is here.

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Is Poland about to upset the Svoboda Party?

April 23, 2013

Well it appears that the power of the Party of Regions knows no territorial limits.

So powerful is it that it can apparently influence the parliaments of neighbouring countries over historically controversial  issues.

I am referring to the proposal currently passing through the Polish Sejm which seeks to declare the Organsiation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) and the SS Galicia Division criminal organisations that committed genocide against ethnic Poles during World War II.

The Svoboda Party seems to believe that the Party of Regions is behind this move within the Polish parliament.

Naturally the PoR will revel in this as much as Svoboda will rile against it – after all, how often do you get to see your nationalist political opponents heroes cast as genocidal war criminals by an EU State?

But does anybody actually believe the Svoboda spin that the PoR are powerful enough to sway the Polish Sejm over such an issue – a long held emotive issue for the Polish at that?

No, I don’t either.

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Another vote of “No Confidence”? What did Einstein state about insanity?

April 22, 2013

Following the United Opposition’s 0/4 disastrous failure in the RADA last week relating to their demanded resolutions, due to selecting battles they simply could not win – with one possible exception in which they conspired amongst themselves to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory – we could possibly expect a change of tactics, if not rhetoric?

Alas it seems not.

Following the comprehensive failure in the vote of “No Confidence” – managing to get only 190 votes of the 226 needed to be successful – Arseney Yatseniuk, leader of the Batkivshchyna Party immediately stated “We plan to submit an issue of non-confidence to the government again.”

face palm

Where are those additional 36 votes required to win a “No Confidence” vote going to come from?

Is Albert Einstein not attributed to the quote “Insanity:  doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?

There is perhaps a slim chance of a successful vote of “No Confidence” should the EU Association Agreement not get signed at the Vilnius Summit in November – but it would be just that – a slim chance.

In all probability, regardless of a successful or otherwise Vilnius Summit, and despite the United Opposition rhetoric, the next presidential elections will not happen before 2015.  If Yanukovych was then unseated, that is then the best opportunity currently foreseeable, where there could well be a realistic chance of winning a “No Confidence” vote in the government.

Spending the next 2 years wandering around the country inferring “Yes we were bad when we were in power, but these people are worse – so return us to power (early)”, is not the best use of the time available to you and does nothing to make the United Opposition a more credible governance alternative.

Note to the United Opposition leadership – If I have any bias in Ukrainian politics, however slight it may be, it is towards the opposition.  It remains slight because you are engaging in ineffective populist political showboating and hollow grandstanding that will lead to public failures time and time again, when what you need to do is formulate alternative political, economic and social policies communicated consistently prior to the presidential elections in 2015.

Policies that clearly inform me not how you will be a  different set of faces governing the country, but how you will be better than the current president and current majority at governing the country.  I want to know what policies I can expect you to attempt to fulfill, how and how much it will cost if you are successful.

That needs to start now!

Am I doomed to have my “face palm” set in stone like the poor chap above due to your seemingly purposeful strategy of wanting to appear completely feckless and credibility-less – or are you actually going to throw me a small raft of qualitative policy that can be effectively implemented, to I can cling to in order to salvage some hope?

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Ukrainian civil society and the media – A bit of a mess

April 21, 2013

Not for the first time I turn my eye to Ukrainian civil society – in particular the issue of a perceived need for a specific law guaranteeing the right to peaceful assembly and protest (which is indeed guaranteed by the Constitution).

Regular readers will know, so many times have I written about Ukrainian civil society that if I were to link to each entry there would be dozens of links in this entry.  For those who don’t want to enter “Civil Society” in the search facility of this blog and be faced by the numerous entries that will be listed, a suitably median sample of my thoughts on Ukrainian civil society can be found here.

Naturally the problems listed in that link – and others in many other entries – continue to exist within Ukrainian civil society.

Excluding the Orthodox Church as a civil society actor, civil society still operates with about 5% of the Ukrainian populous taking part – an almost static percentage since 1991 and Ukrainian independence.

Ukraine still has far less civil society actors per capita than the vast majority of Europe – something that is hardly surprising considering civil society’s inability to capture and expand public participation over the past 22 years.

Thus civil society remains further away from the society it purports to represent than the political class does both in overall presence by way of meeting the public face to face frequently (if at all) and also by self-projection via the media to the public.  A few clever lines and quotations on Interfax Ukraine or a brief appearance on Inter or Kanal 5 television channels etc, are not likely – and have actually proven not to – increase the Ukrainian public participation in civil society.

It is seen – and acts like – an elitist bubble serving either its own, or its financial donors interests first and foremost – both reasons not endearing to a cynical and distrustful Ukrainian public.  An image not helped in any way by the clever thinking, quotations and TV appearances coming across as an “adult to child” lecture to the population, rather than the “adult to adult” conversation it necessarily needs to be when purporting to represent society over issues the political class demonstratively fails to respond to.

In short, the visibility of civil society in every day Ukrainian life for almost all 46 million Ukrainians is practically zero – I don’t even remember the last time I saw a civil society actor raising awareness of its existence or cause in the streets, let alone engaging in something as basic as face to face public opinion surveys in relation to support – or not – for its cause.

To the contrary, walk along any high street in the UK and you can expect to be accosted by Help the Aged, Amnesty International or any number of international, national or local civil society actors.

However, this is not the issue I raise today.  I have historically written that NGOs and civil society actors will often turn on each other – for various reasons.

This may be because they are a pseudo-NGO that is in fact a government sponsored entity thrown into the civil society mix in order to back the government line and therefore give the government line some form of civil society credibility, or they have simply allowed themselves to become too close to government to advance their cause (even glacially) to the point they deem it necessary to attack other civil society actors who may begin to gain the government ear to which they have become accustomed, or simply to rubbish competitors in the fight for funding.

With this in mind, one wonders what is going on here, why, to what end and who is ultimately behind it?

This statement in relation to human rights and freedom of peaceful assembly legislation may actually be correct in its content relating to the options on the legislative table – “According to UHHRU, best of all meeting these standards is the bill supported by the Coordination Council for the Development of Civil Society under the President of Ukraine. The Union believes that it may serve as a basis for the successful achievement of the purpose set by human rights activists.

Just because it comes from the presidential circles doesn’t make it necessarily bad or something to rally against simply because of the legislative origin.  Good policy and good legislation is just that – whether it comes from the presidential administration, parliamentary majority or parliamentary minority.

And yet this statement follows – “UHHRU called on civil society organizations and activists to stop manipulating its position in relation to the law on freedom of peaceful assembly, and on the media and journalists to take into account that the statements of the initiative For Peaceful Protest have nothing in common with the position of UHHRU.

Which is worse?  A fellow civil society actor with similar goals manipulating the UHHRU position – or the media who seemingly (and unfortunately regularly) are muddying the waters with slip-shod reporting, rather than helping set public opinion by accurately reporting the different and definitive positions of the civil society actors involved?

For me, the media come out of that statement far worse than any competing civil society actor.

As ineffective as civil society in Ukraine generally is, whatever individual actors do say, should at the very least be accurately reported and their positions clearly identified if the media is to fulfill its role in framing public opinion and debate.

Thus, not only is the Ukrainian opposition in a mess as far as lack of policy, leadership etc. is concerned, civil society which would be the next vanguard against any government running amok is seemingly intent not only upon remaining out of touch with society itself, but also engaging in infighting.

A situation nicely topped of with a slipshod 4th estate incapable of reporting on “independent” civil society actors accurately.

Amongst all this, due to the circus now surrounding it, I have almost forgotten about the freedom of assembly legislation and the inherent human rights/liberties issues that should be the only story.

Did you?

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