Archive for April, 2013

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Tymoshenko release probable very soon? Maybe so

April 20, 2013

Two days ago, as my twitter and Facebook followers will have seen, I highlighted this from the presidential website.

It is official recognition from the President that a formal plea from numerous female RADA MPs have petitioned for Tymoshenko’s pardon and the petition has been formally recorded and recognised.

It is not the first petition for her pardon the president has received – there have been many – but it is the first I have seen acknowledged in such a way.

The following day, it was followed by a similar appeal by historical members of the Ukrainian diplomatic corps.

Previously I forecast that Yuri Lutsenko would be released on the occasion of the Orthodox Easter, but he was released 3 weeks earlier than my crystal ball declared.  That said, I made that prediction at the beginning of February, so perhaps it was a little smudged when I gazed in it.

Could it have been so smudged that I mistook the release of Lutsenko for Tymoshenko and yet the timing between 28th April and 5 May will still prove to be accurate?

It certainly wouldn’t be a bad time to do it for numerous reasons, if that is the decision.

Obviously the symbolism of releasing a woman due to an all female petition, together with if not the resurrection of an omnipresent – the rehabilitation (in part or in full) of a foe by a president many consider likes to think of himself as omnipresent, could sit very well with the Orthodox faithful during the Orthodox Easter.

Symbolism aside, the United Opposition are in something of a mess when it comes to leadership and discipline, Kyrylenko resigning as Deputy Leader of the United Opposition yesterday and MPs leaving, and yet another enormous ego in the shape of Tymoshenko’s entering the daily fray would probably prove more divisive than unifying for them in the medium term – possibly immediately.

Particularly so as there will be those dreading her release amongst the United Opposition just as there were Lutsenko’s release – and for good reason when it comes to personal ambitions.  For them the question is whether Tymoshenko is indeed a spent force amongst opposition parliamentary politics or not.

It would also allow 18 months for any warm (be it very warm or lukewarm) reception from the public she may receive upon release to have cooled greatly prior to presidential elections in 2015, as well as defining her reception amongst an opposition that has moved on somewhat, without her.

Naturally it would all-but guarantee the signing of the EU Association Agreement and DCFTA in Vilnius in November, despite many other demands Ukraine may fail to fulfill in their entirety to the EU time line.

It is though,  an agreement document that will forever go down in Ukrainian history with the signature of President Yanukovych thereon.  Something history will never be able to deny him.  History will equally record his failure to engineer its success.   Let us not underestimate ego.

Perhaps most importantly, and therefore the most unlikely to be mentioned immediately by many, for Yanukovych’s reelection ambitions, should the agreements get signed, it may very well help prevent the further courting of a fairly disgruntled traditionally Party of Regions biased oligarchy with potential new lovers in both Klitschko and Yatseniuk – something that has recently been happening albeit tentatively.

None will back Tymoshenko if released and able to stand for election – “anybody but her” is still very much the current thinking amongst the vast majority of that particular clique.

It maybe that her release, in true Ukrainian style, is done at the very last minute prior to the Vilnius Summit in November – but I doubt that.  If not at Easter, then possibly during the summer RADA recess.  If not by then, then probably not prior to the Vilnius Summit at all.

Whatever the case, the announcement on the presidential website does raise speculation – if not necessarily the odds – of it happening soon.

I will certainly not need to sit down due to shock, should her release come far sooner than most have anticipated – not that on-going investigations would stop.

It also has to be said, I will also not be surprised if her reception amongst the opposition parties and many of their supporters is far cooler than she may expect either.

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Enhancing public support for the EU-Ukrainian Association Agreement – FCO Report

April 19, 2013

Today I have very little to say, as I want to draw attention to the work of chaps at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office together with HM Embassy Kyiv under the imaginatively titled “A blueprint for enhancing understanding of and support for the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement including DCFTA in Ukraine

It is also available in Ukrainian – Угода про асоціацію ЄС – Україна: дослідження обізнаності цільових груп та стратегія комунікаційної кампанії – a title just as lengthy as in English!

It is a very interesting read that will go a long way to questioning the predispositions of some relating to the Ukrainian public desire to head West (or East).

I could go on and on but I won’t – have a read, it will be worth it.

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Failing to plan or planning to fail? United Opposition

April 18, 2013

I seem to be consistently critical of the “United Opposition” recently – not because I don’t like them, but because I despair at their lack of policy, lack of planning and lack of strategy.  Not to mention the whitewash over ideological differences that whilst in opposition may make little difference, but when in power will become significant and provide yet another dysfunctional government focused on internal division rather than governance in all probability.

All of these things need to be tackled robustly, quickly and without default to the lowest common denominator between the 3 major “United Opposition” parties.  Failure to do so now, well in advance of a presidential election, will not lead to the confidence needed to bring about a change in president – no matter how bad the incumbent is.

Personally I do not care which political party arrives at sound policy with effective implementation – all that matters is good policy is forthcoming and effectively implemented.

A few days ago I wrote about the “United Opposition” allowing the normal running of the RADA this week as four opposition motions were to be debated:

“The setting of an election date for the position of Kyiv Mayor.

A vote of “No Confidence” in the current government.

The abolition the new pension reforms.

The removal of the Articles of law under which Ms Tymoshenko is currently jailed.”

So far, two days ago, as expected they failed with the setting of a date for the mayoral elections of Kyiv – and with the Constitutional Court still considering the legalities of any delay or not, maybe that is no bad thing.  The court’s answer due no later than July as per the legal time frame allowed .

Nevertheless an unnecessary failure for the “United Opposition” with a Constitutional Court decision pending.  Far better to have tackled the matter once a court decision was known.

Next, when it comes to the vote of “No Confidence” in the current government, UDAR wanted the vote on 17th April (yesterday) and Batkivshchyna on the 19th April (tomorrow) – A sorry state of affairs when two of the three “United Opposition” parties cannot even agree a preferred date on a vote as potentially important as a vote of “No Confidence” in the current government.

However, perhaps the most damning display of failed “United Opposition” planning and strategy was laid bare in the vote relating to pension reform on 17th April (yesterday).  If there is one issue they were most likely to get any kind of result from per their list, pension reform was likely to be it.  It is not that popular amongst the ruling coalition either – though it is necessary.

Thus, whilst I firmly believe the reforms are necessary as the current pension system is simply unsustainable, this was also a matter that the “United Opposition” could have realistically won and come away from the week with a significant result – and significant result they need!

So how did they do?

They managed to garner 223 votes in favour of scrapping the planned pensions reforms.  To have scrapped the planned reforms they needed 226 votes (a RADA majority of one).

Now we may sit back and say it was a valiant effort and they came very close – but that is until we consider the fact that absent from the RADA for this vote were 7 Batkivshchyna MPs, 7 UDAR MPs, 1 Svoboda MP and 4 independent MPs who favour the “United Opposition” in most votes.

Ergo a total of 19 votes likely to have been cast in favour of the “United Opposition” motion to scrap the pension reforms were not cast because the MPs were absent.  Had they been present and voted as anticipated, the “United Opposition” would have scrapped the pension reforms by a fairly comfortable margin.

Having made the RADA unworkable for months in an effort to get these four motions tabled for a RADA vote, you have to ask why were there 19 “United Opposition” absentees from a vote that would have displayed to the public the fact the “United Opposition” are more than ineffective, feckless, window dressing had they won?

How did they not manage to rally all their MPs to be in the RADA for a week when their demands are being voted on?  Especially so on the day a vote on pension reforms occurs that they realistically could have won?

Where is the party discipline?  Where is the “united” discipline?  What sort of leadership allows that many MPs to be absent in a key “United Opposition” parliamentary week?

How do they explain to their supporters (plus the larger public and media) that they failed to scrap the pension reforms because 19 of their own MPs failed to turn up to vote?

Suffice to say, it is nothing short of a political disaster.  A distinct underlining of ineffective leadership and party discipline is laid bare for all to see.

What could have been a golden result for the “United Opposition” has turned out to be an absolute debacle of a magnitude it is difficult to overstate.

The chances of this feckless group getting 0/4 results from their demands must now be considerable – a result now proven to be delivered by their own ineptitude!

Planning and preparation prevents piss-poor performance – the “Rule of P”.

This is certainly an epic illustration of piss-poor performance, thus one can only presume there was either no planning or preparation, or it was ignored – raising serious doubts about the credibility and ability of the three leaders involved, even amongst their own troops.

Very disappointing that a chance of gaining real credibility was so easily squandered!

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The Rome Statute – Again

April 17, 2013

Not that long ago I wrote about the Rome Statute and the fact that Ukraine, whilst a signatory, was not a ratified signatory due to a 2001 Constitutional Court ruling.  My entry is also here in Russian.

In fact my ruminations made it to publication on the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC) website also – Blimey!

I have since mentioned the Rome Statute in an entry relating to the Constitutional Assembly and their first submissions to the Venice Commission – pondering the probabilities that any such amendments may facilitate the eventual ratification of the Rome Statute by Ukraine.

What I have not mentioned since my very first entry on the subject is the CICC NGO itself – despite telephone conversations and emails between Kristen Meersschaert Duchens, the Regional Coordinator for Europe, and myself.

Naturally the CICC has not sat idly in The Hague whilst I have failed to mention them since.

That said, I have deliberately not mentioned them in order to keep their “powder dry” for a long planned campaign to influence Ukraine which starts now – beginning with the expected letter to the head of state and press releases etc.  All of this is likely to culminate in personal lobbying by CICC people at very lofty Ukrainian political heights within the next 8 weeks or so, which hopefully will coincide with the return of the Venice Commission’s words of wisdom in relation to the first proposed constitutional changes by the Ukrainian Constitutional Assembly.

So, whilst this is likely to be a rather slow battle for ratification, largely due to the constitutional ruling of 2001 and the need for constitutional amendments that may or may not be within the Constitutional Assembly’s recommendations currently under the wise noses of those within the Venice Commission, it is a battle that can eventually be won – particularly if Ukrainian good will regarding pro-EU normative legislative momentum can continue after the Vilnius Summit (regardless of its signing or not), and not be slowed by the external forces of European Parliament elections or Ukrainian elections over the next 2 years.

Now Ukraine has been targeted, every thing depends on momentum, even if that momentum ends up seemingly glacial – for glacial is far better than stationary!

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Closed door meeting over Ukraine – Strasbourg 18th April

April 16, 2013

Not for the first time there is to be an official and rather important closed door meeting over Ukraine amongst EU leaders to discuss reports by the Cox-Kwasniewski mission to Ukraine.

The last such meeting occurred on 2nd October 2012 and neither the report nor the minutes of that meeting have ever been made public.

Whether the latest report or minutes of the meeting on the 18th April will be made public is unclear, but if it follows the precedent of the last report then it will remain something the public are not deemed  suitable for inclusion – despite the fact this report will quite clearly be a key document in the decision or not to sign the AA and DCFTA in Vilnius in November.

Further, a decision on whether to extend to Cox-Kwasniewski mission to Ukraine will be taken.

Adamantly against its extension is Elmar Brok the head of the Foreign Affairs Committee for the European Parliament and Rebecca Harms of the Green Party – both German if that means anything.

However there are those adamantly in favour of extending the mission until the Vilnius Summit.  It is likely to be a fractious affair – and with every man and his dog keen to take the credit for the release of Lutsenko and Filipchuk, no doubt the supporters for the extension of the Cox-Kwasniewski mission will claim (possibly quite rightly) that it is they, rather than the claims of the United Opposition and those of civil society that were most effective in engineering their release.

After all, the word “effective” can be associated with very few in civil society or the United Opposition when it comes to influencing the views and decisions of President Yanukovych.

Ergo, the Cox-Kwasneiwski mission has brought results – albeit eventually – the lack of which had been a major criticism of (the rather inflated egotistically, by way of ability and quite literally) Elmar Brok.  A major argument to end the mission now, due to lack of headway, if not removed from his arsenal then far less potent.

With Vilnius seen (even if not entirely accurately) as make or break for EU/Ukrainian relations for the next few years, the question has to be asked, conceding that some momentum has been gathered and results achieved, is it wise, literally for the sake of an additional 6 months, to disengage their mission now?

What signals would either continuing or ending their mission give considering there is little hope that their key report is unlikely to be seen by the public?

Perhaps the most important question, regardless of whether these agreements are signed or not, is how to keep any momentum going in the immediate period after the Vilnius Summit with major elections in 2014 and 2015 in the European Parliament and several influential nations driving EU/Ukrainian relations – including of course – Ukraine?

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Human Rights – The US Magnitsky List

April 15, 2013

A very short post today because I am decorating the balcony – the weather is good enough and the good lady’s “lobbying” has eventually ground me down into compliance!

It also has nothing to do with Ukraine (at least directly or currently).

However, there has been a lot in the press in the build up to – and subsequent release of – The US Magnitsky List.

The US public release was naturally followed by a public Russian list of US officials also considered to be “human rights abusers” ranging from those involved in Guantanamo, those involved  in”enhanced interrogation techniques” and legal opinion allowing it, to the Victor Bout prosecution.

Indeed an expected Russian response.

However, if we are to presume that human rights are at the core of the US Magnitsky law and list, then there is one very poignant question to be asked –

Will it advance human rights in any way whatsoever in Russia?

With Russia responding with nothing more than a list of its own as expected, quite obviously the answer is clearly not!

Therefore was it a policy driven by human rights – or a policy driven by other motives considering the very predictable short, medium and long term outcomes?

For certain human rights within Russia will gain nothing from the US Magnitsky Law or list, regardless of the real or perceived motivation behind them – in fact the effects are likely to be sadly quite counterproductive.

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Ukraine ranked 64th for gender equality

April 14, 2013

There has been so much written on gender equality over the years I am not going to attempt to write anything that would be meaningful, thoughtful or new.

Suffice to say, Ukraine has just been ranked 64th globally when it comes to gender equality – drawing this response from Natalia Korolevska, the Ukrainian Minister for Social Policy.

It is difficult to disagree with anything she said.

Perhaps most poignant is this, “But if this programme remains solely a framework document, where it is written that we are all for good and against bad things, that we will hold round table meetings and let women go first, then it all would not be enough for our country to ensure the empowerment of women.”  – which as regular readers will know is a major criticism of mine regarding every government Ukraine has ever had – Ineffective implementation!

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