Archive for May 13th, 2013

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Klitschko talks of time running out and personal sanctions

May 13, 2013

Only a few days ago, I mentioned a statement from Stefan Fule relating to no time extension for Ukraine to meet EU expectations in November.

As I stated, despite the bullish tone, this has far more to do with the European political calendar preventing any extension, rather than Stefan Fule developing a rigid, rather than flexible, backbone.

Let’s be quite honest, after 7 difficult years of negotiation for both sides – including some serious concessions by Ukraine – the EU would not normally throw that away for the sake of a few months if there were a few additional months in the political calendar to play with.

The fact is, due to national elections in very influential member states, notwithstanding the European parliamentary elections during the next 2 years, quite simply there is not much room, if any, to allow any political deadlines to slide for a few months.  A few years – yes.  Look to 2016 at the earliest after German, European parliament, French and UK elections to name but a few – including Ukrainian presidential elections.

Allowing any signing to slide until then, naturally removes the desire for political momentum on either side – raising the question of whether that momentum can be regained several years from now.

Even if the Association Agreement and DCFTA is signed in Vilnius in November, due to the same European  political calendar, ratification will still take years for the same reasons.

All blatantly obvious to anybody with half an eye on the European political electoral calendar.

Unfortunately, this seems to an issue completely overlooked by the opposition in Ukraine if Klitschko’s recent comments are anything to go by:

“Even if the association agreement is negotiated and signed, in order to have it ratified by all the EU countries, Ukraine has to comply with the basic political values and principles of the European Community, such as the rule of law, the absence of selective justice, real reforms, and democratic electoral law. To achieve this, Ukraine has much to do and the time is very short.

For our part, we, as the opposition, are pressing on the authorities to make them meet the commitments so that the country should not lose the chance to join the European community. If the Ukrainian authorities fail to adhere to the commitments, the issue of personal sanctions against officials cannot be avoided.”

Firstly, when looking at these comments, it has to be said that negotiations have concluded some time ago – indeed the agreements were initialed by both sides in March 2012, thereby effectively sealing them to major and significant amendment.  Thus it is a question of singing the already initialed agreements and no longer negotiating as Klitschko states.

The second paragraph in which he makes reference to personal sanctions on members of the existing government should it fail to adhere to those commitments is really not something that the opposition are likely to achieve – and they must surely be aware of that given the interaction they have with th EU and its member states – so why say it?

What are the chances of the EU placing sanctions on Ukrainian officials – seriously?

Not only are the outcomes of sanctions hit and miss and lengthy when it comes to getting any result, they are actually fairly limited in their scope.

Looking at EU sanctions, they consist of arms embargo, economic and financial sanctions and visa/entry restrictions.  No more and no less.

EU sanctions have proven to be of little impact to those individuals within Belarus to whom they are applied.  They are not being very seriously considered as far as a mirror of the US Magnitsky Act in respect of Russia and persons therein.

Applying EU sanctions to individuals within Ukraine, without for example, applying them to fellow EaP nation  Azerbaijan or individuals within government circles there – which has a far worse democratic, human rights, repression of freedoms and electoral manipulation record – would be difficult to justify to the European public.  Particularly so given the lack of impact and results in Belarus.

There is also a lack of EU diplomatic will to raise sanctions on individuals in Ukraine.  Only recently I spoke with somebody in the Brussels bubble (Chatham House Rule applied), and he stated that sanctions are not the way forward.  They are difficult to gain consensus over to implement, and even harder to then garner the consensus to  remove – and Ukraine has its supporters within the EU that would make gaining consensus over sanctions very difficult.

It is somewhere that sufficient numbers of EU bureaucrats do not want to go with regard to Ukraine.

Now if I am reliably informed of this, then surely this must have been made very clear indeed to the likes of Mr Klitschko and the other opposition leaders, who will have undoubtedly raised the issue several times – so why raise the issue again publicly if there is a high probability that it simply won’t happen.

When – as will more likely than not – sanctions against individuals are again publicly called for by the opposition, and again rebuffed by the EU – with a presidential election in Ukraine now on the horizon, how would any refusal reflect on the ability, authority and perception of international influence of any opposition candidate be in the eyes of the Ukrainian electorate?

There is much to be said for timing.  Being right and/or decent is not enough to win an election.  There is the overriding need to be convincing.

Time is indeed running out, not only for Ukraine to have progressed enough to allow the signing of the Association Agreement and DCFTA, but also for the opposition to stop the political showboating and empty rhetoric.

It is now time for the opposition to prepare their own political, economic and social policies ready for an effective delivery to the electorate by whomever is put forward as an opposition presidential candidate.  To frame their election campaign as “We were bad when in power, but they are worse” is really not an inspiring electoral campaign – and yet that is all that is currently on offer.

The first to frame the elections in a better way than that, will probably keep the upper hand.

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