Archive for July, 2013

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Fule speaks in pardoxes over Ukraine?

July 31, 2013

Here is an interesting statement from Stefan Fule, the EU’s Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood policy relating to Ukraine and the Vilnius Summit in November.

“Of course, Ukraine will be able to sign the Association Agreement in November, it depends on the state. Position on this matter has been clearly expressed by the Council of the European Union: the country should stop selective justice, should reform the electoral law and to show progress in the implementation of the European standards.

I see a positive trend: the government understands how important agreement is for the country and for us.”

He notes positives trends, and indeed legislatively there have been several – with more critical proposed legislation scheduled for the RADA in September – though they may never come to anything more than existing on paper, such is the Ukrainian resilience to implementation which can been seen in many policy decisions born of Kyiv and rebutted by the regions.

Much more interestingly though, is his comment should the Association Agreement not get signed.

“If it does not happen, it will not diminish the role of Ukraine in the region, on the contrary – it will strengthen and create great opportunities for cooperation with all neighbors, including Russia.”

What? – Ukraine’s role in the region will “strengthen” if this agreement is not signed?

Whilst there is no denying that whether the Association Agreement is signed or not, Ukraine will indeed have a prominent role in the region regardless – many unconvinced Ukrainians may now be asking why the Ukrainian political class is so keen for it to be signed, (not to mention the EU who readily admit Ukraine is the key nation for a successful future EaP region), if in signing it, the role and opportunities of Ukraine will be less than by not signing it?

Is that comment going to help sway the majority of Ukrainian public opinion to fall firmly behind the Ukrainian political class in favour of the EU – and the metaphorical nailing of the Ukrainian flag to the EU mast?

Hmmm.

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The power of recall equals responsible power or empowers irresponsibility?

July 30, 2013

Now here is an interesting parallel between pending legislative initiatives within the UK and Ukraine.

The power of recall  – as in the power to recall an MP and enforce new elections at the initiative of the constituency –  although the Ukrainian proposal goes beyond MPs, including appointed officials who are not democratically put in place, but could be displaced using a democratic instrument.

Without beating around the bush, I am naturally in favour of the power of a constituency to recall its MP if sufficient constituency members feel that the MP is not acting in their best interests or representing them as they feel they should be.  It also goes without saying that any MP caught breaking the law – in a manner that does not result in their incarceration – should also subjected to a mandatory recall to allow voters to reelect them or not.

Whether the 10% threshold for recall as muted in the UK debate is sufficiently high is a fair question.  Given the low voter turnout in the UK at elections, many MPs represent their constituencies with a very low mandate from their constituency when subtracting those who voted for others or who did not vote at all.

Perhaps given that fact, 10% is a sufficiently high threshold as it would be anybody’s guess how many would sign a petition for a recall if they can’t be bothered to vote in the first instance.  However, there could very well be more interest in recalling an MP than actually going to vote one into office – considering the contempt in which politicians are often held.

How high the Ukrainian bar?

The UK proposal, stops there however – whilst the Ukrainian proposal extends to judges and other appointed figures.

Here matters are not necessarily so clear cut when it comes to removal of such appointed people because of the demand of any constituents.

If as the opposition propose, a genuinely independent judiciary does come about through the creation of what most of those in the “western world” would equate with a Bar Association – then that professional body should be the first and foremost institution responsible for its own internal discipline  – with accountability and oversight via other horizontal institutions.

Is there a difference between subjecting the judiciary to political manipulation at one end of the “vertical” and the populist reactionism of the public at the other?

Should constituents have the right to interfere with a genuinely independent judicial branch any more than the political class?  Does not the judiciary have the solemn duty to enforce the rule of law without regard to how politicians or public may decry or delight in any verdict?

If politicians and/or the public decry a verdict, there are of course dedicated channels for appeal.  However, it may be that a verdict is reached due to the prosecution not making the case sufficiently well – or the defence was a disaster – or simply that the law was written in such a way, the judge was left with no choice but to deliver the verdict they gave in accordance to the law as written.

Caution is required when making the independent and internally appointed horizontal (the ultimate aim for Ukrainian institutions), subject to the whim of the vertical (at either end) – as the horizontal is there to keep both ends of the vertical within the rules.

Naturally I fully understand the thinking behind this proposal and it may very well accomplish some short term goals with regard to making the judiciary and appointed officials more compliant with what they should be doing – rather than what they are currently doing – but laws designed to achieve short term goals tend to outlive their usefulness, yet remain on the statute books, often with consequences that are counterproductive to their original intent many years from now.

Is it perhaps better to concentrate the mind on just how to make the horizontal institutions free from political appointments and alliances in the first place?

How to create judicial and civil service institutions that are entirely A-political, truly independent, self-regulating and accountable to each other – whilst transparent to both politicians and public – would seem to be the core issue.

Legal proposals to “manage” (in a way that has a reasonable chance of being hit and miss by way of public responsiveness) the consequences of not dealing with that core issue is perhaps energy misspent?

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UNHCR Report 2013 – Ukraine

July 29, 2013

Very short and sweet today as it is my good lady’s birthday and any more than 2 minutes writing anything here will not get a good reception!

Still, here is an interesting read from the UNHCR relating to refugees and asylum, which starts off fairly positively (see 11 and 12 Legislative reforms 2011 – 2013) but then tails off rapidly into a somewhat dismal tale – which is unsurprising given Ukraine’s consistent inability to turn written policy into practical reality over any issue we care to look at.

That’s it – back tomorrow!

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Perceptions of trust – The EU and EaP nations

July 28, 2013

With the Vilnius Summit for the EU’s EaP nations four months away,  this little infographic (again from my virtual friends at EEAP) is an interesting assessment of just how well – or not – the EU and national governments are portraying the relevance of the EU to those specific nations.

We can perhaps rightly ask  who is responsible for shifting and framing public opinion when it comes to the EU and the benefits – or not – it would have for any particular nation.  Is it the role of the national government?  Is it the role of the EU?  Is it something both should be doing?  If one is obviously failing to promote the issues, should the other take the lead?

As most Ukrainian political parties appear (publicly at least) to have taken up the baton with regard to any positives outweighing negatives as far as the EU is concerned, I have to say that Delegation of the EU to Ukraine in my view is failing spectacularly when it comes to assisting in the framing of views of the Ukrainian public – as the above infographic ably illustrates.

Sitting in Kyiv having the occasional meeting, occasional press conference and reproducing related EU articles on a website is simply not reaching out effectively to those whose minds they need to change.

For a start, demographically, Ukrainians between the ages of 20 and 40 probably “get it” when it comes to the EU.  Those in central and western Ukraine also probably “get it” far more than those in the south or east.  Therefore sitting in Kyiv doing what they currently do is not the target audience they should be aiming for.

Entries such as “Do you have a meeting at the EU Delegation? Then take your bike”- (with accompanying photograph) explaining how the delegation has invested in a “bike rack” in Kyiv

EU delegation ukraine

is not in any way going to help sway public opinion in favour of the EU in the areas where delegation efforts are required to re-frame and re-orientate perceptions.

Why is there no EU “roadshow” visiting places like Donetsk, Luhansk, Kharkiv, Crimea – open to local journalists and local people?  Kyiv is not the centre of the Ukrainian universe whose news people in Yalta, Melitopol or Ismail read, or watch on TV.

Given the inaction of the EU delegation to not only reach out – but actually go out – to these regions and try to re-frame opinion – allowing for some coordination, does it fall to the embassies and consulates of the individual EU nations to do what the EU Delegation should be doing instead?

If so, given national interests and budgetary restraints of such institutions, whichever diplomat manages to coordinate that effort would deserve accolade indeed.  An ambitious alternative but maybe a little too much to hope for.

Further, Ukrainian public perception is hardly as hostile to the EU as that of Azerbaijan would appear to be – albeit not as welcoming as in Armenia either according to the previously linked infographic when it comes to public perceptions.

As an aside, on the subject of Azerbaijan, it’s quite interesting to note that a nation classed as a consolidated authoritarian regime in many global democratic indexes, has the highest level of government trust amongst its people and also an incredibly low public perception of corruption – not that democracies are necessarily always going to be better governed (democracy can be rather messy) – or less corrupt, than every authoritarian regime on the planet.  There will always be exceptions.  And public perceptions are just that – perceptions – and thus may be quite wrong when compared to fact.

Anyway, with most major Ukrainian political parties vocally supporting greater ties with the EU and the signing of documents at Vilnius in November – public opinion is obviously lagging behind.

Public opinion lagging behind policy decisions is not unusual anywhere, but there seems to be very little effort by the EU, and its institutions, at directly engaging with the Ukrainian population – and direct engagement is the only way to re-frame opinion when there is so little trust in government, civil society and the media in Ukraine.

So, will a public “town hall” styled EU delegation roadshow be arriving in Odessa any time soon?  Of course not – there are more pressing matters, such as why after investing in a bike rack – there is only one bike in it!

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Reforming the judiciary – the Opposition Bill

July 27, 2013

Well here is an interesting little entry on the Svoboda website relating to an opposition Bill to reform the judiciary.

It has so far garnered 127 MPs signatures, 23 short of the required 150 to formally introduce the Bill.  Batkivshchyna and Svoboda MPs have signed – as yet UDAR MPs have not.

In fact as interesting as this entry is, it is possibly too short to be really interesting – as it fails to mention numerous important aspects and justify others.

However, whilst some important aspects are missing, what is there is deserving of a little closer scrutiny.

There are basically 6 points listed:

1.  Providing a mechanism for local people to impeach local judges by way of referendum.

2.  The involvement of people in the judicial mechanism through “peoples assessors” and juries.

3.  The elimination of the Constitutional Court (and reinstalling the Supreme Court of Ukraine as the highest court in the land).

4.  Making the High Council of Justice genuinely independent – reducing its numbers to 15.  (10 of which will be elected by the Congress of Judges and 5 by the RADA).  The High Council of Justice to be formed only of professional judges.

5.  Limiting the presidential powers to such a degree they are all-but ceremonial in appointment.

6.  Removing the official oversight of the Prosecutor General’s office over the judiciary.

Some interesting points – both good, bad and indifferent.

Firstly, I have to say there must be some concern over the ability for a local referendum to remove a judge – as it is possible to see a circumstance where the judge delivers a lawful verdict much to the angst of the local community – and possibly the judge him/herself.

If the High Council of Judges is to be truly independent as the opposition propose, then the HCJ should be the primary source of hiring, firing, disciplining and retiring judges.

They are after all, not democratically elected to their position by the populous under the opposition proposals – and therefore the question is whether they should be able to be removed from that office by public referendum – which is a democratic tool – It seems somewhat messy.

Personally, I have a very dim view of the prospect of returning “people’s assessors” – To me a Soviet hangover that regularly took on a role far greater than that of a juror and has no place in a modern “European” judicial system.  If the aim is to reform the judicial system to that of a European one, why hang on aspects of a Soviet past?

The installation of the jury system is, however, highly desirable – and as quickly as is possible to accomplish it effectively.

The elimination of the Constitutional Court (according to the Svoboda website due to it being fully discredited) is quite possibly a move in the right direction if we consider the Supreme Court of Ukraine would be as equally – as branch of the judiciary – capable of dealing with constitutional issues as the Constitutional Court.

Quite simply, is it necessary to have a branch of the judiciary that deals solely with constitutional issues? – Probably not, and if not, get rid of it (be it discredited or otherwise).

With regards to comprising the High Council of Justice of only professional judges – quite right.  What is the point of having civil servants in such a highly placed legal council?  What benefit do they add – or perhaps more to the point how great is the hindrance and interference they cause?

However, I do wonder why, when absolute independence is the goal for the HJC, the opposition want the RADA to appoint 5 of the proposed 15 members?  If the Congress of Judges can appoint 10 of the 15, why not all 15?  Why is it necessary to have any political appointments in a supposed A-political and independent institution.  Is that not somewhat self-defeating and muddying the waters unnecessarily?  If they want it to be independent, take all political appointments out of the equation.

When it comes to limiting the presidential powers over the HCJ, I am all for it – just as I am removing the 5 RADA appointed HCJ members as the opposition proposes in its Bill. – It seems no Ukrainian politicians can garner the political will to completely allow the judiciary to be independent – they all seem to need to have some input/control, to the absolute ruin of the concept of independence.

Lastly comes the issue of oversight.  If the Prosecutors Office is to no longer be charged with oversight, who is?  Is anybody?  What happens if the HJC or the Council of Judges – or both – becomes just another corrupt (but independent) patriarchy?

If as is necessarily the case, that HJC and Council of Judges appointments are open ended to insure they will serve continuously through many presidential and parliamentary terms, and are their terms  are necessarily “difficult” to bring to an abrupt end – short of internal disciplinary measures – thus removing the ease of political manipulation and expediency to insure they are not be beholding to any particular president or sitting parliament – they still require some form of, if not vertical oversight, then horizontal accountability.

Who and how?

Has the opposition submitted its Bill to the Venice Commission as they demanded of the current majority’s equivalent Bill, for subsequent recommendations?  It would be interesting to know what the Venice Commission would state having received it.

To be honest, so important is the reform of the judiciary, that both opposition and majority Bills should be subject to Venice Commission scrutiny and recommendation.  An expert and independent eye seems quite appropriate – especially so as the Bill submitted by the majority also has good, bad and indifferent proposals therein.

A last, and rather poignant question, is when, eventually, the political class will actually remove their own immunity and subject themselves to the law?

Despite numerous voices across every Ukrainian political party supporting the removal of immunity, it remains –  That said, just like strategic voting at the UN in the full knowledge that there will be a veto from one or another security council member, thus enabling you to vote against your own best interests in order to curry favour with public opinion with no adverse result to self interests, numerous RADA MPs from all parties can raise their voice in favour of abolishing MP immunity in the full knowledge it won’t get passed.

Nevertheless, unless or until UDAR MPs sign in support of this Batkivshchyna/Svoboda Bill, it may not even get submitted to the RADA in the fullness of time anyway – making this entry all rather pointless really (much like many others!)

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Synthetic reports equal political wiggle room – European Commission requests

July 26, 2013

Choosing exactly the right words matter.

Particularly in such areas as law, where the elasticity – or not – of every word used can have numerous far reaching  implications –  in politics, where the words used, frame the arguement, normally to the advantage of those who frame an issue first (if done well) – and by the media who must not only accurately report the words used by others, but also carefully choose how they will frame the issue for public consideration.

(Sadly, none of this due care is particularly evident in Ukraine by way of consistency in any of the aforementioned spheres.)

Thus, the words used when defining terms of reference, parameters or scope also matter and again should be very carefully chosen to encourage or restrict any elasticity in their understanding by those who read them.  In short, the reader need know not only what it says, but also what it really means.

With this in mind, it is with interest that I note the invitation to NGOs and CSOs to contribute to a “synthetic report” for the European Commission and EEAS relating to reforms and reform implementation throughout the 12 ENP nations.

These reports “are not general reports on the political and economic realities of the country. Their scope is limited to implementation of the Action Plans or Association Agendas.”  Very clear – and yet both economics and politics are essential ingredients in just how well – or not – implementation of Action Plans or Association Agreements are progressing.

Is it possible to deliver a credible report on the successes and failures of implementation without including the political and/or economic reasons why matters are as they are?  After all reform is driven by “political will” first and foremost.

Naturally, the invitation states “In order to ensure a maximum of transparency and objectivity in the reports, the EEAS and the Commission services draws on the widest possible array of sources. In this context, all interested parties, including non-governmental organisations and other interested organisations active in the fields covered by the ENP Action Plans are invited to provide any information, reports or assessments.”  – a rightful and democratic nod to civil society,  but without allowing civil society to completely address all the issues it would want to with the European Commission and EEAS in a comprehensive document – as those would obviously include the politics and economics of the nation they are reporting on.

So what does it really say, given that the European Commission and EEAS know very well just where the implementation process is with regard to each and every nation already?

This would appear to be little more than a limp inclusion of civil society in a request for an a-political, independent, third party “content filler/content corroborator” that may – or may not – be included in a synthetic report, almost certainly to be circulated to Member States, the European Parliament and European Council prior to the Vilnius Summit with regards to the EaP nations in November.

It is for this reason, one has to strongly suspect, that this invitation is carefully worded to exclude any form of political or economic content from those who would accept and action it – For without that political and economic content, there is an enormous amount of political wiggle room for the European Commission, other European institutions and Member States, to make decisions that they may otherwise feel somewhat more constrained in making – particularly when it comes to interests verses values.

Instead it seems the EU and its composite parts prefer to take any civil society backlash post facto, when they – and they alone – add the political and economic context to the decision making.

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Гранты ЕС и финансирования – отсутствие информации в Украине/EU Grants and financing – Lack of information in Ukraine

July 25, 2013

После вчерашнего очень усталый и короткий вход, касающиеся грантов ЕС для культуры, в которой украинские лица могут обращаться к нации EaP партнерства, я получил удивительное количество писем с просьбой, что другие гранты ЕС предоставленные к которым украинские лица могут обращаться.

Сегодня я провел много часов, ища среди слишком многочисленных веб-сайтов для ЕС консолидированной и всеобъемлющих списоков грантов к которым украинские организации могут обращаться – без такого списка  на английском, немецком или французском языке. Поэтому не удивительно что  ничего на украинском либо русском!

Таким образом, вы удивляетесь, почему Есть огромное количество грантов, доступных для Украины как EaP нации, от культуры до малого и среднего бизнеса, инновации в образовании и т.д., ни один из которых не консолидируются в одном месте – или на языке, который большинство украинцев (и других стран EaP партнерства) поймет.

Разве что вина в ЕС? Это бездействие Миссии ЕС в Украину – часть, роль которого заключается обратиться к украинскому обществу содействия ЕС (и это должно быть сказано, он терпет неудачу)? Это провал украинского правительства не иметь всеобъемлющий список публично доступен на украинском? Украинское правительство, мы должны предположить, зная о том, предоставлять доступ ЕС сделать доступными для украинских предприятий.

Это проблема, когда все думают, что кто-то другой несет ответственность за распространение этой информации – и таким образом ему удается проваливаются трещины в асфальте?

Я должен тратить недели пройдя через все гранты ЕС и право финансирования для украинских организаций, писать краткий обзор каждого на русском языке (мой украинский просто не хорош для этого) и обеспечивать ссылки на соответствующие процессы приложения?

Возможно, я должен сделать это в сотрудничестве с другими в рамках гражданского общества и СМИ в Брюсселе  и Украины, с которыми у меня есть отношения, чтобы сократить исследования / следственных часа вниз, – но если она попадет к нам должны исследовать, собирать, подтверждать и распространять такую ​​информацию на знакомом языке для тех рамках EaP народов?

Совершенно очевидно, что спрос на такую ​​информацию там данный емеил ответил на очень усталый пост в России в области культуры гранты вчера

Following yesterday’s very tired and short entry relating to EU grants for culture to which Ukrainian entities can apply being an EaP nation, I received a surprising amount of emails asking what other grants the EU provides to which Ukrainian entities can apply.

Today I have spent many hours searching the far too numerous EU websites for a consolidated and all-encompassing list of grants to which Ukrainian organisations can apply – with no such list apparent in English, German or French.  Therefore unsurprisingly nothing in Ukrainian or Russian either!

You therefore wonder why there are a vast number of grants available to Ukraine as an EaP nation, ranging from culture to SME’s, innovation to education etc., none of which are consolidated in a single location – or in a language that the majority of Ukrainians (and other EaP nations) would understand.

Is that the fault of the EU?  Is it an omission by EU Mission to Ukraine – part of whose role is reach out to Ukrainian society promoting the EU (and it has to be said it is failing miserably)?  Is it a failure of the Ukrainian government not to have an all-encompassing list publicly available in Ukrainian?  The Ukrainian government, we must presume, is aware of what grant access the EU has made available to Ukrainian entities.

Is this an issue where everybody thinks somebody else is responsible for the dissemination of this information – and thus it manages to fall through the cracks in the pavement?

Should I spend weeks going through all the EU grants and eligible funding for Ukrainian organisations, writing a brief overview of each in Russian (my Ukrainian is simply not up to it) and providing links to the relevant application processes?

Perhaps I should do it in collaboration with others within the civil society and media bubble in Brussels and Ukraine with whom I have relationships to cut the research/investigative hours down – but should it fall to us to have to research, collate, corroborate and the disseminate such information in a familiar language to those within the EaP nations?

Quite obviously the demand for such information is there given the email response to a very tired post in Russian relating to culture grants yesterday.

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