A few days ago, I wrote Shooting the messenger in the Donbass – євромайдан.
An entry that was rather well received amongst the foreign diplomatic community based in Ukraine – US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt tweeting: “Geoffrey Pyatt @GeoffPyatt 44m
@OdessaBlogger Thoughtful post that challenges t/think beyond recently fashionable scare tactics and focus on how Europe will benefit all UA” – and duly noted by the UK Embassy too.
Praise indeed – although to be frank, if you know your message is true to the aspirations of all, and yet it is repelled by some due to the messenger and its associated paraphernalia, then it would seem obvious that a different messenger with different paraphernalia would be appropriate for certain audiences when it comes to delivering that same message.
Not, it has to be said, anything unusual in international diplomacy. There are numerous examples of Sweden (to name but one nation) representing the British position and getting a far more favourable reception than if the message came directly from the bowels of Whitehall via a Whitehall messenger – despite the message being the same.
The US probably has even greater need to employ indirect/third party diplomacy to pass messages as well.
The suggestion that wrapping what would be a well received “democracy” message in something other than the EU flag and fronting it with opposition politicians in places like Donetsk therefore seemed logical and nothing particularly unusual to the likes of Mr Pyatt I suspect – at least I would hope that is the case!
To add some weight to my statement, and rather fortuitously for me, a fresh public opinion survey has been published that would seem to corroborate my entry – 89.5% supporting democratic reforms as the goal.
Hurrah and huzzah for democracy and all those pillars that support it! (Polite golf ripple applause for me stating the obvious without statistics at the time to corroborate what was written.)
However, amongst all those interesting survey statistics, it would appear that still only 43.3% support the signing of the EU Association Agreement – showing very little change from the 45% that supported it in October – in fact within the margin of error that would show no change whatsoever. Whether the EU insistence relating to Ms Tymoshenko is a factor in little change seems unclear – but only 42.1% support the release of Ms Tymoshenko – a figure very similar to the 43.3% in favour of signing the EU Association Agreement.
Now it has to be said that the Delegation of the EU to Ukraine has retreated back into its safety zone of Facebook sharing and retweeting comments of EU politicians and little more (aside from the occasional self-generated expression of concern for Berkut actions and the beating of journalists – in line with EU politicians of course). Thus actively carrying the pro Association Agreement fight directly to Ukrainian society has stopped as quickly as that policy started.
Perhaps the OSCE Charter weighs on that decision now, when it didn’t before?
Perhaps, the EU Association Agreement must now necessarily play a secondary roll – even if temporarily – as societal opinions and circumstances have changed.
When a robust democracy consolidating 89.5% are in favour of all reforms democratic in nature – if not economic – but only 43.3% in favour of signing the EU AA/DCFTA – then the question relating to the messenger and associated flags takes on great importance – an issue my original entry was designed to raise.
The EU AA/DCFTA is seemingly no longer the main driving cause for protesters – democracy – with all its supporting pillars – is – with or without a signed Association Agreement.
It is now about (European) standards of democratic governance – and I feel obliged to point out that two of the most highly rated democracies in Europe are those of Switzerland and Norway – neither of which are EU nations.
The battle is now where it should be (according to 89.5% of those surveyed). That battle being for democratic, transparent, inclusive, good and responsive government. For accountable institutions of State. A genuine cross cutting cleavage of importance within Ukrainian society – regardless of which feckless political party or political leader they vote for. A battle that is of ideology and not framed by trade agreements.
Now, like it or not domestically, whether the current leadership, the opposition, or the dark hand of Viktor Medvedchuk – a player in this current act with his own itinerary, seemingly forgotten by many when it comes to vested interests in the outcome of “notable incidents” and conspiracy theories – the desire for a consolidated and genuine democracy has been given a good dose of miracle-grow by the failure of Vilnius and ill-thought through “now or never” rhetoric that accompanied it, plus a good helping of mismanagement and/or loss of control by President Yanukovych.
As I wrote previously “Not exactly an intractable problem to find or create a different and more acceptable messenger (with or without different and more acceptable paraphernalia) carrying the same core message that would gather public support in the East.” – So let’s see who takes up that gauntlet. Somebody will – but probably not draped in the EU flag when doing so.