Round tables in Kyiv – An exercise in futility/Harnessing Євромайдан

December 22, 2013

Yesterday was the first round table talks between President Yanukovych, the opposition leaders, civil society and civic leaders since the deal with the Kremlin.

Unsurprisingly, all were present for the first session.  Even more unsurprisingly, neither President Yanukovych nor opposition leaders were present for the second session.

It is an exercise in futility.

Undoubtedly the President now feels there is little need to compromise with the opposition regarding the resignation of the government – though changes are likely.  He can now simply wait out Євромайдан until the election as well.

President Yanukovych is going nowhere before 2015.  The opposition have no legal and peaceful method to bring about his removal before then – and they know it.

The opposition must also know that despite their attempts to represent the Євромайдан movement, Євромайдан does not necessarily support the opposition politicians.  They must also know that whilst Євромайдан is highly visible, it is not representative of the entire country in its support for signing the EU Association Agreement.

It is unclear if it has managed to sway or change the minds of a significant number of Ukrainians toward the EU agreement despite all the publicity it has rightly gained.  It did not set out to do so, and thus it seems unlikely to have done so.

Євромайдан is though, representative of the national desire for democracy, rule of law, a free media and all those other attractive threads that deliver a civilised society with responsive governance.  It is a manifestation about the curtailing of corruption, of feckless politics, of stifled democratic space.

It is a pointed reminder that Ukrainian society is fast outgrowing the parameters and speed at which the political class are prepared to allow a transition to democracy to become consolidated.  A reminder that failing to release the institutions of state from a political noose and provide them with genuine independence, together with horizontal and public accountability, will not be tolerated indefinitely.

Whomever was representing civil society at the latest round table will probably be be denounced by civil society within a few days if the results of the last round table are a guide.  It remains at war with itself.

Civic leaders graciously listened to, but go unheard, by government.

round table

Thus the round table solution is going to be an exercise of futility in the extreme.

But what truly matters here?  What are the core, nitty-gritty issues?

What matters is trying to insure the adoption of the values within the democracy framework of the Association Agreement irrespective of the economics of the DCFTA v Customs Union.

There is no need to sign the AA to actually implement what is already written within the document and in the public realm.

It needs the Євромайдан movement to try and insure that the President/ RADA does follow – and effectively implement – that plan as closely as possible.

It raises the question of how to direct that visible and virtual domestic (and diaspora) support into a robust, effective and yet peaceful policing method of government and state institutions should they stray from – or stall – the democracy path.

The civic momentum that is behind Євромайдан must be harnessed and focused at the problems within the entire political class and state institutions – somehow.  It would be almost criminal to allow the energy of those involved in the pursuit of democracy to go to waste.

For any right minded individual, rule of law, freedom of speech, transparent, responsive and good governance etc – regardless of who is in power, or who Ukraine trades with – is the ultimate goal.  That is the Utopia that the EU Association Agreement promises (though delivers inconsistently amongst its Member States and own institutions).

Yet no signatures with the EU (or Russia) are required to achieve that, as long as Євромайдан focuses on holding the political class and state institutions to account every step of the way in the pre-existing plan.  Євромайдан has the visible numbers.  It has far greater numbers clearly visible in the realm social media.  It has some very sharp minds within its number too.

Perhaps the sustained targeting of middle management within politics, judiciary and state institutions would seem the better targets than the elite whenever an everyday corrupt or rights breaching act occurs.  Such people are politically expendable to the elite, but have a large and negative effect on society.

Success breeds success.  If the movement can be seen to have some impact regarding values and cleaning up the middle management tier, then more people will get involved across the entire political and social spectrum.  Genuine cross-cutting cleavages will gain a solid foundation based on that success.

How much effect would 15 months of targeting the corrupt State middle management have on most peoples lives, prior to the electoral chance to wrestle with the elite?  How to make asking for/accepting a bribe far more socially risky than to refuse one amongst the middle management tier?

Perhaps here is where the Євромайдан energy can be directed.  If your efforts cannot effectively cut the head from the body due to the immunity and impunity of the head – why not try and cut the far more socially vulnerable body from the head instead?

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