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Poroshenko eventually finds a job for Saakashvili

February 14, 2015

After it became clear that former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili would not renounce his Georgian citizenship in order to head the Ukrainian Anti-Corruption Bureau, President Poroshenko has been thinking hard about how to get his friend a job within the Ukrainian system.

Creating a pointless ministry, as he did for trusted friend Yuri Stets, was clearly out of the question for somebody who was not prepared to become a Ukrainian.  And yet, just as with Mr Stets, it had to be a role that means all ministry doors would open for the appointee to enter on a whim and ferret about.  The entire point of a subtle power vertical is that it is filled with loyalists with access all areas, but not deemed to be overly oppressive – unlike the power vertical of his predecessor.

As written a few days ago, “President Poroshenko is a uniquely positioned Ukrainian president, in that domestically, regardless of political party names, he has a “pro-European majority” in the RADA, he has an active “Europe facing” civil society, he has a media that is generally supportive, and he has a nation that is prepared to tighten its belts for the cause – for now at least.

However, despite all this horizontal support, it is clear that President Poroshenko, and the presidential administration, are not fully trusting of/or prepared to easily empower the horizontal in a way that occurs within consolidated democracies.  Indeed it seems that where ever power can be sucked into the office of president, or the corridors of the presidential administration, that is what is being attempted/or happening.  A power vertical, albeit far more subtle than that of his predecessor, may well be currently under construction at the expense of the democratic horizontal that currently remains supportive of him – Foolishness!”

Naturally President Poroshenko and Mr Saakashvili have some commonalities.  Both fought, or are fighting, a war with the Kremlin under President Putin’s management.  Both have also been sold a weak ceasefire agreement by vertically challenged French presidents that everybody knows will not be adhered to by The Kremlin, or latterly enforced by the said vertically challenged French presidents that were involved in negotiations when The Kremlin fails to adhere.

Mr Saakashvili was also faced with a nation ravaged by the cancer of corruption, as President Poroshenko is today – and Mr Saakashvili did indeed manage to modernise Georgia during his term in office – albeit whilst in doing so, managing to forget democracy along the way for the most part.

However President Poroshenko has managed to create a role for Mr Saakashvili – the president has created an “Advisory International Council for Reforms“, and it will be headed by Mr Saakashvili.

“”We’ve been thinking for a long time how to use the knowledge, experience and unique know-how of Mikheil Saakashvili in the best way. In Georgia, he managed to implement reforms virtually in all spheres of economic, political and social life. ………..Until recently, Mikheil was, in fact, a freelance consultant of Ukraine in the issue of reforms. And now, finally, he gets the official status,” the President of Ukraine said.”

Since when does it take the creation of another bureaucratic entity like the “Advisory International Council for Whatever” to give official status to an advisor/consultant in Ukraine?  A presidential decree that “X” has been appointed “advisor to the President” has traditionally sufficed.  Is that “presidential advisor” is perhaps too lowly for a friend and former president – due to previous positions held they need to have an entity to lead?  A former foreign president should have a “council” to preside over, more befitting of previous positions held?

How large is this council to be?  Is it budgeted for?  Who else sits in this council other than Mr Saakashvili?  What is its remit?  How does it fit together with the existing National Council for Reforms?

“Mikheil will become a representative of Ukraine abroad and, simultaneously, a representative of the international community in Ukraine. We are confident that it is Mikheil who will establish a bilateral communication between Ukraine and the world on the issue of reforms. He will involve the best foreign experience and decently represent us abroad.”

Perhaps.  Let’s hope so – though there will be at the very least unease, if not resentment, within the Ukrainian political class that the president has appointed a foreigner to officially represent Ukraine abroad.

“The Advisory International Council of Reforms will closely cooperate with the National Council of Reforms and its Head will become a member of the National Council.

“At present, many international experts and prominent figures assist Ukraine, but their work is unordered. The Advisory Council will help consolidate their efforts and direct them into a single channel for the best results. In our turn, we guarantee that we will listen to all the proposals of the Council,” Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration and Co-Head of the National Council of Reforms Dmytro Shymkiv noted.””

Really?  Their work is “unordered“?  Ukraine has no competent administrator within the current presidential administration that can collate and consolidate their efforts?   That appears to be something bordering upon flapdoodle and cadswallop.

It surely has little to do with the Ukrainian ministries and parliamentary committees.

Germany has an expert directly advising the Ministry of Interior.  The Polish long ago detailed their own decentralisation/local government structure to Ukraine – they even translated it into Ukrainian to save the Ukrainians the trouble.  It currently gathers dust on an office corner somewhere.  Another nation (whom will not be named in case it isn’t public knowledge) is directly advising on tax reformation and collection.  Yet another on education reform directly with the relevant ministry.  Energy the same.  Justice too.  The list goes on.

Indeed, the EU nations have provided advisors directly to the Ukrainian ministries.  How is that in any way “unordered“?  There cannot be a need for an  “Advisory International Council for Reforms” to put order into that system surely!

Thus if this additional actor/layer of reform bureaucracy has been inserted because the presidential administration doesn’t have a competent administrator, the experience of Mikhail Saakashvili is to be used to collate recommendations so that they will be heard, or prioritised, or filed correctly, or disseminated to the appropriate ministry after the presidential administration has mulled them over?

Perhaps we are to believe that Leszek Balcerowicz, architect and driver of Polish reforms, and who has also agreed to assist Ukraine, requires Mikhail Saakashvili to insure his erudite proposals and ruminations will not be mislaid or accidentally shredded by some incompetent Ukrainian administrator?  Maybe it’s that Mr Saakasvili can orate Mr Balcerowicz’s suggestions far better than he?

Perhaps the international experts and advisors in question are reporting only to the presidential administration, quite separately from the legions of EU national advisors to ministries and parliamentary committees?

Ukraine awaits the same enthusiasm for external assistance when it comes to employing the services of international compliance officers and policy implementors in similar numbers!

Perhaps this is a way for President Poroshenko to load another ally onto the National Council of Reforms – one more weighted toward his team.

Alternatively, we can accept that as no vacancies available or existing were suitably impressive, President Poroshenko has created not only a job for his old friend, but an unnecessary “Council”, and with it additional bureaucracy too.

Mr Saakshvili may very well bring something useful to the Ukrainian table, but needed only a nice official job title, and a presidential mandate that consisted of wandering about western capitals keeping Ukrainian reform in the international public eye, and chatting about reform and modernisation to anybody who will listen.  In short, he is now an official, high profile, international lobbyist for Ukraine who can still open doors, and remains reasonably welcome in most western capitals – and inside “The Beltway” in particular.

Many will take a good deal of convincing that the creation of yet another bureaucratic reform entity will have any positive or timely impact upon any actual reform.

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