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Falling upon deaf ears? – Verkhovna Rada

December 11, 2015

The day prior to VP Joe Biden arriving in Ukraine a few hopes as to what he would say were offered up in this entry.  In short, with regard to territorial integrity – unwaveringly supported.  Anything and everything else with regard to nation building – offered with absolute and unambiguous conditionality.  No free ride.  Not even an easy (or even moderately comfortable) ride.  Hard, prickly, unpopular (either with the constituency or with vested interests) but necessary choices fully supported by the US.

What was said exactly behind closed doors is yet to seep out in its entirety, let alone be corroborated and thus is not yet worthy of repeating.  However a good, solid and clear-eyed speech was delivered before the Verkhovna Rada by VP Biden.  A speech that made clear that Ukrainian failure will rest heavily upon the individual shoulders of each and every MP.  Hiding amongst collective guilt is not something that is, or will be, acceptable in the eyes of the Ukrainian constituency, nor the eyes of the US Administration.  Rightly so too.

Sitting in a large circle and pointing at each other for failure is not the policy of grown ups – so stop doing it because the grown-ups watching this theatre of the absurd simply find you retarded.

Immediately after VP Biden left the Verkhovna Rada, it appears a large number of parliamentarians did also – despite, and for the 10th (yes tenth) time the much needed law on privatisation going to the vote.

Needless to say, for a 10th (yes tenth) time this much needed legislation failed to garner sufficient votes to pass.  Seemingly far too many of the parliamentarians decided that it was much more of a priority to rush off to their Facebook accounts and write in laudatory terms about VP Biden’s speech.

Clearly despite a full Verkhovna Rada listening to what Mr Biden had to say – far too few actually heard anything he said – as the above tweet in the immediate hours following that speech alludes to.

Indeed, Aivaras Abromavicius, the Economy Minister who has tried and failed 10 (yes ten) times to get the much needed privatisation law passed, once again bemoaned the fact that the plundering of $ billions from the State owned enterprises simply continues until they can be privatised – thus removing the need for subsidies, recapitalisation, bad debt write-off, and the sufferance of appalling and corrupt management.

And lo it has come to pass that now the President has been forced to push the need for the necessary passing of the legislation facilitating the privatisation of the SOEs that the Economy Ministry has rightly been attempting to get off the State books for more than a year.

“All the channels are full of reports about that in particular state enterprises are created huge cases of corruption.  How to overcome it?  The only effective privatization, the appointment of independent directors, transparent form of state control over the activities, and effective management of various enterprises.

Unfortunately, the Verkhovna Rada does not accept this decision, and I stress once again, I publicly call on him to privatization has been accelerated.” – President Poroshenko

The logic is rather simple. State corruption is automatically reduced if the State owned entities that are a font of corruption are no longer owned, managed, or run by the State.  State finances improve when subsidies, recapitalisation and bad debt write offs cease.

The day following VP Biden’s speech, matters within the Verkhovna Rada did not improve either.

The long awaited and repeatedly delayed (because it is rather good) Bill upon civil service reform and very importantly, its independence from the political class, was subjected to attempts to politicise it – this despite the Bill having been subject to thorough civil society, professional and requested European help in its drafting.  Indeed the Europeans stated they would fund the civil service reform based upon such legislation being adopted.

Quite frankly, should the Bill be successfully tinkered with and unnecessarily politcised, which would be to the distinct ire of the Europeans, they should flatly and simply refuse to fund civil service reform under a belatedly politically sabotaged law.  It is beyond time that the parliamentarians of the Verkhovna Rada had their over-inflated sense of self-worth, popped!

(Indeed, readers should not underestimate the self-righteousnesses and perception of self-idolisation Ukrainian parliamentarians hold for themselves.  Your author, for whatever sins committed, meets too many of them.  Quite recently one such of that number somewhat too arrogantly – pompously even – stated that as Visa-free prerequisites with Europe had been technically and legislatively complied with, and thus if an affirmative EU answer was most likely forthcoming (which seems likely), the Ukrainian constituency should applaud and be grateful for the VR efforts.  This prompted from your author the necessary reality check that the VR collectively had only (and eventually) managed to do what Guatemala had already achieved with the EU regarding Visa-free – should it actually manifest for Ukraine as it did for Guatemala.)

If the Verkhovna Rada wants to pass substandard laws then it can fund such laws itself.

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If the Verkhovna Rada wants to pass quality and necessarily prickly, difficult, but progressive laws synchronised with European governance, then the Europeans, US, Canadians, (whomever), will step forward and assist as and where they have agreed to do so.

Even with VP Biden’s words still ringing in the ears of the parliamentarians of the Verkhovna Rada, the immediate actions of the legislative body imply their listening – without hearing a word that was said.

2016 is the year that the Verkhovna Rada will need to stop being the legislative equivalent of chronic constipation.  2017 will see a different US administration.  2017 will see a UK referendum to leave the EU – or not.  2017 will see French and German elections.  Each will have a period of internal politicking and navel gazing.  Neither the US nor the major players in the EU may have the same outlooks currently held when outcomes become known.  Thus Ukraine will have to make sweeping and swift reforms in 2016 in order for new leaderships to keep Ukraine at the top of their agendas for the sake of (fairly) easy foreign policy “win” news.  Ukraine cannot afford to become little more than being associated with containing a troublesome, truculent and belligerent Kremlin.

That will be far easier to do if the Verkhovna Rada does not need to be dragged across each and every necessary reform hurdle and/or consistent threats and/or suspension of promised reform aid throughout 2016.

Perhaps it is time to seriously reframe the issues for 2016.

Perhaps it is time for the external supporters of Ukraine, as well as the domestic constituency, to start calling corruption and the lack of reform a serious threat to Ukrainian national security – for that is what they are.

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