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“Ukraine Week” – EU Parliament

February 29, 2016

29th February sees the start of “Ukraine Week” within the European Parliament, Brussels.

EU-parliament

A total of 40 Ukrainians – MPs, political party leaders, Verkhovna Rada committee leaders and assorted others, together with the EP counterparts (and a few stray EU Member State politicians) will be grazing upon EU canapes for 3 days whilst attempting to keep Ukraine high upon the European agenda, dispel any creeping “Ukraine fatigue”, and also try and find/refine solutions to the dysfunctionality that envelopes the generally feckless Ukrainian political class and how it actually functions within the Verkhovna Rada building.

The 40 strong Ukrainian delegation is appropriately headed by Verkhovna Rada Speaker, Volodymyr Groisman.

Of the numerous formal and informal issues big and small that will be discussed over the 3 days, both centrally and “on the fringes”, the main agenda item is the unveiling/public announcement of a plan to reform the internal workings of the Verkhovna Rada itself, by Speaker Groisman to the European parliamentarians.

As Mr Groisman has (rightly) stated – “The reforms should start with us, the parliament, and with the cabinet of ministers in order to change Ukraine and take on challenges.”  There would be no argument with that statement from anybody even remotely familiar with the overly onerous formal internal procedures and protocols of the Verkhovna Rada.

An overhaul of current internal bureaucratic machinery within the Vewrkhovna Rada is absolutely necessary to move from a post-Soviet administrative hangover to a more functional, modern legislative chamber.

With the EU having had a delegation in Ukraine for some time assessing just how onerous and misused the current protocols and procedures are within the Verkhovna Rada, and having drawn and documented its conclusions and recommendations, just what could Mr Groisman unveil that is likely to garner the support of European parliamentarians, other than simply announcing the delegation’s recommendations are indeed the plan (wrapped in a Ukrainian accent)?

Thus this “headline” agenda issue will be little more than scripted theatre.

That is not to infer that the actual EP visit by the Ukrainian delegation is a waste of time (and canapes) all being pure stage management during an otherwise dull domestic political moment as new coalition talks begin and a virtual purdah descends as negotiations are on-going.

Far from it.

It would be incredibly foolish for Ukraine not to take any opportunity to raise its profile anywhere – and the EP is certainly up there on the list of necessary and preferred venues.  Away from the stage-managed theatre, the meetings behind the curtain, the “fringe” meetings, the tête-à-tête from which personal contacts and relationships grow are all quite necessary.

Undoubtedly certain Ukrainian delegates will be attempting to persuade EP counterparts that certain personalities are not as important as they may appear and their possible removal/departure does not constitute a major departure from any path Ukraine has undertaken.  The EP members will seek such assurances should that eventually transpire.  They will also be trying to ascertain whether the (almost inevitable) early Verkhovna Rada elections will occur and grasp the probable outcomes.  That PM Yatseniuk will stumble onward until the summer break is all but assured.  Thereafter, unless a reliable coalition is formed that garners consistent parliamentary support for government policy, PM Yatseniuk will be very lucky to be PM by Christmas.

Thus the stage-managed moments will actually be far less interesting than everything else that occurs for all concerned – including the on-lookers – and there is a difference between things that are “interesting” and things that are “of interest”.  For example, the public statement by Bundestag Deputy Carl-Georg Welman that Germany is working on a “Marshall Plan” for Ukraine is “interesting”.  What is “of interest” is what the “Marshall Plan” actually consists of, how it will be implemented, and by whom.  Firstly, will any conditionality for its realisation be met, and secondly will any conditionality for its implementation be accepted?  (Indeed in an interview with the Agency for Modernisation of Ukraine, said Bundestag Deputy states it is not official policy – the AMU being a Dmitry Firtash front.)

As such the news that comes forth from Brussels for the next few days will mostly be “interesting” – several weeks, perhaps a month or so from now, information from the “fringe” meetings and the tête-à-têtes will begin to leak and will likely be much more “of interest”.

Nevertheless, it is hoped that Ukraine makes the maximum of its time physically present within the European Parliament over the next 72 hours – both in the scripted and impromptu scenes.

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