Archive for July 9th, 2016

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Decree No296/2016 – Euro-Atlantic Coordination Commission

July 9, 2016

With the Warsaw NATO Summit now winding down (and congratulations to friend of this blog Slawomir Debski (and PISM) for organising what appears to have been a well administered event), whether a reader agrees or disagrees with the rhetorical and/or tangible outcomes, Saturday 9th was for Ukraine the bigger of the two days.

What was said “on the fringes” and “behind closed doors” may or may not become known (or leaked) in the coming days and weeks, but what catches the eye in the public domain is Presidential Decree 296/2016 – for it creates a domestic body aptly named the “Euro-Atlantic Coordination Commission”.  A dedicated oversight body.

In a very short summary, its purpose is to create an entity that will monitor, analyse and evaluate the speed and trajectory of Ukraine along the path to meeting (the most basic of) NATO standards across all necessary spheres – both military and civilian.

The goal is clearly meeting NATO membership criteria – regardless of whether Ukraine pursues membership, or whether it ever manifests should it choose to do so.  Whatever the case, without meeting those most basic standards membership will certainly not materialise, no differently to any goal of EU membership should Ukraine decide to apply when far closer to meeting those standards (thus at least one decade in the case of NATO, possibly two for the EU – if (glacial) momentum can be maintained).

Ergo, the domestic coordination of (more or less the same) central legislature, State institutions, and other public bodies required for Ukraine to meet its EU Association Agreement and DCFTA obligations will also apply for NATO.

Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze

Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze

Common sense (which is sadly not that common) dictates that Deputy Prime Minister Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, who is tasked with the EU integration mandate, also has her portfolio expanded to include the NATO mandate – and lo, it has come to pass that common sense has won the day.

As stated when the new Cabinet of Ministers was unveiled in mid-April, the creation of a VPM to specifically deal with EU integration, and the appointment of Ms Klympush-Tsintsadze in particular to that role, was perhaps the highlight of the new Cabinet.

Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze is a clever woman.  She views issues with very clear eyes.  She is not prone to populism.  She speaks directly.  She is also quite likable.  She is also one of the few that enjoys support across the schism within the broad “Church of Reform” in Ukraine – a schism that has now made a notable move as predicted.  All very necessary traits given the role she has been given, and taken on.

What seems fairly clear, is that she believes that it is far less important for Ukraine to enter “Europe” (however you define that), than it is for “Europe” enter Ukraine – metaphorically speaking.

Her mantra appears to be that it is for Ukraine to introduce and adopt the European values and practices it deems necessary for national development.  European integration is therefore bringing “Europe” in terms of values and practices to Ukraine and not vice versa, attempting to take Ukraine to Europe..  A particularly wise framing of matters, despite the subtleties and nuances of such a mind-set oft being missed.   Such a view firmly places the responsibility for European integration upon her domestic colleagues and not the Europeans – quite rightly.

It would therefore seem quite probable that she will take a similar view regarding her new expanded portfolio regarding NATO – not to bring Ukraine to NATO, but to bring the NATO ethos and standards to Ukraine – similarly regardless of whether Ukraine eventually joins or not.

A significant question however, is the scope of NATO integration on offer, and how to benchmark progress toward fully achieving that (unknown) level of integration?

The EU Association Agreement and DCFTA has a clear and unambiguous structure and path to accomplishment – it is therefore measurable, and thus allows for domestic tactical and policy tweaks where necessary toward obligation fulfillment.

Naturally the current leadership of Ukraine, in the absence of NATO membership, would desire to achieve the nearest thing to it – a partnership so close as to be NATO membership minus Article 5.  Undoubtedly this would have to be the starting position of Ms Klympush-Tsintsadze when framing issues in her own mind – certainly when it comes to coordinating matters internally of Ukraine.

Another question will be how long she will remain in post, and how far she can progress matters during that time.

It may very well be that the summer witnesses a drop in early Verkhovna Rada election rhetoric – but the Autumn and a new Verkhovna Rada session will undoubtedly see that rhetoric scale new heights.  Given her apparent support across the “reformist church” schism, whatever transpires, she may survive in post – but she certainly will not remain in post for the decade it will take to holistically meet all basic NATO standards (notwithstanding two decades to meet EU standards and the acquis communautaire which sets a higher bar than the existing Association Agreement and DCFTA toward which Ukraine labours).

Currently at least, questions of scope, achieve-ability, timeliness and measurement cast a shadow over what is otherwise a common sense Presidential Decree, decision and appointment.

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An ethical code of conduct for Ukrainian parliamentarians

July 9, 2016

The current Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, Andriy Paruby, in an attempt to progress Ukrainian agreements with the EU, seems keen to move along the issue of an ethical code of conduct for parliamentarians.

Well bravo – the Verkhovna Rada is (in)famous for many things – such as fist fights, political showboating, being the biggest and most exclusive business club in the country et al – and is certainly associated with an absence of integrity, individual morality and group ethic.

Whilst those realities and perceptions continue within the domestic constituency (and among many external on-lookers) there will be no chance of increasing public (or external) trust in the drivers behind and/or actions taken within the national legislature.

Whatever gains there may be in tackling corruption, be they only existing on paper, or tangibly manifest, given the almost inseparable melding of business/personal interests and politics of the parliamentarians (or those who “rent” them), the creation, adoption and enforcement of a parliamentary ethical code of practice would seem to be a necessary compliment to anti-corruption legislation and the national reform process.

Theoretically there would be numerous areas of overlap between anti-corruption legislation (and transparency initiatives) and a parliamentary ethics code – conflicts of interest, lobbying/advocacy (particularly the opaque kind behind the political curtain), parliamentarian declaration of “gifts”, “entertainment”, and assorted jollies cunningly accounted for (if accounted for) as “corporate entertainment” by those seeking favour etc., etc.  The tip of a larger iceberg, and not an exhaustive list of course.

Naturally for any parliamentary code of ethics to have any hope of being adhered to if adopted, several questions need be raised and answered – including how to enforce it when parliamentarians stray – or deliberately ignore it.  There is a necessity for (clearly identified) punishment and a body to hear the issues and decide upon punishment.  (An ethics committee of some form or another.)

There is also a requirement to insure that all parliamentarians are fully aware of just what any code of ethics contains and the exceptions placed upon them.  Perhaps a “handbook” be issued to all parliamentarians and receipt upon signature by default declares not only a familiarity with the contents, but also unquestioned agreement to abide by the code.

The issue with Ukrainian legislation and its legislature is that it creates text that either heads into micro-script detail quite unnecessarily, or is left so broad and elastic in its text as to be almost unenforceable, and thus meaningless.  Therefore care will have to be taken when creating an ethics code that is neither too restrictive, nor too slack, and without meaningful consequences for those that transgress.

But what should appear in a parliamentary ethics code?

ethics

Much can be borrowed or bastardised from innumerable existing parliamentary ethics codes the world over.  There are also some particularly Ukrainian issues relating to its political culture that will also have to be addressed.

What do Ukrainian parliamentarians consider their role to be (aside from furthering personal interests)?

What does the Ukrainian constituency consider their role to be – or perhaps what their role should be rather than it is currently perceived to be?

Clearly Ukrainian parliamentarians, whether they retain their absolute immunity or not, must undertake to act according to the Constitution of Ukraine and also to uphold the law at all times.   (It is appreciated that such things are generally within the Oath when becoming a parliamentarian – and equally generally ignored – but a reminder with disciplinary consequences within an ethics code surely wouldn’t hurt.)

Perhaps if the parliamentarians cannot manage to find the courage to actually remove their own immunity en masse and for good, then within the ethics code it may be stated that such immunity will not be allowed to shield them against the just application of the law?  Ergo the inference being immunity will be lifted as a matter of course unless it can be shown that the application of the law would be unjust.

However, if EuroMaidan/Revolution of Dignity is an indication, there may be room for a caveat, narrow as it would have to be, to exercise civil disobedience in support of democracy or human rights.

Further there is an imperative that each parliamentarian insures that the national laws they craft, draft and pass, fully comply with the national obligations and commitments to international and regional law and treaties to which the nation has entered.  Worthy of inclusion in an ethics code?  Probably so.

It would be wise to make certain undertakings regarding protecting and promoting democracy.  In the usually fractious, dirty and nefarious Ukrainian political world, undertaking to accept legitimate democratic outcomes is perhaps a necessary position to take.

A duty for inclusive, pluralistic, and tolerant discourse both within and without parliament in pursuit of a parliamentarian’s professional duties is perhaps worthy of inclusion – within the bounds of tolerance, for there are limits to tolerating the intolerable.

When mentioning necessities, given the Verkhovna Rada history, clearly an absolute ban on physical violence and/or intimidation will have to be included – perhaps with a requirement to condemn unconditionally and for the official record any such actions whenever they occur, and unavoidable yet proportional stern punishment for offenders.  Quite clearly such actions simply bring the institution into disrepute and should not be suffered without meaningful recourse.

Though there currently be little fear of the shrinking space for civil society returning in Ukraine as witnessed under the Yanukovych regime, nevertheless perhaps an ethical code should oblige parliamentarians to insure a broad and fertile space for civil society.  After all, an ethics code is a document written not with a particular moment in time in mind – but is a code of a somewhat “eternal” nature, albeit a code that will have to remain somewhat “living, breathing and evolving” to stay in step with societal ethics as they too change and evolve over time.

It would be wise to somehow include a solemn undertaking not to undermine or nefariously influence the institutions of State.  Perhaps a duty to advocate for, and protect, the institutional powers and prerogatives of all democratic institutions.

Sadly it would be quite necessary to include a specific reminder to parliamentarians that they do indeed serve the public (and not themselves).  A public interest clause making it absolutely clear that their duties within the Verkhovna Rada are to create and implement effective governance – be that through the legislation the write and/or pass, through their participation in oversight/committee debate, and in far too many cases, that they actually tun up to work regularly at the Verkhovna Rada.

Whilst on the subject of turning up to work at the Verkhovna Rada – or not – when “or not”, unless on holiday or within official visiting delegations somewhere, they should be obliged to be engaging with, representing, and serving their constituents – and accessibility goes far beyond having a Facebook page or a generic email address which goes unanswered.

(The more time that can be filled with national politics and the more obligations to the constituents within an ethics code, theoretically the less time available for furthering personal and/or vested business interests.)

It seems some consideration regarding interaction with the media will be required too.  Neither Ukrainian parliamentarians, nor the Ukrainian media have much in the way of credit when it comes to ethics.  What level of political spin and bullshit is acceptable before it becomes unethical?  What of social media interaction when a parliamentarian’s Facebook seeks to cut out an equally unethical media conduit?

Should media interaction be separately dealt with in an ethical code, or should it (perhaps far more cleverly) fall within a wider more encompassing clause relating to transparency, good will, and good faith with regard to all public interaction?

Having mentioned good will, good faith and transparency, then any ethics code will have no choice but to set out robust and unambiguous guidelines and/or rules for conflicts of interest and/or the use of improper influence.

To avoid going on and on – what, exactly, should be covered by any Verkhovna Rada ethics code – and what, if anything, should not?

T’will be very interesting to see what eventually is arrived at by way of a Verkhovna Rada ethics code – for it seems quite possible it will become a template for other institutions of State.

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