Archive for the ‘How to in Ukraine’ Category

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Yet another look at NGOs in Ukraine

October 10, 2011

As regular readers of this blog will have noticed, I often turn my eye to observe the NGOs of Ukraine, their effectiveness or otherwise, their profile, who is behind them, what they set out to achieve, the hidden agendas of those financing them and the perception of them amongst the Ukrainian public.

The above link reads rather well considering what is about to come.

Of course I am not the only one who looks at these things.  Every party with a vested interest in them does as well, meaning both the government of Ukraine and foreign governments amongst others.

Over at the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union website, they have published the results of a survey undertaken by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) which corroborates all that I have repeatedly said before.

Whilst it is somewhat gratifying to have a survey that adds substance to what I have already said many times about NGOs in Ukraine, thus making it harder for you dear readers to dismiss my writings as the ruminations of  a disconnected foreigner in Ukraine who knows nothing about what the locals really think, one does wonder why it was necessary to have a survey on the blindingly obvious, unless to inform the financiers and professional managers of the NGOs, in writing and from an independent source, what they already knew.

What is it they already know?  By and large they are completely ineffective.

There are a very large number of NGOs in Ukraine and most Ukrainians couldn’t even name 5 of them.  Few would have very little idea what they did, would be far more suspicious of many foreign NGOs parachuted in from outside than the grass roots NGOs (and grass roots is really where legitimacy of NGOs comes from in the minds of the populous), would be highly suspicious of the motivations of the financiers behind many of the NGOs, particularly the private financiers such as Mr Soros and would generally look to NGOs in areas where there are specific and measurable results on the ground in any particular locality.

Just as with international aid, those that make an immediate and noticeable difference be it with health, education, specific areas such as child welfare or womens issues etc, and in specific towns and cities, are deemed far more valuable and useful than those foreign NGOs abstractly trying to change political systems, media freedoms and all the other “big” areas that are so “big” they are completely and utterly disconnected from the Ukrainian public to the point that they have never heard of them, are suspicious of their motives, distinctly fall into the “others” interfering in “our” structures, not for “our” benefit but “theirs”.

As and when there is a better understanding of NGOs, it will then not be long before Ukrainians see NGOs as a “profession” as it has become in other nations thus giving concerns over the passions behind the “professional leadership” that replaced those who set up the grass roots NGO, who whilst administratively imperfect had a true belief in their cause and did not see it as a job opportunity and a route into governmental dinner parties and embassy “drinkies” to circulate with the “enlightened” and seek out other career avenues that may present themselves whilst networking at such events.

Quite what Ukrainians would think about the rather more nefarious activities of information/intelligence gathering, deniable fronts for foreign government liaisons with people/groups/networks of interest, trawling their social forums etc which is a function of many foreign government sponsored NGOs beyond their declared functions, who knows?

One suspects even more suspicion of foreign NGOs than that which currently exists would be a natural consequence.

The problem with domestic NGOs is that to be effective they have to get close to government which all to often means a compromise at the very core of a NGO belief.  Minor victories for major issues being kicked into the long grass.  Eventually their legitimacy is eroded against their original principles, particularly when professional managers are brought in and ticky box accountability to the financiers needs to show some progress…….somewhere……no matter how little or how peripheral to the original cause.

All rather difficult when in 20 years, very few NGOs have “street recognition” with the Ukrainian public when it comes to who they are, what  they do and what they have achieved.   There are certainly branding and publicity issues for most.

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News for Ukrainian Private Enterpreneurs

September 12, 2011

As I am about to do battle with almost 10,000 pending comments across several websites, of which at least 9980 will undoubtedly be spam, I will leave you with a rather splendid decision by the Ministry of Justice in Ukraine relating to the registering of Private Entrepreneurs. At least a splendid decision in comparison to registration methods currently available.

As always in Ukraine however, decisions by the executive and implementation by the structure and associated agencies often leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to efficiency and effectiveness.

Certainly the policy decision itself is beneficial to both government and civil society, the capabilities to implement it however must be open to some doubt.

Anyway, I am now off to deal with more spam than could be found in a decades worth of military ration packs for the entire BAOR.

Hopefully something far more interesting tomorrow for you.

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Out with the old and in wih the new – Ukrainian Visa system changes today

September 10, 2011

Out with the old and in with the new. Well yes and no, depending upon what you read and who you pay attention to.

To cut a long story short 16 Ukrainian Visa types are no longer issued with effect from today and are replaced by only 3, Transit, Short Term and Long Term. Not news to you dear readers as I did tell you months ago this was going to happen and when.

Well, today is that “when” in question.

I also promised to try to keep you up to date about the intricacies where ever possible.

So, click here for the Ukrainian Embassy to the UK announcement and click here for the US Embassy Kyiv announcement.

If you are incredibly brave click on both as there are some inconsistencies and people who are subject to Visas do tend to get quite emotional and frustrated when they are being told different things.

An example being, for those still holding valid visas for Ukraine, the US Embassy states, “If you have a valid visa and OVIR registration but not a residency permit you can stay in Ukraine as long as your current registration is valid. Once you leave the country, however, you will need to obtain a new visa abroad to qualify for legal residency under the new system. Regardless of the expiration date, “old” pre-September 10 visas will no longer be valid for entry into Ukraine after September 10.”

That is not mentioned by the Ukrainian Embassy to the UK and therefore infers that existing Visas will be allowed to run their course until expiry date under the old rules.

That was in fact confirmed by Mr. Andriy Olefirov, Director-General for Consular Service, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ukraine at an open meeting only a few days ago duly attended by many foreigners currently holding Visas under the old scheme. They do not need to get a new Visa until the old Visa expires.

The US Embassy is therefore apparently misinformed if you work on the premise that the Ukrainian Embassy issuing Visas for applicants from England and Wales and Mr Olefirov of the Foreign Ministry of Ukraine know more about issuing Ukrainian Visas than the US Embassy in Kyiv that doesn’t issue Ukrainian Visas.

I told you some months ago this would not be a seamless process and it would seem an absolute nonsense to make visa holders of the old system, some with considerable time still to run before expiry (indeed some only issued last week), have to buy new visas should they have occasion to leave Ukraine before the expiry dates of the old system visa.

The problems will concentrate themselves in familiar places. The OVIR offices and which Visas, if any, of the old system they will continue to extend (or not) and the height of the qualification bar for the new Long Term Visa as intgerpreted at the issuing Ukrainian embassies and consuls around the planet.

One has to suspect the US and Ukrainian embassies will end up being right half the time, depending on individual OVIR decisions throughout the regions. T’was ever the case the regional interpretation was the only one you were concerned about under the old system anyway.

Nobody has said, as yet, how high the bar for the new Long Term Visa is set. As it replaces most of the 16 Visas that existed before, all of which had different criteria to reach to be granted. Is the bar for the Long Term Visa set at the height of the old IM-1 which required a veritable tome of paperwork from applicant and employer, is it based on an official invitation as per the old Student Visa or God Squad Visa from a recognised national institution, or is it as low as the Private Visa and Business Visa used to be, requiring nothing more than an invitation from a Ukrainian citizen or entity.

The Private Visa was after all requested by many an OVIR prior to registration passed 90 days for those married to Ukrainians who were under the 2 years of marriage point where upon reaching said 2 years, can apply for Permanent Residency.

It is as yet, unclear whether there is a set height for the Long Term Visa or whether, depending upon your reason for applying for it, the numerous different heights still apply.

Feel free to write up your experiences in the comments section for the other readers or simply let me know so I can pass on your experiences of joy or woe.

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Ukrainian Tax Officials available on line for real time consultancy‏

July 19, 2011

Seriously – It’s true. Not tried it myself, but it went live on 15th July.

Anyone wishing to share their on-line experience with this new Ukrainian service, please feel free to leave a comment.

Sorry, the computer says “No”

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Changes to Ukrainian adoption laws

May 23, 2011

As some of you dear readers no doubt have considered adoption in Ukraine, certainly looking at my historical posts on the issue, the statistics seem to show there is an interest, the laws defining who can and cannot adopt a Ukrainian child/citizen have changed.

No dramatic changes as far as foreigners are concerned –

Interfax-Ukraine
The Ukrainian parliament has banned from adopting children by people who cannot be left without someone’s care, stateless persons and persons who got married to those people who cannot adopt under Ukrainian law.

On May 19 the parliament endorsed amendments to the Family Code of Ukraine.

The law establishes a ban on adoption of children by people who cannot be left without someone’s care, stateless persons and persons who got married to those people who cannot adopt under Ukrainian law.

The law permits adoption without the consent of parents if they did not take a child for two months.

The law says that a child who is a citizen of Ukraine can be adopted by foreigners if the child is on files of a central executive power body empowered to settle adoption issues and protection of children rights and if the child reaches five-year age.

According to the law, the adoption can be finished before the said term expires and before the child reaches five-year age if the adoptive father or mother is a relative of the child and if the child suffers from a disease that is put on a list of diseases approved by the Health Ministry. The adoption also can be finished before the said term expires and before the child reaches five-year age if all brothers and sisters are adopted by one family and if foreigners want to adopt a child who is a brother of a sister of their earlier adopted child.

It seems the procedure has not really changed other than insuring the child you wish to adopt is on the central register.

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Council of Europe Projects and Ukraine

May 10, 2011

Well dear readers, I have mentioned this many, many months ago and it seems the Council of Europe has now decided to launch the Euro 4 million projects at promoting democracy, good governance, and stability in the nations of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

Quite a task on such a feeble sum, particularly when that sum is also to be used for bringing these 6 nations towards EU standards in areas of  electoral system, judicial system, combating cyber crime and corruption.

If these funds are equally divided amongst the six nations, that would equate to  just under Euro 667,000 each.  back in 2007/8, to buy a seat in the RADA with either the BYuT, OU-PSD or PoR, the cost was an average of $5 million.

The entire Council of Europe Euro 4 million is therefore enough to buy one seat in the 450 member RADA in Ukraine (in a party of your choice) by the back door.

It also begins its task now, when on 11th may, Ukraine assumes the presidency of the Council of Europe until 7th November.  Some cynics amongst you may wonder why such monies are being given to a nation like Ukraine for the reasons stated and yet, the presidency of the giving organisation, (CoE/PACE) will be with Ukraine for the next 6 months, a nation the entity itself identifies as being in need of financial assistance to move towards EU standards.

That is not to say I am against Ukraine holding the presidency from tomorrow.  It will open the Ukrainian elite to 6 months of consistent and continued external influence from those within the EU wanting to push it along the slow path of European integration as far as standards go.

Let us not confuse that with EU membership as they are not one and the same thing.  Whilst there is a recognition by both Ukraine and the EU there are obvious benefits in a parity of standards, the EU has never offered and Ukraine has never officially asked for, EU membership.

Still, Euro 4 million is a minuscule amount of money divided between 6 nations if there was to be a serious attempt at reforming current practices from an EU sponsored position and there are certainly better ways to deal with the issue than to throw EU money at it.  Diplomatic and trade carrots and sticks, multilateral and bilateral are likely to have far more effect.

One wonders what the money will be used for.  Judges on exchange visits and the like?  That has been done before with no obvious results whatsoever.

The time to truly get into the ribs of the Ukrainian elite, president and his administration begins on 11th May and will continue until 7th November as they will not want to be an invisible presidency on the regional scene.  Euro 4 million is neither here nor there.

As every presidency of the CoE looks to forward their pet/favourite issues amongst the regional players, I suspect the issue of Visas will be on the Ukrainian list but it would be good to see the issue of Transneistra as a priority as it seems both Russia and Germany and quietly stealing the march on the Ukrainian doorstep.

Some form of visible movement on that issue will do Ukraine a world of good (not to mention Moldova) when it comes to EU integration and beyond.

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Chernobyl Sarcophagus Mk II

April 20, 2011

26th April marks the 25th anniversary of Chernobyl.  The incident at Reactor Number 4 was, and may well remain, the worst atomic accident the world has every seen.

How can I say that given the events in Japan?  Quite simply because the outcome of Japan is still unknown.  The leaks have yet to be completely stopped and cool down yet to be accomplished.  Certainly not all the reactors in Japan will have the same international Level 7 warning that Reactor 4 was given in Ukraine.  It is still quite probable that the Japanese Level 7 reflects the cumulative affect of all the reactors and the worst case scenario with regards to wider environmental and health issues there.   I strongly suspect most of the actual reactors at Fukushima are individually given a lower risk category than that given to Reactor 4 at Chernobyl.

It can also hardly be claimed that despite the Chernobyl tourist industry, the existing sarcophagus is in good shape.  It is cracked.  Whilst it may still be fit for purpose, there is no guarantee that will be the case given its hasty construction at the time, hence the need to create a new sarcophagus.

On Monday, the EU announced an additional Euro 100 million towards the costs of the new sarcophagus, Japan a regular donor has its own Fukushima problems, and several other nations who regularly donate have painful economic issues and IMF involvement.  Many other nations will stand by their promises towards Chernobyl and given the current geopolitical struggle between the EU and Russia over trade agreements with Ukraine, as expected Russia pledged money to  counter the EU donations financially despite not being a long term donor previously.

Whilst the Chernobyl fund built up over the years will fall somewhat short of the entire costs after the donations this year, it is certainly now getting very close.  It will not take much from nations not usually involved in the Chernobyl fund to make up the difference.

After the Chernobyl commemorations in Kyiv next week EU leaders will hold a nuclear safety summit.  Chair and co-chair would seem to be EU Commission chief Jose Barroso and French Prime Minister Francois Fillon.  Mr Fillon’s presence as co-chair is worthy of note.

When it comes to civil nuclear power, civil reactors of various designs, including MOX, France takes some beating.  France is extremely nuclear orientated in its energy production and was quite probably a driving force behind the EU Energy Plan that runs to 2050 and envisages a large increase in nuclear power facilities across the continent.  Whether events in Japan will change some of the proposed atomic generation to more conventional energy production around the continent we shall see.  Given statements from Ukraine, the Czech Republic and Estonia since the Japanese disaster it seems unlikely plans will change greatly.

The co-chair of Mr Fillon is notable also because those who are to construct the new Chernobyl sarcophagus are the French companies Bouygues and Vinci.  Both are indeed class acts, as I know from first hand experience, and will no doubt do a very good job.  That said, you cannot help but have one or two suspicions that Mr Fillon has an additional agenda.

Firstly, with both French contractors already awarded the contract for the sarcophagus, the additional EU money has a strikingly similar feel to a lot of US Aid.  By that I mean the money is given to a nation and then channeled back to US companies.  EU money boosting the French economy is good for the EU regardless of the benefits to Ukraine.

Secondly, given within the Ukrainian Energy Plan to take us to 2030, there are a lot of new nuclear reactors in their energy mix going forward.  Thus far Russia and India have contracts to build – you cannot help but think Europe’s leading civil atomic powered nation will  end up building in Ukraine as well……an announcement shortly after this atomic safety meeting  forthcoming perhaps?

Maybe I am being overly cynical.  France certainly knows a thing or two about civil nuclear power, so why shouldn’t it co-chair a nuclear safety summit of European nations?  France is certainly looking at Ukraine seriously for the future, having announced an Honourary Consul dealing with trade will “take up residence” in Lviv sometime this year.  Regional presence is essential when dealing with what are, in reality if not on paper, almost federal regional administrations.

Proposed Chernobyl Sarcophagus

The new sarcophagus will be – and without boring you with technical details – a 20,000 tonne, 108 meter high, 190 meters wide concrete dome that will be built and then move by track over Reactor Number 4…….well I know you want to know what it will look like!

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