Posts Tagged ‘Customs Union’


Grass roots diplomacy – Alternatives to the EU Delegation to Ukraine

August 17, 2013

A few days ago I wrote about grass roots diplomacy in Ukraine and the complete and utter failure of the Delegation of the EU to Ukraine to make even the slightest impact on Ukrainian society.   An entry picked up by my “virtual friends” over at EastBook.EU and republished –  My hat suitably tipped in their direction.

It is always nice to be involved with others who take a considered and collaborative interest in events within the EaP nations.

Anyway, having chided the EU for continuing to try and engage with Ukrainian society via the ineffectual political class and even less effectual uncivil civil society in Ukraine,  I concluded that entry with this statement – “The EU Delegation needed to get out of Kyiv 2 years ago (and still does) and engage in open meetings with the Ukrainian public, be interviewed by local media on the local television and local radio and have Q&As in town halls to have even the slightest chance of effective impact when it comes to shaping public opinion. Then upload it all to YouTube, put it on websites and social media sites. That is going to be the only way the EU can attempt to seriously influence the Ukrainian society.

What the individual EU Member States embassies and consulates in and around Ukraine must think of such a socially ineffective EU Delegation at such an important time, I dread to think!

It must go direct and in person – There are no other channels that are trusted enough by society – simple!”

All very obvious to anybody who lives in Ukraine and has witnessed a prolonged demonstration of how to be completely feckless when it comes assessing policy effectiveness – and subsequently impact.

With there being little hope of a change policy by the Delegation of the EU to Ukraine when it comes to public engagement (or the almost complete lack thereof), one has to ask, should it fall upon the Member States to embark on some form of coordinated direct grass roots diplomacy – even if that will ruffle the ineffectual feathers of the EU Delegation sat in Kyiv?

I appreciate the fact that it probably shouldn’t fall on the Member States – but every Member State is responsible for its own foreign policy.  The EU or EEAS do not set foreign policy for any Member State – and quite rightly – both EU and EEAS are a mouth-piece for consensus based policy and little more most of the time.

28 Member States, many with not only embassies in Kyiv, but consulates covering every major city in Ukraine between them – several times over.

Is it beyond comprehension or reasonableness to think that some – if not all – of those Member States diplomatic missions could be employed within the regions they are located, via local radio, local television, local Q&As, local newspapers, even “e-Q&As” to directly enter dialogue with the people of Ukraine?

Russia is upping the anti towards Ukraine in an effort to cause enough pain to force a rethink in Kyiv over the Association Agreement.  This is unlikely to stop until the agreement is signed – or not.  If signed, it is unlikely to stop in the period between signing and ratification.

Would it not assist the political class of Ukraine to have the EU diplomatic corps (via Member States in the absence of the EU Delegation) front and centre locally, explaining the benefits, explaining the short term pain, explaining specific issues etc – in short, managing the expectations of Ukrainian society directly?

With the greatest of political will from all sides, it will still take years for change to become apparent.  Ukraine must change its constitution to be able to ratify it for a start –  and that will not be a swift process.

Doing thus will it not only help mitigate a tactic Russia will continue to apply as and when it feels like it in an attempt to change Ukrainian direction and public opinion, but also attempt to avoid the severe disappointment associated with immediate change for the better it appears some people hold?

Can the Association Agreement afford to be perceived as a democratic failure similar to that of the “Orange Revolution” when it comes to the immediate delivery of expectations?  Can democracy in Ukraine survive such a publicly perceived democratic failure of such magnitude again?

Such questions and their answers are things that help shape the foreign policy of Member States – regardless of the EU Delegations inaction toward Ukrainian society.  So I ask once again, is it beyond comprehension or reasonableness to think that some – if not all – of those Member States diplomatic missions could be employed within the regions they are located, via local radio, local television, local Q&As, local newspapers, even “e-Q&As” to directly enter dialogue with the people of Ukraine?

Yes I know there is a financial cost to such things, but there is also a cost to not doing them that may be far greater.

How long can the EU Member States diplomatic missions sit idle, watching the EU Delegation to Ukraine completely fail to engage directly the considerable constituency known as the people of Ukraine, with the end of November and the Vilnius Summit getting ever closer and Russian shenanigans getting ever more brazen?

When will the Member States step in – or will they?

Can they afford not to?

Carefully worded expressions of “concern” in a statement from Brussels over recent Russian policy toward Ukraine that hardly anybody will read, and even less hear about, will not counter the dozen or so Russian TV channels broadcasting directly to the people of Ukraine in their living rooms.

The EU and/or its Member States have a growing need to engage with Ukrainians – directly  – and very, very soon!


An interesting read on the benefits (or not) of the Customs Union

June 20, 2013

Yes, yes I know I am posting much later in the day than normal – and this will be incredibly short too as I have been busy with other things, such as god-daughter’s birthdays.

However here is an interesting read from the Central Asia Program of the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University relating to the benefits – or not – of membership of the Customs Union.

Tomorrow the usual, overly wordy ruminations will return!


Tajikistan joins WTO effective 2nd March

March 3, 2013

Well congratulations to Tajikistan on successfully joining the WTO  – full membership taking effect yesterday, 2nd March.

Having applied back in May 2001, Tajikistan  has joined in little over a decade – which is quite timely for a FSU nation – all things considered – particularly so if one is in no rush whilst waiting for Russia to be bound by membership rules before joining a few international clubs in which Russia sits, yourself.

Next stop, undoubtedly will be joining the Customs Union with fairly immediate effect – followed by the Eurasian Union if it is up and running in a practical sense by 2015 – which as matters progress, looks likely.

A small but interesting regional development.


Ukraine – Absent!

December 20, 2012

Much headline space yesterday was given to the cancellation of President Yanukovych’s visit to President Putin and short notice – at such short notice in fact, that the Ukrainian press corps had arrived in Moscow to discover that the visit had been canceled at the last moment.

Media speculation runs rife as to the reason for the late cancellation – was it due to the telephone call initiated by President Barroso of the EU to President Yanukovych, during which he may have persuaded him to leave any formal announcements or signing of deals with Russia or the Customs Union until after the 25th February EU-Ukraine summit?   Or was it, as has been officially stated by both sides, that the documents and deals that were to be signed are not yet ready to be signed?

After all, every president likes to have something to show from an official visit, be they the visitor or the host.

Maybe it was a bit of both?

However, what has not got the media coverage, is that on the same day as the Presidents of Ukraine and Russia were due to meet and didn’t – there were also meetings of the Eurasian Economic Council, the Supreme Council of the Customs Union and Common Economic Space, EurAsEc summit and the CSTO summit – all of which Ukraine can attend in various guises – but attended none!

What to make of that?


Unexpected invitations – New Silk Road/Неожиданное приглашение – Новый Шелковый путь

August 14, 2012

Life is full of little surprises, some good and some bad, but little surprises nonetheless.

I have had a little surprise.  One which for me with so much free time on my hands I will consider a good surprise.  It is especially good from my point of view, as it marries where I live now to where I came from in a positive way and through a vehicle that is a Not for Profit entity.  The NFP entity sits nicely with my conscience as being part of something worthwhile for both parts of the world I call home, whilst not costing either any money.

I have been approached by the Secretariat of Lord Waverley to play a small part in the New Silk Road forum.  The full scope of this forum is still being fleshed out, however it is not aimed at the multinationals who employ national embassies to open doors and muscle their way into markets – but SMEs along the New Silk Road.

Naturally I have agreed to play whatever part is requested of me having friends and acquaintances in quite a few of the nations that this project is designed to engage with.  If it fills a few hours or even days of the week in a productive and effective way for those it is designed to help, then I will be quite happy to donate this time.   Better to be busy than bored and free time I have in abundance.

In fact so much free time do I have, I am going to write this post in Russian as well, simply to draw attention to the project on the Russian search engines.  Back tomorrow.

Жизнь полна сюрпризов, хороших и плохих, но мало сюрпризов, тем не менее.

У меня был небольшой сюрприз. Один из них для меня так много свободного времени у меня я буду считать это хорошим сюрпризом. Это особенно хорошо с моей точки зрения,  женитьба, где я живу теперь, откуда я приехал в позитивной стороны и через организацию, которая не приносит  прибыли. Предприятие НК хорошо находится со своей совестью как часть чего-то стоит для обеих частей мира я могу позвонить домой, в то время это не будет стоить  денег.

Я обратилась в Секретариат Лорд Уэверли сыграть небольшую роль в новый форум шелкового пути. Полном объеме в этом форуме все еще конкретизировали, однако она не направлена ​​на транснациональные корпорации, которые используют национальные посольства, чтобы открыть двери  протолкнуть путь на рынки, –  малого и среднего бизнеса по новым Шелковым путям.

Естественно, я согласился играть в любой части о чем просили меня  друзья и знакомые и  многие люди, что этот проект предназначен для поражения . Если он заполняет несколько часов или даже дней в неделю это продуктивный и эффективный способ для тех, кому он предназначен, чтобы помочь  я буду очень рад пожертвовать на этот раз. Лучше быть занятым чем скучать и конечно свободного времени у меня в избытке.


Immediate benefits? Ukraine and CIS FTA ratification

August 9, 2012

Regular readers of this blog will recall a post I wrote not so long ago relating to the Russian led Customs Union and the Vietnamese accession talks due to begin as early as September this year.

Well, a week or so ago, Ukraine did indeed ratify a free trade agreement with the Customs Union.

As I wrote in the post I link to above, “If the EU is relying upon Ukrainian public opinion to force the government to release these opposition leaders at the risk of losing the DCFTA and AA with the EU, then they could well be deluding themselves. According to an IRI poll released a few days ago, only 37% of Ukrainians favour a trade agreement with the EU (down from 42% in November 2011), whilst 41% favour joining the Russian led Customs Union (up from 40% in November 2011).”

“Further to this, since the surveys for that poll, Russia has joined the WTO providing a far more level playing field for Ukraine in the event of dispute as both nations are now subject to WTO rules and rulings.”

And so it has come to pass, very swiftly after ratifying the Customs Union FTA, and taking into consideration recent Russian accession to the WTO, some benefits to Ukraine have already arrived if you happen to be in the metal business.

The recent Ukrainian ratification and the serious interest of the Vietnamese will no doubt hearten Mr Putin in the pursuit of his Eurasian Union counterweight to the EU trade block.  It also makes Ukraine vital to the Eurasian Union just as much as it is vital to the EU’s EaP.  Both would suffer greatly from the absence of Ukraine.  In fact both the EaP and Eurasian Union would become something of a joke without Ukraine.

Those who wrote off the Eurasian Union when it was initially announced may well need to reconsider their stance.

My position over the issue is clear throughout the historical posts on this blog, however those clever chaps back in the boiler room at Chatham House, (and I say that because they are clever and not because I am a member of the organisation and want to push its virtues to you), have come up with a report that collates all my thoughts throughout this blog on the subject.

Needless to say, the Eurasian Union is not necessarily the joke many thought it was.

And so, with majority of Ukrainian public opinion currently seeing Russia and the east as its preferred trading partner, a very long way to go before the EU’s DCFTA is signed and ratified due to its being held hostage by the politically driven EU AA at EU insistence, then the EU is likely to be playing catch up rather than leading the way with regards to influencing Ukraine via trade very shortly.

It will be interesting to see just how quickly Ukraine sees some serious benefits from the ratification of the Customs Union agreement.  The faster those benefits are seen, the less likely Ukraine is going to be to crumble to EU AA pressure over the likes of Tymoshenko and the benefits that may come with the DCFTA, that is currently likely to gather dust for a long time.

My guess is that it will gather dust until sometime between 2016 and 2021, although I have made that prediction in this blog last year and nothing has happened to make me change my mind.  I am not going to change tack now.

In case you are wondering, following on from yesterday’s post, the Central Election Committee of Ukraine voted 10/14 in favour of abiding by the current Ukrainian laws and therefore have refused to register Yulia Tymoshenko and Yuri Lutsenko as candidates for the forthcoming October elections.  As far as I know, they have not reached a decision on Lazaenko yet, but I suspect he will be rightly disqualified from running.


Customs Union expansion with Vietnam – Will it make it more attractive to Ukraine than the EU?

July 31, 2012

I have written very often about the DCFTA (and attached AA) agreements that are now agreed between the EU and Ukraine, even if not signed and ratified for the foreseeable future.  Far less frequently have I written about the Russian led Customs Union.

This is because, thus far, despite the offer of a $9 billion reduction in Russian gas prices, the Ukrainian leadership has refused to become a full member.  Instead it prefers a 3 (Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan) plus 1 (Ukraine) engagement – which naturally has a much cooler response from Moscow.

Times change however.

The DCFTA is being held hostage to the politically driven AA by the EU because of issues such as perceived selective prosecutions of certain opposition politicians.  No movement from either side seems likely to occur and whether or not the October 2012 elections are technically free and fair or not, it already seems that the EU will not recognise them as free and fair whilst there are some opposition politicians in jail, and to be quite frank, jail is where they will be when the elections take place in all probability.

If the EU is relying upon Ukrainian public opinion to force the government to release these opposition leaders at the risk of losing the DCFTA and AA with the EU, then they could well be deluding themselves.  According to an IRI poll released a few days ago, only 37% of Ukrainians favour a trade agreement with the EU (down from 42% in November 2011), whilst 41% favour joining the Russian led Customs Union (up from 40% in November 2011).

Thus it appears from this poll, Ukrainian public opinion already marginally backs the Customs Union over the EU.

Further to this, since the surveys for that poll, Russia has joined the WTO providing a far more level playing field for Ukraine in the event of dispute as both nations are now subject to WTO rules and rulings.

Yesterday, somewhat unforeseen, Vietnam, another WTO member, revealed the fact that they are officially considering joining the Customs Union as well.  There is very little ambiguity in the words of Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang.

What would be most appealing to Russia and Ukraine is a Customs Union space in the Asia Pacific, given the US and EU’s attempts to look towards that region.

As a geopolitical aside, but not to be ignored or necessarily treated lightly, Russian Navy CINC Chirkov claimed the same day as the Vietnamese President’s Customs Union announcement, that Russia considering new “material-technical support points” in Cuba, Seychelles, and Vietnam.”

Anyway, returning to the Customs Union and trade, there is surely going to be additional attraction for Ukraine should Vietnam join.  Very much like the EU, the more members there are, the less power any individual member has – theoretically – and enough smaller members can hold in check the bigger ones – especially if they are all WTO members held by WTO rules.

Now Ukraine is important to the EU.  There is no denying that.  Without Ukraine the entire EaP project is a joke.  Huge issues relating to border security, immigration, organised crime etc would present themselves for the EU if Ukraine simply stopped cooperating with the EU.  But Ukraine is certainly guilty of thinking it is more important to the EU than it really is.  After all if the EaP project fails, so what?  It will not be the first or last EU project to fail.

That said, the EU is also guilty of taking Ukraine’s trajectory westwards for granted, not matter how slow and unsteady that trajectory may be.

If the Customs Union begins to attract Vietnam and a few others from the Asia Pacific it will begin to look much more attractive than the EU, as it comes without the political strings required by the EU’s AA to allow for the signing and ratifying of the DCFTA.

The progress of Vietnam into the Customs Union will be very interesting to watch – as will be the casual effects both in the Asia Pacific and Ukraine.

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