Posts Tagged ‘domstic policy’


Yalta Conference – Time for today’s democracy lesson – Inclusiveness

September 21, 2013

As of now, the 10th annual Yalta Conference (Yalta European Strategy or “Yes”) is underway.

The list of speakers is both lengthy and impressive – and yet it is highly unlikely that any one of them will not deliver the same very basic message time and again.  Democracy 1 – 0 – 1.  Albeit occasionally shrouded in clever words, imagery and examples.

The consistent repetition we can expect relating to core democratic concepts wrapped in occasionallly softer and perhaps somewhat disguised prose, would tend to lead those who know nothing of Ukraine to believe that the Ukrainian political class have no understanding of democracy past electoral democracy (which they all cheat in).

That is simply not the case.  They all know very well what democracy is and how it should work.

The issue is purely one of releasing control, and the timing of that, by the political elite (across all parties) – It is a standard issue amongst those nations deemed to be in “democratic transition”.  It is not peculiar to Ukraine.

One of the greatest attractions (to me) of the Association Agreement, is that it provides a framework, time frame and domestically neutral mentor/monitor by way of the EU, providing confidence amongst a political elite so distrusting of each other, none have been prepared to loosen the reins bit by bit and allow democracy to truly and irrevocably establish itself.

Anyway, not long ago, I wrote this sentence relating to democracy:  “Is not democracy the continual friction between competing ideology and policy held within the cradle of integrity, decency and rule of law, oiled by that most necessary of ingredients – tolerance?”    Perhaps not as erudite as I could and should have been, but nonetheless all perfectly right – as far as it went.

There is naturally far move to democracy than that when scratching off that broad brush-stroked veneer I painted the governance model with in a single sentence.

There are issues such as inclusion, pluralism,  cross-cutting cleavages, responsiveness, a-political state institutions, the civil space,  basic freedoms of speech and expression etc – all that (and more) omitted from that sentence that together forms part of the very fibre of democracy.

So which to talk about?

As much as I could write about cross-cutting cleavages – there is little point – as no political party shows any interest in the concept, let alone making any attempt at it, despite any rhetoric.  Ukrainian politics has always been polarising and zero sum – and undoubtedly that is going to continue for the foreseeable future.  Very sad and retarded though it is.

However, there do seem to be some attempts, albeit indirectly and displaying an absolute lack of political spine across all parties, at inclusiveness over the past few years.

Stefan Fule talking here about the Crimean Tartar for example.  Progress made – but a long way to go.

Take note of the frame that his speech is draped upon.  The basics of democracy form that frame.  It is a frame those in Yalta will consistently use to hang their varying words of wisdom and deviations of a theme upon.

However there are issues relating to inclusiveness – not to mention tolerance – that are making the Ukrainian political class go into convulsions, whilst in others minority areas progress is being made.

We are talking about the rights of sexual minorities.  LGBT as I believe it has become known by.

Above shows one of what is likely to be very many protests that is both anti-EU and anti-LGBT outside the RADA in Kyiv.

Quite simply, such is the lack of support – which I think is politically genuine rather than one of fear by being associated with this particular minority – it is quite clear that further legislation as requested by the EU to defend LGBT rights will simply not get through the RADA.

It is not as though any political party has “come out” in support of a Bill to insure these peoples basic rights.  In a nutshell the votes are not there.


So much for inclusion in Ukraine.

Or perhaps not.

Somebody has put their creative thinking hat on – and in recognition of the fact any such Bill will simply not fly in the RADA – they are taking steps to put proposals to the EU for an alternative and less public guarantee for the rights of LGBT community.

That somebody, who has taken on the issue – quite rightly in the circumstances – is the Ukrainian Ombudsman for Human Rights.  She has literally gone to the EU and tabled alternative proposals to the EU in the hope that there can be joint work to reach a model that would insure these people their rights without rousing a public perceived to hold robust anti-LGBT positions.

Whether this works or not – and whether it is the right thing to do or not – remains to be seen.  But Ukraine is at least being seen to do something and using some creative thinking to try and achieve LGBT inclusiveness – one way rather than the other.

It has to be said, laws passed or not – even in nations where rule of law is uniformly applied (unlike Ukraine at present) – unless changes come from the bottom-up, and are so driven – societal traction often lags far behind new legislation when a lack of “buy in” occurs.

However the lack of political “buy in” and the lack of any new robust legislation may very well be seen as tacit approval for continued attitudes – even if a deal between the Ukrainian Ombudsman and the EU is struck and implemented very quietly indeed.

Unfortunately, unlike African tribal politics where a great many people with tangible, ethnic or social ties congregate in the same locations – naturally the Ukrainian LBGT community is thinly spread nationwide.

I am quite certain if they were all living heavily congregated in several voting constituencies – a political champion or two would be found – not that I would consider that a suitable option as it is too reminiscent of the ghettos of WWII – it is, theoretically, way to manipulate voting constituencies for minority groups however.

Anyway – interesting as to how this will all work out – hopefully to the satisfaction of all.


PACE removes paragraph about Ukraine from resolution

June 30, 2013

Here is an interesting detail relating to the PACE resolution on “Keeping political and criminal responsibility separate”.

It appears that struck from this resolution was the following paragraph relating to Ukraine:

“Concerning Ukraine, the criminal cases brought against former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko have given rise to severe criticism from the international community.  The committee is deeply troubled by the manner in which the country’s criminal justice system has been abused in order to persecute political opponents. It considers that in both these cases, the principles of the separation of political and criminal responsibility have been violated.”

The paragraph was certainly included in Mr Omtzigt’s original draft as can been seen here on the very first page.

Yet here, in the final adopted text as backed by all 86 nations that voted, the paragraph has been consigned to the Council of Europe rubbish bin with all reference to Ukraine, Tymoshenko and Lutsenko completely expunged from the record.

And so one has to ponder why this paragraph was removed.

Was it the case that PACE wanted a generic, broad-brushed statement applicable to all and thus deliberately decided to omit mention of specific nations (such as Iceland and Ukraine)?

Is it that the votes were simply not there should that paragraph have been included and thus the lowest common denominator with regards text that could garner enough votes went forward?

Is it that some PACE council members do not see the cases of Tymoshenko and Lutsenko as purely political persecution but believe there were criminal/dubious aspects behind their decision making that rightly warranted the instigation of the cases against them?

Who was behind the diplomacy, and who gathered sufficient support for that paragraph to be stricken?

Is it perhaps that PACE does not want to rock the boat regarding the EU delegation to Ukraine and the possibility (real or supposed) that Tymoshenko may be sent into voluntary exile in Germany for medical treatment in a manner so timely it facilitates the signing of the AA and DCFTA between Ukraine and the EU in November?

It would be interesting to know the motivation(s) for dropping such a pointed and critical paragraph.


European Parliament attack United Opposition composition again

May 30, 2013

Not for the first time, the European Parliament has made clear its disillusionment with the “United Opposition” of Ukraine in respect to their cooperation and coalition with the Svoboda Party.

“For me this party is the worst phenomenon, which presents an anti-Semitic position, and fights against gays and lesbians. They do this openly.

 I saw a photo of the Svoboda leader, Yatseniuk [Arseniy Yatseniuk, one of Batkivschyna leaders] and Klitschko [Vitali Klitschko, UDAR party leader] together demonstrating the unity of opposition. But I can’t imagine that people like Klitschko, who position themselves as Europeans, and Yatseniuk, would willingly shake the hand of a person who in public states that Jews are the main threat to European civilization. Sometimes, while looking for and respecting opposition, we can’t recognize it.” – Marek Siwiec MEP

This statement echoes resolutely with similar a similar statement from the Foreign Minister (in waiting) of Bulgaria, Kristian Vigenin.

However, despite the rhetoric, it is impossible to believe that the European Parliament “does not understand” why the other opposition parties are in a coalition with Svoboda – it is simply about voter numbers and defeating the Party of Regions at any elections that occur.

Nobody claims – not even the parties within the “United Opposition” – that they have any shared ideology or goal other than removing the current ruling majority and replacing it.

Quite simply it is zero sum, winner takes all, politics that is driving the “United Opposition”.  Ideology, appearances, future dynamics and functionality should it actually win – be damned.

It is of course that very mind set, should they come to power, that will lead to the collapse of such a coalition – as ideology frames policy.

Despite any secretive and grubby little deals about who will hold what political positions amongst the party leaders and their immediate entourage, Svoboda will drag both UDAR and Batkivshchyna to the right of centre politics owing to the necessity to keep power through such a coalition – and power is everything in this zero sum game.

If it were not a zero sum game, then it becomes incredibly difficult to argue (to the point where it would be hard to understand) for cooperation with Svoboda by either the “United Opposition” or UDAR based on any other premise.

Such a hard pull to the right will probably cause a winning coalition to collapse or fragment mid-term.  Alternatively such a hard pull to the right will disillusion enough voters to insure they are a single term majority if they manage to hold it together and retain power for power’s sake.

Given the history of Batkivshchyna coalitions – fragmentation and collapse seems the most likely prior to completing a full term in office.  Particularly so, when currently, the only thing united about the “United Opposition” is the use of the word “united” in the coalition title.

Nonetheless, it would be very interesting to see this unholy alliance win, and observe what sort of reception any Svoboda member would get when visiting the European Parliament.

The open hostility towards hard right nationalism within the EU political elites should not be underestimated – after all nationalism sits poles apart from the strange place the EU resides between confederation and federation as well as the core principles upon which the EU is founded – and thus Svoboda, already openly condemned twice by the European Parliament, are unlikely to get anything but a very cold reception at best – and at worst it would get no reception at all.

Knowing that to be the case, how would UDAR and Batkivshchyna deal with EU relations if in power when reliant upon Svoboda to remain so?

What cost to goodwill by retaining Svoboda as a coalition partner with the EU?

Will Svoboda be jettisoned as a partner by Batkivshchyna and UDAR if, in the unlikely event, their voting numbers are enough between them to create a majority?

For certain this is not a coalition set in stone for the coming eons.  Sooner or later it will break – and probably sooner rather than later if it comes to power – or later rather than sooner if it remains in opposition.

More immediately, how will Messrs Yatseniuk and Klitschko respond to yet another, public, European chiding over their association with Svoboda?


No deadline extension for Ukraine – Fule

May 11, 2013

Yesterday, Stefan Fule EU Commissioner for Enlargement and Nighbourhood Policy, clearly stated that the EU will not extend the time it has given for Ukraine to address the issues of serious concern to the EU when it comes to the signing – or not – of the Association Agreement and DCFTA.

“First of all, we have never postponed the deadline for Kyiv. Foreign ministers of the EU countries in December clearly stated that they would be ready to sign the association agreement at a summit in Vilnius in November. However, they specified three sectors, in which they expect decisions from Ukraine through consistent and obvious efforts,in particular selective justice, the program of reforms and flawed electoral laws.

We see some progress the Ukrainian side made in all the three sectors, including politically motivated proceedings. The release of Lutsenko and Fylypchuk  is a step in the right direction. However, much is to be done, including the guarantee that this phenomenon won’t happen again.”

A statement they may seem rather bullish – but in reality is actually dictated by the electoral timetables of several EU Member States and European Parliament elections due to occur in late 2013, 2014 and 2015, events that naturally divert attention away from issues Ukrainian and concentrate EU attention of “the self” and its component parts.

Simply put, no matter how bullish the statement of Fule may appear,  if the agreement is not signed in November, the European political calendar simply dos not allow for any such signing until 2015 at the earliest.  Any later than November and there will be significant political actors that if not at the end of a legitimate domestic mandate, are just finding their feet under a recently acquired domestic public mandate – issues of legitimacy and all that!

However, all that aside, I am not aware of any serious requests from Ukraine to extend the November deadline anyway – which causes one to ponder the need for such a statement from Fule – other than keeping the pressure for reform momentum on, and forcing the majority and minority in parliament to work together at least over matters EU.

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