Posts Tagged ‘law’

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Statewatch Meeting London – Anyone of you readers going?

June 5, 2011

You know how you sign up to different websites, be it via email delivery or whatever? Well I have been signed up to Statewatch for a long time. Not that I am necessarily overly concerned about my civil liberties in Ukraine despite media comments to the contrary. There is a broad agreement between the foreigners here, that we have far less governmental intrusion in our lives than in either the UK or the USA. At least for the moment.

No the reason I sign up to such sites is to keep abreast of as much as possible within the EU, a location towards which Ukraine is heading slowly but surely. Whilst no membership any time soon, certainly it will become an officially recognised best friend with signed and stamped documents stating that very, very soon.

Quite literally there is only so many hours in a day to read all that there is to read each day as far as the potential future of Ukraine can be found from domestic and external sources.

It is almost a full time intelligence gathering hobby. It is even possible in many cases to deal with it professionally and collate, corroborate and analyse it and subsequently grade it as I would have done when working as an FIO back in the late 1990’s in the UK.

There are times though, when you do wish somebody would take minutes of meetings and the below is one such occasion. The Quo Vadis meeting at Oxford University was another.

There are certain parts of certain workshops in the below event that would have been worth listening to:

European Conference marking Statewatch’s 20th anniversary
Programme and Registration form: http://www.statewatch.org/conference/conference.pdf
Book Online: http://www.statewatch.org/ordering/order.html

STATEWATCHING EUROPE
Civil liberties, the state and the EU
European Conference marking Statewatch’s 20th anniversary
Saturday 25 June 2011, 10.00 am 17.30 pm
Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL

How does the EU affect your rights and liberties?
How has state policy and practice changed under the “war on terror”?
How is the “surveillance society” being constructed and how can it be stopped?
How can we counter racism, xenophobia and support for the far right?
How and why are protestors being targeted and criminalised?

Plenary sessions with Gareth Peirce (Solicitor and author of “Dispatches from the Dark Side: On Torture and the Death of Justice”; Tony Bunyan (Director of Statewatch); Shami Chakrabarti (Director, Liberty); Courtenay Griffith QC (Garden Court Chambers); Aidan White (Secretary-General, International Federation of Journalists, 1987-2011)
and
Parallel Workshops Session I: The state of Europe and the European state
Workshop 1: Beyond “Fortress Europe”: Immigration, asylum and border controls
Workshop 2: Mass surveillance and technologies of control
Workshop 3: The Stockholm Programme and the post Lisbon EU
Parallel Workshops Session II: The war on terror: legacies and challenges
Workshop 1: Criminalising communities and the policing of protest
Workshop 2: Racism, Islamophobia and the far-right
Workshop 3: Defending civil liberties: strategies of resistance
with
Institute of Race Relations, Garden Court Chambers, Deputy Ombudsman (Greece), Migreurop, CILIP (Berlin), Kommitee fur Grundrechte und Demokratie (Germany), Capaign Against Criminalising Communities, ASGI (Italy), European Digital Rights, ECCHR (Berlin), Caged Prisoners, Newham Monitoring Project and Statewatch

To register: Institutions £30 Individuals £15 Students/Unwaged £5
Programme and Registration form: http://www.statewatch.org/conference/conference.pdf
Book Online: http://www.statewatch.org/ordering/order.html
e-mail to: office@statewatch.org with” Conference booking” in subject line
Send a cheque to: Statewatch, PO Box 1516, London N16 0EW
Ring 0208 802 1882

________________________________________________ Statewatch: Monitoring the state and civil liberties in Europe PO Box 1516, London, N16 0EW. UK tel: +44(0)20-8802-1882; fax: +44(0)20-8880-1727 http://www.statewatch.org

 

Anyone attending and feeling like taking contemporaneous notes, I would be very happy to recieve them in the following areas:

Session 1, Workshop 1 and Session 2 Workshop 3.

Whilst it is unlikely any of you dear readers will attend, if you do, you assistance would be appreciated!

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The jury is out – for the forseeable future

June 4, 2011

Well dear readers, only a few days ago I wrote this about trial by jury in Ukraine.

It did not take long to get an answer about whether or not it will happen any time soon. A new law on jury trials, unsurprisingly submitted by the MP and defence lawyer for the ex-Prime Minister currently under investigation did not get through.

Looking at the votes “for” would suggest that not even all the opposition parties voted in favour of it, despite it being hastily penned in an effort to assist an opposition member.

Only 101 MPs voted for the new law on trial by jury.

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Ukrainian agriculture – DFI or Ukrainian best interests?

June 3, 2011

Well dear readers, Mark Twain once said “Buy land, they’re not making it any more.”

If there is one thing Ukraine has, it is a lot of land. Good agricultural land. The best black soil on the continent of Europe in fact.

Much of it is unused and what is in use is poorly managed, under producing and supported by an infrastructure that oft allows quality foods to rot before export or consumption.

Needless to say the likes of Cargill, Budge, Drayfis and Glencore are here together with smaller companies are here, just as they are with any commodity that they can flip title of at a profit.

Since 1996 there has been a moratorium on foreigners owning agricultural land. It was hoped that this would be lifted under the current government by the foreign nations and companies but this is not going to be the case.

What will happen is that next year, land can be bought by private Ukrainians.

Thus the cycle of leasing farmland will have to continue for foreign agricultural interests in Ukraine for a few years yet.

There are of course two schools of thought and that very much depends if you are a Ukrainian or a foreigner.

Foreigners will rightly argue that the best way to improve yields and dramatically upgrade the agricultural infrastructure is through DFI which would be actively encouraged if they owned the land rather than leased it. A good and valid point. It is far more of a risk to invest tens of millions (and more) in farming in Ukraine if you are in effect the tenant on the land than the land owner.

From the Ukrainian point of view, everyone knows it is the best agricultural land and soil on the continent of Europe, however the agricultural land market has been very much managed since the collapse of the USSR. This has had the effect that th market value of agricultural land here, despite being the best, is valued at less than that of the worst in other European nations.

To simply allow foreigners to buy agricultural land immediately would mean the largest part of the best land could be bought in Ukraine for the sum of $30 billion. In effect, such is the current value system, companies like Cargill and Glencore etc, could buy all the land within 24 hours such is their ability to get lines of credit with the worlds leading lenders.

The average estimates when using the average European agricultural land pricing would dictate that Ukrainian agricultural land, in a developed market is around $400 billion. That does not take into account that Ukrainian agricultural land is the best you can find on the continent.

Now the Ukrainian economy may not be in the best of health, but successive governments have kept the moratorium on agricultural land, knowing that when it is lifted for foreigners, it will be bought up very quickly and at a song.

Whether it is a cynical view point or a practical one, by allowing Ukrainians to buy the land from next year, it will automatically generate a market condition that will allow for a rise in pricing prior to the foreigners piling through the door when it is opened.

It will also mean deals will have to be done with numerous land owners rather than State and regional administrations for huge conglomerates to buy large areas of Ukraine, if the land owners are of a mind to sell. There are plenty of rich people here too that can generate the financing for the necessary infrastructure.

That would open the pathway to joint ventures or stock swaps to allow foreigners to own agricultural land here (and Ukrainian companies elsewhere on the globe) once the moratorium is lifted but would undoubtedly stem the wholesale of Ukrainian agricultural land to absolute foreign ownership. It would be far more risk management friendly for the foreign entities than the current leasing arrangements that nevertheless does not put off the big investors today.

Ukraine is, after all, not the only nation to have concerns and rules about foreign ownership of agricultural land and feeding its nationals first at local economic norms rather than global costs.

There is also the global historical legacy of broken promises, under employment and under development when large scale agricultural land sales have taken place. There is no end of lamenting and bewailing to be found from NGOs and charities over such issues, amongst them Oxfam and the UK Institute of Development Studies.

The common claims are that organisations buy much more land than they can ever effectively use, manage or produce from whilst the local communities do not benefit from the envisaged jobs or community development associated with a major local investment.

How all of this sits under the WTO rules is a difficult. Ukraine joined the WTO whilst the current moratorium was in place and gave no explicit timetable upon joining about its removal. It can hardly be accused of market manipulation or protectionism relating to something that already existed when allowed to join.

Both sides of the argument to allow (or not) direct foreign ownership of Ukrainian agricultural land have valid points to make, as do the NGOs and charities who have raised serious issues over other global agricultural matters of a very similar ilk.

One can only assume that both sides will be neither content nor unhappy about the small step to private Ukrainian ownership. Of course internally of Ukraine, the allegations of corruption and vested interests will abound when those who are rich enough to buy large swathes of agricultural land start to do so.

I bet you didn’t think you Cornflakes would cause so much trouble did you!

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Good times to bury bad news

June 2, 2011

My UK readers will remember a rather poor statement, albeit a true one, from Jo Moore, a Labour Party “spin doctor” who stated on the day of 9/11 that is was a “very good day to bury bad news” as far as the then government was concerned, thus encouraging whatever unpopular and bad results the government had, be released on that day knowing there would be hardly any mention of them in the media following the events unfolding in the USA.

She was eventually sacked, although not immediately. She was though, correct.

With the political holidays soon upon us in Ukraine, and with international pressure to speed up reforms whilst there is a reform minded government in situ, one has to suspect the same principle is about to apply.

Whilst there may not be events such as 9/11 to distract the public gaze, a month long holiday effectively closing off all political debate at government level, allows time for the mellowing and acceptance of what one has to expect is about to come.

Ukraine seems set to meet the IMF demands relating to Pension reforms, realistic gas and utility pricing and various other demands from the IMF just prior to the holidays in order to get the next tranche of IMF money.

Amendments to the law of Government Procurement will be made to appease the EU and IMF.

It may well be that the Tax Code is also amended and finalised before the holidays, allowing any protesters to protest outside an empty building, although I do expect some concessions from the government’s current stance.

RADA

In short, to follow the Jo Moore line of thought, as much bad and unpopular news will come out just prior to the month long holiday for the politicians.

To get as much as can be done, that will be unpopular but mostly necessary completed prior to the holiday, will mean there will be very little time for any new business or laws until September if not dealt with by July.

A summer of discontent? Unlikely, the sun is shining and many people soon go on their own holidays as well. Not really a time to gain maximum support to stand and chant outside an empty political building. When they return, all attention will be on the signing of the DCFTA and AA with the EU before the year end and the countdown to FIFA 2012.

As you can see, Jo Moore was right even though appearing rather callous.

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Needs must when in opposition – Jury Trials

June 1, 2011

Well, dear readers, I am sure we all wonder why our glorious leaders have so many good ideas when in opposition and yet when in power seem to be totally devoid of them.

Is being in power so time consuming that the ability to have good ideas is just prevented from going from brain to mouth and ultimately to action?

There have been many international examples of politicians stating, for example, the war on drugs is being lost, is ineffective and is too costly. Of course if the international community really wanted to stop the illicit trade in drugs, all 195 nations with their armies, police and intelligence services could quite easily take out all major drug production, drug supply chains and drug gangs buy sheer weight of the combined numbers they can throw at it if sovereignty was waved and some serious banging of heads by enormous multinational forces were to step in.

Equally, the entire international community could just decriminalise all currently banned drugs.

Neither of course are politically acceptable if you are in power, but easy to say if in opposition.

As Jean Claus Junker once said, “We know what to do, but we don’t know how to get re-elected once we have done it.”

We know what happens when the electorate are allowed to get involved. You have a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland and they vote No. That is quite obviously the wrong decision for the politicians, so there is another so that they can vote Yes as they should have done to make things run smoothly. Other nations, despite the promise of a referendum (UK) just signed up to the Lisbon Treaty and broke their promise of a referendum.

What has this got to do with Ukraine?

Well the country is going through long needed reforms. Some are, whilst unpopular, well grounded and well thought through reforms. Others however, would appear to have been written on the back of a cigarette packet during a break for lunch and submitted as though enough to run a nation by.

The underlying problem to reform in Ukraine is that so much is needed as previous governments have not done much, if anything, to reform Ukraine. Why? – Because as the above Jean Claus Junker quote ably displays, remaining in power is more important than what needs to be done for far too many politicians.

Much is said about the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary in Ukraine. They are, after all, hired and fired by the politicians which is never a good thing. That is especially so in such a partisan and feudal environment as Ukrainian politics.

It is not something that has simply just happened under the current government. In 2007, PACE wrote an exceptionally strong letter to then President Yushenko (a supposed democratic practitioner) for his interference with the constitutional court to get his way. His way happened to be unconstitutional but happened nevertheless after his interference in the highest court of the land.

Now we have the situation where all of a sudden, the opposition party of the ex-Prime Minister is tabling laws for the introduction of a jury system in Ukrainian courts. After five years in power, they never once thought to table such a law when they could pass it. That said, when you are in power it helps to have the judiciary subservient to your thoughts, and that they were during her time in power.

Now the ex-Prime Minister is very likely to at least get to court on several charges it has become a good idea to have juries, as of course, the judiciary are as open to “direction” under the current government as they were under that of the currently accused when she was in office.

It defies belief that what is an obviously good idea of jury trials, did not enter their heads when in power as they had the power to get it through parliament with their majority. Now a good idea is already besmirched with self-serving duplicity because of desperation rather than the merits of the proposed system. Incredibly sad!

Whether it will get through parliament remains to be seen. The safeguards from jury tampering in such high-profile cases no doubt will be as weak as the safeguards for interfering directly with the judiciary. Maybe more so given the money and nasty connections available to politicians of all parties and the average wealth of the average Ukrainian citizen.

You can buy a voters vote in the national elections for the price of a half eaten sharama, so buying a jurist vote will not be a difficult thing to do either. How it would be possible to find a jury made up of truly independent people in Ukraine who would not find Yulia Tymoshenko guilty (or not) regardless of the evidence is yet another difficult matter. Such is her violently polarising effect on the electorate, she is saint or sinner regardless of evidence.

Much like the PACE recommended State TV station she refused to start as Prime Minister, and that may now have turned out to be beneficial for her, not bothering to reform anything, let alone introduce jury trials, now seems to be yet another bad decision that will come back and haunt her.

One has to suspect that when jury trials eventually get the go ahead in Ukraine, it will come at a time far too late for her. She may well rue the fact she did not even try to implement them when she was in power. One can only assume that the ECHR will be her next best bet if found guilty, but that assumes she is innocent which may not be the case. If she is guilty, the last thing she will want is the ECHR confirming the ruling.

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A French victory in the Ukrainian courts

May 29, 2011

Just to go against the popular sentiment once again dear readers, a French company has just won a business dispute in the Ukrainian courts.

In the past year or two, foreign victories in Ukrainian courts seem to be more and more frequent despite the western media doing its very best to portray Ukraine as the wild-wild east.

This time it was French bank CIB Credit Agricole who went up against one of Ukraine’s biggest company’s, TMM Ukraine owned by the rather affluent Mykola Tolmachev. Most of us, dear readers, would be happy to be only a $ few million behind him.

The incident comes about relating to bank loans and repayments. There are various figures floating around the Ukrainian media relating to the size of the outstanding amount, from $600,000 to $750,000. I am fairly reliably informed that the actual figure is just over $800,000.

Whatever the figure, the repayment is not going to hurt TMM Ukraine when it comes to balance sheets or interruptions in operating cash availability I am told. One can only assume that it will make it harder for TMM Ukraine to borrow from banks externally of Ukraine in the future however and borrowing internally of Ukraine results in ridiculous interest rates, so maybe a longer term faux pas on behalf of TMM Ukraine.

Anyway, whilst the result is not necessarily that helpful to TMM UKraine, it will certainly be helpful to Ukraine itself as this is yet another case where the courts have ruled in favour of the foreigners.

I am not the only one to think that way either. Jacques Mounier of CIB Credit Agricole, Kyiv obviously thinks the same way. He stated “It would have been wiser for Mr. Tolmachev not to enter into such litigation against our bank, a litigation which ridiculed himself, his businesses TMM, Sintal, and that, even if, eventually, he was not successful, tarnished Ukraine. We believe that such a judgment is good news for CIB Credit Agricole, but even more for Ukraine, and is a booster for the investment climate.”

Quite right! Whilst $800,000 is not a lot of money to either party, there was a principle at stake and the rule of law came through in Ukraine without interference and with a just result.

Unfortunately this tale of justice in the Ukrainian business world will undoubtedly not make it to the western media as news like this just doesn’t sell newspapers does it. It is though, yet another case I can cite to those who are interested in coming to Ukraine to do business but are wary as they believe all they read in the press.

It seems like a good news day in the business world involving Ukraine. This comes on top of the scrapping of opaque grain quotas and the imposition of transparent export duties instead. Another little shuffle by the State in the right direction.

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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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