Posts Tagged ‘PACE’

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Setting the pace? PACE sets a (Crimean) precedent?

October 13, 2016

Much has been written in cyberspace with regard to how the international community should react to the recent Duma elections which included the illegally annexed Crimean peninsula (and its assimilation into the Southern District administrative and military machinery).

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13th October witnessed the adoption of a robust text by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in which this issue is officially raised.

Among the prose, of particular note is the following paragraph:

“4.1. condemns the illegal Duma elections held on 18 September in occupied Crimea and considers their results null and void. The incorporation of Ukrainian sovereign territory into Russian federal constituencies and the creation of four single-member constituencies are blunt violations of international law and effectively compromise the legitimacy of the Russian Parliament;”

It appears to be the first official document from an internationally recognised body that bluntly questions the legitimacy of the current Duma as it now contains illegitimate parliamentarians from an illegally annexed part of Ukraine.

As such, PACE Resolution 2132 (2016) appears to set a precedent officially questioning the legitimacy of the newly installed Russian Duma.

It therefore has ramifications.

There are now questions for each State and every international institution as to whether they will unquestionably recognise the legitimacy of the current Russian Duma – or not?  Now that PACE has officially questioned the legitimacy of the Russian Duma, should they too formally do so?

Are PACE Member  States and international institutions to continue to entertain interaction with the Russian Duma if its legitimacy is questionable?  There are other Russian channels if disqualifying the Duma after all.

Should they end any or all inter-parliamentary cooperation with a questionably legitimate Duma?

How to wiggle?  Does their entry into the Duma not simply de-legitimise that entire rubber-stamping circus – and if not why not?  If not, is cooperation be withdrawn only from committees and delegations that contain those Duma MPs who entered the legislature from Crimea to otherwise justify interaction without having to address a broader issue of Duma legitimacy?

What of the expansion of sanctions upon those now representing Crimea in the Duma?  Should any individual sanctions also include those that organised the elections too?  It seems unlikely that this can be avoided.

Regularly this blog raises policy questions regarding Ukraine.  For the past 2 years the absence of an overt Crimea policy had been duly noted – it is only fairly recently that something approaching policy has become clear.

Clearly PACE Resolution 2132 is something of a diplomatic win for Ukraine and the Ukrainian delegation to PACE.  It has not occurred without their significant effort to include such text, and hard lobbying to get it passed by PACE parliamentary vote.

The blog is aware of the energy spent by those (such as Alexie Goncharenko, a Ukrainian PACE delegation representative and head of the Verkhovna Rada cross party committee on Crimea), to accomplish such a result.   Thus although recognition of a good job well done are something of a rarity, the Ukrainian delegation to PACE have achieved all that could be expected of them on this occasion and their efforts deserve recognition.

It now remains to be seen whether the precedent now set in this PACE Resolution will further resonate within PACE Member States and other international institutions – or not.

(Full disclosure, the blog is well acquainted with Alexie Goncharenko – albeit there are healthy areas of (friendly) disagreement on occasion.)

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Council of Europe (PACE) issues – Ukraine

June 20, 2016

There seems to be a tempest brewing between PACE and the Ukrainian delegation therein.

Thus far, since the annexation of Crimea and war in eastern Ukraine, PACE has taken a (perhaps surprisingly) fairly robust line against Russia – the Russian delegation being stripped of its voting rights.

As a result the Russian delegation therefore sees no reason to attend PACE sessions until their voting rights are restored (not that The Kremlin thinks particularly highly of PACE anyway), and their current voting rights ban is set to continue until the year end.

Theoretically the voting rights ban is up for renewal once again in the later part of the year and albeit despite no change in the situation that brought about the current ban in the first place, there is a perceived weakening of resolve.

Further the very recently released annual 104 page report upon Ukraine seems to have absolutely no mention of human rights abuses within either the occupied territories under Kremlin control in the Donbas, nor any mention regarding human rights abuses within the illegally annexed Crimea.

How so when such human rights abuses feature in so many reports by other entities?

If the Ukrainians are to be believed when confronting this omission, the reasons for the absence of any mention is due to the PACE leadership stating that because they were denied entry to the occupied Donbas and illegally annexed Crimea during the reporting period PACE could not and/or would not make any official comment due to lack of official access and monitoring.

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“In our opinion, (Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn) Jagland made a terrible and cynical response, he said that the alleged information on the state of human rights in the occupied Crimea and Donbas is not included in the annual report on human rights because no mission was allowed to enter Crimea and Donbas last year, so no information is entered in the report ” – I.Geraschenko (Permanent Member of PACE Delegation Ukraine)

Ho humm!

Should there be any mention in an official report upon human rights if such abuses have not been witnessed and/or monitored by the reporting entity’s observers?

What of witnesses and witness statements?  Could they not be included even if access is denied?  Are there no witnesses during the past year/reporting period?  If there are, is such testimony excluded due to lack of corroboration and thus no official mention made?

There is a distinction between monitoring and witnessing – monitoring does not necessarily require being a witness, but methodological collection, collation and analysis.

If making no mention of human rights abuses whatsoever in the occupied Donbas and Crimea during the last reporting period as the Ukrainians claim, does that also imply that any territory that is subjected to human rights abuses by State or non-State actors that simply refuses to allow access to PACE (or any other institutional monitors reporting to their associated entities) will also garner no human rights abuse ,mention within the text of official reports because observers have not witnessed and assessed the situation on the ground for themselves?

Should there be citation of official reports by other recognised international institutions in the absence of PACE monitoring to at least make mention of the issues – or not?  How easy now for PACE members to condemn human rights abuses within the occupied Donbas or illegally annexed Crimea with no mention of such in the institution’s latest official report?

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Another reformation plan for Ukraine

January 29, 2015

There seems to be an increasing number of plans to reform Ukraine.

There is the EU Association Agreement (and DCFTA) that has, since its negotiations were concluded, been widely touted as a framework reform plan for Ukraine.

There is the 66 page coalition agreement, agreeing a reform plan for Ukraine.

There is also the President’s 2020 Plan for Ukraine, outlining reform.

There are almost 30 parliamentary committees designed to reform their respective competencies.

We have the Venice Commission asked to suggest reforms to the Constitution of Ukraine.

Economic reforms will be shaped by the IMF and other global lenders, once they have rewritten the Ukrainian budget – so written as to be rewritten, thus providing the ability for the Ukrainian government to blame the IMF for what will be very unpopular (but required) actions.  A particularly spineless act by a government that knows what is required and still shies away from do what is necessary.

There is also the NATO plan for reforming the Ukrainian military.

Indeed, though it possible to continue listing reform plans, instead let us add yet another plan to the list of reformation plans.

We now have a Council of Europe plan for reforming Ukraine.

At some point, perhaps, somebody plans to read it.  Maybe there will be a plan for somebody to sit down with all the plans and collate, compare, and come up with another plan – perhaps a grand reformation plan – incorporating all the plans that already exist.

In fact, the Council of Europe’s plan is a well structured, well explained and clearly financed plan.  It is far less woolly than any plans created within Ukraine and far more transparent too.  As a plan that runs until 2017, it is also an ambitious plan if it expects to make serious inroads into the areas listed.

As with most things in need of reform in Ukraine, the Council of Europe’s plan centres on the law and the need to synchronise Ukrainian law within the parameters of European laws.  Insomuch as that is a necessary step for Ukraine to pursue its European integration desires, it is a good plan.  The requirement for a legal framework within the parameters of the European normative is clear.

However, writing laws is not enough on its own – even writing laws that fall comfortably within the European parameters of acceptability.  Writing new laws is not a form of magic that will instantly – or perhaps ever – cure or prevent the ills they were written to address.

Words such as “implementation”, “benchmark” and “reporting” do indeed feature frequently within the Council of Europe plan – making it far and away better than any Ukrainian plan simply by mentioning the words, for it implies a form of, and system of, measurement – a much needed way to (accurately) assess results along the way.

Yet this may still not be enough to reform Ukraine.

Ukraine has little problem in writing laws – be they good, bad or indifferent.  It can also form policy – be it effective, ineffective or counterproductive.

What Ukraine consistently fails upon is implementation, whether it genuinely tries to implement policy or law, or not.

The reason for this is a complete unwillingness to accept responsibility.

Nobody takes ownership of a policy, or a reform, or a law.  It may be argued that “the government” may occasionally be forced to recognise the failing of this or that policy or law, but nobody ever gets sacked (let alone offers to resign) because of bureaucratic/administrative/institutional failings – not government ministers, not RADA committee members, rarely regional governors or metropolitan leaders.  Personal accountability and readiness to accept that responsibility is (almost) zero.

If anybody gets sacked (as nobody ever resigns because nobody ever takes responsibility) it is somebody nobody has ever heard of, so low down the food chain, they are swimming amongst the plankton in the sea of culpability.  If those who are sacked are “connected”, then within a few months they are reappointed, even if elsewhere within the behemoth of governance in Ukraine.

There are EU missions on the ground in Ukraine to monitor reform – for example the “rule of law” monitoring mission will be in Ukraine until at least summer 2016.  But monitoring, like observing, means just that – it does not mean get involved (and if you do, stretching your mandate, your influence is generally zero).

Thus, amongst all the plans, as well meaning and necessary as they are, perhaps there is a need to generate yet another plan.  A plan to change the psyche of those in positions of leadership, authority and public service.  A plan to euthenise homo-sovieticus within all State apparatus and replace them with more advanced beings perhaps.

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A fundamental question – Where is democracy’s eastern border to be?

January 28, 2015

With the war in eastern Ukraine continuing with no end in sight – as expected by anybody with a reasonable understanding of The Kremlin, its motivation and desired outcomes – with yet more Ukrainian territory being lost almost by the day over recent weeks, a fundamental question, based upon facts on the ground, has to be asked.

The question is where, hopefully collectively with Ukraine, has “the west” decided that the eastern-most border of its shared political, economic, social, ethical and moral values will be.

The official line has to be that the territorial sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine must be respected in line with international rule of law, and thus Ukraine’s official eastern-most border would be that line, in recognition that The Kremlin has not the slightest interest in being like – or wanting to be like, the west. But that is not the current situation on the ground.

Indeed the clocks running concurrently for Ukraine and the Kremlin are not synchronised when it comes to critical time lines.  Sanctions, oil prices etc., alone may eventually beat the Kremlin given enough time – but Ukraine does not necessarily have that amount time.  Simply throwing just enough money at Ukraine to keep it afloat in the hope of synchronising those clocks will do little to prevent further loss of Ukrainian territory in the meantime.

That Ukraine has under-mobilized, chosen some dubious military defensive lines, and is suffering from questionably poor military and political leadership regarding this war simply makes matters worse.

Yet The Kremlin is not only at war with Ukraine for wanting to head west, but it is at war with the post WWII architecture – political, legal, economic, ethical, social and moral as well as being at war over the post Cold War territorial outcomes – overtly and covertly.

There are fundamental differences held by Ukraine and the west vis a vis The Kremlin at the root of this war that are simply not going to be negotiated or appeased away – particularly so as the Kremlin has now managed to get itself stuck in an aggressive posture in Ukraine, with no new ideas.  Hence it will keep doing what it is doing until eventually stopped, or it forces a bad peace on Ukraine and the Kremlin wins.

If the Kremlin feels it needs another Oblast to be certain of controlling Kyiv politics, it will take one unless stopped.  It is not about how much Ukrainian territory it holds – it is only about holding enough to insure the desired result – political control. +/- Mariupol, +/- Kharkiv or Kherson in the grand scheme of things are an irrelevance to the Kremlin.  It is about control of the destination of Ukraine by doing enough to accomplish that – No more and no less.

If it is necessary to portray Ukrainian troops as a NATO legion and have an entirely overt Russian military adventure into another Oblast, the Kremlin will do so.  If it is not necessary, it won’t.

Momentum and initiative remains with a Kremlin that has absolutely no intention of returning Ukraine’s border control to Ukraine, thus surrounding its “proxies” and severing supply.  To think otherwise is entirely delusional.  It also has no intention of annexation or overly financing these invaded regions. Though the “terrorists/rebels/separatists/criminals/warlords/Orthodox jihadists” may have slightly different territorial aims to the Russian troops, ultimately these territories have no future without being client mini-states of the Kremlin either way – or they face a return to Ukraine should the west and Ukraine roll back the Kremlin gains.  A return to Ukraine is not coming any time soon.

Thus continuing to message a strategy of doing just enough, is not enough – because it hasn’t been enough.  Neither has any response been timely enough.  The initiative has to be taken from The Kremlin, because the Kremlin has simply run out of ideas and thus is stuck on its current course of a zero sum, win at (almost) all costs on the Ukrainian front.

Half-hearted half-measures leave Ukraine in the worst of possible places – but if Ukraine wants more robust western assistance, it has to be more robust itself, meaning leading the international political initiatives against the Kremlin instead of waiting for others to do so.  Man up/mobilise over and above what so far is equivalent to a small football stadium of men.  Stoically reform, even if with baby steps, despite incredibly difficult circumstances.  Write budgets that are genuinely politically brave, rather than those submitted knowing the IMF will change them, but then having the option to blame the IMF rather than take responsibility for unpopular choices itself.  Explain the options and choices it faces transparently with its constituents – and why which route is to be taken.

For Ukraine, this is a war.  It should not try and pretend otherwise, regardless of what official title it may want or need to give it, for whatever legal or politically expedient reasons.

For the west, this is a crisis, if we accept that a crisis is protecting core values and interests without engaging in conventional warfare.

For the Kremlin it is a multifaceted war far exceeding the geographical limitations of Ukraine, but one with the very foundations of western democratic architecture – albeit a war it will ultimately lose.

Ukraine and the west have to present the Kremlin with a significant challenge across all the fronts upon which it is waging war – both within and without of Ukraine.  The initiative has to be seized from the Kremlin.

In order to do so, it would perhaps be beneficial to identify, even if privately behind the curtain, just where the eastern borders of western democracy and shared values – if only temporarily in the distant hope of rolling back the Kremlin held ground in Ukraine – is going to physically be.

Will it include Ukraine at all – if so, what’s in and what’s out?

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Recognising terrorism – Ukraine

January 27, 2015

For many months Ukraine has been muting to the international community that it formally recognise the “Donetsk People’s Republic” and “Luhansk People’s Republic” as terrorist organisations.  Perhaps fair enough on the premise that there will be few nations that will recognise the legitimacy of either republic – ever – and thus the war they have engaged in against Ukraine, with significant Kremlin backing and involvement – may broadly fit most definitions of terrorism.

Without doubt, incidents such as the shooting down of MH17, and Saturday’s criminal incident in Mariupol, would certainly fit the definition of terrorism held by most reasonable people when all mass casualties and deaths were civilian.

Indeed the Ukrainian leadership’s calls for the international community to recognise these “republics” as terrorist organisations have steadily been increasing in frequency and volume in the most recent months.

However, as tweeted yesterday:

Indeed, for the Ukrainian leadership to expect any other nation, regional or global institution to designate these “republics” terrorist organisations, Ukraine must surely do so itself – first.  The integrity of such requests to the political world is severely undermined when Ukraine itself has not made the political and legal decision to make such a designation domestically.

Ukraine has to take on the political responsibility of leading such a charge.  It would be a ludicrous situation to have the “republics” designated terrorist organisations regionally and/or globally by various institutions, and yet Ukraine not have done so itself domestically.

There is also a similar argument that it need be Ukraine that cranks up the machinery at the UN to recognise the Kremlin as a party to the conflict – machinery that ultimately would effect the Kremlin position on the UNSC if successful.  Ukraine should not expect others to do this for it.

Already, at the commencement of the PACE winter session it is the UK, and not Ukraine, that tabled the motion to further suspend Kremlin voting rights for another year – a motion to be debated this week, despite what may be very ugly attempts at Kremlin blackmail PACE members if media reports are to be believed.  That the Kremlin now holds in prison a PACE delegate – Shavchenko – who now has international immunity after appointment, seems unlikely to encourage PACE members to accept Russia back amongst its ranks in return for releasing one of the organisations own delegates that should not be held.

In short, the Ukrainian political leadership has to start doing some of the heavy lifting within the international arena with regard to starting legal processes, that whilst others will certainly fall behind in support, ought to be started by Ukraine.

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This message seems to have eventually begun to sink in – no doubt after blunt and repeated statements made by Ukraine’s allies behind the curtain.

Today, the RADA successfully managed to pass amendments to several Ukrainian laws detailing the mechanisms of just how terrorist organisations are to be deemed such within Ukraine.  The Justice Ministry Bill 1840 was passed by 270 votes.  The changes stipulate that the decision to recognise a terrorist organisation rests with the Superior Administrative Court of Ukraine, on the basis of an administrative claim of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, prosecutors of Crimea, regional prosecutors,  and cities of Kyiv and Sevastopol.   Also, the Board of the National Security and Defense Council  may  recognise an organisation as terrorist.

We shall now see whether or not Ukraine will designate “the republics” terrorist organisations, having today provided itself the mechanisms to do so.  Only having done so itself, can it reasonably expect others to seriously consider its international appeals to do the same.

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PACE and The Kremlin

January 26, 2015

As the end of 2014 approached, this entry appeared regarding the issue of currently suspended Kremlin voting rights within the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe – PACE – and whether or not those voting rights would be returned in January 2015 when the original suspension is due to expire.  As tweeted yesterday:

Thus there are questions to ask.

The first, naturally, is whether The Kremlin has done anything to alter the circumstances for which its voting rights were suspended by PACE initially.  The answer is clearly not – indeed it has done nothing but consistently undermine Ukrainian sovereignty since those rights were suspended.

The justification for returning PACE voting rights to The Kremlin is therefore somewhat problematic for those that would support such a move.

The question that then follows, is whether The Kremlin, if having its voting rights suspended for another year, will see any benefit whatsoever, of remaining within PACE as an organisation?

The skepticism with which The Kremlin generally holds PACE (and the OSCE) is not a secret – but both have been useful institutions for The Kremlin to try and test the regional waters regarding its views.  However to put matters as diplomatically as possible, The Kremlin relationship with PACE (and the OSCE) is certainly contentious at best – and more than a little obstructionist at worst.

Would PACE remain as relevant without a regional actor such as Russia, should it leave the organisation?

Would it perhaps become a far better institution without Kremlin obstructionism?

How does PACE deal with Nadiya Savchenko, a Ukrainian military pilot captured in eastern Ukraine yet currently in jail in Russia – a woman whom during her detention was elected to the new RADA and forms part of the Ukrainian delegation to PACE?  Does she (or will she) enjoy immunity, and would Russia remaining within or without PACE make any difference to her chances of being released from what is clearly unlawful imprisonment, even prior to an immunity as a PACE delegate?

We are about to find out in the very near future!

 

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PACE – As 2014 ends, a question looms large

December 17, 2014

Last week, more or less unreported anywhere, a photo exhibition at the European Parliament took place at the instigation of Ukraine, entitled “Donbas – War and Peace” – and why not?  The parliamentary building is a public building and quite entitled to hold a public exhibition should it so desire.  Freedom of expression is a foundational part of democracy, and such a parliamentary building enhanced by the non-liability privileges that MPs hold is theoretically one of the most sacrosanct locations in any democratic nation/institutional infrastructure.

Whilst clearly an effort by Ukraine to keep the Donbas/Kremlin aggression uppermost in the minds of the European Parliamentarians, the exhibition appears to have drawn no formal or public comments – not even from Vladimir Chizhov, the Russian Ambassador to the EU.

The very same photo exhibition has been denied permission to be displayed at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) by Anne Brasseur, the institutions current president.  Her letter explaining her reasons for denying the exhibition in January 2015 below:

PACE letter

It is of course a judgement call.

“Whilst appreciating the aim of the proposed exhibition, its content may nonetheless raise controversy and, potentially, further tensions, which would not be in the interests of the Assembly as a whole.  Furthermore some of the pictures could be misinterpreted and this would not be in the interests of Ukraine.  I therefore regret that I am not in a position to give my agreement to this proposal.”

Not having seen the photographs, it is impossible to comment upon their ability to be misinterpreted – although everything can be misinterpreted with sufficient effort.  It also has to be noted that any reactionary photo exhibition the Kremlin may have wanted to stage in retaliation, will also meet with the same response.

PACE however, is not the European Parliament.  It is a very different institution.

PACE does indeed include the Russian Federation – albeit Kremlin voting rights are currently suspended, with an extension to that suspension due for discussion very soon – or not.

By some accounts the PACE President is one of the voices supporting the return of Russia’s voting rights, although having suspended Kremlin voting rights in April until the 2014 year end in response to the illegal annexation of Crimea, it seems somewhat unclear what circumstances have changed to now return said voting rights.

If voting rights were suspended as a sanction to send a signal, or to contain or to change Kremlin policy, it is difficult to see how they can be removed without PACE looking weak at best – Crimea remains illegally annexed.  If the suspension of voting rights was a punishment – and not a sanction – then a 9 month ban on voting rights for the most serious challenge to all that PACE stands for, is without doubt is the most meager of admonishments.

Perhaps the existing suspension of voting rights will simply be allowed to expire quietly with no attempt to extend them – with Russia regaining its full participation within PACE automatically.  If so, what does PACE get in return, to avoid looking weak and/or appeasing of the Kremlin aggression that would otherwise unambiguously undermine PACE as an organisation with regard its stated goals of supporting rule of law, human rights and democracy?

The trade off, an end to Kremlin “humanitarian convoys” violating Ukrainian sovereignty?  Far greater and more tangible assistance with Ukrainian/Russian border control along the entirety of the currently very porous sections between Luhansk, Donetsk and Russia?  Both?

What would be the quid pro quo in allowing the return of Kremlin voting rights within the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe?

How much does the Kremlin care about its voting rights within PACE vis a vis what it is prepared to cede to regain them?  It is not an institution it dominates, can dominate, or have an influence multiplier (veto) within – unlike the UNSC.

Something to watch over the next week or so.

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