Posts Tagged ‘Visa-free’


The EU Summit (15th December) & Ukraine

December 14, 2016

The 15th December is the date of the last EU Summit (of European leaders) in 2016.

The agenda is going to be full and no doubt the meeting will be prickly affair.


The agenda sees Ukraine as the lunchtime topic for discussion – and perhaps that is because Ukraine is probably the agenda item least likely to cause indigestion compared to all other items up for discussion.

The day covers (in no particular order) Syria, Russia, sanctions, Brexit, Ukraine, Mr Trump and refugees/migration (and by extension Turkey).  Greek issues apparently do not appear this time – there are only so many hours in a day.

With regard to Ukraine the obvious agenda issues relate to 27 of 28 Member States and the European Parliament ratifying the Association Agreement (and DCFTA) with only The Netherlands outstanding, that and the issue to be finally put to bed sometime in February/March 2017 relating to Visa-free tourism for Ukrainians (on the assumption the European Parliament votes appropriately regarding the “Visa-free suspension mechanism” issue also on 15th December).

The issue with the Dutch Association Agreement is one of optics for the domestic Dutch constituency.  In order for the Dutch to ratify the agreement and finally close the bureaucratic process they insist upon official recognition that in ratifying the EU – Ukraine Association Agreement, it is not a pathway toward EU accession for Ukraine.  Further, they require official recognition that it in no way affords EU guarantees regarding collective security guarantees or obligations to military aid.  Lastly that it does not provide an entitlement (obligation) to financially support Ukraine.

It may appear politically ugly considering that only The Netherlands remains to ratify the agreement and now seeks such official understanding to pacify its domestic electorate, but to be quite clear the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement (and DCFTA) offers none of these entitlements/EU obligations toward Ukraine anyway.

Nowhere does the Association Agreement infer, let alone state, that the Association Agreement is a stepping stone toward EU accession.  The clauses regarding defence and security offer no expectations of collective security or obligation to military assistance.  It has always been abundantly clear that any and all financial aid to Ukraine comes with conditionality relating to reform.

There is only one way for Ukraine to formally accede to the EU, and that is to first formally apply, and then go through the Acquis Communautaire 31 (minimum) – 35 (the maximum thus far) chapters therein.

There is no denying that if Ukraine complies with the Association Agreement fully and in its entirety (at best a 10 year process, probably longer at the speed Ukraine is proceeding) that for almost all Acquis chapters it will have traveled perhaps 80% – 85% of that journey in each and every chapter.  However there will be few, if any, where it will have traveled the full distance whereby that Aquis chapter will be then closed.  Ergo there would be a few more years thereafter to complete that process if embarked upon at all.

Indeed perhaps there is a need to better conceptualise the legality and spirit of both the Association Agreement and the Acquis Communautaire in fundamental terms.

The Association Agreement exists for Ukraine (at its own speed – despite some timelines in specific spheres within) to bring European values/governance/processes/standards to Ukraine from “Europe”.  Thus the Association Agreement brings a notional/perceived “Europe” to Ukraine – it does not take Ukraine to the EU.

The Acquis Communautaire is a trial undertaken by nations seeking to accede to the EU.  It is the (only) process that would therefore take Ukraine to the EU.

Thus the AA (and DCFTA) brings “Europe” to Ukraine.  The Acquis takes Ukraine to the EU.

Therefore, as politically ugly and difficult to digest for some the Dutch requirements may be, they actually make no difference to the legalities of the Association Agreement, nor the spirit in which it was negotiated and offered.

Ergo, it can be expected, despite the ugly optics, that the Dutch will get the official recognition that they seek even though some Member States will cringe whilst agreeing.  To get the Association Agreement over the finish line by officially acknowledging what is not contained in the Association Agreement will ultimately be a price paid.

Clearly from the agenda items, the Ukrainian issue is the least likely to put a Member State leader off their luncheon.  For good measure the Brexit issues are to be discussed at evening dinner – after UK Prime Minister Ms May has left the Summit and the building.

In fact Ukraine for once (in the context of AA ratification and the possible mention of Visa-free), may prove to be one of the easiest agenda items.


Lutsenko becomes Prosecutor General – What next?

May 12, 2016

As stated almost 1 year ago, Yuri Lutsenko has become Prosecutor General replacing Viktor Shokin – “the only position with somebody’s name tentatively tagged to it, is that of a new Prosecutor General – and the name tagged to it is Yuri Lutsenko.” – 14th July 2015.

After two failed votes, 223 and 224 in favour (the minimum requirement being 226) a few days ago, as predicted by hook or by crook (or by purchase of, or coercion to obtain votes) 12th May, unsurprisingly saw 264 parliamentarians vote through the amendments to the law facilitating the placement of the sole candidate considered by President Poroshenko (despite several other better candidates).

Lo, a long standing prediction that Mr Lutsenko would replace Mr Shokin eventually materialised.

President Poroshenko now holds the “(un)holy trinity” of President, Prime Minister and Prosecutor General, and clearly has the financial and/or coercive clout to get basic statute comfortably voted through the Verkhovna Rada, no matter how flimsy the majority coalition appears on paper.

Henceforth, the perception of the vast majority of the Ukrainian constituency will be that all progressive and regressive steps taken by the Ukrainian State are the personal responsibility of the President.

So be it – as regressive and undemocratic as that “(un)holy trinity” may appear, there is now a career politician as Prosecutor General rather than another incestuous appointment from within a very corrupt and reform-obstructing Prosecutor General’s Office.

FILE - This May 12, 2009 file photo shows former Ukrainian Interior Minister Yuri Lutsenko during a news conference in Kiev, Ukraine. On Sunday April 7 2013, Ukraine's president on Sunday pardoned Lutsenko, 48, a close ally of imprisoned former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, moving toward fulfilling a key demand on Kiev's path to integrate closer with the European Union. (AP Photo, File)

As Yuri Lutsenko is, and will remain, a career politician (with ambitions greater than being the Prosecutor General, albeit it will perhaps be perceived  as a step up from his last role as Block Poroshenko faction leader within the Verkhovna Rada) his tenure will be self-limited and far from ignorant of the national political timetable.

It is therefore reasonable to predict his tenure being no more than 2 years in office, perhaps 18 months.  Much will depend upon the timing of any early Verkhovna Rada elections – or not.  A return to the Cabinet of Ministers is clearly the ultimate goal of a man that has twice before been Minister for the Interior.

Thus, having set that backdrop, what can be expected from Yuri Lutsenko as Prosecutor General over the next 18 months (2 years maximum)?

Clearly being a politician in a prosecutor’s chair, he will immediately prioritise those issues that matter to the voting constituency, if nothing else in preparation for his political return.  Ergo former-President Yanukovych and closest circle are likely to see cases brought to the courtroom and assets arrested (or what’s left of them) in the meantime.  (Going after those that remain and have cases to answer, Boiko et al, may well be a stretch too far for Lutsenko however.)

The violence of EuroMaidan/Revolution of Dignity will feature highly too.

It is perhaps unlikely that the control of the 2nd May 2014 events will be transferred back to Kyiv having only a few months ago been transferred to the authorities in Odessa.  It should be noted that the authorities in Odessa under the ever-watchful eye of Giorgi Lortkipanidze have progressed far further and far more swiftly in the past few months since being given control over the investigation, than the central authorities in Kyiv progressed in the 2 years since the incident.  Now that notable progress is being made, it would be foolish to pull the investigation back to Kyiv.  Appointing a new Regional Prosecutor for Odessa however will have to be a priority.

As PG Lutsenko will probably not be staying in role for more than 2 years (at a maximum), then a clear out of the PGO of those simply too odious and corrupt seems likely in the first few months.  PG Lutsenko will be in post long enough to insure their return does not occur on his watch – and that may prove to be long enough to make significant structural changes and create a new institutional culture to be nurtured by whoever replaces him upon his inevitable return to politics.

So far, so possibly acceptable.

However, as a career politician and High Chamberlain/Grey Cardinal well versed in grubby little deals behind the political curtain, it is difficult (some would say impossible) to see a necessarily A-political Yuri Lutsenko when fulfilling his new role.  Either consciously or subconsciously he will be immediately aware of the politics of any prosecutions his new realm undertakes – and here think not only of the personalities that fall within the NABU remit, but more broadly.

Much will depend upon how a reader decides to judge any Lutsenko term as Prosecutor General.  If the benchmarks are to be weighted in terms of numerous high profile prosecutions providing for lengthy jail terms then a reader may well be disappointed.  If a reader weights benchmarks toward institutional change then they may perhaps be far less disappointed 18 months – 2 years from now when he returns to politics via democratic mandate.

During the forthcoming 18 months, it may well become apparent just what political price has been paid to see 223/224 votes become 264 within 48 hours, whether it was worth it and for whom – including Yuri Lutsenko.

Having predicted President Poroshenko would be a single term president but a few days after his election, and the prediction of Yuri Lutsenko becoming Prosecutor General having now come to fruition, it is perhaps only the success of Mr Lutsenko in the eyes of the Ukrainian constituency that will insure the reelection of Poroshenko and prove this blog wrong, as the national economics will probably take too long to significantly recover insuring reelection, and issues such as Visa-free is neither here nor there when it comes to being a vote winner.


Who & Why – Visa-Free with the EU (or not)

January 4, 2016

Ever since agreement was finally reached between the Ukrainian leadership and the European Commission regarding Ukraine’s admissibility per European criteria for Visa-Free tourist travel within Schengen, it has been repeatedly raised as a significant “European integration” achievement by both President Poroshenko and Prime Minister Yatseniuk – and perhaps quite rightly.

The implementation of Visa-free – should it occur – will mean Ukrainians no longer need to pay for a Visa, provide proof of employment, list their assets, convince Schengen nations that they have enough interests in Ukraine to (more or less) guarantee their return, provide proof of funds, stand in queues, have Visas refused due to erroneously completed applications (more often than not) etc.

The Visa-free regime – should it occur – applies only for tourism and allows 90 days from 180 days within the Schengen zone.  To study, do business etc within the EU still requires the appropriate Visa.  In short the Visa-free agreement mirrors that which Ukraine has had in place for citizens of the EU since 2005 – no more and no less.


However, having trumpeted the European Commission (not to be confused with the European Council, European Parliament, or Member State agreement yet) giving Ukraine the “thumbs up” for reaching all protocol, technical, legislative and political benchmarks, why then does it seem that somebody, perhaps deliberately and nefariously, is attempting to undermine this already proclaimed achievement prior to its actual implementation?

It appears that during the early hour vote (about 0400 hours) to adopt the Ukrainian 2016 budget in late December 2015, (hopefully a budget that still meets the IMF requirements after so many early morning amendments), that the introduction of a new system of financial transparency for civil servants, providing for the declaration of assets in electronic form in the public domain, has had its implementation delayed from 1st January 2016 until 1st January 2017.

(Yes it was part of/attached to the 2016 Budget Law – albeit the budget has now passed and been signed by the President, yet has still not been published officially.)

This transparency system relating to civil servants was an EU requirement for Visa-free – and this delay in implementation until 2017 was sanctioned after the European Commission gave its “thumbs up” to Ukraine, recommending the European Parliament and Member States find time on their legislative timetables to sign off on Visa-free during 2016 for Ukraine (as well as Georgia, Kosovo and Turkey this year too).

Despite any claims to the contrary, nobody knows the Ukrainian political class like the Ukrainian voting constituency.  Thu this seemingly inexplicable(and there has been no explanation) move, whether the Ukrainian constituency prioritises Visa-free with Europe or not, will come as no surprise whatsoever a population well versed in the fecklessness and odious nefariousness of the Ukrainian political class and State institutions.

Nothing in Ukraine proclaimed by the political class is worth anything, nor believed, until it actually happens.  The entire Ukrainian constituency knows when its political class is spewing forth empty rhetoric, or indeed blatantly lying – they can see their lips moving.  When statements of intent actually materialise in Ukraine it is met with mild surprise, so removed from the norm are such occurrences.

Thus the Ukrainian constituency will only believe that they have Visa-free travel when they actually have it and it has come into force – and not a moment before.

There are more interesting perceptions and questions to raise than those of the domestic constituency however.

How will the European Commission, and European Member States perceive the quietly passed delay of an EU requirement after the European Commission gave a “green light”?  Surely assurances will have been given by Ukraine that the law regarding civil service financial transparency would be passed if it had been the last legislative hurdle to meet for the European Commission to give the go ahead prior to this final piece of the legislative puzzle, with such legislation being implemented post haste.

It is almost certain the European Commission would not agree to such a delay in the implementation of such legislation whilst still giving its recommendation for Ukrainian Visa-free.

To be fair the law has been passed – but it is more than reasonable to expect that the EU would have anticipated immediate implementation upon its passing – not a deferral for 12 months before it came into effect.  Perhaps a 3 month window for implementation at a maximum.


It is strongly rumoured that Visa-free for Ukraine (and the other aforementioned nations) will have been signed off by all who need to do so sometime between June and September, thus coming into force immediately thereafter.

But should it?

Should Visa-free come into force before the civil service financial transparency requirement comes into force?  For some unknown reason, the effective implementation date has been delayed for 12 months, so should the EU not reciprocate by timing Visa-free to synchronise with the effective dates of all required Ukrainian legislation?  Quid pro quo.

May be that is how things will work out, and may be it won’t be – but knowing the fecklessness and nefariousness of the Ukrainian elite, perhaps it should be sychronised as a matter of principle (and a mechanism to prevent further delays).

Unless the effective implementation date of 1st January 2017 was pre-agreed with the European Commission, the EU should be bluntly requiring answers as to why this (anti-corruption/transparency) law has had its implementation date deferred until 1st January 2017.

What is the reason?

It is surely not one of lacking technical ability to create a simple database for electronic submissions by civil servants listing their assets and (illegitimately accrued) wealth.  Ukraine is awash with top quality programmers.  It is ranked 4th globally for the number of Microsoft and Apple certified programmers.  It has the IT skills to knock up a simple platform/database in double-quick time.

Is it perhaps that a database would not be functioning on 1st January 2016 when the original draft law regarding civil service transparency was due to come into effect due to poor governmental planning, and as the budget is an annual document, the decision was made to make the law come into effect at the conclusion of this budgetary year?  A matter of neatness as far as calendar dates are concerned – for there is no reason that it could not have taken effect on any date during 2016 providing the IT platform existed to accept the submissions.

The question of who deleted 2016 and inserted 2017 must also be asked – for it may shed some light upon the why it was done.

It must surely be somebody within the Verkhovna Rada budgetary committee, Ministry of Finance, or the Cabinet of Ministers.  It was most certainly not those among the hoi polloi within the Verkhovna Rada voting chamber that made such an amendment.  At 0400 hours in the morning, the Verkhoivna Rada parliamentarians didn’t even see the budget they voted through, they voted in accordance with the relevant party leadership “nod” following no end of last minute amendments.  Undoubtedly almost none – indeed perhaps none – will have been aware of the amendment that is subject of this entry when they voted the budget through.

What can be gained, other than a final hurrah and huzzah for one last financial year in the opaqueness of the current system, for whomever is responsible for the last minute amendment?  Is it a final opaque year for manic corrupt gains, or a final opaque year in which to hide more effectively the mass of illicit income already acquired more thoroughly prior to false 2017 declarations of “Church Mouse” poverty?  A year perhaps where a current and highly influential (and nefarious) official will bow out of public life, but for now has no desire to declare anything.  Which such officials are likely to fall into that category?

Hopefully the EU will be demanding answers to the “who” and “why” of this last minute amendment that has the noxious smell of “bad faith” about it from an EU-Ukrainian perspective, and the odor of continued nefarious corruption about it from a domestic perspective.

When the EU gets that answer, they would be well advised to share it with the Ukrainian constituency – regardless of whether or not it will delay any Visa-free agreement.  A public explanation is due, not only for any unnecessary risk that Visa-free may now have, but more importantly as to why a much needed transparency law has been delayed by 12 months.

It would be a wise policy to amend this law immediately to effect implementation by Easter 2016 for matters of trust between the European Commission and the Ukrainian leadership – although the Ukrainian constituency will only believe in the Visa-free rhetoric when it actually comes into effect.


A glance at Transnistria

January 3, 2016

Recently your author has made a few trips to the Moldavian capital Chișinău due to a necessity to blow the accumulated dust from weighty tomes of historical documents – the documents sought having little to do with Moldova, but rather Romania of a century (and more) ago.

It is possible to drive from Odessa to Moldova either directly, avoiding Transnistria, or going through Transnistria.  If ever there is need of a reminder that despite a quarter of a century of gross political and economic mismanagement within an independent Ukraine it has nonetheless progressed, then a bumbling about in Transnistria very quickly provides such evidence, with Transnistria offering a step back in time of 50+ years in almost every sense.

The Transnistrian border guards are always good for conversation too (albeit driven by poor attempts at intelligence gathering rather than genuine conversation).  They always ask after Odessa and how things are politically and economically, and as a matter of politeness the reciprocal questions are asked of Transnistria.  According to one of your author’s favourite border guards, very soon Transnistria’s economic woes will be over – for they have discovered gold and diamonds on the territory!


It naturally followed that your author asked how to gain a Transnistrian passport in time to share in this newly discovered and soon to be developed wealth.  Sadly however, the response was that it simply wasn’t possible for just anybody to gain a Transnistrian passport, and thus there way little chance of sharing in the forthcoming financial bonanza.

Perhaps over forthcoming trips to the archives in Chișinău it may be possible to negotiate some movement in the friendly border guard’s position?  After all, historically Transnistria has relied upon Odessa as a legitimate and illegitimate route for trade in and out of the territory – quid pro quo in sharing in this new found wealth?

However, with Moldova already having a FTA and Visa-free travel with the EU, and Ukraine’s DCFTA with the EU now being in force, (as well as being subject to Kremlin sanctions simultaneously as a result) and with Visa-free travel with the EU likely to come into effect before the end of 2016 (probably some time between June and September along with Kosovo, Georgia and Turkey) there is going to be a far more robust adherence of regulatory norms to which Ukraine is now legally obligated with regard to EU expectations/requirements – which will have an effect upon Transnistria.

Only the naive, or the retarded, will lay claim to an end of the legitimate trade between Transnistria and Odessa/Ukraine – though they may rightly raise the issue of tariffs now being more effectively applied than have historically been less than stringently applied.  It would be equally naive, or retarded, to claim that illicit trade will cease too – particularly that of the organised typed that will simply find the weakest links in border management/patrols.  It will however, undoubtedly become more difficult than has traditionally been the case.

Despite the (fanstasy) claims of your author’s favourite Transnistrian border guard of new found gold and diamond resources, clearly there will be economic repercussions upon a Kremlin subsidy dependent Transnistrian economy – which will in turn leads to questions about any future 5+2 negotiations over the Transnistrian territory, and just how much more “interesting” if not “prickly” they will become – albeit such negotiations take place without any serious expectations of ever coming close to any effective settlement.


Kyiv Pride 2015

June 7, 2015

A short entry today relating to the Kyiv Pride 2015 march that took place yesterday.

That it took place obviously matters.  For those that are gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans-gendered it clearly has a particular meaning – for those that are not, the meaning is just as significant, if not directly related to the cause.

What matters to all in Ukraine is that it took place and that “The State”, although imperfectly, allowed people their right of assembly and freedom of expression to hold a march within the confines of the law, and the police actually made efforts to protect them in exercising those rights.  Indeed, officers were injured trying to insure those rights were executed.

In years past, the police would have stood idly by whilst serious injury and perhaps worse was handed out by those violently opposed to the exercising of such rights over this particular cause.

“The State”, and in particular the police, will hopefully learn lessons from events yesterday with regards to what went wrong – and what went right.

Democracy however does not distinguish between the rights of assembly and freedom of expression for LGBT, women rights, children rights, or those with ginger hair – whatever – just as long as they abide by the law whilst exercising those rights.  Neither does a democracy accept the actions of those that act outside of the law when trying to suppress the rights of others.

Thus the Kyiv Pride march was a test of “The State” as much as it was the determination of the LGBT community.  It was also a test of society.  That despite the vitriol expressed in social media, so few turned up with intent to act outside the law and attack the march, is perhaps a sign that regardless of any personal like or dislike for the cause, the majority have found some respect for the rule of law.

The majority have some very real near term benefits to gather from the actions of “The State” yesterday in protecting (if not perfectly) those that took part.  Visa-free with the European Union has within its requirements, the respect, tolerance and protection of “The State” for minorities as a benchmark.  That Kyiv Pride 2015 took place, “The State” allowed it to take place, policed it, and actively attempted to protect those that took part, will be noted by the EU and the EC monitors who make progress reports/recommendations.

Just how many Ukrainians are aware that the possibility of their Visa-free with the EU could have been adversely effected had the march been prohibited or the police failed to attempt to protect those marching is hard to know.  The Ukrainian political elite are not particularly good at conveying to the public what “technicalities” are still to be dealt with other than stating “all political hurdles have been overcome, only technicalities remain“.

Whatever the case, a minority group exercised its rights within the law.  Those that tried to prevent by actions outside the law failed.  Although not perfectly, “The State” tried to protect the minority in exercising their rights.  Where “The State”, or perhaps more accurately the local Kyiv government has to face criticism, is the spineless attempts to dissuade the marchers because it is “not the right time“.

Not the right time” is an excuse for political expediency and generally being politically spineless rather than insuring the rights of Ukrainians enshrined within the law are upheld.  If the police have some public order lessons to learn, hopefully Kyiv City Hall (and others) will have learned a lesson too.  The application of rule of law cannot be selectively applied, lest it be rule by law.

It would have been a big error of judgement not to allow Kyiv Pride to occur, despite the issues on the day.


Not in my lifetime

May 25, 2015

Stripping away the rhetoric, the reality of the Riga Summit sets in, and the reality is that the EU seems very pleased with itself for essentially standing still/firm, rather than retreating, before a belligerent Kremlin.  Perhaps rightly so, as The Kremlin begins to work its insurgency within the EU (Greece, Hungary and potential EU Member Serbia, notwithstanding its sponsored political parties, NGOs and business friends across various EU nations).  The EU and its Member States, short of a major Kremlin escalation in Ukraine such as the taking of Mariupol or the introduction of air interdiction, has gone as far as it is collectively going to go regarding Russia.  The leadership burden/baton, has been handed back to the USA as the sole bearer if the West is to go any further in reaction to numerous and accumulating minor escalation.

Meanwhile, a convenient pause under the guise of reassessment of the EaP (and ENP) policies takes place, thus not irking The Kremlin further.  The battle over “rules” between the EU and The Kremlin will switch to lawfare, with Gazprom first up in the EU sights.

As has been written here, and as was tweeted prior to the Riga Summit, it is not the lack of ambition and political will displayed at the summit that was likely to disappoint, for a lack of combined political will and any sort of ambition it was expected.

It is what now follows that may prove to be the most disappointing of all when any new/revamped policy emerges.  Indeed for the three nations that have signed and ratified their respective political Association Agreements and trade DCFTAs, the EaP perhaps offers no major opportunities as a platform any further.

Moldova is already Visa-free, and Georgia and Ukraine seem likely to get it by the end of 2016 – That being if the government of Ukraine (and the Rada) manage to make the few decisions necessary to address the 6 points summarised below.

Visa free

If the government of Ukraine can’t address these points before the end of 2015, thus allowing for Visa-free sometime in 2016, then they are not going to address the far, far more difficult and prickly decisions required to reform the nation by 2020 laid out in the “Presidential Plan”.

In the 12 years the ENP (and 7 years the EaP) have been EU policy, only Tunisia can be reasonably held aloft as a success – though some progress can be claimed with Morocco, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.  The latter three all bringing the EU policy into dramatic conflict with The Kremlin these past 18 months.  Therefore, with regard to the ENP, it can be argued that 1 success from 16 ENP nations is a disaster, or 5 positive work-in-progress from 16 ENP nations is a (barely) acceptable result – particularly in light of the rather lackluster effort put in by (major) European capitals in support of the EU institutions.

That said, if we consider the ENP (and EaP) as “transformational” in character, then transformation and nation-building depend in a large part on the nations themselves actually wanting to transform – and that means the political elite, oligarchy and society acting in concert.  When they don’t, conflict can arise internally – and if you happen to be unlucky enough to live next door to Russia and don’t want it meddling in your affairs, externally too.

Internal conflict avoidance generally, very much depends upon time frames/timeliness, often in exchange for guaranteed/implicit immunities.  In short, the ruling elite releases its grip on power within and agreed time frame, often in exchange for no action for previous acts being taken against them, and the retention of some ill-gotten gains, no questions asked.  This, in turn, occurs in an attempt to insure the “retired” elite remain retired and do not try and “come back”.  Society is the convinced that this is required to achieve their aims, distasteful as it may find the arrangement.

The issue with timeliness is that firstly all must know the timescale, secondly they must accept it, and lastly they must abide by it.  If not, transformation is a rocky road, and consolidation of desired gains far more difficult.  Conflict within and without the rule of law occurs.

Another issue with transformation, and specifically in the case of the “under review” EaP, is that “under review” when faced with Kremlin belligerence, may actually result, not in a more ambitious, tailored policy – but a politically expedient retreat and partial/complete appeasement of The Kremlin as the outcome.  The transformation of this policy may yet be exceedingly negative for those attempting to break out of The Kremlin orbit.

How fortunate it will prove to be that AA/DCFTAs have already been ratified and therefore (theoretically) are far harder to row back from, remains to be seen – for when all is said and done, there is a transformational plan within them that simply need be followed.  A plan in fact, that would take the EaP nations that have ratified, well along the way to reaching a realistic platform from which to initiate their Article 49 EU membership requests and go the remaining distance to meet Acquis Communautaire Chapter requirements – and if Ukraine is to ever become an EU Member, it is likely to have to invoke its Article 49 rights (when it is far closer to meeting the requirements than it is today), rather than be invited in.  It will have to force a “rules based” suprastructure to follow own its rules, whether it likes its own rules or not.

This brings us to the title of this entry – “Not in my life time”.

Without being precise, your author is as close as makes no difference to half a century on this earth.  Certainly of an age where to look back in years takes longer than to look at those that can be reasonably expected to still lie ahead.

With a fair wind (which clearly there isn’t and won’t be for a decade or more whilst Russia is under its current management), it will take Ukraine somewhere between 7 and 10 years to effectively implement the AA/DCFTA.  To then invoke the AQ EU Membership system, and comply with all 31 Chapters therein, on average has taken other nations 7 years (discounting the farce that is the Turkish application) – though Ukraine will have already traveled part of the reformation way.

There is then the matter of the 7 year EU budget cycles which must account for any envisaged enlargement (and enlargement is an expensive process – not withstanding for a nation the size of Ukraine to join, the EU structures themselves need to change, for example some current Member States giving up some of their seats in the European Parliament for the Ukrainian MEPs to take up).  Ukraine will still be implementing the AA/DCFTA when the next 7 year budget is decided upon some years from now.  Thereafter, the following cycle will not account for Ukrainian entry, whilst it tackles the AQ Chapters. It may, but probably not, be in the next budget cycle.  Thus 3.5 EU budget cycles (about 24 years) from now?  Probably.

With smooth sailing, no ill-winds, no one step forward, two steps back Ukrainian politics, no stalling on closing AQ Chapters by certain EU Member States etc – would bring Ukraine at the very earliest to a 2035 (ish) EU membership.  More realistically, 2042 (or even later).  This would make your author approximately 80 (or more) years young – or dead.

Further, by 2042 (or later), whatever the EU is today, it most certainly won’t be the same by then – for better or for worse.  It may, indeed, have shrunk with some current Members having voluntarily (and foolishly) left of their own accord, whilst others may have been forced out/ejected.  Moldova, and perhaps Georgia may be in, as well as the Balkans, as they are not too large to change the EU internally – unlike Ukraine.

The point being, however, Ukraine may simply not want to join what the EU becomes by the time it is truly ready to join.  It may even rebut EU overtures to join by the time we reach  2035 – 2042+.

Otherwise, lest a force majeure incident hit the EU so hard and in such a way that its rules based system is politically expedient in return for the needed additional bulk of Ukraine within its number for whatever reason – Ukrainian entry into the EU?  Probably not in my life time.

That said, despite the EU having little appetite for expansion today, it will ultimately have to expand to remain relevant globally.  1 billion Indians, 1 billion Chinese, would seem to suggest 1 billion (EU) Europeans makes for that multilateral equilibrium.

Within my life time, however, a democratic, rule of law adhering, Visa-free, market economy driven, EU integrated Ukraine?  I expect so – though not for at least a decade, perhaps two, will a consolidated, irreversible “European (values) Ukraine” strut confidently on the continent.


Post Riga Summit – Disappointments yet to come

May 22, 2015

Much has been offered in the media and academia relating to disappointments for Ukraine (and Georgia) at the on-going Riga Summit.

With regard to Visa-free, which both nations, rather too hopefully considering how they benchmark against the required standards, were hoping to get definitive start dates.  In reality, further assessments are likely in the Autumn with a more realistic Visa-free arriving for Georgia by the year end/Spring 2016 and for Ukraine in the summer/autumn of 2016 – fully dependent upon the remaining work being done by both nations, rather than promised to be done.

That being so, even with approximated dates if mentioned aloud and publicly by EU leaders, (albeit no dates being offered in Summit declarations), does not amount to a washout.  It at least would remove the current Kremlin theme that Georgia and Ukraine (not forgetting Moldova that is already Visa-free) offer nothing to the EU, and the EU is not that bothered, despite its rhetoric, about these nations either.  (Russia, however, offers the EU much more by inference.)

Fuzzy, woolly text and words acknowledging “European aspirations” are likely to be the lowest common denominator wording by consensus relating to any potential EU Membership in the decades ahead – and it will be decades as anybody that understands EU budgetary cycles and the costs of enlargement knows.  That is notwithstanding “politics” and “vested interests” of some Member States.

Indeed the Riga Summit itself may not be as disappointing as the aftermath of the Riga Summit.

It is in the aftermath that The Kremlin is likely to try and drive wedges into cracks, and link issues that are currently not linked, in order to get its way in Ukraine.

If the EU and its leaders are wise enough to orate (if not write down) an approximate Visa-free date, be it Summer or Autumn 2016  for Ukraine, that is likely to be both close enough on the calendar, and incentive enough for the Ukrainian population, to insure its continued (and perhaps reinvigorated) desire for those European values of rule of law, consolidated democracy etc.  In short a carrot that every Ukrainian could eat should they chose to when it is served in the not to distant future.

With regard to disappointments, to be brutally frank, it is the aftermath of the Riga Summit, despite any rhetoric that comes tomorrow, that is the concern.

A tailored approach to the EaP nations makes sense, and indeed the policy should be reshaped to account for who seeks what, and attempt to accomplish that as fully as is possible in the years that follow.  However, one has to be concerned that such tailoring will occur when some EU Member States may allow the shadow of the Kremlin to directly or indirectly set parameters upon any such individual planning.  In short, appeasement during a convenient bureaucratic planning phase, prior to plan publication.

Whether this is blatant, or whether it is subtle, matters little.  What matters is whether it is allowed to occur, and by default, allow The Kremlin to set the parameters on EU (foreign) policy/national policy.

There is also, as a possible Iran deal is upon the immediate horizon, Kremlin induced linkage.  Likewise Syria, North Korea and whatever else The Kremlin feels it can link, in particular to, EU-Ukrainian integration which remains a priority to frustrate and negate.

As it appears that President Obama’s only notable foreign policy “win” after two terms in office may be a deal over and with Iran, how likely is it concessions will be made over Ukraine, and pressure thereafter put on Kyiv by the US to accept “peace at any cost” even if it means its own dismemberment- a situation not dissimilar to the pressure put upon Czechoslovakia in 1938 when “accepting” its salami-ing.

Any refusal by Ukraine to accept “peace at any cost” would be spun as undermining the authority of France and Germany (and the USA) naturally.

Of course the military issues in eastern Ukraine will be allowed to boil over immediately before (as an additional lever), or after (as a reprisal), any diplomatic offensive by The Kremlin with the USA, EU, Germany or France.  This, after all, a long practiced pattern throughout the war in Ukraine’s east whenever “talks” have taken place.  Bets upon military action if/when EU sanctions are rolled over to the year end?

In short, for those who felt Minsk II was a disaster for Ukraine (and it certainly wasn’t a good deal), then Minsk II is still not good enough for The Kremlin to insure the war ends on its terms – terms that ultimately would forever prevent Ukraine entering any “western clubs” whatsoever at any time in the future.

A full scale war is still a real possibility too – and perhaps not just with/over Ukraine, but involving it nonetheless.

As previously written, the appeasement that the EU nations is accused of by many, is not entirely accurate – at least when compared to the appeasement of 1933-1939 when Europe’s last annexing dictator called the European bluff.  It may have been late, it may have been meek, it may have been consistently reactionary displaying no will to take the initiative – but appeasement is a difficult case to make thus far considering the EU did act.

What happens in the few months following the Riga Summit, however, may make what was meek, late, and reactionary look positively robust even if existing sanctions are (which seems likely) rolled over to the end of 2015.

Consciously or subconsciously allowing The Kremlin to have any input into shaping the much needed, individually tailored EaP national plans going forward, will be a disaster.  A disaster for the nations involved and a disaster for the EU.

Thus, it is not any notional disappointments based upon unrealistic expectations announced (or rather not announced) at the Riga Summit that is of most concern.  It is what happens in the months following the Summit that may prove to hold the biggest disappointments of all.

Issues of “staying the course” are now going to have to be accompanied by issues of political and diplomatic strength and foresightedness to avoid ambush issues of linkage, and of “peace at any cost”.

If, thus far, events and circumstances have been “a test” for the EU and Ukraine – things are going to get a lot more “testier” for the foreseeable future.

Concessions are not necessarily appeasement, but a natural part of any negotiation.  Appeasement is a process of yielding to belligerent demands at the expense of justice, ethics and honour.  Let us hope that all involved manage to keep clear daylight between what constitutes both.  A bad peace is no peace at all – it is an armistice.   A bad faith negotiation is a contract waiting to be broken.  These are all The Kremlin is offering to the EU and Ukraine.

Thus, when arriving at a bespoke EaP plan for Ukraine, let us hope that EU-Ukraine issues take primacy over Kremlin threats and bullying – and not the other way around.  Now is the time for both the EU and Ukraine to be assertive and ambitious in their reform and integration plan.


The Riga Summit – Something in amongst the nothing

March 23, 2015

A few days ago an entry appeared here doubting the wisdom of President Poroshenko’s public rhetoric regarding Visa-free travel announcements at the Riga Summit in May.

“Clearly President Poroshenko is yet to learn to manage his own expectations, let alone those of his people – and this despite several lessons from the Europeans since Russia started its (guns and tanks) war with Ukraine.”

It concluded with this sentence expressing doubts his expectations would be realised.

“In the meantime, it seems that President Poroshenko is quite likely to be given yet another public lesson by the EU regarding “expectations”.

Today Radio Poland published a leaked document purporting to be the draft of the summit declaration – which if it is genuine,  is nevertheless subject to “tweaking” between now and the summit, although it is not likely to see any major changes.


Visa-free for Ukraine and Georgia, clearly not to be announced at the summit according to the above draft – as this blog anticipated.

The reasons for the delay provided in the Declaration above, being that both Ukraine and Georgia still have some distance to travel before ticking all the expected (and agreed) boxes.

This statement by the Latvian Presidency of the Council of the European Union would also seem to put the Visa-free issue to bed until 2016 and the next summit.

There is also no direction mention of EU Membership, nor reference to Article 49 that provides for it.  That said, aside from offering/acknowledging some far distant aspirational goal, any such mention is currently otherwise an irrelevance.  It will take Ukraine the best part of a decade (if not longer) to fully implement and consolidate the AA/DCFTA.  Thereafter it would be faced with an average completion time of 7 years for the Acquis Communautaire – though that time may be shortened as the DCFTA takes Ukraine at least part of the way in all 31 Chapters.

The timeliness of any accession is further protracted by the 7 year EU budgetary cycle – a budget that would have to account for any enlargement.  Thus, even with a fair wind behind any Ukrainian EU membership aspirations, 2035 – 2040 would be the absolute earliest realistic accession date to the Union for Ukraine.

Quite what the EU will look like by 2035, who knows?  Whatever it looks like now, it is not likely to look the same by then.  Will Ukraine even want to join it when 2035 rolls around?  Perhaps – perhaps not!

There are, however, a few points of note within the draft Declaration.

Firstly within Paragraph 5, the text states that the majority of Member States have ratified the AA/DCFTA with Ukraine – which is currently not the case.  Indeed far from it.

True, it has long been anticipated that Germany will ratify on 27th March, however, unless there is an avalanche of ratifications between now and May, a majority of Member State ratifications there will not be.  Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Romania, Slovakia and Sweden, when added to Germany, is not a majority of EU Members.

Also in Paragraph 5 there is the confirmation that the AA/DCFTA comes into full force with effect from 1st January 2016.  This reaffirms there will be no room for the Kremlin to undo this bilateral agreement, other than the “wiggle room” within any text that can be employed to sooth its ire somewhat.

Paragraph 10 would seem to provide access to the new Sustainable Municipal Development flagship initiative, which Ukrainian municipalities would be wise to fully embrace.

Paragraph 20 appears to openly encourage commitment to, and engagement with, the EU DCFTA facility – particularly useful for Ukrainian SMEs in search of funding – as well as the Competitiveness of Enterprises and SMEs (COSME) programme, which also allows for funding as well as market access.

Lastly, Paragraph 21 appears to predict the launch of a new platform linking academic communities – and the linking of academics and universities is something that this blog has been proactively doing of late behind the curtain.

Thus, it appears that President Poroshenko’s political capital will take yet another (self-inflicted) unnecessary hit within the Ukrainian constituency due to his unwise public, populist rhetoric – this time regarding expectations of Visa-free for Ukrainians by the year end.

Perhaps by association the EU will also take a hit in political capital too.

There are however, some positives for SMEs and academia to be found within the draft declaration – if, firstly, they ever get to know about the programmes, and secondly can find somebody to assist them in navigating the EU grant bureaucracy effectively.  A promotion, knowledge and access issue amplified by orders of magnitude the further outside of the Kyiv ring road an academic or SME happens to be.

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