Posts Tagged ‘Yatseniuk’

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The political fight for control of the new “Police” begins?

July 12, 2015

Two rather pointed entries have been published here recently relating to the new “Police” in Kyiv  – and soon to be in Odessa (and elsewhere).

Before continuing, a few key quotes that you author knew would inevitably arise, and arise swiftly:

“The new thin blue line must also have the group ethic to withstand the inevitable attempts to subjugate it to political expediency. Its loyalty is not to the President, nor the Cabinet of Ministers, nor the Interior Minister – for they will come and go during a 30 year (or so) career.

The new thin blue line has a loyalty to the public from whence they came, and to whom they serve. They have a loyalty to the rule of law, whilst holding a certain amount of personal discretion when enforcing it – or not.

Will the new service have the ethical fortitude to stand its ground before those that have created it and refuse to bow before political expediency or interference?”

And

“Even allowing for most glitches in the recruitment and training system to have been solved with the pilot project in Kyiv, it is entirely unrealistic to make such a statement on 8th July and expect by September, to have recruited and vetted the top quality candidates from the masses that may apply, and then to have trained them sufficiently in the laws and statutes that they will enforce, conflict management, self defence and detention techniques, the limitations of discretion, interview techniques, what is (or is not) “reasonable suspicion”, what to do (or not) at crime scenes, evidence chains and their integrity, how to take a witness statement and get the most from a witness, learning to read NVCs, the required paperwork/bureaucracy for any incident, driver training, first aid, firearms training (if applicable), negotiation skills, public (dis)order, (your author could go on), whilst protecting the integrity of the whole kit and caboodle from the “interests” in Odessa seeking to infiltrate and pervert the outcomes – and expect to produce a real society changing quality “Police”, regardless of how morally courageous and upright the candidates may be.

How often does the opportunity to start a police service from scratch occur? When creating one in Ukraine what is the ultimate aim? One that rebuffs corruption but is otherwise under-trained for its role in society and the legal system? If so then there will be a success (hopefully one with sustainability).

If however, the aim is to maximise this opportunity, then surely creating a police service that rebuffs corruption and is thoroughly trained for (at the very least) “first officer attending” general policing purposes, more than adequately versed in its powers and limitations, then 6 months training rather than 3 months training brings with it enormous benefits – and with it not only a reduction in police corruption, but also the standard of general policing. Should this not be the aim?”

Thus it comes speedily to pass that Prime Minister Yatseniuk and Kyiv Mayor Klitschko have already joined battle publicly over what the new Kyiv “Police” should be doing.

The political spat being essentially over illegal traders in Kyiv.

Mayor Klitschko is of the opinion that the new “Police” should be active in combating illicit trade (and thus curtailing tax avoidance to the City coffers over which he presides).  The Prime Minister is of the belief that the new city “Police” should be otherwise engaged.

Naturally there is a need for any police service to liaise with the local government within whose boundaries it polices.  Where possible it will naturally try and accommodate the concerns of the local authorities amongst its policing priorities and local area policing plans (which should exist) – but it is not subservient to the will of politicians over and above policing priorities.  Any police service worthy of the name is a-political and subservient to the laws it enforces and the goodwill of the public that it requires to effectively police within.

There is an a-political balance to maintain between the State and the constituency within and whilst impartially upholding the rule of law.

The political spat in Kyiv raises the following question – what is the official policing policy for the new “Police”?  It is hopefully not to officially “muddle through somehow” and ebb and flow with the political tide.

Where is written policy (it is not published anywhere your author could find in Ukrainian, Russian or English)?

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With a published policy or a published official guidelines document, the parameters and responsibilities of the new “Police” would be clear, and thus it would be clear as to which of these two politicians is correctly interpreting what the new “Police” should be doing (or not) – or at least what is within their remit to do, even if they are not doing it.

The second question is whether the new Kyiv “Police” are the agency to deal with illicit trading at all?

Should it not be a trading standards body, the State Fiscal Service, the city council or others?  What powers do the new “Police” have regarding illicit trading?  Do they have the power to seize the goods?  Do they have the power of arrest?  Is it an arrestable offence?  If so, is it arrestable only if “found committing”, and otherwise “reportable” for the purposes of a court summons?

Do the constituents of Kyiv expect the new “Police” to be carrying out general day to day policing, or dealing with illicit trading and tax avoidance?

Is illicit trading a policing priority or a political priority?  They are not the same thing.

If it is to be a responsibility of the new “Police, have the officers been adequately trained in their powers of search and seizure, and the subsequent procedures for possibly various prosecution routes?

If it is a new “Police” responsibility, should it be?  Were they created to do the work that the State Fiscal Service (or others) could do?

If there is a role for the new “Police” regarding illicit trading, it would seem wise to limit it to one of insuring there are no breach of the peace/public (dis)order issues when the more relevant agencies do their jobs regarding illicit trading.  That and insuring there is no obstruction to the roads of Kyiv, or that any obstruction is managed by traffic control when kiosks are removed.

Further, that policing role should also police those State agencies enforcing court orders/agencies directives when knocking flat illegally erected/unlicensed kiosks etc.  A court order/institutional order by a State agency to act, does not mean they can use whatever force they wish.  Unnecessarily battering unlicened traders under the on-looking eye of the new “Police” would not be acceptable.  The police are there to insure that only reasonable force in the circumstances is used (and no more).  Anything other than what is deemed reasonable by the officers at the scene becomes criminal even if it is the agents of a State institution that are at fault and thus must be “advised” or arrested.

The State monopoly on force must itself be policed to insure it is used responsibly rather than gratuitously.

It is not for the Mayor of Kyiv, nor the Prime Minister of Ukraine, to micromanage the policing of the new “Police”.  The police may, and indeed should liaise, confer over specific issues, with the authorities, but the independent integrity of the new “Police” is not something to be fought over by two Ukrainian politicians in the public realm.  Quality policing is independent of such petty political issues.

As policing powers and responsibilities are granted and controlled  by the laws they enforce, there seems to be something of an absence of understanding over what laws they are responsible for enforcing – and equally as disturbing, the extent of control the political class believe they should have over an a-political police service.

It is impossible to adequately train an officer in relevant laws (and statutory defences) for their responsibilities, if those responsibilities are not defined or continually expanding beyond their training.  To ask them to deal with laws outside of their trained competence is entirely unfair on the officers, the victims/complainants, society, and the offenders.  There are no winners in such circumstances.

As it is overwhelmingly in the interest of society for an a-political, competent and corruption-less new “Police” to succeed, it is surely in society’s interest to defend that new “Police” bureaucratically through transparent, robust policy manuals/documents/guidelines too.

It is surely not a good investment of $ tens of millions to turn out a shinny new police service with ever expanding responsibilities that they are partly/not trained to do, whilst remaining politically manipulated/controlled – for what you then may end up with is little more than an expedient reassurance patrol/traffic warden that doesn’t take bribes.

To clarify matters, and clarify them transparently, one is left to wonder where the official policing policy and official policing guidance documents are that necessarily should have arrived at the same time as the new “Police” were created.

Until there is such clarity, political battles (perceived or otherwise) over control of the new “Police”, and what they should, or should not be doing, would seem to be something that will continue – even if (more sensibly) behind closed doors in the future.

It is perhaps time to publicly address the issue of policing policy, if for no other reason than to protect the newest law enforcement creation.

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Coalition stresses

January 3, 2015

At the end of last year, (last week), an entry was published about the budget that is (but isn’t) for 2015.  In short, enough was done to allow the government to enter 2015 technically within the letter of the Ukrainian law, and also providing the IMF with enough grounds to return to Ukraine on 8th January.

The budget was passed by a vote of 233 MPs.  Not a particularly robust number, but enough, after the promise to revisit and amend the budget prior to 15th February.

That so many MPs present did not vote for the budget, to be blunt, is fair enough.  Amendments were orally accepted on the day of the vote, to what was already acknowledged as something far from perfect.  All MPs were asked to vote on a document that contained none of the orally agreed changes, for there was no time to change the document and resubmit it before the vote.  Thus, it is very difficult to be overly critical of MPs who did not vote for a non-existent definitive budget document.  Indeed it is as easy to be critical of MPs who did vote for budgetary document that did not exist.

Whatever the case, enough was done to meet the requirements of political expediency on that particular day – which is no way to govern a nation of course.  Yes there is a war on-going in eastern Ukraine, but that is not a universal excuse for the trashing of procedure and protocol at every juncture for the sake of political expediency – and it is certainly no way to set a political foundation for reforming a nation.

It is clear from the current budget – as notional as that may be until 15th February – that the necessary butchery of Naftogaz Ukraine is not going to occur in 2015.  It is also clear from the budget that the much touted decentralisation of certain powers to the regions is not going to occur in any meaningful way during 2015 either.

Indeed, amongst many other important issues, it seems unlikely that 2015 will see the RADA MPs successfully vote to remove their immunity (seemingly they being lost somewhere in the gap between non-liability and inviolability) either.

The problem with several major proposed reforms (as well as meeting some of Ukraine’s (now ratified) obligations under the EU Association Agreement) is that the Constitution requires changing to accomplish it.  Changing the Constitution will not be easy – even with a coalition Constitutional majority.  Amendments will have to be submitted, debated, undoubtedly submitted to the Venice Commission for review (either by those “for” or “against” any specific changes), and eventually, perhaps, garner a constitution changing vote count in the RADA sometime before the end of 2015.  October at the earliest – prior to 2016 if the winds blow favourably.

However, it is the issue of holding together a constitution changing majority – and therefore the current coalition – that returns us to the 2015 Budget vote, when looking forward.

Little has been stated anywhere, that amongst those that did not vote through the budget (that isn’t), was Yulia Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna Party in its entirety.  Not a single vote from a Batkivshchyna Party MP was cast in favour of the 2015 budget – despite the ramifications for Ukraine had it failed to pass with regard to the IMF returning.

It has to be noted, of course, that a quick count around the RADA prior to the vote will have informed Batkivshchyna whether there was enough MPs willing to vote through the budget without their help – thus allowing for a “principled position” to be adopted without detrimental effect to Ukraine.  Has there not been, perhaps the Batkivshchyna position may have been different.

Such a ploy is often seen at UN votes.  It is not unusual to see “Nation X” vote in a way that would seemingly be far from in its political leadership’s interest – though voting in such a way would curry favour with powerful nations from which it may gain concessions – in the full knowledge that the issue will be subject to a veto, and thus the favourable perceptions can be presented, whilst the implications never impacting.

However, it may also be that Ms Tymoshenko is struggling to suppress her inherent  populist nature.  It may be that simply being part of the rank and file, albeit the leader of the smallest party in parliament, is simply not good enough for her ego.  As has been written here many times historically, in Ms Tymoshenko’s world, people work for her, or against her – but not with her.  At some point she will inevitably default to populist type, and claim to be “the voice of the people”.  By extension, the coalition majority will then either be “for” her, or “against” her – and thus “for” the people, or “against” them.  The consequence, perhaps, Batkivshchyna leaving the coalition.

Therefore, as giant reforming legislative leaps are not going to happen tomorrow – and neither should they be expected to, if they are to be of a quality that will serve the nation in the years and generations ahead – can the majority coalition, that will require all Batkivshchyna votes to be a Constitution changing majority, keep Ms Tymoshenko (and Batkivshchyna) within the coalition until the year end at least,  which is probably the earliest we can seriously expect any major legislative leaps to occur?

Naturally, the war in eastern Ukraine and constitution changing aside, there are a great many small but necessary steps Ukraine can and should take, whilst dealing with the biggest reform issues methodically and sensibly – though accomplishing even small genuine reform steps is going to require continued and sustained political pressure from the west.

A question for the beginning of 2015 however, is how to interpret the Batkivshchyna (Ms Tymoshenko’s) actions/inactions during the vote for the budget at the conclusion of 2014?  A principled position knowing it would not effect the outcome of the vote, or a sign that Ms Tymoshenko simply cannot control her ego for much longer?

Though there are clear strains between President Poroshenko’s block and Prime Minister Yatsneiuk’s People’s Front, they are perhaps far more manageable behind closed doors than they actually appear.  Perhaps we should be looking toward any possible coalition unraveling, and the potential loss of a constitution changing majority, elsewhere.

 

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RADA Timeliness – Or not!

December 25, 2014

Yesterday, the law intended to expand the scope of powers held by the National Security Defence Council, and thus by extension its Secretary, Olexandr Turchynov, failed by 3 votes to pass through the RADA.

Whether or not the NSDC, and its Secretary, require further powers is a matter of debate, both politically with regard to the power dynamics between Poroshenko, Yatseniuk and Turchynov in the immediate, but also long term, the consequences when those with alternatives views come to power.  And power Trinities are, of course, topical at this time of year.

For those that have placed some hope on the actual genuine independence of the new National Anti-Corruption Bureau, acknowledging the convoluted method of its conception and lead appointments, there is text within the law expanding the NSDC powers that are of concern.

Is it possible to have a politically independent body when the current pending NSDC law states it will assume “coordination and control of the executive authorities in combating corruption.”  If the newly formed NACB, via elaborately convoluted systems to give the appearance and perception of genuine independence from political office and government, is to become subservient the the highly political NSDC when its powers are expanded, why bother with extravagantly convoluted selection processes or creating perceptions of genuine independence?

Why, in fact, is there a desire to have a power vertical regarding the issue of corruption, when numerous overlapping horizontal structures are far more difficult to corrupt?

Whatever the case, the law expanding the scope and powers of the NSDC, and Mr Turchynov, will be returned to the RADA tomorrow and is likely to pass the vote this time.  Whether or not any glaring issues amongst the text, such as that highlighted above, are amended or removed before tomorrow’s vote remains to be seen.  Is there the time to amend or remove when it seems the Prime Minister is deliberately trying to push a metaphorical legislative camel through the eye of a needle regarding time.

Aside from ramming through serious legislation regarding national security, The RADA is also legally required to pass a 2015 budget prior to 2015 – naturally.  As has been written previously, if the 2015 budget is based upon a raft of changed, amended or introduced legislation, then in order to prevent putting cart before horse, the legislation upon which revenues for the budget is based necessarily should be passed first.

This eventually seems to have dawned on the Cabinet of Ministers – who have now decided to try and ram through 44 legislative changes prior to the submission of the 2015 budget on 30th December.

yatsIn 6 days, these 44 legislative changes, plus the changes to the NSDC, and a lengthy and technical budget are meant to be submitted, debated, amended and summarily passed?

Seriously?

This is part of the reforms, a new way of governance?  What has previous been a theatre of the absurd in governments past, remains a theatre of the absurd?

Having spend 6 weeks putting together a lengthy majority coalition agreement at the expense of functioning parliamentary time, the result is to be a legislative “business as usual”?  A “business as usual” where very few MPs read anything that they are voting for, but vote “for” because they are told to?  This compounded because there is now not the time to carry out parliamentary procedures properly before year end?

The causal effect regarding credibility, domestically and regionally regarding commitment to democracy is raised by this farce?

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The 2015 Budget (Again)

December 22, 2014

About a month ago, an entry was published regarding the 2015 budget for Ukraine – an entry that given the current exchange US$/UAH exchange rate, undoubtedly underlines the NBU sentiment at that time as being more than a little optimistic.  The Hryvnia has further devalued against the US$ since then, as was fairly clear to many that it would.

With the headline budgetary decision likely to be 5% of GDP going to the defence sector, approximately UAH 86 billion, and the Ukrainian military industrial complex already working in overdrive with some facilities working 3 shifts 24/7, all would appear to be good – except Ukraine still has to purchase and import high-tech lethal and non-lethal weaponry too, and a weak Hryvnia makes those imports more expensive – no different to anything the nation imports.

Whatever – this entry is not directly about currency exchange, imports, exports or inflation, even though it is about the 2015 budget.  More to the point, any optimistic (or otherwise) underlying exchange rate upon which any 2015 budget is notionally based, can have no impact when there is still no adopted budget for 2015.  The Law of Ukraine requires any sitting government to submit, and parliament debate, amend and ultimately pass, any annual State Budget prior to the budgetary period beginning – namely 1st January.

Now it has to be said that regardless of any previous close runs/overruns relating to this law – generally the entirely fictional State Budgets are passed prior to the statutory deadlines.  That, however, was then – and this is now.  Now, something less than entirely fictional is required.  Now the IMF requires something less fictional.  Now the World Bank requires something less fictional.  Now the EBRD requires something less fictional.

Much more to the point however, a good number of cross-party RADA MPs require something less fictional too, or they won’t vote the budget through.  Many are demanding that budgetary decisions that specifically effect “committee x” from amongst the 27 RADA committees, are allowed to debate that specific part of the budget within the affected committee.  There are then the Institutions of State and the need to reach a consensus amongst MPs as to what budgetary cuts are applied and where.  (One can hardly help but to suggest the immediate culling of the Ministry of Information Policy as an obvious saving.)

What of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau?  According to those that dwell within the bowels of the RADA, it as yet does not appear within the 2015 budget.  Thus far nobody (presidentially preferred foreign national) has been appointed to head it, and it would appear to have no funds due to currently not being on the budget, even if a foreigner is found to head it.  It is not an agency that can be postponed until “better times”.  Can there be a worse possible start to a National Anti-Corruption Bureau than to have its funding opaque because it didn’t appear in the 2015 budget?  An entirely avoidable situation.

More fundamentally though, what sort of budget will it be when going behind the numbers?  An oligarchy/big business friendly budget – or a “little person”/SME friendly budget?  Is it much more necessary to support those that employ huge numbers of Ukrainians and account for a significant percentage of GDP for the next 12 months, probably to the public angst, or to have a budget that is friendly to the rest of us who are already crowd funding the military, paying “War Tax” from the interest on savings that remain in Ukrainian banks, and daily buying medical supplies from pharmacies to donate to both the front line and Ukraine’s ever growing IDP population?

Should a “progressive taxation” law be introduced (the more you earn, the more you pay) considering the extremely fragile economic state of the nation?  Such a law can always be repealed in the future.  Indeed there are a raft of taxation possibilities – from increases, to exemption in the case of donations to the military or IDPs.  If this route is to be taken, should these decisions not be taken, and laws introduced, prior to any budget?  Is it wise to put the budgetary cart before the taxation horse, to then find the horse does not pass through the RADA?

Having spent 6 weeks after the RADA elections creating a multi-party coalition agreement and in effect slowing to glacial any RADA work during that time, should there now not be an equal amount of time spent working on a (transparent) budget worthy of the name – even if to do so, the 1st January passes without a budget?  Which is the worse precedent?  To bundle through yet another economic fairytale that will be based upon shifting legislative foundations and comply with the law even if in doing so what is produced is utter (and unworkable) fiction, or submit something half decent, if slightly late contrary to legislative timetables?

With a maximum of 8 working days remaining, can and will anything approaching a genuine, realistic budget pass through the RADA after necessary debate – or will the budgetary 2015 begin no differently than any of the other preceding 23 years of an independent Ukraine – line item after line item of opaque, grotesque fantasy?

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Control the paternalism and keep off the grass!

December 13, 2014

One of the most annoying features of the feckless Ukrainian political class, both historically and currently, is that every political leader that has held the two highest offices in the land, has often overstepped the boundaries of their office within which most would expect them to remain – and at times the boundaries the Constitution dictates they should.

The result of these all too frequent transgressions are sometimes tragic, occasionally comical, though usually a tragicomedy is presented to the domestic and international audience.

Ukraine is, of course, well accustomed to attempts at oneupmanship between a feuding president and prime minister, but it also witnesses the unnecessary trampling across the metaphorical ministerial grass of any department of State on a presidential or prime ministerial whim, whether the motivation be a conscious and perhaps justified effort to put the relevant Minister’s in their place – or whether it be an unconsciously paternalistic meandering onto the metaphorical grass for no apparent reason, and in doing so publicly undermining the relevant Minister in the process.

It is perhaps the latter, unconscious paternalistic stomping across various ministerial lawns unnecessarily that is the most annoying – especially if in the process it is perceived to belittle a good Minister in doing so.

It has already become clear that on occasion both the President, and some within his administration, are having great difficulty restraining themselves from crossing constitutional parameters within which they have responsibility, and making unwelcome trespass upon the constitutionally set lawns of the Cabinet of Ministers and the parliament.

However, Prime Minister Yatsenyuk has just as much difficulty in staying off the lawns of his various Ministers and their ministries.

An example of which was seen yesterday.  Prime Minister Yatseniuk stated “In order to prevent a default, we need an international donor conference.”  The new, very clever Finance Minister (and now Ukrainian citizen) Natalie Jaresko, however stating “We have not default and even not pre-default state. Today this issue is not even discussed in the government.”

Well, what to say?

If default is not being discussed within the government, then Prime Minister Yatseniuk is certainly discussing it outside the hallowed halls of the RADA and/or the Finance Ministry building.  His quote unambiguous in its mention of default.

Perhaps Ms Jaresko didn’t get the memo about the meeting where default was discussed?  Perhaps Prime Minister Yatseniuk feels he doesn’t need to discuss default with the Finance Minister before talking about it publicly?

Who suffers most from these seemingly contradictory public statements?  Mr Yatseniuk? Ms Jaresko?  The government as a whole?

The point with the above example is not whether Mr Yatseniuk or Ms Jaresko is right or wrong – they are probably both right, in that Ukraine will need about $15 billion in additional external finance to avoid default, and also that default has not yet been discussed within government (officially at least).

The point is the apparent contradiction (even if there really isn’t one) between the two statements, and thus the appearance of singing from a different song sheet, in a different key, and to a different rhythm, as far as perceptions are concerned.  A display of a seemingly unnecessarily discombobulated tune.  The impression of disjointed governance is projected – and that is the point being made.

Whilst as Prime Minister, Mr Yatseniuk is certainly entitled to walk on the Finance Ministry grass, does that mean he has to, needs to, or should do?  When the new Finance Minister was chased down by the Ukrainian State for the position, requiring her to change her citizenship in order to fill the role they wanted her to fill, is it not truly bad form that one of her first public statements is forced unnecessarily to appear to contradict that of the Prime Minister?

Indeed, does it not make sense, with the bonus of adding to the perception of personal responsibility and public recognition, to let the Finance Minister speak about finance, to let the Interior Minister talk about new biometric passports, to let the Education Minister talk about changes to university accreditation etc?  Why is it that the Prime Minister feels compelled to make announcements about all the aforementioned and more, that these Ministers can and should be making instead?  He doesn’t have enough to do as Prime Minister without becoming the ministerial spokesperson for every ministry, over every single issue?

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If Ukraine ever reforms its judiciary to anything close to what it should be, then any self-respecting judiciary will be swift to warn off any interfering politicians that dare stray upon the newly manicured judicial lawns.  Likewise the media.  It would therefore be good practice to stop unnecessarily stomping across the ministerial grass of other Minister’s where ever and whenever possible.

There is a dire need for the most senior in the Ukrainian government to control their paternalistic compulsions and stop trampling upon the ministerial lawns of others unnecessarily.  Ministers need to be able to act and speak publicly for the sake of their own credibility, to be seen to accept their personal responsibility for their ministries, and also for the sake of public recognition.  They should not be wondering if the PM or President is going to come rushing across their metaphorical ministerial lawn, push them rudely into a shrubbery, hijack the press conference, and state something entirely contrary to what was about to be said.

In addition, it will soon become extremely tiresome to see only President Poroshenko or Prime Minister Yatseniuk on prime-time television.  Familiarity breeds contempt after all.

It is now time to neuter the Soviet paternalistic gene that consistently gets the better of Ukrainian politicians when they achieve the highest offices in the land.  Let others take, and be seen to take, the responsibilities that they are given.  Learn to stay of the grass unless necessary.  In doing so there will be far fewer entirely avoidable public faux pas!

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Points make prizes – but is the prize worth having?

October 22, 2014

With the RADA elections now only 5 days away, some thought should perhaps be given regarding any new coalitions and cabinet of ministers that will follow.

Way back on 24th/25th July an entry was published that stated Volodymyr Groysman would become Prime Minister after the forthcoming RADA elections as long as he didn’t drop the ball – and he hasn’t.  President Poroshenko will naturally want one from his stable as PM – and one he trusts, despite Arseniy Yatseniuk doing a decent job in very difficult circumstances.

Ergo, how effective that crystal ball gazing so many months ago will prove to be, is about to be seen in either illuminating and prophetic glory, or embarrassingly poor light.  That such an old entry has been resurrected so close to the elections may be rightfully inferred as that belief remaining – on the assumption that Volodymyr Groysman would want and accept the role of Prime Minister.  It remains something of a poisoned challis that demands an effect first 100 days when all is said and done.

However, Block Poroshenko is not likely to come anywhere close to a RADA majority – a coalition will be required to hold a robust majority.

The question is then not only with whom, but which party would accept a coalition in which the party leader does not become Prime Minister?

It is almost guaranteed that Ms Tymoshenko and Batkivshchyna will not be invited into any Block Poroshenko coalition.  You either work for Ms Tymoshenko, or against her – you do not work with her.  A more zero sum politician is hard to find, making her an extremely difficult partner.  Ergo any coalition involving Ms Tymoshenko could be expected to find her demanding to become Prime Minister and thus leading to a repeat performance of the feckless and wasted Yushenko/Tyoshenko years notable for in-fighting and squandered opportunities.

A coalition with the “Opposition Block” is simply out of the question for more reasons than it is necessary to list.

Gritsenko’s Civic Platform?  Probably not – even if he would be content to fill a Cabinet roll such as that of Defence Minister, which he has previously held.  Would he demand something more lofty?  Probably.

Would Arseniy Yatseniuk’s Popular Front form a coalition with Block Poroshenko, even when Yatseniuk himself would suffer a perceived demotion?  It is a possibility, but what position to offer Yatseniuk?  He is certainly a very clever man and capable of holding numerous positions.  A return as Speaker?  Deputy PM with a European integration port folio?  He is certainly well known and liked amongst those who will continue to financially and politically support Ukraine.

Tellingly, Yatseniuk refused the Block Poroshenko mandate, preferring the Popular Front run alone – a sign perhaps that a longer term view with future presidential elections are a consideration.  A case of being close, but not close enough to Block Poroshenko to be indistinguishable for future leadership contests.

What of Sergei Tigipko’s Strong Ukraine?  Such a coalition would certainly be perceived as reaching out to the eastern regions in a tangible way.  Tigipko is also a capable man.  Whether he would settle for a role other than Prime Minister is the question.  Deputy PM with a social policy port folio?  It would tick many boxes for him personally and instill a little more confidence in the east.

Ukraine’s version of Vladimir Zhirinovsky – the bellicose populist but otherwise empty shell that is Oleh Lyashko and the Radical Party?  He certainly believes that he will be King Maker – but will he?  Could a suitably airy and apparently important title be found for a man incapable of holding a serious and/or sensitive role?  Could a glorious title for a position of little influence be found?

The Self-Help party?  If it gets over the 5% threshold, it seems a realistic contender as a coalition partner.

Will a coalition of Block Poroshenko and one other party be enough to secure a robust majority – or will it require a trilateral coalition?  If it takes 3 parties for a sturdy majority, which 3 can work together effectively?

What of the shadow power building spanning party lines?  How much of a consideration will the generous – but not evenly applied – sprinkling of Sergei Liovochkin’s people throughout most parties effect which party is approached first by Block Poroshenko?  Will “shadow influence” be a factor in any decision making when it comes to accepting or mitigating Ukraine’s grey cardinal?  What of the chess games behind the political facade between Liovochkin, Poroshenko and Kolomoyski?

How easily will it all fit together if the prediction that Volodymyr Groysman will become the next Prime Minister is to be the non-negotiable starting point of any coalition building?  Points make prizes – but the prize has to be worth having for competitors when they are deliberating forming a coalition with Block Poroshenko – and coalition party leaders expect big hierarchical rewards for their allegiance.

Is this blog’s exceptionally fortunate legacy of success when peering into the Ukrainian political crystal ball about to get it wrong – and very soon?

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Populist overselling again by the usual suspects – Ukraine and the EU

October 9, 2013

About a month ago, Jacek Saryusz-Wolski said to me “Politics is the art of making maximum, within the limits of what is possible.”  

Quite – but that political art must be framed within something called integrity for it to be inspirational and/or believable.

To place to art of politics – and Mr  Saryusz-Wolski’s quote – within a frame of populism, and that picture takes on a very different hue.  Those who look upon it see a vastly different composition.  Those who look upon the canvass within the populist frame are often deceived by the composer and thus deceiving themselves too.

And this takes me, unfortunately, to Arseniy Yatseniuk’s pro EU television advertisement – which as far as it being pro-EU is concerned – I am happy to say is being aired dozens of times a day.

But I cannot bring myself to watch it any longer.

I thought the first time I watched it I had misheard.  My Ukrainian skills are nowhere near as advanced as my Russian.  Perhaps I was wrong.  Possibly my perception genuinely skewed by a poor interpretation – and I hadn’t even passed the few seconds about pensions at the start!

Sadly I had not misunderstood.  I was not suffering from a poor interpretation.  Arseniy Yatseniuk, within the first 8 seconds of the advertisement, is unambiguously inferring that by taking the EU path, Ukrainian pensions will rise by a multiplier of 5.

Yet there is no EU pension.  Pensions and their monetary worth are set by individual EU Member States.  The UK pension – as well as qualifying age – is not the same as that of Greece or France or Spain.  The German pension is not the same as that of the Czech Republic, Ireland, Portugal or Sweden.  There is no uniformity of pensions within the EU and thus Ukraine taking the EU association path has no direct correlation to Ukrainian pensions, qualifying pension age or pension funding.

In fact, when Mr Yatseniuk was Speaker of the RADA in Ms Tymoshenko’s government, they could have raised the Ukrainian pension by a multiplier of 5 if they had wanted to.  Pensions are a matter of State policy and State funding.  The EU would have had nothing to do with that in 2008 any more than it will in 2014 or thereafter.

However, many Ukrainian pensioners having watched Mr Yatseniuk’s inspiring and misleadingly populist advertisement will now be anticipating a 5 fold rise in Ukrainian pensions far more rapidly than can be delivered by the signing of the EU Association Agreement.

He makes no mention of the fact that almost all those EU citizens receiving pensions from their Member States have also seen the age at which they qualify for a State pension rise by several years recently – something that he was adamantly against doing in Ukraine despite the qualifying age for Ukrainian pensions being a lowly 55 years of age.

If I live long enough to qualify for my UK pension I will be 67 years old before I can get it – on the assumption that qualifying age is not further bumped backwards to 70 by the time I get close to qualification – which is very likely.

I strongly suspect that by moving the Ukrainian qualifying pension age back to 67, Ukraine could afford to raise the level of pension payment too – though Mr Yatseniuk would not support it, having robustly tried (and failed due to his own lack of leadership) to defend the Ukrainian 55 years of age Soviet pension legacy only this year.

Moving on to the medical care claims relating to the EU, if Mr Yatseniuk has been to Romania or Bulgaria, he obviously hasn’t been outside of Sofia or Bucharest.

If ever there was a mirror of the current state of Ukrainian health care within the EU, then in those nations it is striking – and yet they have been full EU members – not subject to a lower level association agreement which Mr Yatseniuk is claiming will create a miraculous medical care transformation  – for 7 years in January.

People outside those EU capital cities would be wondering just what Mr Yatseniuk has been smoking to infer that an association agreement with the EU will transform Ukrainian health care, when full EU membership has changed little for them.

Perhaps he may be expecting a transformation to a health care system comparable to the UK?

With regard to Ukrainian universities and EU norms, again there is room to question how taking the EU association path will result in drastic changes – and I will point out quite candidly that both my daughters have UK degrees, having qualified with a subject understanding far below that of numerous Ukrainian and Russians I know with similar degrees.

The majority of Russian and Ukrainian graduates seem to have a far better grasp of their subjects upon qualification than the majority of their UK counterparts when viewed from my empirical perch.

In meeting EU norms, do better buildings, newer equipment, but a lower calibre of graduate count as progress?

It is not as though the association agreement suddenly opens up programmes such as Erasmus to Ukrainian students.  They already have access to it.  The association agreement does not suddenly allow for EU and Ukrainian universities to partner or accredit each other where it was prohibited before.  Sheffield University has partnered and accredited a Ukrainian university in Kyiv for a number of years already.

It remains a matter of universities reaching out to each other for partnering – with or without an EU association agreement.  It remains a matter of Ukrainian students applying to EU universities if that is where they want to study.  They will still need a student visa, EU Association Agreement signed or not.  The EU Ukraine Visa Facilitation Agreement has already come into force this year – it is not dependent upon the signing of the Association Agreement as inferred for easier access to EU universities.

Next to EU technologies which do not struggle to get here – but should be cheaper due to customs tariff reductions.  Cheaper on the assumption that retailers reduce existing prices accordingly – which is unlikely.  However, EU technology is already in Ukraine in vast quantities.  It is a matter of the flood gates opening.

And lastly that brings us to the rule of law – a desperately critical issue in Ukraine.  One that was within the parameters of Ms Tymosehnko and Speaker Yatseniuk for many years to address when in power, just as it is the current government, and the government prior to that of Ms Tymsohenko’s.

A nettle that all refused to grasp.  A societal pillar that all misused and continue to misuse.  A democratic foundation none thus far have allowed to be independent and functional outside of their control, using it selectively to prosecute and pursue, or in equal measure selectively fail to prosecute and pursue.  Selective failure to apply to rule of law is no better or worse and selectively applying it – and all are guilty of that too, during their times in power.

But it is here where the EU Association Agreement stands a chance of making a fundamental difference to Ukrainian society.  That is not to say it will, but it stands a chance.  It is the big things where EU support, pressure and reward will assist in transforming society from a post-Soviet hangover to a European value system that is actually valued by the  society .

The EU won’t change the Ukrainian pension situation.  It won’t change the health care situation.  It will do little more than already exists for students, despite Mr Yatseniuk’s populist overselling of all of these issues – and there will be a price to pay both for him and the EU unless candor replaces populist overselling – But with the fundamentals of democracy, the foundations of a tolerant and inclusive  society, support for rule of law and its equitable application – here is where it can make a difference.

Now I am not piously preaching without making due note of certain duplicities within the EU and its Member States.

Obviously the rule of law does not go without challenge within the EU any more than corruption is absent within the EU.  There are occasions where certain people may appear to be more subject to the law – or not – than others.  But generally, across much of Europe, the rule of law can be relied upon to a far greater degree by its citizenry within its Member States than it can in Ukraine.

There are and will always be exceptional cases, and there are some nations far more errant than others, but generally the rule of law is far more equitably applied than in Ukraine.

Though it may suit Mr Yatseniuk to try and sell the EU path upon a platform of populism and deliverables that are purely domestic in policy rather than EU reliant – the EU must concentrate on the big things and the big things alone if it wants to make the fundamental differences to the value system of Ukrainian society it seeks to do.

(That said, if I was sat within the EU machinery and aware an opposition leader was inferring that the EU was in some way going to be responsible for a 5 fold increase in Ukrainian pensions – words would be had when next we met.)

All of that said – keep the pro-EU ball rolling – just be more honest about what it can deliver and the time frame it could deliver within.  Populism is short lived but disappointment lingers for a long time – as any opposition politician should know!

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