Saturday, May 31, 2008

EU enlargement: Chicken or Kiev?

My comment to an article of The Economist called ‘Enlarging the European Union: Chicken or Kiev?’, published on the magazine’s website on 31 May 2008:

Every enlargement leads to “devaluation” of the European Union – politically, economically, and structurally. The EU of 27 already has essential problems with internal decision-making process. Euro-Constitution (and now the Lisbon Treaty) ratification saga is a good prove of that.

Further enlargement of the EU is to be carefully considered. If the European Union wants to save itself as a strong supranational organization claiming to be a centre of world power, new mechanisms of enlargement should be presented. The elaboration of these mechanisms will take some time. But an enlargement-delay is not an obstacle for building the all-European free democratic space. It is already successfully building up – by the Council of Europe with its 47 member states, including Turkey, Ukraine, and also Russia, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, to give just a few.

If the EU is not ready for a “big enlargement”, it will be reasonable to strengthen its cooperation with the Council of Europe to work out new effective instruments to build free and democratic Europe of 47 without any dividing lines and prejudices.

P.S. Of course, it would be great if Ukraine become member of the EU immediately. At least, because of a possibility to travel freely inside the Schengen zone for every Ukrainian. But as today both Ukraine and the EU are not ready for that, we have to achieve our goals using available instruments, such an ENP.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Kyiv local elections: Orange Split

On Sunday, 25 May, the capital of Ukraine Kyiv had early elections of Mayor and members of the City Council. Today the official results of elections are supposed to be announced by the Central Electoral Commission. The electoral company has demonstrated all the possible signs of falling down of democratic values in Ukraine. The use of dirty technologies, bribing of voters, “twin” candidates (registration of candidates for the post of Mayor with the same names), etc – all these features of Kyiv elections had place on the background of unfortunate split of coalition of the Orange democratic forces.

Political parties, which led the Orange Revolution in 2004, have lost the unity very quickly. The result of early election – sad for democratic forces – is a clear sign to worry about the outcome of next presidential election.

New Ukrainian President is supposed to be elected at the end of 2009, but in today’s Ukrainian politics there are a lot of unpredictable things. As some informed people say, early presidential election may take place. The same time the “Orange camp” is strongly divided. Contradictions between ex-allies are so deep and serious (up to personal antagonism) that the nomination of the unique candidate for presidential post seems impossible. It may cause a real danger for Ukrainian democracy.

Let’s get back to the Kyiv early elections. They were called by the initiative of Prime Minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko who accused the eccentric incumbent Mayor Leonid Chernovetskiy in corruption and illegal deals with Kyiv lands. She was sure she will win the prise, but lost. Mr. Chernovetsky stayed on his place and got a majority of Council’s seats.
“Orange coalition” failed to nominate the unique candidate for Mayor. Three candidates – members of coalition were trying to win this post independently, including a famous boxer Vitaly Klitschko. Multiple “democratic party lists” were nominated also for the election to City Council.

Yulia Tymoshenko took the biggest risk personally heading her Block’s list for city Council. Her “right hand” Oleksander Turchinov was a candidate for Mayor’s chair. President Viktor Yushchenko pretended that he doesn’t support any candidate for Mayor, actually being in favour of Mr. Chernovetsky. Ex-Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and his Party of Regions supported Vasyl Gorbal – millioner and Member of Parliament.

They say that in private conversation Viktor Yushchenko declared that Kyiv elections would be “a Stalingrad for Tymoshenko” (the battle of Stalingrad was a turning point of the World War Two, when the Nazi army faced a defeat from which it never fully recovered). But it happened that the elections became a “Stalingrad” for Orange democratic forces and for the principles of free and fair elections in Ukraine.

While the democratic candidates were busy trying to fight each other, the “anti-hero” Leonid Chernovetsky was systematically bribing the electorate (mainly the elder people), providing them with free food and money – on exchange for promises to vote for him. Some so-called “technical candidates” (who did not have chance to win but had the mission to split votes) also gave money to people. I know that the photo of ballot paper with “tick” near the name of some candidates could easily be exchanged for money – from 50 to 100 American dollars.

As a result, Leonid Chernovetsky has won almost 38 percent of ballots. The Chernovetsky Bloc is also leading in the city Council vote. Tymoshenko’s ally Oleksander Turchynov got only 19,1 percent of vote – we should notice that her Bloc won about 40 percent of the vote in Kiev in the parliamentary election last year. (The presence of Tymoshenko’s Block in Council is also reduced). World boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko gathered 18 percent of votes, while Mykola Katerynchuk, an ally of Yushchenko, has just 4 percent. Vasyl Gorbal won some 2,3 percent of votes. The most important sign is that the President’s “Our Ukraine People’s Union” didn’t even qualify for the City Council with the result of 2 percent.

Mr. Chernovetsky won back Kyiv for the next five years proving the split of Ukrainian democratic forces, which may cause a real danger for the future of the country. He proved also that anyone who has enough money can win the “free and fair” election in Ukraine.

I am sure that to save democracy in Ukraine the leaders of democratic forces should forget about their ambitions and build up a new democratic block (or single party) – to start to work for Ukraine’s best future. (And stop to call permanently for early elections). Otherwise country is in need of new faces and new political parties, based on ideology and democratic values, not on charismatic leaders and their personal or business interests.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Ukraine: an elephant on the European doorstep

Today I’ve read a very interesting article in the Euobserver called “The elephant on the European doorstep”. The author, Peter Sain ley Berry, editor of EuropaWorld, is analyzing the recent British Queen’s visit to Turkey and reflecting on prospects of Turkish future membership in the European Union.
The conclusion is the following: Ukraine is now in an anomalous position in its euro-inspirations, the author thinks. Actually, Ukraine is more European than Turkey, but the Eurodoor is presently shut for Kyiv.During her visit to Ankara, 82-year-old Queen Elizabeth II stressed Britain's support for the mainly Muslim country's EU membership prospects, describing Turkey as a “confident and dynamic democracy”. She said also that the process of the integration of Turkey to the EU should be speeded up. Ukrainian leaders have never heard such pleasant words from British leaders.
Peter Sain ley Berry states in his article: “
In fact, when it comes to European credentials the Ukraine has rather better claims than Turkey. Its capital, Kiev, is closer to Brussels, for instance, than Athens. Moreover, as anyone reading Heinrich Boell's - great anti-war novel ‘Der Zug war Punktlich,' can appreciate, Germany, Poland and the Ukraine are but stations on a journey into Europe's deep hinterland. The railway line is no doubt still there. It is true to say that with its 55 million people the Ukraine is therefore the elephant on our European doorstep. Still, the policy is to resist giving any hint of promise of future membership. True, the country has much to reform before it could become a credible candidate. Nevertheless, it has as much right to lay claim to its place in the European firmament as anyone else. The banging on the door will become louder and more insistent. There will be other bangings, too; Georgia is already demanding to be heard. Belarus, Moldova, the other Caucasian nations may well follow suit. No one can believe the Union can remain the same should these accessions take place. Again, they are not necessarily to be resisted. It may be in our interest that we should go ahead. But we should not sleepwalk toward a decision, finding out too late that we have no room left for manoeuvre”.
“The Western Balkans - seven countries with a population of approximately 27 million - have been offered a European future, subject only to satisfying the normal criteria. This process will take time but few doubt the result. We are on course therefore for an EU of 34”,
- the author of the article says. - This will make the government of the EU more complex. If there are 15 possible bilateral relationships in a community of six, there are 351 in a community of 27. Adding a further seven states increases the complexity by a whopping 210. Apart from this complexity there will be other consequences, including for financing, for decision-making, for the distribution of MEPs and Commissioners. None of this seems to be being discussed”.
I do not see how we can continue to espouse Turkey's candidacy and not that of the Ukraine. But this has consequences. If we are to have a grand Europe, a Europe of 42 states and 700 millions of people, it is not too early to start debating the prospect now,” – makes resume the European journalist.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Holodomor in Ukrainian foreign policy

This week the President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko has three working visits abroad – on Monday he was in Lithuania, yesterday, on Tuesday, – in Israel, and today he departed for the United Kingdom with a two day visit. Agenda of every visit is obviously different, except one part. In every country Mr. Yuschenko has at least one little event (exhibition, lecture, conference or else) dedicated to Holodomor (death by hunger) 1932-1933.

On 12 May in Latvia Victor Yushchenko - together with his wife Kateryna Yushchenko and President Valdas Adamkus of Lithuania - took part in an opening of exhibition dedicated to Holodomor in Vilnius Genocide Victims' Museum. On 13 May in Israel he asked the President of the state Shimon Peres to support the Ukrainian initiative to appeal to the United Nations with a document concerning the Holodomor issue. On 15 May in London Ukrainian President will be present at the opening of the exhibition commemorating the victims of the 1932-1933 hunger.

Until a recent time, my personal opinion on this issue was dual. From one side, Holodomor was a real tragedy for Ukraine, and it surely have to be called as genocide against Ukrainian nation. But, from the other side, there is really too much of Holodomor in Ukrainian news and politics. The amount of official information, declarations, statements and appeals concerning the hunger which had place in Ukraine at the beginning of 1930th has reached – as for my point of view – a critical point, after which the total misconception has place.

Mr. Mario Santos David, Member of Parliament of Portugal, has helped me to put an end to the dualism in understanding of this situation. In his speech on the conference “Parliamentary cooperation between Ukraine and the EU” (to which my previous post was dedicated) he – very clearly – defined the main problem of Holodomor issue in Ukraine.

Holodomor is a tragedy, but it is a history,” Mr. Mario Santos David said. “It can not be a priority of Ukrainian foreign policy”. The Member of Parliament of Portugal emphasized that it is necessary to show respect for victims of Holodomor, to remember about this tragedy – but “to put it as a key issue of foreign policy is definitely wrong”.
"We shouldn't look that much into the past", the MP thinks, "we should better look into the future".

Reaction of some Ukrainian MP’s (I prefer not to tell names) to this speech was not very favorable. I think because of misunderstanding or troubles with translation as the idea is very easy to understand. Ukraine – of course – should not forget about such a big tragedy as Holodomor was. And furthermore, Ukrainians have (pleno jure) a right to inform international community, the entire world about one of the largest national catastrophes in the modern history of the Ukrainian nation. But the promotion of Holodomor outside Ukraine should not be turned into a kind of fetish, into an artificial, exaggerated national interest. Ukrainian diplomats, politicians, their speechwriters and other professionals have a lot of other things to do on the way of the country towards the integration into the European democratic family.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

EU-friends of Ukraine: 16 from 27?

On 12 May a First Interparliamentary Conference called “Parliamentary cooperation between Ukraine and the EU” started in conference-hall of the Parliament of Ukraine (Verkhovna Rada). Members of bilateral Friendship Groups with Ukraine from the Parliaments of all the member states of the European Union – as well as the European Parliament – were invited to Kyiv to participate in this event. But not all the invitees showed up. MP’s from only 16 of 27 EU-countries participated in the Kyiv event.

As I was present on this conference, I can surely say that the launching of such an initiative is really very important both for Ukraine and the EU member states. First of all, it is a unique opportunity to share points of view on problems of the European integration of Ukraine, and also to see the whole picture from the feedback. During the first day of the conference the participants listened to three reports of the Head of the Committee of Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on European Integration Borys Tarasyuk, ex-Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Borys Tarasyuk, Vice President of the European Parliament, former Chairman of the Committee for Parliamentary Cooperation EU-Ukraine Marek Siwiec and Chairman of the Committee for Parliamentary Cooperation EU-Ukraine in-charge Adrian Severin.

Shortly speaking, the main result of that day may be listed in four simple points:
1. Ukraine feels offended for the “enlargement” of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), which shifted a status of Ukraine to neighbour, equal to, for example, Morocco (who also participates in the ENP).
2. Ukraine insists on being called not a neighbour, but a part of Europe (as geographically it is at the middle of Europe).
3. Ukraine strongly insists on signing of the Association agreement with the European Union to mark the next significant step in the EU-Ukraine relationships.
4. European Union is not ready to give Ukraine all the mentioned above.

Today will be another interesting day, full of information. But before everything get started I would like to name 16 countries, which delegated their members of parliament to visit Ukraine and to talk about the European future of Ukraine. I don’t know what are the reasons of absence of the representatives of other 10. Maybe the reasons are serious. But the following countries can be surely named as the best friends of Ukraine in Europe. At least, they are the most interested in Ukraine.

16 countries-participants (in alphabetic order):
1. Belgium. 2. Bulgaria. 3. Czech Republic. 4. Cyprus. 5. Estonia. 6. Greece. 7. Finland. 8. Hungary. 9. Ireland. 10. Latvia. 11. Lithuania. 12. Poland. 13. Portugal. 14. Romania. 15. Slovakia. 16. United Kingdom.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Serbian elections: Lupus non curat numerum ovium

Yesterday I went to sleep rather late. As I am following with a big interest the political situation in Serbia, it was really impossible not to watch the first declarations of main political leaders after closure of polling stations and promulgation of preliminary unofficial results.

Frankly speaking the results themselves were not surprising for me. They were also not surprising for the main competitors. Much more interesting were the comments of the results of election given by European media. Most of them declared that the arithmetical majority of votes gained by the block “For a European Serbia”, led by the President of country and the leader of Democratic party Boris Tadic, means the total victory of this political force and the total support of its ideas of the fast European integration by the majority of citizens of Serbia.

I was watching a live translation of the post-electoral-Belgrad speeches on the Euronews. The first political leader who gave speech and press-conference after 21.00 be Belgrad time was – who could doubt that – Boris Tadic. The tone of his words was a bit aggressive as he was speaking as a unique winner. “Mr. Kostunica will not be prime-minister anymore… I will form coalition and I will decide who will be appointed as the prime-minister” – he said.

What Mr. Tadic did not take into the account is that a good knowledge of arithmetic is not the same with good political skills.

According to the exit-polls’ results printed that night (my source of information for that moment was the Euronews channel), the block of Mr. Tadich had won 35,06 %. At the same time, the ultra-nationalist rivals of Tadic – Tomislav Nikolic's Serb Radical Party (SRS) had 28,21 %. The result of the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS-NS) of current prime-minister Vojislav Kostunica was more moderate – 15,21 %. The Socialist Party of Serbia had 10,75 %.

Figures from the Electoral Commission (RIK) announced at midnight last night show that the “For a European Serbia” coalition received 36.69 percent of the vote, and will have 102 seats in the next parliament. With votes counted from 33.91 percent of polling stations, the SRS received 28.57 percent of the vote (80 seats), the DSS-NS received 13.54 percent of the vote or 37 seats, and the Socialist party coalition won 9.14 percent of the vote (25 seats in parliament).

For the moment I am writing this text, the official results don’t differ much from the figures mentioned above.
One should not be a big expert – not in politics, nor in mathematics – to predict that leader of Radical Party of Serbia Tomislav Nikolic and Vojislav Kostunica may form a lively coalition with the participation of Socialists. The electoral rhetoric of all of them was not very different, but in lot of issues opposite to the slogans of president’s block.

I can remind that the main difference between Tadic and Nikolic (and Kostunica) was in their estimation of Kosovo’s declared independence. All of them promised to Serbs not to recognize Kosovo as an independent state (Mr. Tadic vowed his new government would not recognize Kosovo as an independent state). But at the same time the President’s goal is integration to the European Union, whatever happens in Kosovo, while the goal of two others is to stop any moves towards EU until all its countries (most EU countries) withdraw their recognition of independence of Kosovo.

Kosovo's declaration of independence was a major reason for Serbian early election. The disagreement over what action should be taken brought down the previous coalition between the Democratic Party and Vojislav Kostunica's nationalist Democratic Party of Serbia.

Dragging on with the arithmetic, we can easily see the following results of the election in Serbia: the European idea of President Tadic is supported only by 35-37 % of Serbs. More than 42-43% (results of Nikolic plus Kostunica) of the citizens of Serbia support radical idea.

Who will form the ruling coalition and whether it will be formed – nobody knows yet. Lupus non curat numerum ovium.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


Today, on 7 May 2008, Dmitri Medvedev took office as the third President of Russia. The half-of-an-hour inauguration ceremony which took place in Great Kremlin Palace’s throne hall was very interesting to watch and rather useful for future thoughts about the new "first face" of Russian politics. Of course, such events are planned in advance so thoroughly that one should not expect any surprise or clear sign of something. Nevertheless we can make some conclusions.

The first conclusion: it is a big mistake to call Mr. Medvedev a “puppet president” (as, for example, Tony Halpin from The Times did in a recent article). Yes, the appointment (through the well organized elections) of Dmitri Medvedev as a President was grounded on decision of Vladimir Putin. But it is obvious that Mr. Putin hasn’t made that decision alone. We shouldn’t forget about the circumstances of Putin’s intronisation which took place 8 years ago. We shouldn’t forget about so called “Family” which still sharply controls Russian big economy and politics. So, the issue is much more complex than we can think "from the first sight".

I was watching the inauguration procedure on TV, sitting in cafe of one of the administrative buildings of the Parliament of Ukraine (Verkhovna Rada). The performance was really impressive.
…Immense mechanism of the Kremlin’s chiming clock started to count seconds left to 12 o’clock of Moscow time. With the loud accompaniment of clock bells future President of Russian Federation appeared in the gold-decorated hall, overcrowded with cream of the cream of Russian economy and political elite.
“Look, Russia has become a real empire. Medvedev will be like a Tsar of Russia”, - commented a woman-official with a cap of coffee, - Nobody can predict, what kind of President he is going to be. But I’m sure – he is not shy, he will show up brightly”. Her friend who prefers tea added with a bit of jealousy: “Today is a holiday for all the Russians, even government officials don’t work”.

Mr. Medvedev can not be described as a tall men. Actually his height is only 162 cm. But everyone who was observing the ceremony noticed that he didn’t look as not tall enough for the post of the President of Russia. Some features of the conduct of Dmitri Medvedev during the inauguration ceremony have shown that he is not going to stay a weak President as some well-known people want him to be.

Today Dmitri Medvedev is not pretending to dominate Vladimir Putin. But after the moment of exchange of a high status something changed – almost invisibly – in the relations between two Presidents, former and present. Dmitri Medvedev has not pretending to dominate, but he started to dominate, though in some little moments. For example, during the parade of the Presidential regiment it was not Dmitri Medvedev who started the conversation with his friend Vladimir Putin: the new President took a pause, while the old one couldn't.

42 years old Dmitri Medvedev is surely not a puppet president. He is rather a dark horse, a joker in the pack who can be easily transformed to any type of the Head of State. It seems to me that he will soon become a new authoritarian President of Russia – like Putin, but with different style.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Playing with Hitler

On 19 April one of the most influential newspapers in Ukraine “Dzerkalo tyzhnia” published an article that was widely reprinted and quoted by international media. The article informed that in local toy stores of the capital of Ukraine Kyiv are available… toy-dolls of Adolf Hitler, the cruelest dictator in recent history of Europe.

This information was widely spread through Internet and written press through all the continents. Recently the main Russian TV-channels reported more details: the 40-centimetre figure of Hitler costs approximately $250 and – like Barbie doll or similar – is equipped with extra set of clothes and accessories (even with swastika armband for leather coat).

I tried to find the doll in Kyiv’ souvenir shops to make my own pictures, but failed. So, I reprint a photo of Hitler doll from the Daily Mail website.

The appearance of this information in Ukrainian and the world media is not a negative factor for Ukraine and its international image. This operative work of Ukrainian and international journalists has led to the hot discussions on this point inside Ukrainian political and social circles, and that is good. What I didn’t like in this situation is the attempts to use this “unclean” marketing ideas of one private businessman as a weapon in information war against independent and democratic Ukraine, opened by some political forces from outside and also from inside of my country.

I would just quote the text published on the mentioned Daily Mail website: “The former Soviet republic in recent years has seen increasing nationalist activism, amid reports of increasing xenophobia and racism and some extremists supporting racism similar to that of Nazi Germany under Hitler”.
For me, Ukrainian and grand-daughter of the World War Two heroes, it is really very painful to read these words.

I am strongly convinced that in Ukraine there are no any real reasons even to talk about fascisation or similar. National values of Ukrainians still safeguard memory about Germany’s World War Two invasion and terrible cruel crimes of Nazis in Ukraine, when more than 3 million of civil Ukrainians died. There is no room in today’s Ukraine for xenophobia and racism. It is also illegal in Ukraine to perform a Nazi propaganda. It is a fact.

Today I’ve met one respected ex-member of Parliament of Ukraine. He first started to talk about the Hitler-doll-case. I like the words he said: “The problem with the Hitler toy is not a problem of the raise of Nazi ideals in Ukraine (this question even does not exist). The problem is in the absence of self-respect of some Ukrainians who, thinking about short-term profit, betrayed the memory of their grandparents, who won the war against Hitler”.

I can add that millions of people who were fighting with fascism in the World War Two, especially Ukrainians, Russians, Belorussians who took on themselves the hardest first years of the War, the soldiers who died and that who survived, all of them saved the world and Europe from the Nazi plague. And only owing to their feat of arms Europe became as prosperous and happy continent as it is today.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Where’s Ukraine?

It is a little bit difficult to choose a topic to start a blog with – it’s like to design a visit card or write a cover letter for all the people who will visit this page. Let me tell a couple of words concerning the reasons why I’ve decided to start this blog and why I’m writing in English (and not in Ukrainian or Russian).
Ten years ago I was participating in student conference in Hague (Holland). On the closure reception I met one nice guy who caused a real cultural shock in my mind. When I told him that I live in Ukraine, he added with sincere sympathy: “It should be very long and difficult trip to Holland from Africa!” I was sure he was joking, but he was not. That educated man who was working in the city hall of Hague just didn’t know that there is such a European country as Ukraine. He was thinking that Ukraine is somewhere in Africa. I decided not to tell him that he is wrong.
So, ten years ago Ukraine was not very popular country in Europe. Now the situation has changed. But (as I can estimate) most people in Europe associate Ukraine only with a couple of words: Shevchenko (football player), Orange Revolution and maybe gas quarrels with Moscow. But here in Ukraine we’ve got a lot of extra interesting things. For example, heritage of genius poet and painter Taras Shevchenko, and a long-lasting political crisis.
In my blog I’m going to write about Ukraine in contemporary Europe and the world. I will use English language to reach a wider audience and to understand, what is the place of Ukraine in minds of Europeans (and not only Europeans)?