MPs listened to the president calmly and silently without blocking the tribune and chanting any slogans, only members of the oppositionist party Batkivshchyna wore T-shirts with traditional portraits of the former prime minister and inscriptions “Free Yulia!” Finally, Viktor Yanukovych got an opportunity to speak in the Verkhovna Rada – he greeted MPs during the opening ceremony of the third parliamentary session. We remind our readers that last time the president did not read his annual message to the Verkhovna Rada (he handed over a written version of it) as the calm atmosphere could not be provided. This time the agreements were reached. According to our sources, Cox and Kwasniewski, who have been in Ukraine with their mission for a long time, acted as guarantors of these agreements. By the way, leaders of the opposition met the European guests on September 2. Certainly, the country will benefit since there is mutual understanding in the parliament (they will have to adopt laws, necessary for the European integration), but it turns out that we cannot understand one another without help from aside.
What did the president speak about? In general, he said very true things. “We have to prepare the success at the summit in Vilnius,” Viktor Yanukovych said. “And the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine should play a big role in this process. The association with the EU is not needed for the government or opposition. It is needed for Ukraine. First of all it is a stimulus for further reforms, quicker modernization and elevation of social standards. We have to significantly accelerate the realization of the reform program, in particular, to finish reforming the judiciary, public prosecution and internal affairs bodies. I suggest that the Verkhovna Rada supports the necessary package of bills. We have to take all necessary measures together to efficiently implement the new Criminal Procedural Code, the law on advocacy and national preventive mechanism against tortures…”
Members of the opposition listened to the president’s speech silently and commented on it later. The head of the fraction Batkivshchyna Arsenii Yatseniuk said that he was disappointed with Viktor Yanukovych’s speech: “I expected him to speak as the president of the country and not as a candidate for 2015.” The leader of UDAR Vitalii Klitschko emphasized that the “European integration completely depends on the president, that is why the question is: will he resign if the agreement is not signed?” In his turn the leader of Svoboda Oleh Tiahnybok claimed from the tribune that Yanukovych’s speech was not a dialog with the parliament, “it was just a monologue and giving orders to the Verkhovna Rada.”
The government and the opposition unanimously believe that it is necessary to sign the Agreement with the EU, but voting for the laws concerning European integration will not be that easy (despite their promises, MPs did not review the necessary bills on the first working day of the session).
Nearly at the same time with the president’s speech in the parliament Sergey Glazyev, councilor of the Russian president for integration within the Customs Union and Unified Economic Space of Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan gave an interview to the edition Kommersant-Ukraina saying that signing the Association Agreement with the EU will prevent Ukraine from entering the Customs Union and Kyiv will stop being “a true partner” for Russia.
“TIED IN ONE NET” – THE NET OF EUROPEAN INTEGRATION
The words from the abovementioned speech made by Viktor Yanukovych in the Verkhovna Rada were a certain reaction to this declaration and Russians’ permanent pressure: “The tasks Ukraine has to fulfill before the summit in Vilnius are large and complicated. However, we have time and potential to do it.”
So, the question is: how should the president’s speech be estimated, to what extent will it be possible to make his declarations come true and will Ukraine be able to outstand Russia’s pressure?
“IT IS A HISTORICAL MOMENT…”
Volodymyr MAKEIENKO, MP, the Party of Regions:
“The situation in the country is as it is and it is a historical moment for our country as well as the adoption of the declaration on the national sovereignty on July 16. It was not fully accepted by the society, but it is history: it cannot be accelerated or stopped. There was the Act on the national sovereignty, adoption of the Constitution and now there is European integration of Ukraine. We are approaching our goal step by step. Being politicians, we have to timely react to existing challenges.
“As for the opposition of Russia, I remember what happened in 1990 when the communists made the major part of the parliament. Back then I was a deputy in the Verkhovna Rada of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic and I knew the attitude to the sovereign moods of Ukraine from other republics and Moscow, but we voted for since we felt the situation in the world and the position of the electorate. I am one of the co-authors of the abovementioned declaration and I know that its first phrase reads ‘considering a historical chance for Ukraine.’ The same goes now for the European integration.
“As for the situation in our party, of course, we have electors in different regions and deputies represent their interests. Is that a secret that the European destination is not supported for 100 percent? However, if we analyze voting in the party in May or June, everyone voted for the necessary drafts. They made declarations back then as well but the main thing is how people vote. It is not populism, it is just the time, the situation, challenges change and politicians have to react. One should be flexible in politics.
“The opposition shares this opinion as during the president’s speech they did not yell or make noise, they just put on T-shirts. In particular, they were influenced by the Western diplomats present during the session, Kwasniewski and Cox.
“It is realistic to implement everything mentioned by the president. He was also right concerning the current situation in the country: we are holding the national currency despite gas prices and economic situation in the world, we are paying pensions and raising monetary assistance when children are born. By the way, all these initiatives were introduced by the then prime minister Yanukovych. The national currency is stable. Our team is united despite different opinions that have always existed.
“In general, whatever they say, including the opposition, we are making the European integration. It is impossible to exclude them [representatives of the opposition. – Ed.] from discussing the drafts as there are representatives of different parties in every committee. For example, coordination meeting was calm and constructive as the opposition had nothing to say. They have nothing to offer to people. They only mentioned the election to the Kyiv City Council; however, we understand that nobody wants to participate in it trying to push somebody to the position of the mayor. However, they are not insisting. As well as nobody is upholding Tymoshenko’s release, since it will mean the end of their political life.”
“THERE IS STILL NO ADEQUATE DIALOGUE BETWEEN THE POLITICAL FORCES”
Volodymyr HORBACH, political analyst at the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation:
“Firstly, the fact of the president’s presence and an opportunity for him to make a speech is a positive factor in both Ukrainian parliamentarism and Ukrainian politics in general. I must note that lately it happens very rarely. It is also extremely important that the president and the opposition view the adoption of laws on European integration as their national duty and treat it like a matter of national importance and not only that of their party. The worse thing is that, in fact, the deputies did not start to pass these laws from the first days of the parliamentary session and there is still political distrust between them. The main reason for that is the absence of dialogue. That is, despite the speech given by the president in the parliament, I, for example, did not see a dialogue of two entities interested in the result. So far we only had a chance to hear several separate monologues of, primarily, the candidates for presidency in 2015 and, unfortunately, everything is considered at this angle, even though it is not demonstrated publicly.
DEPUTIES WERE TOLERANT. THE ONLY FRONDE WAS THE SHIRTS WITH PARTY SYMBOLS
“However, despite this the majority of the deputies support the European laws and I believe they will vote for them anyway. Similarly, political decisions that depend on the president, including the Yulia Tymoshenko case, have a chance to be resolved soon.
“If to speak about certain political and economic pressure from Russia, the recent statements made by Vladimir Putin’s advisor Sergey Glazyev confirm the clinic character of this case. And it’s not only about Glazyev, but, obviously, about the very essence of the Russian approach to Ukraine and international relations. After all when a person says that Ukraine violates a treaty of friendship and cooperation by, allegedly, making a number of decisions that are detrimental to the interests of the Russian Federation, first, we must say that Russia with its trade war was the first to violate this agreement because it has already introduced measures which are unacceptable to us. On the other hand, it seems that Russia considers Ukraine’s sovereign actions taken in order not to succumb to the absorption of the Russian economy and the state as ‘unfriendly steps’ towards Russia, according to Glazyev. That means, if you do not let someone to swallow and absorb you completely it is immediately interpreted as ‘unfriendly’ behavior. Such actions show all the absurdity of the situation, but at the same time they clearly characterize the mentality of the Russian leadership, who really think that all who do not agree to Russian integration are automatically included in the class of Russia’s enemies.
“So far, Ukraine’s reaction to such actions has been quite interesting. On the one hand, the president, the prime minister, and the government officials continue to declare peacemaking rhetoric about the need to work with both sides – the East and the West, but, on the other hand, Ukraine continues pursuing an active course of European integration. This situation can be well described by a Russian proverb: ‘A cat listens and keeps eating…’”
“MOST OF THE BILLS WILL BE VOTED ON AND NO RESISTANCE ON THE PART OF RUSSIA WILL INTERFERE WITH IT”
Volodymyr FESENKO, chairman of “Penta” Applied Political Studies Center:
“The fact that the president came to the parliament and gave his speech without arousing any conflicts, demarches, and scandals on the part of the opposition is a big step forward. This is a sign that politicians finally begin to realize that if we want to be in Europe, we should definitely demonstrate our European character. What concerns the president’s speech in the parliament, it was fairly predictable and no one expected any sensations from it. However, Viktor Yanukovych still expressed the main thesis, stressing that the European integration is the key priority for Ukraine. The president also noted that in order to fulfill our obligations to the European Union and form the foundation for signing the Association Agreement with the EU, the parliament still needs to work some more.
“I also consider the statement that we should not oppose the European choice to cooperation with Russia to be correct because it is really extremely important for us to maintain the conditions to create a new format for balancing the relations with the EU and Russia. For Ukraine the relations with Russia are important in the view of economic trade, because a third of Ukrainian trade is aimed at the Russian market, while 40 percent of it takes place with the countries of the Customs Union. Therefore, it is obvious that we cannot lose these markets and cooperation in the Eurasian direction should continue in the future. Moreover, Russia is our neighbor – an influential world power, and it would be inappropriate on our part to create a conflict.
“At the same time, now we can see that Russia is the one to create the conflict and we need to fully neutralize the challenges that arise lately, I must stress again, not on our initiative. Therefore, the main issue now is how to implement the line so that we could continue to maintain constructive, dynamic relations with Russia, taking into account the European vector of Ukraine’s development. In this context, it is good that the president’s speech was given in a normal atmosphere.
“As for the predictions about the future work of the parliament, the beginning of the third session of the parliament showed that, unlike the previous session, deputies are willing to work effectively and in concord. Brussels gave both our government and the opposition the right signals and also a constructive impulse. The European Union held the preparatory work for normal functioning of our parliament. Of course, I exaggerate a bit, but, in fact, this is how it all happened. The meeting of Stefan Fuele and Ukrainian leaders of opposition in the European Parliament was aimed not only at discussing the problems with Russia but also at convincing the Party of Regions and opposition factions in the need for productive work. So far, judging from the statements made by both sides until this point, there is hope that the most of European integration bills will be voted for. But not all of them. In my opinion, there will be certain problems with the vote on the so-called anti-discrimination law, which has become the center of attention of some deputies in rather artificial way without any sound reason. I can only wish parliamentarians not to focus their attention on the issue of sexual minorities because of the fear to score negative points on this ‘sensitive’ issue.
“There will be conflicts of interests during the consideration of the electoral law and the issue of conducting re-elections in problem districts. I do not rule out the possibility that the so-called prosecutor lobby would try to make some changes to the bill on the work of prosecutor’s office, that’s why there can also be observed some wild intrigues. However, I am convinced that the vast majority of the bills on European integration will be passed by mid-October and no resistance on Russia’s part will interfere with it.”