The Verkhovna Rada did start working. However, the MPs begin in a traditional way, with a scuffle. Unfortunately, this is a regular occurrence at the Ukrainian parliament lately. This time, after the leader of the Party of Regions Oleksandr Yefremov spoke from the podium in Russian and denounced Svoboda party members as “neofascists,” the opposition blocked the podium again. And then brute force was used. After consultations of faction leaders, MPs did resume their duties.
It is obvious that work in the present-day Verkhovna Rada is done very reluctantly. A spirit of confrontation is in the air, and the pro-government Party of Regions was apparently not ready for it. The opposition pressed for personal vote through blocking again (which is an illegal method, by the way), thus making the decision-making process for the majority more complicated. They simply lack votes. This was evident on Tuesday too, they had to put issues to repeat vote.
Without going deeper into details of parliament day (though we discussed some of them with our interlocutors), one important matter will still be on the mind of all Ukrainian MPs (perhaps, only except communists): the question of European integration. It should not be influenced by antagonistic political opinions, national interests should be the only thing that matters. It is clear that it is hard for the opposition to fight the government under the present circumstances, blockings and fights take place too often, but is it possible to reach a compromise? In what way can the situation be settled? Since Ukraine needs to sign the Association Agreement in fall, no matter what.
WE CONSISTENTLY STAND UP FOR THE EUROPEAN CHOICE AND ARE GOING TO VOTE FOR RELEVANT LAWS
Andrii SENCHENKO, MP, Batkivshchyna (Fatherland)
The opposition blocked the Verkhovna Rada podium not so long ago because Vlasenko was deprived of his mandate. You unblocked the Verkhovna Rada, and the next representative on the Batkivshchyna party list took the oath instead of Tymoshenko’s defender. Where is the logic in that?
“We blocked the Verkhovna Rada not only because of Vlasenko. In any case, this problem is on the government’s conscience. You know that a set of documents was prepared and sent to the European Court of Human Rights. It contains a supplemented complaint by Yulia Tymoshenko which says that Vlasenko’s problems emerged because he represented her in court. Vlasenko sent a personal complaint to the European Court, and that is why we cannot block the Verkhovna Rada because of that until the European Court considers his complaint. We are sure that justice will prevail. It was important for us to unblock the Verkhovna Rada in order to press for the election of the mayor of Kyiv. This is another crime of the regime, they violated the Constitution and other Ukrainian laws. The government feels too much at ease, not holding the elections. They are ready to suspend all elections whatsoever, and live at the expense of ordinary Ukrainians forever. Concerning the fact that the next person on the Baktivshchyna party list took the oath. Again, we studied the situation from the legal point of view. If Stadniichuk was not sworn in during the following 20 days, the Central Election Commission would pass a resolution about the next person on the list, and so on. That is why for us Vlasenko is not considered to be left out and abandoned today. This is the opposition’s tactics.”
In general, blocking the Verkhovna Rada’s work by the opposition gives the government and Europe grounds to accuse you of procrastinating the process of Ukraine’s European integration. Why was it decided to periodically block the Verkhovna Rada now?
“We have our own understanding of what is good for the country today and what is not. Of course, we consistently stand up for the European choice and everything that relates to European integration. The laws that are needed for our advancement in this direction are primary for us, and we are going to vote for them. Moreover, we still have a whole set of laws, some, for example, relate to renewal of citizens’ pension rights (this draft law was submitted at the end of 2012, we cannot put it off any longer). We also have a law on cancellation of the health care reform, because this reform is nothing but a legal elimination of the health care system in the country. There are a number of laws on social and economic matters. We are eager to contribute to productive work of the Verkhovna Rada when it comes to these laws. But if the personal vote procedures will be violated again in the future, tactical blockings will be used again as well.”
Is the opposition ready to look for a compromise with the government in the matter of European integration?
“We have a strategy, the European choice. This strategy is supported by the majority of Ukrainian citizens. Is the government ready to follow this path? Tactically, its moves might coincide with the people’s opinion sometimes. But the thing is that they are constantly moving back and forth. It is not about a compromise. We have tactics, and it is supported by the people.”
Today we see that it is hard for the Verkhovna Rada to operate. Is it efficient at all?
“It is not the convocation or proportion of groups and factions that matters. The problem is that the incumbent government and its representatives in the Verkhovna Rada, the Party of Regions, have no idea of how to live and work according to law. The government representatives do not understand what it means to vote for themselves only, they continue forging committees’ resolutions, even in those committees where they are the majority. They think that laws are intended for ordinary people, but not for them. Orders from Bankova Street are executed no matter what, even if they contradict the law, the Constitution, and so on. You can interpret the situation in the parliament in whichever way you like, though it is tense and troublesome indeed, but it is necessary to change the way the Party of Regions’ members think in order for the Verkhovna Rada to work properly.”
You mentioned the election of the mayor of Kyiv. Are there any points you agree upon with the government in this matter?
“At the level of negotiations, everyone agrees that the election should be held and the rule of law must be respected. The sincerity of these statements will be tested during the voting: whether the government representatives will support this matter or find pretexts to put off the election date again [the conversation took place yesterday afternoon. – Author].”
On Tuesday, Svoboda (the faction “Freedom”) members blocked the Verkhovna Rada, partially because Yefremov delivered his speech in Russian. Do you as a Russian-speaking person consider this to be an adequate reason to block the podium?
“I use Ukrainian language in the Verkhovna Rada, and not only during communication with Svoboda members. By the way, Yefremov can speak good Ukrainian too. Although this is hard for me, since I come from the Crimea, I understand that this is the national parliament, and the country must be respected. MPs should speak Ukrainian in the Verkhovna Rada.”
THE OPPOSITION WILL SUPPORT EVERYTHING THAT RELATES TO EUROPEAN INTEGRATION
Iryna HERASHCHENKO, MP, UDAR:
“Five governmental draft laws relating to European integration are on the agenda which was approved on Monday. They will be passed in the first reading this week: the opposition is going to vote for them as well. We are going to submit amendments and propositions to these laws before the second reading, because neither of them is perfect. The opposition forces are going to work on making these draft laws meet the high European standards in form, content, and name. I want to emphasize one more time: the opposition will support everything that relates to European integration.”