A recent statement by the Ukrainian Platform of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum reads that there must be transparent decision-making procedures; that an extensive social dialog should be organized in view of President Yanukovych’s official visit to Moscow in early 2013, bearing in mind the instruments planned to be signed during his visit, in terms of energy cooperation and trade relationships; that, regardless of the fiscal circumstances, Ukraine’s strategic course cannot be subject to any diplomatic bargaining with any foreign government; that in this context Ukraine cannot join the Customs Union with Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus because joining it would mean an end to European integration that has been proclaimed on the highest political level, reaffirmed by a number of laws of Ukraine, as well as by the initialed Association Agreement with the EU.
Ukrainewill face a number of foreign political challenges in 2013, including ones brought forth by the times (e.g., problems in the West) and others being accumulated at home (which is very typical of Ukraine these days). While the developed countries are trying to cope with the crisis, with economic, moral, national identity, and other problems, Ukraine has more often than not had to cope with human rights, trying to keep the branches of power balanced – something easier said than done. Its political leadership has been criticized at home and abroad for violations in that field. Below are several expert comments on the matter.
Volodymyr FESENKO, CEO, Penta Political Study Center:
“Our president said Ukraine would have to pass hard tests. He meant our difficult economic situation, the ongoing crisis – also known as global recession that couldn’t but affect Ukraine. He also meant local political tests like Kyiv City Council and regional elections, considering the presence of six majoritarian districts. Above all, official Kyiv will have to choose between integrating with Europe or Russia. This topic is getting to the top of the domestic/foreign political agenda, with Ukraine struggling to work out a deal with Russia in terms of Customs Union cooperation and/or membership.
“Ukraine could also sign an agreement with the European Union this year, thus passing a serious geopolitical test. Our judicial and political systems may well be challenged by the European Court of Human Rights and its rulings concerning Tymoshenko and Lutsenko. Ukraine will have another convocation of the Verkhovna Rada. Nothing new. Our parliament will retain its good old battlefield self, save for the issue of amendments to the Constitution, depending on the impact on the MPs and society. If these amendments are technical, including changes to the status of the Accounting Chamber of Ukraine, such bills are likely to be passed, but if they affect the competing political forces, if the Russian language receives the official status, if the presidential election procedures are questioned (something the current Opposition fears), there will be hell to pay. Issues spelling discord and political confrontation will not be on the agenda.
“Theoretically, I do not rule out the possibility of a Ukrainian referendum concerning the Customs Union, Russian language, and so on. Technically, this should be done during the next presidential campaign, but such issues may well arise this year.”
Oles STAROVOIT, analyst, Lviv Regional Council:
“The impression is that our president, Cabinet, even the United Opposition are busy making problems for themselves, to heroically resolve them afterward [standard practice under the Soviets. – Ed.]. Ukraine is gripped by a deep-going economic crisis, yet the government submits and parliament passes bills that are signed by the head of state, including the disastrous 2013 budget bill. Most Ukrainians are struggling to survive, with central budget spending being on an upward curve not for the benefit of social services, lower unemployment and corruption rate, but for the benefit of local authorities and law-enforcement agencies.
“The New Year 2013 will bring no gifts from Santa Claus, rather further problems owing to the incompetence and stupidity of all those ‘upstairs,’ including the weak opposition and absence of an effective action plan. Most Ukrainians are in for another year of poverty, lawlessness, and disillusion. However, I am convinced that our people have faith, that they will solve these problems before long.”
Stanislav TROSHYN, member of Kherson City Council:
“Everyone knows that the year 2013 promises no well-being for Ukraine; that the domestic economic and political situation is not the result of the world economic crisis. The current Ukrainian administration is markedly unaware of foreign political priorities. We keep hearing top-level political statements about European integration, EU and FTA membership. What we see is a different picture: prisoners of conscience and Europe’s harsh assessment of what is happening in Ukraine. Our country is obviously unprepared to become a member of the European Union. This bars thousands of domestic products from emerging on the world market – considering that this obstacle could be easily removed if those ‘upstairs’ wished so.
“There is also the issue of Ukraine’s Customs Union membership. It is true that Russia and other former Soviet republics offer interesting opportunities for a number of Ukrainian businesses. However, most domestic budget-friendly businesses are the worst enemy of their counterparts in Russia. It is hard to tell how our businesses will benefit from Ukraine’s CU membership. I’m convinced that the Russian authorities will not damage their domestic manufacturers.
“I think the biggest risk facing Ukraine is the passing of all 2013 budget bills. Their implementation remains a big question. In other words, if they fail, lots of people will suffer – I mean the least socially protected strata, among them physicians, schoolteachers, social workers, people who make up the foundations of any civil society. This we can’t allow to happen. This is a problem on which we’ll have to work hard.”
Prepared by Anna CHEREVKO, The Day; Tetiana KOZYRIEVA, The Day, Lviv; Ivan ANTYPENKO, Kherson