Ukraine: triumph of tele-guided democracy

Anna van Densky, OPINION Election of Vladimir Zelensky demonstrates huge disappointment of the Ukrainians with their political class, even more, than their hopes for a meaningful change of the malfunctioning system. Ukrainian politics, run by a group of oligarchs has been a vaudeville for sufficiently long time to make a comedian look appropriate in the President’s office.

The decadence hit a new low, indicating there is a complete loss of confidence in the establishment, unable to produce any leader with a relevant background convincing enough to be worthy of dropping a ballot. Zelensky wins not because his programme opens new perspectives, but because the Ukrainians wish to trash their political Pantheon, plagued by corruption, and indulging in demagogy.

However change from Poroshenko to Zelensky perceived by many as a revolution, is nothing more than a change of head on Emperor‘s sculpture in times of declining Rome: they succeeded too often, leaving insufficient time to carve the entire figure in marble, and the clever local governors  in provinces adapted by removing the detached heads.

In particular case of showman Zelensky elections, one can conclude the Ukraine is true to itself: predictable in is instability, grotesque, and volatile.

Ascending to presidency due to his popularity as an actor, Zelensky has no political force behind him, – a convenient disposition for clans at power, who are content with a President starring in TV sequel, while they continue business as usual, enriching themselves in reality.

Considered by experts as the ninth most corrupt nation in the world, with almost $50 billion gross external debt, and public debt around 70% of  GDP, Ukrainian kleptocracy is comfortable with a comedian as a head of state – weaker is the president easier is to continue their own way.  Ukraine ‘Semper idem‘ – always the same…

Nevertheless the change is coming,  but not due to the new President of Ukraine, but the context: both the US, and the EU have to revise their foreign policy vis-à-vis Kiev, although for different reasons. While Europe is growing increasingly Euro skeptic, demanding from Brussels to put the EU citizens interests first, before pursuing the Enlargement, and poring  billions on integration of neighboring states. The US has to resolve the problem of contribution to NATO of the European allies: among 29 members, just five meet 2% GDP defence spending target: Greece, Estonia, the UK, Latvia, and the US. 

Without any perspective to enter the EU or NATO, immense debts, endemic corruption, ongoing conflict in Donbass, protracted argument with Russia over gas transit, huge migration rising up to one million a year leaving the country – plagued with multiple setbacks, Ukraine slides into further decline, searching for refuge in a world of illusory – voting a man, who incarnated their dream of an honest president in a TV sequel.  Zelensky victory – is a triumph of tele-guided democracy, fusion of reality and fiction, dreams and frustrations, a political jest, an idle tale. A human comedy…

Video below: Vladimir Zelensky dancing in a show:

 

 

 

 

EU foreign policy drama

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With flows of migrants from Libyan cost, the EU Southern Neighbourhood, ravaged by Islamic terrorists, and the defrozen conflict in the EU Eastern Neighbourhood with tanks moving along the vicinities in Donetsk, the EU foreign affairs Council, 6.2.2017,  finds itself in the worst situation in years, if not in decades, since the Balkan war.

Both problems have one element in common: the active involvement of the EU in shaping of the future of the neighbouring countries. The zeal of the implementation of the Neighbourhood policy in Ukraine led to the break of pro-European and pro-Russian populations, while the overthrowing of the Libyan ‘tyrant’ caused a turmoil on a half of the African continent.
Due to the EU efforts Libya from a donor became an acceptor, requesting funds to keep the flows of migrants on its coasts. 200 000 euro of taxpayers money were pledged to UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), while the destiny of Colonel Gaddafi’s fortune of 200 000 billion, as reported shortly before his assassination, remains obscure. However,  even if donated as agreed the major question remains if there are structures and institutions able of the implementation of the programme to improve the conditions of migrants, and fight against the smugglers.
GNA hardly controls Tripoli, where recently an explosion next to Italian reopened Embassy brought into focus grave security concerns for corps diplomatique, already shuttered by the tragic death of US Ambassador Stevens.
The EU mission on its page still calls it an ‘exiting’ time:
“It is an exciting time to be in Libya as the country is seeking its path towards democracy and stability. Just over two years ago (! -av), the Libyan people showed to the world that popular will could prevail over a ruthless dictatorship. For their courage and determination, Libyans gained the admiration of the whole world”, – although unlike Italians they prefer to watch if from the safe distance of ‘Prestige Business Center Bloc’ in Tunis.
Obviously impossible to compare ravaged by jihadists Libya with the  ‘Anti-terrorist operation’ (ATO) of President Poroshenko in Ukraine, the latest active fighting at the front line in Avdeevka, next to Donetsk endangered Minsk agreements, showing the fragility of the situation there and a huge ambition of Kiev’s leadership to conclude ATO, even at cost of the devastation of once wealthy industrial region of coal-mining.
Till present on contrary to the EU expectations the prolonged restrictive measures against Russia have not delivered an expected result to force Kremlin to abandon its support to two self-proclaimed Republics of Lugansk and Donetsk.
However the sanctions have an effect of the European agricultural sector and business, suffering losses as the result of this policy: the rise of the anti-EU forces in old member states is too obvious to ignore even for myopic bureaucrats of the European external action service, risking to lose their jobs soon, while the European nations demand referendums on EU membership from their governments, profoundly unsatisfied with the impact of  EU foreign policies on their lives.

EU-Ukraine: simply in limbo

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The atmosphere at the EU-Ukraine Summit press-conference was between dull and gloomy, the presidents looked mostly down in their papers, the regular wooden language clichés on democracy and solidarity were distributed generously, probably in attempt to disguise a poor outcome.
President Petro Poroshenko goes back home almost empty handed: one can’t consider 15 million euro for an anti-corruption project and 104 euro for public administration as a big deal for a 43 million strong population of Ukraine (for comparison Georgia received at donor’s conference one billion euro).
However the financial aid for Ukraine is not on the table for the EU in crisis and serious economic problems of Mediterranean member-states criticizing austerity policy.
The visa-free regime would be a absolute maximum the EU can grant to Ukraine for good ‘home-work’ in promotion of reforms and good governance. But it is only a theory.
In spite of promises of the EU’ presidents #Tusk and #Juncker to conclude the issue by the end of the year, it is a clear understanding at the institutional back-stage that granting visa-free for 43 millions Ukrainians will mean a opulent gift to Eurosceptics.
Neither at the moment of Maidan revolution, no today the EU has a plan of an integration of such a big country into the block.
The galloping enlargement policy, neglecting Copenhagen criteria, already bore bitter fruit: the UK voted #Brexit largely in disagreement of a perspective of authoritarian Turkey to join the EU.
The negative outcome of the Dutch referendum on Association agreement with Ukraine  showed the state of mind in one of the key countries of the Union, awaiting the general elections in March. The agreement of visa-free to Ukrainians, notorious for its endemic corruption with the similar to Nigeria index, would push the votes in democratic countries flee the Union, becoming just an assembly of countries based on geographic, but not values orientated principle.
Giving a eulogy to European Parliament’s president Socialist Martin Schulz, President Poroshenko just aggravated a sentiment of a foul game, going on
behind closed doors of European institutions making arrangement with third parties without the EU cititzens’ consent. It is up to the European Parliament to give an approval to visa liberalization until the end of this year,  and certainly  it’s president has influence to exercise.
Taking into consideration Schulz’ decision to leave the EP, the visa-free for Ukrainians might be his last contribution to what he calls ‘the biggest civilization project of the past centuries’. A helping hand to president Poroshenko, and also to Eurosceptics Geet Wilders and Marine Le Pen in coming elections in The Netherlands and France, not least Schulz’ compatriot AfD’s Frauke Petry, whose stakes are also at raise.
Surely it is possible to liberalize the visa regime for Ukrainians until the end of this year, in a certain way it will even facilitate the prediction of the national elections outcome next year. No polls needed. Anyway they didn’t show to be accurate so far.