Ukraine needs to hit the Ctl-Alt_Delete button
✓Cancel Presidential Election
✓Remove power authority from President
✓Have Parliament elect head of state by 2/3 majority vote
✓Engage E Ukraine
✓Reinstate Language rights
✓Say No to NATO
✓Unite not divide the nation
✓Implement Constitutional & Parliamentary reform
✓Hold Fresh Parliamentary elections following
RESET AND RESTART
We apologize for not updating this blog of late.
As you know there is a lot going on in Ukraine of late. Much of which is not Constitutional.
As long as the new regime has the support of the Peoples democratically elected Parliament it can claim some form of authority, We strongly advocate a Parliamentary system and the removal of power from the office of the President
It is hard to support Yanukovych giving a number of reason not the least his concolidation of power and auathority since being elected President and the jailing of Tymocheno
That is not to say we can support the actions of the junta of those engaged in the violent other throw of am elected Government.
Peaceful protestors do not carry guns, Molotov Cocktails and other weapons.
The loss of life is appalling and can only be condemned. Both sides are at fault.
We are also concerned at some of the proposed dictates coming from the Right Sector, These are extremist right wing fascist and their policies can not be tolerated. It appears that they with the suport of the United States are calling the Shots
If you have not yet listen to the tapes google You Tube Nuland Ukraine
In the meantime you can catch us on facebook
Also check out http://foreignnotes.blogspot.com for independent reviews on Ukrainian politics
Monday, February 24, 2014
Sunday, March 03, 2013
After five years of intense negotiations, Ukraine and the European Union are on the verge of taking their relations to a new level.
In March 2012, Kiev and the EU initialed an elaborate association agreement providing for close political cooperation, as well as a deep and comprehensive free-trade area. Now, Kiev is merely a small step away from the treaty’s signing, which is scheduled to take place at the November 2013 Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius. The agreement would, if confirmed, be the largest international pact that Ukraine has ever concluded. This exceptionally large accord—its 906-page main text is now freely available on the websites of the Kiev Post and Kiev Weekly—would also be the biggest contract that the EU has ever entered into with a nonmember state.
Should it be signed, ratified and implemented, the agreement would largely integrate Ukraine into the EU market, as well as politically bind Kiev to Brussels. It is more than an ordinary treaty: The Association Agreement constitutes a detailed plan for a deep restructuring—or “Europeanization”—of the Ukrainian economy, society and state. Once fully realized, it would put Ukraine’s relations to the EU on an entirely different footing.
Moreover, the new reality the agreement would eventually create will make it difficult, if not impossible, for Brussels to continue withholding an explicit EU membership prospect for Ukraine. Today, the Union is purposefully avoiding discussions of a possible future entry of Ukraine, and keeps repeating that, for European countries like Ukraine, “the door is neither open nor closed.”
Yet Brussels will hardly be able to carry on with this vague stance once major provisions of the agreement have been fulfilled. At that stage, Ukraine’s economy will be already part and parcel of the EU economy, and her legislation partially adapted to EU standards. Once all aspects of the new association take full force, it will become illegitimate for Brussels, to further postpone the start of accession negotiations. Article 49 of the Treaty on European Union states that “any European state which respects the principles [of the EU] may apply to become a member of the Union.” In the moment in which Ukraine demonstrates such respect, Kiev can and, presumably, will apply. As a result, eventually, Europe’s largest country may become a full member of the European community.
The Association Agreement is thus the best chance that the Ukrainians ever had to become a nation fully taking part in the European unification process. Apart from far-reaching political, geopolitical and socioeconomic implications, the Agreement has a historical dimension. Once ratified, it will become Ukraine’s primary means of settling her international position, defining her identity as a European nation, and thus determining her future. To be sure, the gradual execution of the agreement will by itself not be a panacea for all of Ukraine’s many problems. But once signed, the Agreement would provide a yardstick for Ukraine’s reforms, an agenda for immediate action, as well as a compass for her development. It could provide the Ukrainian nation with what it may need most today—a clear direction, a sense of purpose, and an attractive future.
Yet while Kiev is today only a stride away from starting this process, the agreement may never be signed. As is well-known to Eastern Europe watchers, Ukraine’s political development took a U-turn three years ago. Since his inauguration in February 2010, Ukraine’s current president, Viktor Yanukovich, has led his country back into to grey zone of domestic semiauthoritarianism and international nonalignment. To be sure, before Yanukovich’s assumption of power in 2010, Ukraine’s post-Soviet development had been proceeding with many zigzags. However, the recent regressions in both domestic and foreign policies go beyond the meanderings of Ukraine’s previous presidents, and constitute a full-scale abolition of many of the democratic gains made since the country gained independence in 1991 and renewed its democratic commitment during the Orange Revolution of 2004. As a result, Brussels had to put the signing of the already initialed Association Agreement on hold. That happened in spite of the fact that there is, across many political camps and countries of the EU, substantial interest in getting the agreement concluded, as it would stabilize its eastern border.
Alas, the Union has had, in order not to lose its face as a community of democratic states, to put forward a number of conditions to be fulfilled by Ukraine before conclusion of the agreement. These include, above all, certain changes in Ukraine’s legal system (e.g. electoral and procurement legislation) as well as a stop of the misuse of courts for persecuting political-opposition leaders. For months now, dozens of representatives of the EU and its member countries have been appealing, on a weekly basis, to Yanukovich and his government to observe at least some elementary rules of law and basic democratic standards in order to make Brussels’ signature on the agreement legitimate.
Not much has improved, however, since it has become clear that the postponement of the agreement’s conclusion no longer has anything to do with technical issues. By late 2012, it became obvious to all observers that the deferment of Brussels’ signature is based on differing assessments of the new political and legal order created by Yanukovich. Until his assumption of power in 2010, Ukraine could have been classified as a defective democracy, as a fundamentally pluralistic order with some substantial flaws. This incomplete, yet already emboldening state of Ukraine’s young democracy was the background against which, in 2007, negotiations of a new fundamental treaty between Brussels and Kiev started. Moreover, in 2008, the title of “Association Agreement” was designed to replace the 1994 Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. Now, however, Ukraine is no longer merely defective, but rather semi- or even pseudodemocratic. In other words, it has a partially authoritarian regime. While the EU may, in certain instances, engage in partnership relations with half-autocracies, it cannot enter a close association and sign the largest external accord in its entire history with a country that does not follow even basic democratic norms.
Kiev’s reaction to the EU’s hardening stance has been paradoxical. Instead of listening to the voices from Brussels as well as many other European capitals and responding by changing its political and legal order, it has become more and more prone to self-deception and escapism. Rather than engaging in a constructive dialogue with the EU about what needs to be done to overcome the deadlock, some high officials in Kiev feed the illusion that Ukrainians can join the European project without getting their country’s fundamentals right. Sweet talk, topic shifting and self-praise is becoming increasingly popular among Ukrainian officials.
Some people in Kiev hope that they can get a signature by playing up differences among European politicians on the relevance of the treaty and the necessity of getting it signed soon. But the decision to sign the Association Agreement will still have to be taken through consensus of all twenty-seven member countries. Some countries—for instance, those who have a security interest in Ukraine’s affiliation with the EU—may indeed decide that a signature is imperative now, no matter what the domestic situation in Ukraine is. But others will be worried about the reputation of the EU as a community of law-based states, and the credibility of Brussels’ worldwide democracy promotion. Signing the agreement with the kind of country Ukraine is today would subvert the EU’s normative foundation as a commonwealth of democratic states, and its attempts to spread postwar European values, in other parts of the world.
Against this background, Ukrainian society will have to make an extra effort not to miss this window of opportunity, which will close in November 2013. It is unclear whether the chance to sign a similar agreement will ever emerge again.
The Ukrainian people should get their current government out of its self-made bubble. The authorities should not be left to distract themselves with public relations campaigns, political technology, or diplomatic trickery. Instead, Ukraine’s civil, economic, intellectual and political sectors should make sure that concrete and substantive changes in Ukraine’s domestic politics and national legislation are implemented within the next few months. Unless the European public gets the impression that things are changing for the better in Ukraine, the EU will not be able to sign the agreement—even if its leaders wanted to. The EU’s decision makers are first and foremost domestic politicians. With as bad an image as Ukraine’s political system has today, they will not be able to justify a close association before their national voters.
The freeing of Yulia Tymoshenko, a former prime minister controversially convicted for transgression of competencies, will have to be part of Ukraine’s image-improvement campaign. One could even argue that for reasons of state this should happen whether Tymoshenko is guilty or not. Her imprisonment is a risky endeavor and political poker game, as it further polarizes an already divided country and sets a dangerous precedent of political losers ending up in prison. Tymoshenko’s incarceration has, for many Europeans, become the major symbol of Ukraine’s clinging to the Soviet past. To the average European, putting a country’s major opposition leader—especially a female one—behind bars is by itself unacceptable. It looks even more dubious when seen in combination with various other regressions of Yanukovich’s regime, like the change of constitution or formation of a turncoats’ coalition, both in the newly elected President’s favor, in 2010. Some Western observers, to be sure, have claimed that Tymoshenko’s behavior may not have always been impeccable. Yet, even among these critics, there would be hardly any who doubt that the opposition leader’s arrest, trial and imprisonment are manifestations of Ukraine’s authoritarianism rather than rule of law.
The simultaneous imprisonment of another opposition leader, Yurii Lutsenko, Ukraine’s former interior minister, has been raising even more eyebrows among Western Ukraine watchers than the arrest of the former prime minister. In Tymoshenko’s case, at least, the court’s accusations had been grave—although they were not dealt with, as the EU argues, in a properly law-based court trial. In the case of Lutsenko, however, his sentence always appeared as grossly disproportionate to his supposed misdoings—even if they had all been true. The Ukrainian leadership has become a victim of its own propaganda: in its suppression of political opposition it has lost sight of any proportion, and talked itself into an alternate reality of EU-Ukraine relations.
While Ukraine has a unique chance with the scheduled signing of the agreement this year, it simultaneously faces enormous risks until the next presidential elections in 2015. Whether economic growth, financial stability, interethnic relations, energy security, social cohesion or relations with Russia, Ukraine will be confronted with daring challenges that may bring the country to the verge of collapse. For the nascent Ukrainian state to hold together in stormy times, a signed EU Association Agreement could provide a rallying point and glimpse of hope.
Ukraine’s European integration is, to one degree or another, supported by all major Ukrainian political forces, large swaths of the population and almost the entire intellectual elite. It would be sad—and, in a worst-case scenario, catastrophic—if the Ukrainians miss this opportunity to finally determine their destiny.
Dr. Andreas Umland is DAAD Associate Professor of Political Science at the National University of “Kiev-Mohyla Academy,” a member of the Valdai Discussion Club, and editor of the book series “Soviet and Post-Soviet Politics and Society”.
Image: Wikimedia Commons/Fry1989. CC BY-SA 3.0.
Saturday, May 26, 2012
Ukraine should stand by the principles of the rule of law and democracy if it wants to join the EU at some point, MEPs said in a debate on the treatment of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko. However, views differed on whether it was a good idea for leading EU politicians to boycott the Euro 2012 football games in Ukraine over this. The parliamentary debate was also attended by Ms Tymoshenko's daughter, Yevgenia.
In October 2011, Ms Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in jail on charges of abuse of power in connection with the conclusion of gas contracts with the Russian Federation. During the debate on Tuesday 22 May, MEPs highlighted the concerns they had over the case:
Tymoshenko's case does not stand alone and a comprehensive judicial reform is needed in Ukraine
selective and politically motivated justice is unacceptable
the respect of democracy and rule of law is indispensible if the country wants to become a member of the EU eventually
parliamentary elections this year will be a test of progress
opposition candidates should be given an even playing field
Monday, January 30, 2012
Which two Ukrainians most detest Yulia Tymoshenko, most fear her, and most obsess about her?
Source: World Affairs
It’s the two Viktors, of course: Yushchenko and Yanukovych.
Most Ukrainians have very strong opinions about the former prime minister turned political prisoner, but it’s only the two Viktors who’ve let their feelings about her become borderline psychotic.
In the last three years of his presidency, 2006 to 2009, Yushchenko abandoned whatever reform aspirations that may have guided him during the Orange Revolution and concentrated almost exclusively on squabbling with and attacking Tymoshenko, never passing up an opportunity to denounce her, regardless of whether his audience was listening or cared. I personally witnessed him bore two roomfuls in New York with hour-long attacks on Tymoshenko: the first group consisting of some 50 potential American investors who wanted to hear about Ukraine’s economy; the second, of some 100 Ukrainian-Americans who wanted to hear about Ukraine’s culture.
Just as Yushchenko let his obsession with Tymoshenko define, and ultimately destroy, his presidency, so too has Yanukovych. After she lost the presidential election of 2010, Tymoshenko was washed up as a national politician. All Yanukovych had to do to keep her that way was to ignore her. Instead, by persecuting Tymoshenko, by jailing her at precisely the time that he’s ostensibly courting Europe and hoping to negotiate a gas deal with Russia, he’s given her the ethical stature she never had, undermined his standing at home and abroad, sabotaged Ukraine’s attempts to integrate more closely with the European Union, and provided the Kremlin with additional reasons for stonewalling Kyiv. Like that other Viktor, this one has let his obsession with Tymoshenko define, and ultimately destroy, his presidency.
So what gives? Although Yanukovych has moved toward many of Yushchenko’s positions in the last year, the fact is that the two are profoundly different presidents. Yushchenko was, despite his multitudinous faults, significantly more pro-democratic, pro-Ukrainian, and pro-market than the unabashedly anti-democratic, anti-Ukrainian, and anti-market Yanukovych. They are also very different politicians, with Yushchenko preferring the safety of a podium and Yanuovych preferring the safety of a designer suit.
Why would two such different policymakers share the same fear and loathing of Tymoshenko?
I suspect it’s because they’re the same kind of guys. It’s not Tymoshenko the politician they hate, but Tymoshenko the too-strong woman who knows they’re both pushovers and treats them as such. After all, Yushchenko knows how to deal with male enemies. He bores them to death or, as in the case of Yanukovych, cuts a deal with them.
Yanukovych’s approach is even simpler, and usually involves a sock to the jaw. Neither approach works with Tymoshenko. She can run rhetorical circles around Yushchenko and knock Yanukovych off his leaden feet.
Tymoshenko, as the strong woman of Ukrainian politics, has exposed both fellas for the vain weaklings they really are. When Yushchenko lost his charms after being poisoned and disfigured in the summer of 2004, Tymoshenko not only threatened his authority and standing as president. She also threatened his manhood and his sense of self as a ladies’ man. Moreover, she didn’t fall for his act precisely because she wanted what he only half-wanted: power. And she never failed to pursue it, for better or for worse, while Yushchenko never failed to let it slip out of his fingers.
Yanukovych is an even more transparently self-doubting male who is also burdened with the sense of inadequacy that comes from being a hoodlum-turned-honcho. Hence the big mouth and big talk and big fists. Hence the absence of women in his prime minister’s cabinet. When wife Ludmilla went off the deep end during the Orange Revolution, Yanukovych could respond only by banishing her to Donetsk. When political opponent Yulia claimed that he was a thug and a crook during the 2010 presidential campaign, he could respond only by banishing her to a jail. Small wonder that his leading female cheerleader, Hanna Herman, gets big bucks for her efforts.
Self-confident politicians and self-confident men would have treated Tymoshenko as just what she was—a strong-willed, tough, and ruthless politician—regardless of her sex. But neither Yushchenko nor Yanukovych can, evidently, see past that. And that obviously drives both fellas crazy, to the point of preferring political suicide to rational policymaking.
Tymoshenko’s inevitable comeback will be a traumatic defeat for both Viktors. When the queen bee returns, expect both of them to take up bee-keeping full-time.
Saturday, January 21, 2012
Deputy Prosecutor: Yushchenko's poisoning was invented by his staff
MP David Zhvania told us that the scandal around poisoning former president Viktor Yushchenko in 2004 was an idea of Yushchenko's election campaign staff, Deputy Prosecutor General Renat Kuzmin said in an interview with NBN.
"Zhvania testified that nobody poisoned Yushchenko, that there was no poisoning at all and that this entire story was invented by Yushchenko's election campaign staff in order to win the election accusing then authorities of poisoning," Kuzmin said.
"Zhvania also said that he was against this idea. He says, he tried to explain that this lie would be eventual revealed that it was too cynical to lie to the whole world. After that he was excluded from the staff," the official added.
According to the Deputy prosecutor General, many witnesses state that Yushchenko was poisoned and believe in this, while the others assure it was a fraud. "That's why we asked Yushchenko to take a blood test again," Kuzmin said.
On September 5, 2004 Viktor Yushchenko, then candidate for presidency, met with Security Service authorities, after which he felt bad. On September 10 he was hospitalized to Vienna clinic for examination, which revealed that Yushchenko was poisoned by dioxin. Repeated examination in May 2006 confirmed the presence of dioxin in Yushchenko's organism.
In November 2009 the temporary investigative commission of the parliament declared the necessity to change the composition of the investigation group of prosecution and to hold new tests in order to prove the version of poisoning.
After his appointment on the post of Prosecutor General (November 2010) Viktor Pshonka repeatedly confirmed his intention to take additional test of Yushchenko's blood in Ukrainian lab, but Viktor Yushchenko refused. The former President declared he would agree to take a blood test in the national lab only if the Prosecution had solid reasons.
Labels: Victor Yushchenko
Monday, January 16, 2012
Now available on its own web site with full text search and commentary options.
A must read for anyone following Ukrainian modern political history.
(data extracted from the Wikileaks US Cables archive)
Other regional WiKileaks US Cables
Friday, January 13, 2012
In addition they have clearly demonstrated to the world at large that they are not going to take any notice of internationally recognised legal due process or the rule of law and that has now set the tone not only for this Presidency but also for the nation as a whole.
The problem is that his administration would appear to neither care nor even notice as they continue to feed the President bad advice and irresponsible decision making.
The crazy part about the whole venture is that it was simply not necessary. He won the election, he was ahead in all the polls and Tymoshenko as leader of the opposition was floundering like a beached whale.
All they needed to do was to maintain a level head and she would have destroyed herself without the President having to lift a finger. Now she is Europe’s most famous political prisoner, an accolade she hardly warrants.
It was only natural that the President might want to exact some sort of revenge after his humiliation after the Orange revolution but wiser heads should have prevailed. Somebody should have whispered in his ear that the only person who suffers as a result of such malice is the bearer. Instead they have consigned him to one of the darker periods of Ukrainian history.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Foreignnotes has another good appraisal of what waits Ukraine in the new year. 2012 does not offer high hopes for any change in fortune. Even the Euro2012 games will not lift the vale of despair.
'It is clear that post-Soviet system of governance and social division has exhausted itself - and not only in Ukraine" says -TV journalist Vitaliy Portnikov
Fellow journalist, Mustafa Nayem, considers any change is not possible at the the moment. "Those who could potentially take over power are not capable of explaining why those currently in power are worse than they are.'
Whilst hopeful Mykola Knyazytskyi, considers a change is possible."If the country's basic democratic principles are neglected and there are no resources to fulfill the social needs of its citizens, mass protests may start any minute, and no one can predict when they could start." The [revised] Ukrainian political system was formed by Viktor Yanukovych himself, so he has taken full responsibility for what happens in the country onto himself. Sociological reports indicate that neither he nor his party command a majority of the electorate. "Quite simply he is not liked as a leader. Dictators can retain power either by bayonets, or by the love of the people...And if there is no love, then Facebook and Twitter - are much more powerful weapons than bayonets"
The opposition are divided and lack direction, leadership and a vision of change.
Even if dissatisfaction in the current presidential ruler-ship takes hold and the opposition manage to win a majority of seats in the new Parliament (Unlikely given the rules of the election are already stacked against them) they will still lack authority and power to implement change.
Ukraine will never be a free independent democratic state as long as Ukraine remains dominated and beholden to Presidential rule. In the absence of a united polices and ground swell of public opinion calling for change in the system not just the faces Ukraine will continue suffer its fate unknown. Things are going to get a lot worst for Ukraine before they get better.
Democracy and responsible representative government is that much further and harder to reach as long as the opposition remain divided without vision or a road map for change.
Saturday, January 07, 2012
The vibrant discussion became so hot that it gave cause for KyivPost to censor the debate and remove all comments, even though the comments were relatively tame and in order. There was no justification or merit in having these comments removed.
It is unclear if Kyivpost's decision was taken following representations by the author Leigh Turner or by the Editorial staff acting under direction of third parties.
This is not the first time Kyivpost has acted in such a censorial role denying public debate and discussion on political topics. It is certainly not the first time Kyivpost have removed comments on Mr Tuner's Op-ed.
It does raise the question 'how free is Ukraine's media?' And should a media outlet that espouses western democratic values and campaigns for the rights of 'Free Speech' and a Media rights unilaterally, without explanation, remove public comments and discussion on such a important issue.
The withdrawal of public comments has brought KyivPost and UK's Ambassador into disrepute. KyivPost owes its readership an explanation and justification for its actions, if only to prove that it is a pro democratic free speech media outlet.
Wednesday, January 04, 2012
Recent reviews and public opinion polls have Tymoshenko leading over Yanukovych in the primary vote.
This comes as no surprise. Yanukovych can thank his mate Yushchenko for this monumental strategic stuff-up. Yushchenko and the government administration helped turn Tymoshenko into a Martyr.
Yanukovych's term of office has virtually finished, as he has been overshadowed by the events surrounding Tymoshenko's imprisonment. He has no one else to blame for his own demise other then himself and those who he has taken advice from. No one is listening to any positive statements he has to make and he is one step short of being totally isolated from any meaningful negotiations with the west. I sincerely doubt if he can recover from this diplomatic disaster that has been imposed on Ukraine.
Tymoshenko's support was on the decline prior to her arrest, as was pointed out by Taras Chornovil in a recent interview published in the Day. She has become more powerful and influential whist locked up.
As Ukraine begins to feels the economic fall out and the impact of Tymoshenko's arrest begins to undermine the success of the Euro2012 games, pressure will begin to build for Yanukovych to stand down so as to avoid further economic isolation and decline.
Much will depend on how Ukraine reacts to the inevitable review by the European Court of Human Rights. Tymoshenko needs to exhaust her appeal rights within Ukraine before the ECHR can review her case.
It is in Ukraine's interest that this matter is brought before the European Court at the earliest opportunity. Further delay will only compound the diplomatic impact of the fall out.
The other still outstanding issue is the secondary charges laid against Tymoshenko. In theory they could be dropped if Tymoshenko's appeal to the ECHR is successful.
Once she is released all hell will break out.
It is still uncertain if she will be imprisoned in the lead-up to the 2012 Parliamentary elections. Any election without Tymoshenko will lack authority or acceptance.
The best option come would be for Yanukovych to initiate Constitutional reform, renounce presidential power in favour of Ukraine adopting a full Parliamentary system of government, and then resign once the new legislation is in place and a new government elected allowing the new parliament to elect a new head of state with reduced authority.
Monday, January 02, 2012
The Tymoshenko factor, political persecution has triggered international outrage which could seriously impact on Ukraine's economic and diplomatic standing is the President's downfall. Already Yanukovych's presidency has been brought into disrepute as he becomes isolated by the international community. How long can his presidency last as Ukraine's economic future is held in the balance? It could even have a negative impact in the Euro2012 games. Already European Integration has been placed on ice. Will sanctions follow?
Friday, December 30, 2011
Finland has one of the most modern and democratic Constitutions in Europe. It is a state worthy of consideration by Ukraine. Finland along with its Scandinavian neighbours played a significant role in the development of Estonia and Latvia both of which are successful EU member states
Source: Kyiv Post
The embassy of Finland and International Centre for Policy Studies in Kyiv present Finland: A country of only five million people with a strange language, notorious drinking binges and folk songs that are mostly in a minor key.
But it’s also a highly successful country of considerable creativity and innovation—not all of it related to cell phones. On Nov. 28, “100 Innovations from Finland” was presented in Kyiv by its author, Ilkka Taipale—a politician, doctor, activist, pacifist and an icon of Finnish social policy—and professor Vappu Taipale, a renowned physician and CEO of the Finnish National Research and Development Center for Welfare and Health—STAKES in Finnish—from 1992 to 2008.
Taipale has roots in Ukraine. His great-great-grandmother was born in Balta, Vinnytsia Oblast today, and, for her wedding, she was given a serf as a gift. The serf was later freed in Finland and buried near the family grave.
Taipale is, in his own words, “a specialist on the lumpen proletariat, the dropouts of society.”
Initially, he says, “nobody was interested in this book in Finland. It’s like clear water: you can drink it everywhere from all the lakes in Finland. But after Nokia City made a mistake, combining the clear water pipe and the waste water pipe and making thousands of people sick, they really appreciate clear water now.”
Today, the book is available in 11 languages with 6 more on the way, including Arabic “for Arab revolutionaries.”
The secrets of Finland’s success:
#1 is consensus, togetherness. “We don’t have a two-party system, we actually have a three-party system,” says Taipale. “One party is always out of government, and the other two share power. And they change around. In city councils and executive bodies, ever party is proportionally represented. Even the labor market is trilateral—employers, workers and the state—and together they make agreements.” This approach began during the Winter War against Russia in 1939. Torn apart by a very bloody civil war in 1918, the country understood that it had to unite to fend off its aggressive neighbor.
#2 is open democracy. Finland has a unicameral parliament but its communities and municipalities are strong. They have tax power. Helsinki gets 18.5 percent of its residents’ salaries as a city, making it half independent of the state. “The principle of openness, that all you are governing, all your documents have to be open to everybody, came from Finland more than 200 years ago,” says Taipale. “And it went into the Swedish Constitution around 1770.”
#3 is equality. Today, the country has a woman as president, a woman as mayor of Helsinki, and a female speaker in its parliament. “Maybe a little too much equality,” Taipale chuckles. “I was on two parliamentary commissions, civilization and the constitution, and the chairs were both women. And at home, there’s a woman. But I have to say that we, the men, made the laws to establish equality with the help of women. And we’re happy.”
Gender equality has always been strong in Finnish society: on family farms, the wife and husband traditionally worked together. “My grandmother never went to school because they were too poor,” says Taipale, “but she taught all the girls in the family, ‘Educate yourselves! This is the way to stand on your own feet.’”
During World War II, many European women entered the labor market to keep the factories going, but when the war ended, they were pushed back into their homes. In Finland, however, women stayed on the labor market, which meant that something had to be done with their children. The Taipales, for instance, had four children and their mother worked constantly.
By the late 1980s, Vappu Taipale had been appointed Minister of Social Affairs. This was when the first serious social innovations began. For the first time, families with children could choose whether they wanted to have a home care allowance, to be paid to be stay-at-home parents, or to have their children placed in a high-level kindergarten. This benefit has been universally available in Finland for 20 years now. The result? Nearly all children under two are taken care of at home. And nearly all children between two and school age are in kindergartens. Moreover, the public services are strong in Finland, they are trusted, and there’s no real competition with the private sector.
“This makes our labor market more effective because mothers and fathers don’t need to worry about their children,” says Taipale. “Young children are very important for our society and our birthrate is one of the highest in the European Union—although it is not very high, about 1.8 children.”
#4 is free education. Not only is education itself free, but the state pays students to study, through a student allowance. “This really is very important because it develops all talents by providing all children with opportunities to grow where they are talented,” says Taipale. “For instance, in the OECD’s PISA competition, Finland has stayed in the top three since 2006. One reason is that teachers’ education is at a very high level—university degrees. Many people complained, saying ‘Oh it’s not possible, it costs too much,’ but it’s not true. Finland’s social budget is below the EU average.”
Add universal social and health policies, then if you break your shoulder and go to the hospital, you will only pay 100 euros, 50 euros of that for surgery. In the small private sector, the same treatment would cost 7,000 euros. “We are happy taxpayers,” says Taipale. “I pay 47 percent of my pension and salary in taxes, but our four children got a free university education.”
Stricken after the soviet invasion in 1939-40—indeed, one of the key clashes was the Battle of Taipale—, the country began a policy of sharing what it had. It started with very small child allowances, very small universal pensions, and residence-based social security, meaning that anyone living in the country got something. “This created the dynamics of our society,” says Taipale, “and if you listen today, the ILO and the UN both say that you have to start with small allowances to poorer people and children.”
#5 is Finland’s nongovernmental organizations—some 70,000 of them. But this is where Finland parts ways with other countries: its NGOs are financed, not just by the state, but by gambling. All gambling and all Finnish casinos are in hands of the “NGO mafia,” as Taipale calls it, not the underworld mafia, and their profits go to NGOs. Finland also has a tradition of subsidizing political parties, even at the local level, while parties have to inform the Minister of Trustees about how they collect money for elections and all donations over EUR 2,000 have to be reported, along with their source.
“And the last secret? We don’t have any enemies,” says Dr. Taipale with a smile. “We’re not afraid of the Russians. The Winter War was enough.”
The downsides facing Finland
#1 is the unemployed—young people who have no education and no work. “That’s our time bomb,” admits Taipale. “It’s over 10 percent of young Finns. The lowest group in our social hierarchy is single men: unmarried and divorced men. Men without women. So I’ve been looking for new innovations for the second edition.”
When asked why so many young people, despite the opportunity of a free university education and highly qualified teachers, still choose not to study and engage in socially aggressive behavior, Taipale responded, “Partly because those youngsters have problems in their home, in their environment. They may not have support or may have some difficulties with learning. Learning abilities among adults have been only discussed in the last two decades. When we had agriculture and we had simple industrial work, you needed muscles. Now all those jobs have been automated. We don’t have enough simple work. It’s a self-service society. In Japan, you can still see people pumping gasoline. Not in our country.
“So these people are left out because our educational system is a bit too theoretical, people cannot work with their hands,” continues Taipale. “There’s nice 3 percent theory in my book. We have about 3 times more murders than England or Holland, but 3 times less than in 1930s. One man made a study of murders in Finland and concluded that most of the murderers are unemployed single men. 3% of our population, 40,000 men, cause most of the problems. So if we offer strong social incentives to get them into a better situation, we could cut our murders in half.”
How about corruption?
Before the current party system was set up, 5 percent of all public construction money went to political parties, in the late 1950s and 1960s. Nowadays, say the Taipales, there are few instances of bribery and kickbacks and most of them are fairly small-scale.
Although laws are strictly enforced, the mentality of Finns matters more. Salaries for doctors and teachers are quite good. “We don’t have state hospitals, we have municipal hospitals,” says Taipale. “It may not have been called corruption but it used to be that 10% of money went to sales promotion, that meant travel for doctors. We had 1,000 psychiatrists and 100 of them attended congresses of the American Psychiatric Association, paid for by the pharmaceutical industry. That’s nearly over. Now you have to publish in medical journals.”
Stopping for a moment, Taipale muses: “The next the book you should provide in your language is Wilkinson and Pickett’s The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better? They compared all OECD countries and all the US states and showed that, if you have more equality in salary levels, then you have fewer social problems. That’s the most important book I have read—after mine, of course.”
Lidia Wolanskyj is with the International Centre for Policy Studies in Kyiv.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
Under such circumstances nothing will make Yanukovych release her. The threats of being banned from Europe, or having to face his worst nightmare, Putin, are not the reason. He will not release her as long as he knows that she is a rival. Therefore the only way for her to be released is Europe giving up demands that Tymoshenko continue her political career. Amnesty or pardon, as an act of humanity, that is all.”“If they had left her free, she would quarrel with everyone, and eventually turn into a marginal old lady in politics. This would mean an end of the project. But now she is a political project again. She can again win elections. We sympathize for the insulted and humiliated, and her ratings, which had plummeted, are now steadily climbing.
Saturday, December 10, 2011
From the pages of Foreign Notes
German ambassador to Kyiv Dr. Hans-Jürgen Heimsoeth posted a significant article in today's 'Ukrainska Pravda'
Here are a few quotes:
"Today the EU finds itself before the question - Will it be possible to conclude an Association Agreement with Ukraine before the end of the year..and this at a moment when serious doubts have sprung up in the EU whether the Ukrainian leadership is truly sincere in its statements on European integration? Doubts are growing daily...
Trials and increased application of arrests of former members of government, are just the tip of the iceberg...other concerns are daily being added: pressure on enterprises from security organs, searches of lawyers' offices, pre-trial detentions, fabricated trials, placement of loyalists into all possible positions etc.
Germany and its partners cannot close its eyes to the development of such events.
All the major political forces in Ukraine wish to conclude an Association Agreement. But those who know the European Union can see that desire itself is not enough to open the way to an Agreement...
If the leadership of Ukraine continually treats with contempt the concerns of the EU and leading European politicians then the country cannot count on success in the EU. This applies both to Kyiv and to other European capitals.
Only after the decision of the Council of Ministers, that is by a consensus of all members of the European Union, will it be ready to sign the Association Agreement and implement procedures for ratification in its parliaments.
For this [to happen] there should again be a dominant conviction that Ukraine is really striding along the path of European integration. And there should be clear steps [made] in this direction.
Every Ukrainian should understand: the path to the EU along which Ukraine will either set out or not set out, entirely and totally depends on the Ukrainian authorities and Ukrainian people.
If the Association Agreement won't be signed, the reasons for this should be sought in Ukraine and in the political authorities."
Foreign Notes Commentary
Labels: Foreign Notes
Thursday, December 08, 2011
Source: European Parliament
Recent political developments in Ukraine
Since its independence Ukraine has been a priority partner country for the EU within the European Neighbourhood Policy and the Eastern Partnership because it is perceived as a key regional player, which exerts considerable influence on the security, stability and prosperity of the whole continent, and which should therefore bear its respective share of political responsibility.
On its tough path towards democracy, Ukraine has made important steps with regards to its economic and political development. However, new Ukrainian authorities have started to reverse the democratic transformations of the Orange Revolution. With the sentencing on 11th October 2011 of the former Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, serious concerns have arisen with regards to political freedoms, the rule of law and the state of democracy in Ukraine. The European People’s Party stands by the position that this will have serious negative consequences for Ukraine's future relationship with the European Union and for the Association Agreement (AA); it pushes the country further away from the European perspective.
Therefore, the European Peoples Party: