Archive for category Ukraine
Ukraine’s favourite foreign policy game is called ‘multi-vectorness’ – a constant process of ‘eschewing choice’ as this recent study explained. For years Ukraine sought to extract concessions and be treated nicely by both Russia and the EU or US not because it was sticking to its promises, but because it played sometimes skilfully and sometimes brazenly on contradictions between external actors. A simplified version of the rule of rules of the game, in its Ukrainian version, looks the following way:
- Promise both Russia and the EU everything they might want to hear (usually integration into some Russian- or EU-led initiative);
- Ask for something in exchange (market access, lower gas prices, financial assistance, opportunities for lucrative but opaque deals etc).
- Get what you asked and drag your feet on delivering on your promises.
- If either the EU or Russia is upset for not getting what they were promised – threaten that you will intensify cooperation with the other external partner.
The truth is that this has mostly worked. (Not just for Ukraine, but also for Moldova under Voronin and at times Belarus’ Lukashenko or a whole series of Central Asian states, not to mention a plethora of historical case from Italian city-states in the Middle Ages, to Nasser’s Egypt and Tito’s Yugoslavia.) Read the rest of this entry »
On a recent trip to Ukraine for the Kiev Security Forum I asked some of the Ukrainian analysts whether Yanukovich will manage to become like Putin - a successful authoritarian leader able to retain firm political control for a long time. There is little doubt that Yanukovich would like to be like Putin and is trying to build a more or less similar system. But there are a number of differences. First, is that Ukraine does not have energy resources and Yanukovich therefore lacks the money to co-opt the elites and the public as widely as Putin could do.
But another important factor is how Putin and Yanukovich play their systems. Putin’s role in the Russian system is that of the ultimate arbiter between various elite groups. He is a moderator, not a player in the elite squabbles. He is not neutral, nor fair. During his presidency, his closest friends acquired vast assets, and there has been quite some redistribution of property. But Putin mainly tries to stay above the fray realising that this is an important power resource for him. This is how he makes himself indispensable to the multiple interests groups within the Russian elites. That is also why elites value him – he has the power and the skill to maintain some degree of balance between competing factions.
This will probably make boring reading, but for those with some stamina to go through typically unreadable, but important, EU-speak here is a comparison of how Ukraine and Moldova perform on their way towards a visa-free regime with the EU. The assessment is based on the recent progress reports by the European Commission on the implementation of the Action Plans on visa liberalisation by Ukraien and Moldova. (The relevant documents are here: Action Plans for Ukraine and Moldova outlining the conditions; and the progress reports for Ukraine and Moldova evaluating progress September 2011).
The progress reports are mainly concerned with legislative adjustments, which correspond to Phase 1 of the Action Plan. Evaluating realities will come next years. In order to somehow quantify the conclusions I also decided to give a ‘plus’ to the country that is ahead with some reforms, and a ‘minus’ to the country that lags behind the other (a simplified version of what ESI did with the Schengen White List project). Giving just plusses and minuses is of course quite simplistic, but nonetheless a useful exercise for a ‘quick and dirty’ look at where Moldova and Ukraine stand in relation to each other. I also decided to give additional bonuses in the form of half or full plusses to some areas which are much more important than the others (like introduction of biometric passports – a full plus, or half-pluses to having a half-functioning migration service or having implementing protocols for readmission agreements with EU member states). Read the rest of this entry »
One of the main stories of the 2000-2005 wave of revolutions – successful in Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine, and failed in Belarus, Azerbaijan and Egypt – were the existence of organised youth movements with names which were variations on the idea ‘enough is enough’. Otpor in Serbia, Pora in Ukraine, Kmara in Georgia, Kefaya in Egypt, Zubr in Belarus), and Mjaft in Albania became almost household names. However, I have not heard of anything ressembling Kefaya in the recent Egyptian or Tunisian revolutions. These recent revolutions were conspicuous by the absence of well-organised and well-branded youth movements. The revolutions seem to have done well enough without them.
Certainly, it is not youth movements, but authoritarian regimes and ‘ripe contexts’ that are the causes of revolutions. This sounds self-evident, but both revolutionaries and counter-revolutionaries seem to often miss it (though it is impossible to know whether a revolutionary situation is ‘ripe’ before it actually happens). I still remember the avalanches of venom deployed against youth movements as ‘fifth columns of foreign powers’, not just in Russian, Azeri or Serbian media, but also in plenty of (leftish) European newspapers (the Guardian seemed to excell at that). Many of them implied that youth movements, not authoritarian mismanagement were the causes of revolutions. But it is also indicative how Kefaya failed to lead to anything meaningful in Egypt in 2005, whereas the 2011 protests toppled Mubarak without any Kefaya-like organisation. Read the rest of this entry »
Just when the southern neighbourhood of the EU is shaken by a wave of revolutionary situations that toppled consolidated dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt, the eastern neighbourhood seems to be in the middle of a trend towards authoritarian consolidation. So the paradox is that whereas the Southern neighbours look like those in the East in the revolutionary years of 2003-2005, but in fast forward mode, the Eastern neighbourhood seems to look increasingly like the south a few years ago – a collection of states with increasingly close economic relations with Europe, but with centralised, non-competitive politics, which routinely afford to ignore the EU on many political and security questions. Today, every country in the Eastern neighbourhood except Moldova is less pluralistic than it was 5 years ago (though Belarus arguably could not become worse).
Seen from Ukraine, Moldova or most of the new EU member states one of the most irritating aspects of the European neighbourhood policy is that it dumps together the Southern and the Eastern neighbours of the EU. The Eastern neighbours tend to be rather arrogant about the Mediterannean neighbours of the EU. The argument goes that you cannot approach ‘European’ neighbours of the EU and ‘neighbours of Europe’ like Morocco or Syria through the same policy lenses; Read the rest of this entry »
In 2003 -2005 revolutions in the neighbourhood were all the rage. Georgia, Ukraine and Lebanon have all inspired high-hopes among their own populations, as well as the EU and US. Then, many of those hopes collapsed, the revolutions lost their glitz, and the EU and US settled for a revolution-sceptic mood. Having gone through enthusiasm and then fatigue for revolutions, the EU now has to have views on revolutions again. It would rather not. But in less than two months the EU neighbourhood has been agitated by revolutionary situations in Belarus, Albania, Tunisia and now Egypt.
Coming up with coherent EU responses to today’s ‘revolutions’ is more difficult. The problem for the EU is not so much the lack of visibility, but the lack of a clear-cut position with which to be visible. Back in 2003-2005, EU’s sympathies were clear (though not always as explicitly articulated at revolutionaries wanted it), but now the EU is struck by the scale of events and is mainly stuck on the fence. As Daniel Korski asks: “Should the EU back the protests, support what has been a friendly regime or sit uncomfortably on the fence?”
The fence-sitting moment (for many it is a ‘fence-sitting eternity’) is something which comes up at every single revolutionary situation the EU is supposed to have a view on. It is always uncomfortable, but sometimes it is easier to choose sides than other. Responding to Belarus’ suppression of post-election protests last December was relatively ‘easy’. It might not be effective, but there was no room for fence-sitting, and the EU was practically pre-determined to reimpose sanctions on Lukashenko and his cronies. Of course this was tried before and hasn’t worked. But what else can the EU do? After years of sanctions since the late 90s, the EU tried to engage with Lukashenko for the last few years, but engagement was pushed aside by the repression of post-electoral protests. To a certain extent, the new set of sanctions are not introduced to change Lukashenko, but for EU’s peace of mind and modicum of self-respect. So the EU policy on Belarus came full circle – sanctions, then engagement and now sanctions again. Nothing worked in the end. (Though engagement seemed to bring some moderate progress, which proved unsustainable however.)
But Albania, Tunisia and Egypt are much more complicated when it comes to having coherent reactions and choosing on which side of the fence to put the EU. The reasons are many-fold. To begin with, the EU is relatively disappointed with the value and sustainability of coloured revolutions. Read the rest of this entry »
Throughout the 90s in Central and Eastern Europe, and later in the Balkans reformism and democracy tended to go hand in hand. Governments which were more respectful of democratic norms, also tended to be more reformist. (By ‘democracy’ I mean respect for human rights, media freedoms and opposition parties. And by ‘reformism’ I mean the implementation of reforms such as fighting corruption, cutting red tape, improving the business climate, modernising state institutions like police, customs, tax inspectorates or the border guards.)
In a sense, the 90s was a simpler world in which Meciar, Tudjman or Milosevic were undemocratic and non-reformist; whereas Dzurinda, Mesic, and Djindjic were both reformist and democratic. The good and the bad guys were obvious; the black was clearly distinguishable from the white. And the EU’s approach to these governments was shaped by this unbreakable link between reformism and democracy.
But it seems that the Eastern neighbourhood is different. There is much more grey than black and white. Categorising the likes of Yuschenko, Timoshenko, Saakashvili, Putin and Medvedev is more difficult. The link between being reformist and being democratic is much more blurred. Some are reformist, but less democratic; some are more democratic, but less reformist; and some are neither reformist, nor democratic.
Think of the following examples. ‘Orange Ukraine’ in 2005-2010 was the most democratic post-Soviet state with a vibrant media, lively parliament and vociferous opposition. But it was hardly reformist. Few deep reforms were even tried, let alone successfully implemented. Read the rest of this entry »
(with updates)… I have just returned from Germany from a joint ECFR-Bertelsman event on the “Eastern partnership or Partnership with Russia”. Of course, the answer is with both. No need to spend time on this. But I got a certain sense that the German debate on Russia and the Eastern neighbourhood might be changing. Of course this is only a snapshot and such trends are far from consolidated. And they have yet to trickle down through the German foreign policy machinery, not least in the Brussels committees. But here are some of the interesting nuances I have heard in my convesrsations with a few experts as well as FDP and CDU (the new coalition partners) voices.
There might be an increasing sense that Ukraine, Moldova, and perhaps Belarus will “of course” join the EU. Though with two caveats: 1) in the long run (defined as 20-30 years), and 2) “this should happen at our own pace, not due to geopolitical considerations”. The language is still more positive than I ever heard in Germany.
Much has been made about the fact that FDP’s election manifesto mentions an EU accession perspective for Ukraine. The Ukrainian foreign minister Poroshenko even says the new German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle (and FDP leader) gave him such a manifesto with the word “Ukraine” underlined and Westerwelle’s signature next to it. I tended not to overdo the importance of this point in the manfesto. But my FDP interlocutor stressed that the Ukraine point in the manifesto was thought through, discussed and “voted twice in an electoral year by the party convention, and this is not a backdoor policy paper, but a key document”. Read the rest of this entry »
(MORE updates…) Here is an interesting opinion poll (Eurasia Monitor) where post-Soviet publics are asked whether they prefer integration into the EU, union of Russia/Belarus/Ukraine/Kazakhstan or independence without integration with any such entities. The results broadly confirm some of the findings from our recent ECFR report on Russian and European neighbourhood policies which argues that EU soft power in the region is not uncotested.
Among the more interesting results are (see page 35 of this opinion poll):
- Georgia comes first in pro-EU sentiment with 36% being in favour of integration with the EU. But it also comes first in pro-independence sentiment with 48% (not willing to join any integrationist blocks). Unsurprisingly only 3% want integration into a Russian-led Union. Read the rest of this entry »
Jan Zielonka argued in his book “Europe as Empire” that Europe is becoming a neo-medieval empire with ‘overlapping authorities, divided sovereignty, diversified institutional arrangements, and multiple identities’ with ‘fuzzy cultural, economic and political borders between the enlarged Union and its new neighbours further east and south east’. Indeed, the medieval parallel is useful in thinking about Europe’s borders, but a more accurate comparison is probably to think about medieval fortresses, not borders.
Exporting border controls
A fortress has multiple lines of defence – a dungeon as the hard nucleus and defensive walls, but also external fortifications such as ditches or earthworks (see a formidable fortress, left). The EU has been developing a similarly multilayered system of border management and protection with elements of outside fortifications. With the Schengen area as the dungeon, non-Schengen EU member states such as Romania and Bulgaria (and the other new EU states until December 2007) already separated from the outside world by a strong visa wall, the EU has started to build outside fortifications. Read the rest of this entry »