Ukraine and V4 countries: promoting better understanding. Briefing for diplomatic missions in Ukraine
International Centre for Policy Studies (ICPS) has conducted a briefing for diplomatic missions in Ukraine as part of the project “Ukraine and V4 countries: promoting better understanding”. ICPS experts presented the analysis of the current state of relations between Ukraine and the V4 countries as well as their expert recommendations on improving the neighbourhood policy of Ukraine. Ensuring good and sustainable neighborhood relations between Ukraine and its Western neighboring countries is crucial for regional stability with a view of the existing security threats and challenges in the region. Elaboration of a new updated approach towards the relations between Ukraine and its V4 neighbors is necessary to improve and strengthen regional partnership and prevent the occurrence of new contradictions in the future. A deeper understanding of mutual interests may open space for compromise and logrolling. Deteriorating regional security is a challenge for all; and cooperation with the view to restore fundamental institutions may bring more benefits rather than continuation of disputes. To achieve this it would be useful to concentrate on long-terms achievements rather than on short-term gains. Spheres of common priority, i.e. energy security, transportation and transit capabilities, security cooperation, should be given special attention. Hostile rhetoric should be discouraged at all possible levels. Strengthening democratic institutions, enhancing rule of law, protecting human rights, improving solidarity, as well as promoting tolerance may become common goals, capable of contributing into a positive agenda of relations between Ukraine and its Western neighboring countries. The project “Ukraine and V4 countries: promoting better understanding” is implemented with the support of the International Visegrad Fund and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.
The Divine Comedy of Ukrainian politics continues
Expert of the International Centre for Policy Studies Anastacia Galouchka about the first round of Ukrainian elections and atmosphere in the country in the article for Kyiv Post. Article via the link: https://www.kyivpost.com/article/opinion/op-ed/anastacia-galouchka-the-divine-comedy-of-ukrainian-politics-continues.html
International Centre for Policy Studies starts an assessment of local/regional activities
International Centre for Policy Studies starts an assessment of local/regional activities within the framework of the project “Promoting transparency and implementation of anti-corruption measures in state-owned enterprises and local governments in Ukraine”. The initiative is carried out in partnership with the Institute for Economic and Social Reforms in Slovakia (INEKO) and is financially supported under the program “Official Development Assistance of the Slovak Republic (SlovakAid)”. The project is aimed at increasing the efficiency of public administration, local governments and civil society in the area of regional policy, state-owned enterprises, budget monitoring and openness of information of local authorities. The first edition of series of local and regional policy assessments introduced in December 2018 - March 2019 was carried out. Future evaluations will be conducted on a quarterly basis. In total, more than 20 local politicians will be assembled and streamlined by the end of the project. The main objective of the initiative is to improve the quality of regional and/or municipal regulation and legislation by publishing a regular peer review of socio-economic measures proposed or implemented by local government bodies in Ukraine. The purpose of the assessment is to describe practices that may also be applied by other administrations. Measures for evaluation were identified and analyzed with the support of the expert council, which was selected by International Centre for Policy Studies based on their experience. Selected experts assessed the local measures and policies adopted by local and regional authorities. In total, six local and regional events are currently evaluated. Three of them are innovative and can have a significant positive impact on the economic and social development of Ukraine. We hope that this practice can promote good ideas and inspire their implementation throughout the territory of Ukraine. The evaluation can be found here: http://icps.com.ua/assets/uploads/images/images/eu/local_measures_ukraine_march_2019_.pdf
Minsk Format, Budapest Plus or Anything Else?
Ways to tackle long-term effects of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and to resolve a conflict between the two are in the focus of presidential campaign in Ukraine. But after elections are over, the issue will still remain on the top of the regional security agenda. For five years geopolitical effects of Kremlin’s aggressive decisions on Ukraine have been downgrading security architecture in Europe. This is not only a problem of Ukraine, but a common challenge. Lack of trust, application of violence, and institutional weakness are making Europe a more dangerous place. The Minsk format, designed to contain the conflict in the East of Ukraine, has been the basic framework for managing the conflict. One thing is evident so far: it is apparently not enough. It proved helpful in containing Russian advance and freezing the conflict to a level of 100-150 battle casualties from each side annually. On the other hand, at some point it may also have become useful for making the conflict protracted, just like in a number of other post-Soviet cases. Disputed areas, separatists supported from Kremlin, Russian interference are common features of a geopolitical landscape in this part of the world. Seen as instruments for advancing Russia’s geopolitical interests, these conflicts, however, are often utilized by local elites for mobilizing internal and foreign support. But that is a risky game: benefits of that kind are covered by long-term security expenses. Frozen conflicts not only undermine security of home countries for decades, but also affect neighboring countries, which have to share the risks. So far there hasn’t been any reason to believe that Minsk format would be able to resolve the conflict in the East of Ukraine. A stalemate of Minsk raises the issue of possible alternatives. One of them has always been around: breaking away from the agreement. Supported by hardliners in Ukraine, this option could hardly improve the country’s chances in struggling against Russia and at the same time places international sanctions against Russia under threat. Ukraine remains a weaker side to an asymmetric conflict, which means that a bad agreement is usually better than no agreement at all. Another alternative has recently appeared on the agenda of Yulia Tymoshenko, one of the favorites of the presidential campaign in Ukraine. It is called “Budapest Plus”, referring to the Budapest memorandum of 1994, according to which Ukraine got security assurances in exchange for giving away its nuclear weapons. The main idea behind Budapest Plus is to engage the US, the Great Britain, France, China, Germany and the EU into an extended format, which would replace Minsk as a principal tool for conflict resolution. There are at least two advantages such a format could bring about. First, a military conflict in Donbas is a part of a broader problem, which is security deficit in Eastern Europe. For various reasons, the region is facing elevated security risks. This is a problem for many, not just for Ukraine. Expanding a circle of mediators would follow the simple fact that states do care. Moreover, Russia’s actions against Ukraine have damaged mutual trust so much, that now it seems that bilateral issues can be approached only within a broader task of rebuilding security in Europe. This is something major powers can take care about. Secondly, Budapest Plus may help not only increase pressure on Russia, but also to create a more favorable framework for Ukraine to deal with Russia in the long run, in particular over the issue of occupied Crimea. Along with providing Ukraine with more leverage, a broadened format could also be more effective in restoring elements of world order, ruined by Russia’s decision to occupy Crimea in 2014. In the end most countries would benefit from restoration of international institutions, recharging of international law, and return of justice. Reference to Budapest memorandum underlines a connection between Ukrainian security and durability of non-proliferation regime, something most major powers are especially interested in. Getting major powers on board would be hard – probably, the most challenging part of Tymoshenko’s plan. However, it doesn’t seem impossible. Europeans are already in, they just need to be persuaded to get a bit more involved – and get more security on their eastern borders in return. China is expanding its cooperation with Eastern Europe. Even though Ukraine is not taking part in the 16+1 format, the country’s instability and military standoff with Russia is negatively affecting the region in general, especially in areas which are priorities for China: infrastructure and energy. If Beijing wants more presence and more influence in Eastern Europe, it has to consider bigger responsibility for security concerns. The US strategic goal of deterring Russian revisionism would play in Ukraine’s favor. However, Kyiv must be very precise in calculating its value as an ally for the US. Americans don’t seem to be willing to engage at any terms. Ukraine will have to increase its credibility and effectiveness. That could be seen as a part of preparatory work for launching Budapest Plus. Approaches to dealing with the conflict in Donbas can surely be modified and expanded. But they have to bear two key components to be effective: mechanism for compensating Ukraine’s weakness against Russia and a way to include risks Ukraine is facing into a broader security agenda in Europe. Author: Mykola Kapitonenko
Assessment of security challenges: consequences for Ukraine's foreign policy after the elections
International Centre for Policy Studies presented the analytical paper “Assessment of security challenges: consequences for Ukraine's foreign policy after the elections”. Former foreign ministers of Ukraine, diplomats, international experts participated in the expert discussion. While presenting the research, ICPS Associate Expert Mykola Kapitonenko identified the trends, challenges and threats to Ukraine's foreign policy and national security. In turn, ICPS Chief Adviser Vasyl Filipchuk outlined the tasks and priorities for Ukraine's foreign policy after the elections. “The world is changing rapidly, destroying the traditional notions of international security and the form of interaction between states, - reads the introductory part of the study. - Institutes of multilateral cooperation are in deep crisis. International law and other non-forcible means of regulating international relations are losing efficiency, while the demand for hard power is growing. States have less trust to each other and increasingly accept international politics as zero-sum games. Non-traditional threats are increasing and those that were on the agenda for a long time - for example, the proliferation of nuclear weapons - is becoming more acute. In such conditions, Ukraine is increasingly turning into an object of international relations, as well as losing its influence on regional processes, while non-mention of global ones. The space for maneuver in foreign policy is narrowing; the tools and resources to achieve their own goals are becoming less. The implementation of current foreign policy, characterized by mixing priorities and lack of realistic assessment of the international situation, further weaken Ukraine's position on all key issues: in conflict with Russia, in dialogue with Western partners and in relations with the majority of its neighbors,” the authors believe. According to them, the continuation of this state of affairs will lead to Ukraine's consolidation in the “gray zone” of Europe's security for decades. The authors consider that the only chance to avoid this scenario is the presidential and parliamentary elections in Ukraine in 2019. Although the results of these elections are difficult to predict, without doubt, one can predict for several years that the urgency of Ukraine's challenges in the field of foreign policy and security will not diminish, and their solution will occupy a priority place among the new leadership of the country. “It is probable that the reset of executive and legislative power will open a window of opportunity to solve existing foreign and security problems, but the external environment will remain as complex or even less favorable for Ukraine, - the research reads. - The domestic institutional or economic weakness of the country, even under conditions of rapid and successful post-election reforms, will continue to aggravate its foreign policy for a long time, and the absence of such reforms will further limit its foreign policy capabilities.” One of the conditions for a successful new foreign policy is an adequate reassessment of the foreign policy and security environment of the country, challenges, threats, its own resources and opportunities to achieve its goals. “No matter what developments have taken place, Ukraine will need much more professional, decisive and flexible diplomacy in the coming years. This diplomacy, in turn, will require a lot of attention and great resources. We will be forced to learn to think about safety issues not as they used to do in the past. And this can prove to be a serious test”, - the authors of the study conclude. During the discussion participants also critically expressed their views on the current work of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and foreign policy of the state as a whole. Both Kostyantyn Gryshchenko and Borys Tarasyuk, other heavyweights of Ukrainian diplomacy and expert environment emphasized, in particular, the problem of weak management in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Research via the link (Ukrainian version): LINK
Populism or systemic reforms: what candidates for the President of Ukraine promise?
The experts of the International Centre for Policy Studies presented research on candidates' election programs, their views on the development of economic and domestic policies and principles on which they are planning to build their own national development strategies. The candidates for the President of Ukraine in the next elections on March 31, 2019 in their programs manipulate the low level of education of Ukrainians. This was stated by the expert on internal policy of the International Center for Policy Studies Maxym Stepanenko during expert discussion in “Ukrinform”. “One can also say that presidential candidates are manipulating the low political education of Ukrainians, and therefore they are trying to sell as much air as possible,” Stepanenko said during presentation of the program analysis of candidates for the President of Ukraine. He stressed that candidates' programs are the same; it is difficult to distinguish them, not from one another, but from past programs. According to the expert, this suggests that the problems that candidates are proposing to resolve are still relevant, respectively, - “their old programs and promises were not effective”. In this regard, the expert Igor Petrenko noted that real competition for electoral sympathies is still due to pressure on the irrational. “We see that this is first and foremost an image, something with which the presidential candidate is associated, and with regard to programs, they also can write about free bread,” he said. Among the most widespread promises of presidential candidates that the expert has singled out is the promise of a tax reform that occurs in 33 candidate programs, 27 candidates promise to implement medical reform, and 24 - judicial. The same number of them promises to raise social standards. At the same time, Stepanenko said, there is a promise to carry out anti-corruption reform in the programs of 19 candidates, and constitutional - in 17. 17 candidates for the presidency mention the support of the Euro-Atlantic course of Ukraine and the promise to introduce a norm on the election of judges. “More relevant issues for today's Ukraine are plans for building a professional army that could protect us from Russian aggression in Donbas and establish territorial integrity and sovereignty. Also, the process of decentralization was actualized - 23 presidential candidates promise to stimulate it, expand the rights of communities, and contribute in every way to this process,” Stepanenko said. At the same time, according to him, only in the programs of 12 presidential candidates the attention to the issue of labor migrants returning to Ukraine was paid. Research via the link (Ukrainian version): LINK