Ukraine's relations with its western neighbors: from problems to solutions
A tangible deterioration in Ukraine's relations with its western neighbors has become one of the most important outcomes and challenges of 2017. The acute reaction in neighboring countries to certain historical or linguistic issues, which were not the subject for serious discussions within the country, became a surprise not only for the general public, but also for a part of the political establishment, which believed, Ukraine's support on the international arena from Hungary and Poland is in the asset by a definition. A problem of the Neighborhood Policy became the subject of a thorough study “What is happening in Ukraine's relations with its western neighbors?” prepared by the International Center for Policy Studies, which was presented during a round table discussion organized at the end of the last year. And today, during an expert discussion on the invitation of the Institute of International Relations and Trade (Budapest, Hungary), the ICPS team is presenting ideas on how to get out of the deadlock and find solutions to the current problems. According to ICPS experts, crisis phenomena in Ukraine in relations with its western border neighbors first of all, is in a certain crisis of both Ukrainian foreign policy identity in general, and Neighborhood Policy in particular. In the last case, such a crisis is conditioned by an insufficient attention to the development of relations with western neighbors in past years, the lack of a systematic analysis of the internal situation in neighboring countries, their positions and interests in regional cooperation. There is also a lack of a well-developed regional policy of Ukraine and a policy of developing partnership with each of the neighboring countries, in particular with the involvement of all state power bodies, business and interested representatives of civil society as well as expert community. It is important to understand, Western neighbors should be seen as our partners, and the national minorities should become an advantage of Neighborhood Policy in Ukraine, not a problem. The dialogue with Ukrainian national minorities, together with the minorities of neighboring states should be intensified. They should be perceived as connectors, bridging neighboring countries, as important channels of communication and cooperation. Dialogue and consultation with minorities should be conducted primarily through positive action, avoiding steps that can be taken as a mitigation of the role of languages. In particular, it should be noted that Article 7 of the Law on Education is a serious, but nevertheless, not a non-negotiable challenge for friendly relations with neighboring countries. In particular, ICPS experts consider the necessary steps to be taken to restart relations with its neighboring countries: - Adoption of a new concept of Ukraine's foreign policy; - Development of a new Neighborhood Policy; - Depolitization of humanitarian issues; - Strengthening economic cooperation; - Cross-border cooperation; - Setting up cultural diplomacy. Therefore, further dialogue on the format of relations should be based on a mutually beneficial approach and a positive atmosphere of discussion, more attention should be paid to a strengthening possible cooperation options. Also, during the expert discussion, the Ukrainian and Hungarian sides stressed on the need for enhanced interaction and communication at the expert level, as there is a lack of objective information on current events in Ukraine and Hungary. Such dissonance, in its turn, may lead to false conclusions and interpretations and negatively affect a quality of bilateral dialogue. In order to solve this problem, the International Center for Policy Studies (Kyiv, Ukraine) and the Institute for International Relations and Trade (Budapest, Hungary) agreed on further cooperation and effective communication.
Round table discussion “What is happening in Ukraine's relations with its western neighbors?”
On the 20th of December 2017, in Kyiv InterCintinental conference hall was held an expert round table “What is happening in Ukraine's relations with its western neighbors?”, organized by the International Center for Policy Studies along with the Ukrainian Association of Foreign Policy. The purpose of the event was to discuss possible ways of stabilizing Ukraine's bilateral relations with its western neighbors. Yevhen Yaroshenko, ICPS Senior Analyst, mentioned that the crisis in relations with its neighbors on the western border of Ukraine reflects the current crisis of both Ukrainian foreign policy identity in general, and Ukrainian “Neighborhood Policy” in particular. “This crisis is conditioned by the insufficient attention to the development of relations with the western neighbors during last years, the lack of a systematic analysis of the internal situation in neighboring countries. One of the key challenges facing Ukrainian foreign policy today is an urgent analysis of the status of relations with neighboring countries and the development of recommendations that would prevent them from further deterioration and, ideally, would help to resolve the problem and practical implementation of the bilateral partnership as soon as possible”, - says Yaroshenko. Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine to the Republic of Hungary (1992-1997, 2006-2010) Dmitry Tkach, emphasized that there are currently several experts in Ukraine, who are investigating Ukrainian-Hungarian relations and who should be involved in the discussion of the Neighborhood Policy . “Ukraine should initiate a meeting of the Ukrainian-Hungarian Commission on the issues of ensuring the rights of national minorities, which was last held in 2011”, the diplomat stressed. Director of the International Relations Center Mykola Kapitonenko noted that the problems of Ukraine's relations with its western neighbors have rather complex nature. “This is determined by the level of global security, the level of Ukrainian-Russian contradictions, regional and internal political levels. Central and Eastern European countries have more selfish interests, and the mechanisms of regional interaction are weak. Under such systematic conditions, Ukraine has to pay a much higher price for its weakness”, says Kapitonenko.
Theresa May’s Florence Speech: the Key Changes in the UK’s position on Brexit?
Official Brussels and London return to negotiations on Brexit process amid a recent stalemate. Theresa May addressed the British press pack in Florence on Sep 22, 2017 in a bid to gain momentum in the Brexit talks. The city of Florence was chosen because of its location in the heart of Europe and known for its history of trade and finance. The Florence speech itself was seen as an attempt to kick-start the stalling talks and was largely a symbolic gesture rather than an outline of policy, verbatim, given that May went to Florence in friendship rather than adversity. It was this thinking which could been illustrated through the tone, content and notions employed through the speech of British PM. In her speech, British PM Theresa May tried to set out a picture of a post-Brexit UK. Some key concessions had been ceded through this speech. May outlined her proposal for a transition plan, of which would be over two years (till March 2019), in order to succeed in key agreements, to support business and to offer a degree of stability of families between Britain and mainland Europe. However, a transition plan will also allow May and her government to formulate an implementation plan and their aims and objectives. The parallel talks, as supported by Brexit Secretary David Davis, which had been an area of disagreement between the UK and EU have been dumped in favour of a sequencing of talks – an agreement on dates, priorities and organisation. A major concession which came out of the Florence speech was the acceptance of any law the EU agrees to regarding the rights of EU citizens in the UK. EU citizens arriving into the UK after March 2019 will be subject to a registration system. May has rejected the ‘Canadian model’ for further relationship with the EU, which was previously mooted as a possibility, in favour of a ‘bespoke model’ - a model, which considers the cooperation of Britain with Europe. She has also rejected the idea of a post-Brexit Britain becoming tax-haven, akin to the Northern-Hemisphere/ Hong Kong. That said, David Davis has confirmed that the European Court of Justice will no longer have a mandate over the UK, instead a new system will be formed to deal with the intermediate differences between the UK and EU. Furthering the notion of cooperation as carried by the rhetoric “Shared History, Shared Challenges, Shared Future”, May alluded to the possibility of a treaty being drafted which would concern deeper cooperation between Britain and her European counterparts in the field of security. She called for a bold, new security pact with the EU and post-Brexit UK considering the UK’s role in European security as vital as never before. In addition, Britain will pay into joint projects involving science and education, whilst also paying to accept the freedom of labour. The speech has been criticised for lacking substance, however, it could be argued that this speech maintained a sensible negotiating stance, leaving the EU space to advance upon its preconditions. Therefore, although the past week of Brexit negotiations was described by both sides as ‘warm and constructive’, still no sufficient progress has been made necessary to move to next phase of Brexit talks. Iryna Ivashko, ICPS senior analyst, Cameron Gibson, ICPS visiting expert
BREXIT: the Challenges facing both Britain and the European Union
The British PM Theresa May is expected to deliver a speech in Florence on September 19, in which she is going to outline the possible future of the relations between London and Brussels. What are the challenges faced by the UK and the EU after Brexit? What impact will Brexit have on the Ukrainian-British relations? For our English-speaking fellows, the ICPS prepared a research giving the answers to the abovementioned questions http://icps.com.ua/assets/uploads/images/images/eu/t_brexit.pdf.
Ukraine-EU Summit: the beginning of uncertainty
On July 12-13, 2017 Ukraine-EU Summit was held in Kyiv with participation of the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk. The parties discussed implementation of the Association Agreement, visa regime, reforms and combating corruption in Ukraine, the Russian aggression and the like. At the same time, this summit did not produce a joint statement via contradiction around phrases about "European aspirations" of Ukraine. However, the friendly rhetoric of the summit overshadows the beginning of the crisis in relations between Kyiv and Brussels. Absence of the joint declaration shows that the EU is not yet ready for further rapprochement to Ukraine. On the one hand, the slow pace of reforms and fight against corruption reduces the interest of Brussels to deepening of cooperation with our state. On the other hand, Ukraine has established a foothold among the secondary issues of the EU policy due to Brexit, migration, terrorism, financial problems and other priorities. In addition, euroskeptic and populist forces, despite the recent defeat at the polls in the Netherlands and France, will continue to play a prominent role in the political life of many countries. As a consequence, European aspirations of Ukraine and other countries neighboring the EU will give rise to ultra-right politicians harshly criticizing their governments and institutions in Brussels. Without further rapprochement with the EU, Ukraine will not have sufficient incentives to continue reforms and fight corruption. The main engine of political and economic transformation in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe was the prospect of EU membership. In the case of Ukraine, these "gingerbread" was the Association Agreement, deep and comprehensive free trade area (DCFTA) and visa-free regime, which many citizens and politicians mistakenly considered to be an intermediate step to EU membership. From now on "soft power" of the EU towards Ukraine is limited to financial support in conducting reforms and sanctions against Russia. It is obvious that the potential of such tools is not enough to ensure the irreversibility of the course of reforms and fight against corruption. Thus, this Ukraine – EU summit will be the beginning of uncertainty about the future of bilateral relations. The ability of Brussels to offer attractive initiative for Ukraine will depend on the continuation of reforms in Ukraine, progress in the fight against corruption, the preservation of democratic achievements and loyalty of Ukrainian citizens to the European idea and values.
British General Election Results
Cameron Gibson, visiting expert, University of the West Scotland Following the election of yesterday, the British political landscape has been thrown into short-term turmoil. The Prime Minister, Theresa May called this election in order to gain a mandate for Brexit and to consolidate her parliamentary majority. This morning, she has lost that majority, having now been left with a slim minority and the loss of eight former cabinet ministers. The Conservative’s loss has been Labour’s gain with the party being voted in 31 more seats than previous election. The Scottish Conservatives also gained support north of the border, with the Scottish National Party losing 19 seats than before. However, given the need for 326 seats to form a majority government, a hung parliament has been declared (with the Conservatives carrying 316 and Labour at 261). It is this status that informs the immediate aftermath of this election. Attempt to govern The Conservatives could attempt to govern as the minority party, and this seems the most likely of options. The Conservatives could draw upon the support of the DUP and other interested parties to push their agenda through the House of Commons. Whilst the first past the post system used to elect representatives is designed to elect a workable majority, there have been examples of minority rule, from Harold Wilson’s 1974 Labour government; James Callaghan’s 1976 Labour government; John Major’s 1992 government and David Cameron’s 2012 Conservative-Liberal government. However, a slim minority is susceptible to being short term, such as Wilson’s 1974 government which lasted for seven months, and ever reducing workability, such as Callaghan’s 1976 government. It would also that the party in power cannot fully implement their manifesto or policy ideas without sizable opposition. However, minority governments are additionally open to equal claims of stewardship, with both the Conservatives and Labour. A situation may arise where May cannot form a minority government, so it is then up to the Head of State to assist in the forming of a government. A coalition of some form A coalition of some form may pursued, either a Conservative-Democratic Unionist Party one which would allow the Conservatives to govern sufficiently, or an uneasy Conservative-Labour coalition. Whilst these parties are viewed as opposites in terms of social and economic ideology, it would not be the first time there has been a Conservative-Labour coalition. The National Government, which composed of members of the Liberal, Conservative and Labour party, ruled in some capacity from 1931 to 1940. As this election was called in order to give a mandate for the Brexit negotiations, it could be said that a coalition of any form would be more appealing than a short term minority government or the prospect of another election, given what faces the country in the coming months. This is one theory (in addition to the day-to-day practicalities of running a government effectively) that may gain traction in the coming hours as party leaders jostle for position. May’s position untenable? Another possible consequence of this election is that Theresa May reconsiders her position of leader of the Conservative party. The Parliamentary Party, it has been said, aren’t pleased with losing a majority and whilst MPs are being cautious in this immediate period, it is worth remembering that the party traditionally are quick to reward success and even quicker to punish failure. Nevertheless, there is no clear view on the future of May in the Cabinet and a leadership contest will inevitably lead to another general election, which may bring further damage. May will wish to bring stability to the situation throughout the day, but criticism over her actions is mounting. Postponing of Brexit talks? The overarching concern of this election result is where it leaves Brexit. Whilst the need to leave the European Union has been accepted by the main political parties, this result throws up ambiguity over negotiations. This morning there are two schools of thought on this matter: one, which argues that the election changes nothing and negotiations can still occur in the agreed timeframe and secondly, that there could be the postponing of talks until a clear direction in leadership is found. This would be a practical suggestion, which is also based upon the idea that no serious discussion will occur until after the German elections. Given the nature of elections and the result, the situation in Downing Street this morning is highly fluid. What has been discussed are only possible outcomes of this election and Britain will gain a clear idea of what type of governance it will receive over the course of the day and the weekend. The only concrete conclusions that can be drawn is that the Conservatives have lost their previous majority, a rise in support for Jeremy Corbyn and Labour, a revival of the Scottish Conservatives with a fall in support for the SNP and that any government will be a minority and by that nature, highly dependent upon compromise to deliver day-to-day governance.