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Rejection of EU necessary for Yanukovych’s Survival Beyond 2015

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Is there anybody left in the Eurasia-watching community in the West that has not condemned Ukraine for suspending preparations for agreements that would have taken closer into the EU’s fold?

Until recently this community had expected Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych to enter history as “the man who has brought Ukraine into Europe” by signing the Association Agreement (AA) and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) at the two-day Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius this week. But that was thwarted, as many Western experts have it, by “imperialist” Russia strong-arming Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych into an 11th hour about-face.

The decision has created a backlash in Ukraine, where the parliamentary opposition now wants Yanukovych impeached for state treason. Thousands of protesters have hit streets of Kiev in a pitch to force a change of mind in their president. As a recent poll shows, even 47 percent of supporters of Yanukovych’s Party of Regions support Ukraine’s association with EU.

So why would a leader up for re-election in less than 15 months from now balk at granting the wishes of his own constituents? Should he not at least have put this issue of tantamount importance to vote in a referendum?

The short answer is: It’s the economy, stupid.

Viktor Yanukovych Ukraine European Union

Photo: news.kievukraine.info

Russia imports more goods from Ukraine than the entirety of Europe, according to the Ukrainian government, while supplying almost two-thirds of gas that Ukraine consumes. Many of these goods are produced in eastern Ukraine, which together with Crimea, represents the power base for Yanukovych and his supporters.

Russia has already made it painfully clear that the billions that the Ukrainian economy has already lost because of recent trade restrictions introduced by Moscow will only be the beginning if Kiev signs the AA and DCFTA.

EU officials claim Russian officials told Ukraine that introducing EU requirements would have cost as much as $100 billion, while Russia cutting off trade and imposing other restrictions on Ukraine would have hurt the country to the tune $500 billion, Reuters has reported.

And even though the EU knows Russia would punish Ukraine economically, it has shied away from offering a comprehensive package to compensate for Kiev’s potential losses.

As former Clinton administration adviser Andrew Weiss has rightly put it, “What the EU has come up with is a kind of partnership on the cheap.”

But suppose Moscow didn’t act on its national interest in anchoring its post-Soviet neighbors. Let’s also imagine that Moscow would for some reason keep in place trade perks favoring Kiev, even though that would mean its producers being exposed to EU goods re-exported onto the Russian market through Ukraine.

Even then Ukraine could still not afford westward integration on the terms the EU is offering.

By Yanukovych’s assessment, Ukraine needs $160 billion to shift to European standards by 2017, as required by the proposed agreements with EU. Yanukovych is most probably exaggerating, but even if the cost was 10 times smaller, it would still be a hefty sum for a nation that is set to run a budget deficit of more than6.5 this year. On top of that, the IMF is reportedly refusing to issue the loan that Ukraine needs to prop up its economy, unless Kiev doubles gas prices for consumers.

One has to ask, would leaders in the EU double gas prices for their population and divert billions of dollars needed to pay pensioners and public servants to spend on reaching somebody else’s expectations only a little more than one year before an election?

Loss at the February 2015 presidential elections for Yanukovych would not just mean an end to his tenure, but also the loss of his and his allies’ business assets and possible jail time. After all, that’s what he has subjected former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko to. Why should  the next leader of Ukraine treat him any differently?

If Yanukovych were to sign the EU agreements as they stand, the economy would suffer and he would probably lose to whichever rival candidate arch-foe Tymoshenko gives her backing in 2015.

Having lost part of his core supporters over the pain inflicted on Ukraine’s economy and budget by a combination of Russia’s punitive measures and costs incurred by bringing Ukraine’s standards in line with EU’s, the incumbent would still fail to win enough voters among the pro-Western crowd, who largely hate his guts.

In short, the Ukrainian president’s decision to suspend the EU drive is the rational choice of a politician concerned with his own survival.

In contrast, if Yanukovych were to enter Ukraine into the Russian-led Customs Union, he could at least count on enough loans and gas discounts from Russia to prop the economy up long enough to win the 2015 election.

And yet Yanukovych knows from experience that siding with Russia, which seeks to anchor Ukraine to itself, has its disadvantages. Upon his inauguration in February 2010, Yanukovych undertook a number of steps to accommodate Russia.

These included cancellation of his predecessor’s campaign for recognition of the Holodomor famine of the early 1930s, suspension of Ukraine’s drive for NATO membership and an agreement to extend the stay of Russia’s Black Sea fleet until 2042.

The overtures made to Russian leaders early in Yanukovych’s presidency  have achieved little, in the opinion of his aides, other than a modest discount for gas. The perceived failure to re-ignite the relationship prompted Ukraine’s deputy Prime Minister Valery Khroshkovsky to quip that “it all started as light flirtation, but ended in hardcore porn.”

Yanukovych is therefore most likely to continue balancing between EU and Russia – a policy his mentor and former president Leonid Kuchma described with the Russian saying about “a smart calf sucking milk from two cows.”

His hope for now must be that the trilateral talks between EU, Russia and Ukraine that he has proposed will allow him to somehow integrate into the Western European economic space while preserving the perks of trading with Russia.

Whether, however, EU and Russia will continue put up with Yanukovych playing them off one another is another matter.

First Appeared on: RIA Novosti, Republished following the terms of use.

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Simon Saradzhyan is a researcher at Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center. His research interests include international security, arms control, counter-terrorism as well as political affairs in post-Soviet states and their relations with major outside powers. Prior to joining the Belfer Center in 2008 Saradzhyan had worked as deputy editor of the Moscow Times and a consultant for the United Nations and World Bank. Saradzhyan holds a graduate degree from the Harvard University.

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Environment

All Steam Ahead as Europe Goes Green

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Red, amber, green: and Europe is off on its big green venture. Yep, it’s true, Europe is finally on the right track in regards to future-proofing against climate change. To see just how it is doing this and what it is doing in regards to this, make sure to read on.

The abolition of fossil fuels by 2050

Some of Europe’s biggest countries are seeking to go fossil fuel free by 2050, and it’s brilliant. Denmark, a country widely regarded as being a leader in the struggle for a green future, is one such country seeking to do this. Yes, it might be ambitious. And yes, Danish officials openly admit that it is an ambitious venture. But, this old Nordic country is going full steam ahead with its ‘Energy Strategy 2050’ enterprise anyway in the hopes that within 32 years the whole country will be completely dependant on things that do not hurt our world. In fact, Denmark is even seeking to go one step further and go completely cashless. Well done, Denmark!

Cities are building green infrastructures

It appears that many European cities have seen the light in regards to what they need to do to save our planet and are now building green infrastructures to hold themselves up in the future. Yep, many cities around this famous old continent are changing the habit of a lifetime and going against a grain that has been in place for thousands upon thousands of years by swapping out their old, harmful infrastructures and ushering in new, safer ones to replace them. Bratislava, Slovakia is one such example: it has had a complete overhaul of its transport system and only runs low-emission buses, tree planting has become a serious occupation, roofs around the city have been made green and rainwater retention facilities have popped up everywhere. Yep, the Slovakian capital really has built a green infrastructure, despite a tight budget, and many other European cities are following suit.

Many big cities are clambering for green funding

Speaking of tight budgets, there seemingly is one across the whole of Europe when it comes to going green because many cities within the continent are having to clamber for funding in regards to it. But, thankfully, having to do all of this isn’t stopping these cities from doing so and going as green as they can. Yep, cities across the European continent are using a combination of EEA grants, municipal funding, crowdfunding and green bonds in order to go green: Copenhagen has done so and used its funding to upgrade is floodwater management and lighting systems to make them more eco-friendly, Paris has done so and used its funding to plant in excess of 20,000 trees and Essen, Germany has done so and used its funding to be named European Green Capital for 2017.

So, as you can see, the historic old continent of Europe is more than willing to embrace the future and, more specifically, the future needs of our planet. Let’s just hope that the rest of the world and its leaders *cough* Trump *cough* follow suit before it’s all too late.

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Unforgettable trip in Malaga, Spain

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Malaga Spain

flickr/benidormone

If you are wondering what is the best option to spend your next holidays the answer you are looking for is Marbella. The Spanish Costa del Sol, with its 320 sunny days and an average temperature of 19 degrees throughout the whole year, has everything you could ever need to have the most spectacular holidays.

Marbella is a destiny that has much to offer, it’s where sun, beach, party and luxury meet to give you the best experiences. If you want your Marbella holidays to be unforgettable you can’t miss these activities.

Sun, Sea and Beach Parties in Malaga

Yacht charter in Malaga:  If you are in Costa del Sol you can’t miss the experience of renting a boat to enjoy the bay, from motorboats to luxury yachts. The sea is the perfect way to spend the day. There are many options to choose from and packs to meet your needs.

Party is a synonym of Marbella but there is nothing like a Costa del Sol boat party to enjoy with your friends and have the time of your life.

Beach day: No matter what time of the year you visit Marbella you can always count on a beach day. One of the most attractive features of Costa del Sol is its amazing beaches, awarded with the blue flag, which represent the gold standard for hygiene and public facilities, you can have a great day in one of its many beaches weather is having a drink at one of the typical chiringuitos or practicing different water sports like paddle surf, windsurf or diving in the Mediterranean the beaches in Costa del Sol are always a great option.

Party in Puerto Banus: from the famous Nikki Beach club to the many nightclubs in Marbella, there is no excuse not to party. And if you want to have a different experience you can always spice things up with a special guest, in Marbella, cheeky butler parties are always a fun way to spend the night or to celebrate a bachelorette party. It’s a different experience and you don’t have to worry about anything except enjoying yourself.

Cultural Options in Malaga

Enjoy the historic centre: If you are looking for a more relaxing way to spend your time, Marbella’s old town is an excellent option for you. Get lost in the city and discover all the magical places this typical Andalusian town has to offer.

From Dalí’s art display to its many restaurants there are many ways you can make the most of your time in Costa del Sol. Visit Marbella’s many beautiful squares, and its Alameda park or even take a quick field trip to Torremolinos. Whatever you choose Costa del Sol will never let you down.

Sports in Malaga

Practice your swing: Costa del Sol, also known as Costa del Golf has more than 70 golf courses almost all of them located next to the ocean which adds a beautiful scenery while you practice that swing.

These and many more are the activities are waiting for you to discover, so don’t wait any longer and visit Costa del Sol

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Europe

UK Attempts To Bypass European Commission On Brexit Blocked By Brussels

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Brexit European Union

Via geographos

As the UK and EU draw deeper and deeper into uncharted waters, Brexit negotiations are becoming increasingly erratic. As negotiators from both states met this week to discuss items such as the Northern Ireland Border, the rights of EU citizens currently residing in the UK and the notorious ‘divorce bill’, there have been numerous reports of frustration within the British camp.

Frustration

Recently it was revealed that Prime Minister Theresa May, believing talks to be at an impasse, intended to go over the heads of the EU’s Brexit negotiators and appeal directly to world leaders such as Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron. When questioned about this, however, Brussels officials close to the negotiations intimated that Mrs May would not be able to circumvent the negotiations process.

The officials pointed out that both French and German leaders had agreed prior to the talks that negotiations would come “as a single package” where “individual items cannot be settled separately” and that no member state would abstain from negotiations in favour of individual agreements.

One year on…

It has been over a year now since the UK referendum in which the country voted (at a rate of 52% to 48%) to leave the European Union in an unprecedented political and economic chain of events, the repercussions of which will take years to fully realise but which the world glibly knows as Brexit. It’s a small name for such a political leviathan. Many of the world’s leading bankers and economists still aren’t sure what to make of. Recently CEO Lloyds Bank Antonio Horta-Osorio (who has been lauded for restoring the bank’s profits to pre-financial crisis levels) expressed doubt and uncertainty over the long term economic effects of Brexit. It’s somewhat telling that former Prime Minister David Cameron resigned shortly after the vote, claiming that his involvement in the ‘Remain’ campaign put him at odds with the will of the people but it’s possible that he had the prescience to realise that he had no hope of taming this wily and unpredictable beast. One year on, the beast only seems to have become further enraged by the negotiating process.

Difficult negotiations

Theresa May has gone into Brexit negotiations with some questionably aggressive negotiating tactics. The first round of talks were mired by her strangely audacious assertion that “no deal is better than a bad deal”. The frustration has clearly been felt on both sides with chief negotiator Michel Barnier urging Mrs May to begin negotiating “seriously”. The French government also demonstrated an unwillingness to circumvent negotiations earlier this week, stating that it “fully supports, on the substance as well as on the method, Michel Barnier’s negotiating mandate” and asserting that claims that Mrs May can somehow bypass the procedure “are founded on absolutely nothing and do not reflect reality”. Brexit Minister David Davis, however, retains an optimistic tone, stating;

“Our goal remains the same: we want to agree a deal that works in the best interests for both the European Union and the United Kingdom and people and businesses right across Europe. We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and get back to work once more…”.

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