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Signature Ceremony Agreement on taxation

Council lTV - Wed, 28/10/2015 - 18:53

Signature of the Amending Protocol to the Agreement between the European Community and the Principality of Liechtenstein providing for measures on taxation of saving income in the form of interest payments, by Pierre GRAMEGNA, Luxembourg Finance Minister of Luxembourg Presidency, Pierre MOSCOVICI, European Commission in charge of Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, and Aurelia FRICK, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Education and Culture of Lichtenstein.

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Categories: European Union

It’s up to Europe to show the way towards global refugee policies

Europe's World - Wed, 28/10/2015 - 16:21

Forty years ago, the world witnessed one of the Cold War’s turning points – the closing of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, followed quickly by the panicked evacuation of Americans and their allies from the region. What followed was the mass exodus of hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese fleeing across the South China Sea. I witnessed this painful denouement as a young Foreign Service officer, and I was horrified by the tales of people on rickety crafts confronting fearsome typhoons and the predation of pirates to rob them of whatever they carried. That tragedy, and the concerted generosity it drew from the international community, now seems uplifting compared to what we are witnessing today.

In the late 1970s, when huge numbers of refugees fled Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos for the open sea, the world reacted swiftly by launching resettlement efforts that carried many of those seeking settlement to safety – first to Thailand, and then to the far corners of the world. Eventually, hundreds of thousands found haven in the U.S., France, Australia and even South America. Can the same happen for today’s generation of desperate refugees?

A tide of distress is surging from the Mediterranean onto Europe’s doorstep, but this time the world’s reaction is hesitant. Unlike when our leaders forty years ago pulled together to help, the sight of those in distress is pulling today’s leaders apart. The Mediterranean has already swallowed more than 6,500 lives in just the two years since the October 2013 shipwreck off the Italian island of Lampedusa. That single tragedy took 368 lives and horrified the world. Europeans swore such shipwrecks would never again be tolerated, yet at least three catastrophes have each taken twice as many victims since then.

This is not a Mediterranean problem, or even a European one. It is a humanitarian catastrophe that demands the entire world’s engagement. Haiti’s 2010 earthquake was not a matter for one hemisphere, nor was the 2004 Southeast Asian tsunami. Those disasters were met by an outpouring of humanitarian action, and so must this one.

Europe must welcome those fleeing from conflict zones by raising resettlement quotas, issuing more humanitarian visas and extending Temporary Protective Status to citizens of countries in distress. We must also ask what policies we want to put in place to better prepare us for such challenges in future. Put simply, we need a comprehensive approach that covers all facets of contemporary mobility.

We need generous asylum provisions for refugees and others who have a strong claim to protection. But we equally need properly-designed labour migration programmes to enable migrants of all skill levels to access labour markets that are crying out for supply without having to risk their lives.

The bottom line is that we, the international community, have created a world in which mobility is the norm rather than the exception. We cannot go backwards. We must ensure that people can move safely and with dignity.

The post It’s up to Europe to show the way towards global refugee policies appeared first on Europe’s World.

Categories: European Union

A European space for mobility must go far beyond the EU itself

Europe's World - Wed, 28/10/2015 - 16:19

Our 21st century EU is a common area within which its citizens can move freely. Opening up our internal borders wasn’t easy, as an open Europe had always to be balanced against internal and external security needs.

The Amsterdam treaty incorporated the Schengen agreement – and with that the freedom of movement as an EU right – and set the goal of creating an ‘Area of Freedom, Security and Justice’ (the AFSJ). It confirmed the steps needed for free movement, and also established a mandate for the remaining elements of the AFSJ, which included immigration and asylum policy. Today, the treaties define Europe as an Area of Freedom, Security and Justice and oblige member states to guarantee a degree of international mobility that is unique in the world. In line with the AFSJ objectives, the treaties also established the need for a European migration and asylum policy. But the legal framework for both isn’t well balanced, with some EU states hanging on to their sovereign powers over both.

Managing immigrant and refugee flows while preserving the right to free movement and residence of EU citizens has been a major source of intra-EU tensions. And it has been thus for longer than many care to admit. One need only look back to 2011 and the episodes following the Tunisian revolution to see that the present situation is a crisis that should have been foreseen. After years of grappling with such crises, the EU has finally managed to respond to the refugee crisis of recent months. Such a show of solidarity has been long overdue. Now a longer-term vision for governing the AFSJ is needed.

The current AFSJ’s limitations are having a corrosive effect within the EU and have badly weakened our external policies just as we face enormous challenges beyond our borders. The link between external policy and what we consider to be domestic policy is becoming clearer by the day. We Europeans are now proposing a shared management of mobility to our neighbours, something that was unimaginable some decades ago, while at the same time our security is interrelated with theirs as never before.

A European space that is both open and secure requires a wholesale reform of the AFSJ. We cannot go on thinking of the area of freedom as a common construction internally, while managing asylum and immigration policy nationally without common governance rules and mechanisms. We need to strengthen the links between the different elements of the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice and move towards effective and complete implementation. Doing this will bring enormous political difficulties with it, but the risks of not doing it are already unacceptable because they call into question crucial elements of the European Union itself.

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Categories: European Union

Here’s a ‘to do list’ for the refugee crisis from Strasbourg’s human rights watchdogs

Europe's World - Wed, 28/10/2015 - 16:18

Migration is the most controversial issue in Europe of this decade. It is creating new divisions between European countries and is feeding the widespread euroscepticism that far-right political movements have so promptly exploited.

The climax of these tensions, old and new, came when hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees had arrived in Europe to seek asylum. Many European governments proffered a mix of nationalist, religious and economic reasons to counter calls for greater solidarity in sharing the responsibility of the refugees. The European Commission’s proposal for modest mandatory quotas was nevertheless pushed through by qualified majority voting, and hopes are rising that EU countries have come to understand that go-it-alone migration policies would be a mistake of historic proportions. To save the whole integration project, European countries will have to work together on immigration in their common interest.

Renewed co-operation on immigration has to bring about reform of the legislation governing asylum. The so-called “Dublin system” leaves a few frontline southern EU countries to bear a disproportionate responsibility for asylum-seekers, and in any case it doesn’t conform with international human rights standards.

EU countries need to agree on a new system based on the principles of inter-state solidarity as well as on effective human rights protection. Legislation on humanitarian visas as well as on family reunifications should be eased to facilitate refugees’ safe passage to Europe. Carrier sanctions on transport companies should be abolished in order to reduce refugees’ dangerous and often deadly journeys by sea or land, and to counter the increasingly well-organised networks of people smugglers.

The EU also needs to boost search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean by mutualising efforts that so far have rested on the shoulders of a few countries, notably Italy. The increased resources and enlarged mandate given to Triton is a positive initiative that the EU must sustain in the long term.

EU countries have to team up not only to save lives but also to ensure common minimum reception standards across Europe. The European Council’s decision to help Greece, Turkey and Western Balkan countries strengthen their reception and asylum systems is a positive first step. It should now be extended to other EU countries, in particular in the Baltic and eastern regions, which often have sub-standard reception capacities and integration policies. Crucially, the EU should make more resources available to member states and their local authorities to help strengthen their capacity to integrate refugees.

Another key element is political discourse. Legislative and policy changes will hardly be possible if political leaders continue pandering to people’s fears and insecurities. Political leaders have to explain that refugees are people fleeing countries where civil wars, widespread violence or political repression leave no option other than to leave. The same leaders must promote examples of European tolerance, acceptance and solidarity. They must explain that Europe is not the problem, but the solution.

Achieving these goals demands much political determination. The EU and its member states should use the expertise we at the Council of Europe have built up and should also react more promptly to our recommendations and to the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. This would greatly improve the situation on the ground.

The post Here’s a ‘to do list’ for the refugee crisis from Strasbourg’s human rights watchdogs appeared first on Europe’s World.

Categories: European Union

Finding a use for the European Union Battle Groups

Europe's World - Wed, 28/10/2015 - 16:10

When the laser was invented, somebody said that it was a wonderful solution waiting for a problem. Something similar can be said for the EU Battle Groups (EU-BG).

At first, it looked as if the concept of the EU-BG was rather clear and would provide solutions to various security problems. The European Council Summit of 1999 had decided to set up “smaller rapid response elements available and deployable at very high readiness”, while the 2010 Headline Goals, adopted by the European Council in 2004, specified the EU’s military goals as “humanitarian and rescue tasks, peace keeping tasks, task of combat forces in crisis management including peace-making.” The EU-BG was supposed to play the role also of an initial entry force to be followed, if necessary, by more sizable European units, as well as to provide support for a country affected by a terrorist act and assist in state-building operations.

The idea was to always have two Battle Groups ready for active deployment, to be replaced by another pair every six-months. Since 2005, when the first two BGs were formed, not a single one of the over 20 that have so far been set up has been called to action. This is not because there was no need for them. Throughout this period, the EU has sent troops to address various crises like those in Chad, the Congo and Mali, just to name a few. On each occasion, the deployed EU military force has always been formed from scratch, from outside the EU-BG system. The most natural question to ask is why?

It is worth reminding ourselves that the decision to use the EU-BG can only be taken by full EU consensus, so any reluctance from one of the contributing countries is absolutely decisive. To hide a country’s true reasons for objecting, which very often result from internal politics, various technical arguments have been used. Often the point is made that the mission requires a totally different kind of force than what the EU-BG can provide – either because it’s too small or of the wrong composition. Sometimes the obstacle was cited as timing – the mission was supposed to go beyond the BG period of availability, with the other BG not yet ready for action. Sometimes the genuine reason was financial. In the EU, unlike in the UN, the main bulk of the mission’s costs are covered by the nations providing the deployed troops.

One solution is simply to scrap the programme altogether. But another is to draw lessons and introduce amendments; so how exactly can and should this be done?

  • It’s absolutely necessary to streamline the decision process regarding BG deployment. If the deployment request comes from the UN or OSCE, the power to veto should be with the countries that are the main contributors to the BG under consideration. For other missions, a rule of “consensus minus one” seems quite appropriate.
  • The system of financing the EU operations should be radically changed to mirror that of the UN. In EU operations almost all the costs are covered by the participating countries, whereas in UN operations all costs including the use of equipment are on the UN side. This is why, for many countries, participation in the UN operations is a reasonable source of income and the largest contributors to UN operations are countries like Ghana  or Nepal.
  • Of the two on-duty BGs, one should be capable of engagement in a more demanding mission like ceasefire enforcement or a rescue operation in a hostile environment, whereas the other one should be dedicated to more peaceful tasks like the supervision of an election, natural disaster relief or classic peace monitoring. It means that the composition of these two specialised BGs should be completely different.
  • To avoid a situation in which BG deployment is not possible because the end of the BG’s on-duty period is approaching, it is necessary to extend the 6-month period to at least 9 months, allowing for a 3-month overlap with the readiness time of the next BG.
  • All procedures should be adapted for compliance with NATO standards, including a common set of rules of engagement. Thereafter, closer co-operation with NATO must be secured by working out the details of a BG co-ordination concept and deployment strategy, especially in anticipation of a more demanding mission that may require a more substantial military deployment.

By revising rather than scrapping its present arrangements, it is indeed possible to make the EU Battle Groups much better suited to the needs of the Common Security and Defence Policy. Following these steps will make the BG an effective, and indeed readily deployable, solution to Europe’s security threats.


The post Finding a use for the European Union Battle Groups appeared first on Europe’s World.

Categories: European Union

Refugees: A stolen resource

Europe's World - Wed, 28/10/2015 - 16:02

Reversing Europe’s demographic decline is a key domestic argument for encouraging refugees to settle in Europe. But amid the cacophony over European attitudes to the flood of refugees from the Middle East and beyond, it scarcely gets mentioned that among these refugees are the human resources vital to having any chance of reconstructing society and polities in the Middle East and elsewhere. And Europe can have a direct role in ensuring these skilled individuals bring their war-torn regions a better and safer future.

There is an analogy for this situation in which a European patient is being treated by a doctor originating from Afghanistan, imported to fill the shortage of skilled European medical manpower. Few European patients, if any, are aware that in Afghanistan there are 3 doctors for every 10,000 citizens. Europe’s “shortage” finds the figure nearer to 3 per 1,000.

The argument rages on as to whether refugees are seeking a better economic future, fleeing from hopelessness in failed states, or escaping from war and violence. Few reliable statistics are available. But it is clear that the overwhelming bulk of these refugees are young, and many of them have professional qualifications. So to the massive physical and moral destitution of refugees’ countries of origin is now added a great haemorrhage of precisely those talents and skills that are essential for the resurrection of damaged societies. And this haemorrhage will go on for the foreseeable future. While the European Union, its member states, local authorities and humanitarian agencies struggle to provide for the immediate needs and resettlement of refugees, it is worth starting to look at rehabilitating selected refugees who have the skills needed to put the pieces together again in their countries of origin.

The EEAS is currently in the middle of a strategic review. No one has any illusions about the scope of the European Union to help engineer peace and stability in the Middle East, with all the complex components involved. But somewhere in a European policy revamp towards the Middle East there should be room for an element of earmarking and training young leaders for the rehabilitation of their countries when circumstances better permit. Certainly, there is always a danger that these young people will suffer from being labelled back home as stooges of European imperialism. But such a programme is worth a try. Incidentally, it would also provide a signal for Europe’s own nervous citizens that the EU is not only trying to cope with the tidal wave of immigration, but is also looking constructively towards a future where Middle Eastern and other refugees may find enticement to return.

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Categories: European Union

Life lessons for Europe’s digital economy

Europe's World - Wed, 28/10/2015 - 15:57

Allow me to begin with two short stories. The first story follows my husband, who has worked for a major Dutch company with branches across the globe, including the U.S. One time while he was on a training session with colleagues from different parts of the world, they had a free day on Sunday. His colleagues went for a hike, while my husband went to a church and to see a modern art exhibition, as he always does. They met again for supper, where his colleagues asked him why he didn’t spend the day with them. He answered that he went to a church, which caught them by surprise; a religious eastern European was something of an exotic animal to them. Only the reaction of his colleague from the U.S. was different: “Why didn’t you say so before?” he asked, “I’d take you along to our church, where I am one of the presbyters.” They continued talking – my husband, who had to take part in mandatory military service during the Communist era, and an American Vietnam veteran.

The second story finds me where I have worked for rather a long time, at the Czech Ministry of Environment. While I was the minister, one of my duties was to take part in discussions about the conservation status of the Šumava National Park. Environmentalists wanted to keep part of the park safe from any human impact under a project called “The wild heart of Europe”. The naysayers protested belligerently, and were supported by a large group of people, especially after the Kyrill tornado damaged a large area of the park. One man who wanted to interfere with the conservation and try to “help” the park invited me for a walk, saying that he will show me what no environmentalist would. We travelled up the hills, among dead and uprooted trees, through an environment that was ruined. It took a lot of time and eventually, on our way back, we had to pass through a part of the park that had not been meddled with for some time. The uprooted trees were there too, and seemingly had been for a number of years, but the nature around us was very diverse, and the vegetation was vast, full of flowers I had not seen before in my life. That said, there were no roads or even paths there – navigation became extremely difficult and we were without mobile phone signal or any other means of navigation. After getting back to the civilised, artificially-changed world, I realised that a protester against conservation had shown me the exact opposite of what he had wanted – nature helped itself over a few years, resulting in a state we could not even have imagined before.

There are two lessons to take from these stories that should inform our thinking going forward. First, knowing and embracing our cultural roots makes us free, more understanding of other cultures and ultimately powerful. Second, diversity is the source of ideas and creativity, it is a source of rebirth, not only in nature.

These lessons have a bearing on the EU’s digital debate. The technical solutions that are enabled today by widespread internet access, and the transfer and storage of large amounts of data, are not only desirable, but things we cannot do without; this ever more apparent. The creation of a standardised and united environment for these solutions is therefore extremely important. The Internet of things and services is not only one method we may take, it is a concept that will strongly influence the way we live and the way we see things. Self-production of electricity and heat will become widespread, our kids will be taught via e-learning platforms along with their regular schooling, our self-driving cars will be shared among people as is already common with bicycles we will more often purchase goods over the Internet, and we will use public services without the need for a physical contact with clerks. The orientation on the customer and the citizen in preparation for this new kind of existence is readily apparent. The dynamics of our Internet usage shows that it’s high time to act.

It remains a question whether the target set by the European Commission to cover all Europe with high-speed Internet before 2020 is ambitious enough. But on the other hand, it seems that it will be reached despite all the bureaucratic circumstances; should it not be, it will have a widespread impact on the competitiveness of our economies. If the Commission takes the unification of digital market rules as its priority, this change will be successful. Then again, if the related directives get stuck in the European Parliament with all the others, we might very well not succeed. Europe 2020 is a worthwhile set of necessary steps, but we have no priorities in place. Do we even properly understand the gravity of the issue?

The Internet of things and services is not only a matter of consumers, citizens and voters, the production of goods and services will have to undergo a profound change as well. Even today, 3D printing works miracles, and it seems that it will put a lot of manufacturing companies out of business. The just-in-time concept will no longer be relevant for logistics, rather for production of parts in the place where the final good is made. For countries such as the Czech Republic, this is indeed a significant challenge, as most Czech goods end up in products that are finalised elsewhere. I am not entirely convinced that the new ways of production will lead to a reindustrialisation of Europe in the common meaning of the word “industry”. We have to expect a significant change in both the method of production and the products themselves. This will be especially pronounced because of applied robotics – many roles currently held by people will belong to robots. The only things that remain are basic human needs – eat, sleep, health, social ties. The ways of fulfilling those will needlessly change.

What surprises me most is the nonchalance of Europe’s citizens. Every European strategy or rule is preceded by an analysis in which the impacts are evaluated in the fields of business, employment or public service. What we keep forgetting is assessment in a global context. In the 1990s, there were 6 billion people living in total, and this figure reached 7 billion in 2011. Europe accounts for merely 7%. At the same time, our well-being is high compared to most other countries and cultures. People living in those countries are motivated to attain the same life quality we have, and they can work hard for it. The Vietnamese community in the Czech Republic is a good example of this – a relatively small community gave rise to high number of skilled people. The rest of the world outside our windows is similarly motivated and is able to be skilled, and they have the numbers too – if we take for a fact that 10% of people in a given population have an exceptionally high IQ, it is a million people in the Czech Republic and more than 130m in China. Furthermore, this world outside our windows holds most of the resources we need, even in the new digital economy. Our riches are not something to be taken for granted; we need to innovate in order to keep them.

The new reality we’re approaching provides great possibilities for innovation, but it also calls for expanding research and development. What is currently an issue in this context is the low number of technically-skilled people, in Europe as well as in the U.S. It is also surprising how lacking in social science skills we are. Half the young population is spending years in universities, studying mostly non-technical subjects, and the number of published academic papers grows every year. But despite that, we are not educated or ready enough for the new conditions, new possibilities, ageing population or the profound change of the labour market – how will the taxation of work and capital function in a society in which most manufacturing jobs are taken by robots?  Technological standardisation is not only a way of democratic, free and equal access to good and factors of production, it also poses a threat of unification of language and thinking. We need to embrace our roots and at the same time embrace our vastness of languages, traditions and cultures in Europe, because that’s precisely where our strength and contribution to the world lies.

If I may break convention again, I have a joke on which to end, and it goes like this: God has decided he will flood the world once again in three days, but this time without Noah and his Ark. When the Pope, Grand Imam and Chief Rabbi learn of this, they go back urgently to speak to their communities. The Pope tells his people to pray for salvation. The Imam talks about martyrs’ deaths in waters and subsequent life in heaven. The Rabbi tells his peers that they have only three days to learn how to live underwater.

A time of great change is at our doorstep. Digitalisation is only one symptom of that, and we’d better start coming up with ideas of how to make a use of it – to live underwater.

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Categories: European Union

EU - Middle East

Council lTV - Wed, 28/10/2015 - 15:20

The Resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict is a fundamental interest of the EU. The EU’s objective is a two-state solution with an independent, democratic, viable and contiguous Palestinian state  living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbours.

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Categories: European Union

Ukraine’s Local Elections 2015: the regionalisation of politics

The FRIDE blog - Wed, 28/10/2015 - 13:18

On 25 October Ukrainians elected their local, rayon (subregional) and oblast (regional) council deputies and mayors. These were the first country-wide local elections held since the Euromaidan revolution of 2013-2014, and there was an expectation that they would help bring about a democratic renewal of political elites at the local and regional level. Importantly, as a result of the ongoing decentralisation reform, the newly elected council members and mayors will have more resources and executive powers.

Sandro Weltin_Council of Europe_CC BY-ND 2.0

The elections have been competitive, with over 130 parties running. The electoral turnout was 46.6 per cent, which is lower than the 52 per cent turnout in the 2010 local elections. Although electoral standards have improved since the 2010 elections held under ex-president Viktor Yanukovych, unlawful practices, including vote buying and the use of the ‘administrative resource’ (incumbents use of public resources to harvest votes) have been reported. Many irregularities are also related to the implementation of a new electoral law: many of its provisions are vague and the electoral commissions have not been sufficiently trained to navigate the new legislative measures. Still, according to Ukrainian NGO watchdogs and international observers, overall the elections respected the democratic process.

The local elections did not take place in Crimea (occupied by Russia), the separatist-controlled territories of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions and areas in close proximity to the frontline. On election day, the vote was cancelled or ruled invalid by the local electoral commissions in three Kyiv-controlled municipalities of the Lugansk and Donetsk regions, including in Mariupol, a city with half a million residents near the frontline with separatist forces. In Mariupol, local civil society accused the Opposition Bloc and oligarch Rinat Akhmetov of attempting electoral fraud by printing duplicates of the ballot papers. Local civil society also held the Kyiv government and the Central Electoral Commission responsible for failing to guarantee fair and transparent elections in Mariupol.

Judging from exit-poll data, it seems that the elections are likely to bring important changes to Ukraine’s politics. In the 2010 local elections, the Party of Regions (PoR) led by former president Yanukovych secured absolute majorities in the eastern and southern parts of Ukraine and the pro-European opposition won mainly in the western regions. In 2015, the East-West divide of Ukraine into Russia-oriented and Europe-oriented regions has been blurred (although not entirely disappeared) – a trend already visible in the results of the 2014 parliamentary elections. The results point to greater regional diversity: there are not only two or three Ukraines, but many.

Former PoR members still won in the southern and eastern regions, running under new party denominations, such as the Opposition Bloc, the Revival Party and the Our Country party. But unlike in 2010, they have competed against each other and have not obtained absolute majorities, except in a few cases.

The parliamentary coalition parties that took part in the elections – President Petro Poroshenko’s bloc ‘Solidarity’, Yulia Tymoshenko’s ‘Motherland’ and ‘Self-Reliance’ led by Lviv mayor Andriy Sadovyi – won in the west and centre of the country. However, they faced tough competition from parties that are not currently in parliament. For example, the nationalist Svoboda, which lost the 2014 parliamentary elections, has secured representation in the west and centre of the country, including Kyiv. Candidates from the newly established Ukrainian Association of Patriots (Ukrop), sponsored by oligarch Ihor Kolomoyskyi, were elected in various regions of Ukraine, including in his home city Dnipropetrovsk. Local or regional parties led by popular mayors won in a number of Ukrainian cities (Kharkiv, Odesa, Chernihiv, Vinnytsia, Сherkasy to name a few).

These elections have exposed a disconnect between national and local politics, with the latter no longer simply reflecting the predominant political divide between government and opposition in parliament. In some regions and cities, the parties from the ruling parliamentary coalition may find themselves on opposite sides (for example, in Kyiv). In other regions, small parties led by popular mayors become pivots of local politics (for example, in Kharkiv or Odesa). Thus, Ukraine’s local politics will likely be increasingly embedded in the local and regional contexts rather than mirroring the national political landscape.

The majority of local and regional councils will require coalition governments. This is an important change, especially in the east and the south of the country, where the PoR has dominated local politics for over a decade. The new, more pluralistic political landscape there may also offer an opportunity for improving the quality of regional governance.

The regionalisation of politics is also evidence of the weakening power of the central government. Some of the winners of the 2014 parliamentary elections are among the losers of the 2015 local elections. The National Front led by Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk, which won 22 per cent of the votes in October 2014, did not participate in the local elections as polls indicated that its support had dropped to one per cent. Candidates and party lists from the Poroshenko Bloc came first in many regions of Ukraine, but did not repeat the electoral success of 2014. Given the population’s disappointment with their rulers, as the reform process stalls and corruption continues to flourish, such an electoral upset was predictable.

In contrast, Ukrainian oligarchs secured their grip on power over local politics in various parts of the country. Rinat Akhmetov, who controls major enterprises and media outlets in the east, preserves his influence in this part of the country through the Opposition Bloc and loyal mayors. Relying upon vast campaign resources and a TV channel, Ihor Kolomoyskyi succeeded in garnering support for Ukrop far beyond his home city of Dnipropetrovsk. He is also believed to support the Revival Party, which won in Kharkiv.

On balance, the local elections bring about a more diverse and fragmented political landscape while confirming the influence of oligarchs on local politics. The regionalisation of Ukrainian politics also implies that there will be strong bottom-up support for the continuation of decentralisation reforms, as the newly elected power-holders will strive for greater autonomy from the centre.

Natalia Shapovalova is researcher at FRIDE

Categories: European Union