Europe

  • One Way Kyiv Can Recover from Its Very Bad Week

    Ukraine got a serious black eye last week when its parliament dismissed the outspoken chairman of its Anticorruption Committee and nearly fired the head of its independent anticorruption bureau. But there’s a clear way it can recover. After anticorruption reform, fixing Ukraine’s dismal health care system is a second priority for the Ukrainian public. Pushing ahead with health care reform might help repair some of last week’s damage.

    And luckily, there are distinct steps the government can take now to make real changes. On October 19, Ulana Suprun, the American-born doctor who is the acting Minister of Health in Ukraine, finally convinced parliament to pass far-reaching reform. There’s a big snag, however: President Petro Poroshenko hasn’t signed the bill yet, so implementation is delayed.

    “There’s something going on within the presidential administration,” Suprun said in a December 11 interview; she was in Washington to meet with the World Bank and spoke with UkraineAlert for the first time since the bill passed.

    Both Prime Minister Volodymyr Groisman and Poroshenko publicly supported the bill, but she suspects there’s political infighting between the two factions who opposed the bill.

    Health care committee chair Dr. Olga Bogomolets was and is the problem, said Suprun.

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  • 'One Planet,' Many Voices: Climate Progress Continues in the Absence of US Involvement

    French President Emmanuel Macron’s decision not to invite the United States to a recent climate action summit in Paris sends a clear message that other countries will happily step into the void the United States has created.

    Two years after the signing of the Paris Agreement, Macron once again convened climate leaders in France’s capital to call for global climate action at the One Planet Summit on December 12. In a nod to 2015, heads of state and ministers from countries around the world, along with representatives from multilateral development banks, international organizations, and the private sector gathered in Paris to focus on challenges related to climate adaption, mitigation, and mobilization.  

    However, unlike 2015, one country was noticeably absent—the United States. As a result of US President Donald J. Trump’s decision to withdraw from the climate agreement, the administration did not receive an invitation. Further, it has expressed little interest in participating in the growing global conversation—and action—on climate change.

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  • Trump Again Questions US Commitment to Defend NATO Allies

    I’ve strengthen our relationships with America’s allies and asked other NATO members to pay their fair share and now the money is pouring in. The money is pouring in.
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  • Making Sense of Ukraine’s Ugly Fall

    This fall has been an ugly one for Ukraine. Throughout September, October, November, and December, Ukrainian authorities have illegally detained, persecuted, and expelled several foreign journalists and other foreign residents, causing observers to question whether Ukrainian leaders are actively violating human rights and willfully persecuting their political opponents in an effort to maintain their grip on power.

    In fact, the Ukrainian authorities seem to be pursuing a policy of double standards, demanding that Russia liberate Ukrainian political hostages and journalists while simultaneously arresting dissenting activists, journalists, and political opponents.

    The case of former Georgian President and opposition leader Mikheil Saakashvili captured the world’s attention on December 5, as special forces attempted to detain him. The law requires a court order for such an arrest to take place, which law enforcement bodies did not have. His supporters eventually freed him, but Saakashvili was later arrested on December 8 for allegedly "aiding and abetting a criminal organization." On December 11, a judge released him. Numerous observers and rights organizations view the ordeal as politically motivated.

    Saakashvili soaks up international attention, but there are numerous other cases that have escaped notice and are also worrisome.

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  • What Ukrainians Really Think: 10 Key Insights from Ukraine’s 2017 Opinion Polls

    Ukraine is a complicated, changing country. It’s far too easy to imagine that the proclamations and positions presented by Ukraine’s government and civil society represent those of the general public. In fact, a close examination of a range of recent national opinion polls—on topics like corruption, the health care system, migration, and Russia—show that the Ukrainian public is less optimistic and West-centric than the country’s leaders. Additionally, there is a wide gap in opinions between the residents of different regions, and between various generations.
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  • Why I’m Not Giving Up on Ukraine

    It’s hard to keep the faith in Ukraine, given the attempts to claw back reforms and repeated attacks against anticorruption activists.

    But a successful Pakistani-born businessman, Mohammad Zahoor, isn’t giving up on Ukraine. He owns The Kyiv Post, a twenty-year-old English language newspaper that crusades for democracy, the rule of law, free markets, and western integration.

    The Kyiv Post has a relatively small circulation, but punches above its weight as the source of news on Ukraine for embassies in Kyiv, chanceries around the world, and expats living and doing business there. Zahoor bought the newspaper in 2009 from its American founder and has lost money ever since. But that is okay.

    “I believe that everyone has a responsibility to do community service. This is corporate social responsibility,” he said. “My wife and I love this country despite whatever is being done by the so-called establishment here. People need to have some independent views on the things happening from people who are truly non-partisan and have no fear to express their views.”

    Zahoor is a self-made man.

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  • Catalonia: Secession Recession?

    The region of Catalonia will hold critical elections on December 21. The stakes are high: the region unilaterally declared its independence on October 1 and subsequently saw the rule of its regional government suspended by Madrid’s central government pursuant to Article 155 of the Spanish constitution.

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  • Old Ukraine Declares War on New Ukraine

    The masks have been torn off. Law enforcement officers and lawmakers have launched a frontal attack on the National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) for the first time.

    On December 6, pro-government faction leaders Artur Gerasimov and Maxim Burbak registered a bill to remove the head of NABU, Artem Sytnyk. Wow, consider this: the bill’s architects are the leaders of the two major political factions in parliament.

    In the last three years, the power struggle against anticorruption crusaders has never been so open.

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  • Scholl in Foreign Policy: Edgar on Strategy (Part XI): Strategy, or Slip-Up? The Willkommen That Was Heard Round the World


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  • What on Earth Is Going on in Ukraine?

    On December 7, Ukraine’s parliament is likely to dismiss the head of Ukraine’s only independent anticorruption body, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU). Established in 2015 to target high-level crimes committed by the country’s corrupt political class, NABU has demonstrated a high level of independence led by its director Artem Sytnyk. It has not hesitated to target senior officials, judges, and state enterprise managers who previously possessed de-facto immunity from prosecution.

    Supporting NABU has certainly been a US priority, as the two agencies signed a memorandum of understanding for the FBI to assist NABU with training, capacity building, and information sharing. Ukraine's political elites have spent much of the last two years coming up with ingenious methods to weaken NABU and diminish its effectiveness. Ukraine's unreformed judiciary also stymies NABU's investigations by denying search warrants, setting purposely small bail for suspects—thereby allowing them to flee the country—and preserving official positions for people who are NABU suspects. This means that while NABU has investigated hundreds of cases, most can't make it through the courts. And despite the IMF's requirement that an independent anticorruption court be established, President Petro Poroshenko continues to slow-roll the submission of legislation to do so.

    As bad as all this is for NABU, things got worse last week.

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