Democracy. Russia. CIS.

When it comes to Ukraine, “fortress Europe” is no longer an option.

Posted by democratist on November 4, 2010

4th November 2010,

Democratist has been pleased to read in the Financial Times that the US embassy in Kiev has made a statement criticising the local elections held in Ukraine on Sunday, saying they “did not meet standards for openness and fairness”.

On the basis of our own experience in the field, we feel that reports from the professional and well-respected Ukrainian domestic observation organization OPORA that numerous procedural violations took place are likely to be accurate.

The poor conduct of these recent elections confirms an increasing trend back towards authoritarianism in Ukraine since Viktor Yanukovich won the Presidential elections this February.

This is especially disappointing because it marks a clear reversal from the huge improvements in the professionalism and credibility of electoral processes (and human rights in general) that took place after the 2004 Orange Revolution.

Yanukovich, having taken over the presidency in a generally well run poll, seems at best indifferent to the task of preserving Ukrainian democracy: This has been repeatedly confirmed over the last eight months by a series of media crackdowns, the harassment of the Universities and foreign NGO’s, judicial interference, and the reestablishment of a presidential form of government.

However, Democratist cannot help but feel that Yanukovich would be paying much more attention to his democratic credentials if the EU had, at some point over the past couple of years, offered Ukraine a serious (albeit long-term) prospect of EU membership.

More specifically, Yanukovich’s Party of the Regions (POR) apparat may have thought twice about interfering with the electoral process (for example in relation to the staffing for the Territorial Electoral Commissions) over the last couple of months if they had once again had 60 OSCE ODIHR long-term election observers breathing down their necks, backed up by 500 short-term observers on election day, and a little coordinated diplomatic pressure from Western embassies, as was the case earlier this year.

So, the West probably already possesses most of the necessary tools needed to encourage the Yanukovich government to return to the democratic path. The point, implicit in the United States’ statement,  is that it is now for the EU (especially those such as Germany and the Netherlands, who have reservations about Ukraine’s potential membership) to realize what is at stake both for Ukraine and the wider region, and act accordingly.

Or do they really think that a “fortress Europe” approach, with (yet another) increasingly corrupt, poor and resentful country on the EU’s eastern borders, is really likely to be in their own best long-term interests?

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