Crimea de-occupation: Ukraine authorities must drop populism

23:10, 14 June 2016
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Opinion

Over more than two years after the occupation of Crimea, the Ukrainian authorities have failed to prove they are able to resolve the problem of its rapid return. Politicians and state officials are increasingly resorting to outright populism, offering it as a substitute for the really needed constructive action.

Many of the public figures and independent experts act in a similar way. It seems that they tend to mention the Crimean issue only briefly, superficially, just to boost own popularity. They limit themselves to loud statements, although at the same time, they call on the EU, the U.S. and other western powers to take action, despite Ukraine’s partners already showing a decisive stance in this regard. Moreover, the Ukrainian side is not at all in a hurry to use practically the restrictive measures against the Russian Federation, to which it encourages the rest of the civilized world. First of all, it’s about the need to expand economic sanctions.

One can recall some other examples of obvious populism and inconsistency. Thus, certain analysts regularly offer Ukraine’s Western partners to urgently switch Russia off of SWIFT. They claim such a serious measure will paralyze the Russian economy and force the state to abandon its aggressive policy and illegal actions. This is a radical, though impracticable, measure. After all, the Western partners also use SWIFT in their financial transactions to Russia. For example, when they pay for gas, oil, and various Russian goods.

The Ukrainian side is not at all in a hurry to use practically the restrictive measures against the Russian Federation, to which it encourages the rest of the civilized world

What is very important is that Ukraine also uses SWIFT in its trade relations with Russia. And by far, it does not intend to refuse from continuing to do so. That’s because it has no alternative.

Another loud populist statement concerns the need to introduce an embargo on the supply to Europe of the Russian gas. It suggests that the EU countries will be able to do without natural gas from Russia by diversifying supplies. Here, Ukraine once again demonstrates inconsistency. After all, Kyiv continues buying gas from Russia, planning to continue to do so given a favorable gas price.

In those cases, when Ukraine does resort to drastic measures, it fails to calculate in advance the possible outcome and consequences.

For example, after the Russian occupation of the Ukrainian peninsula, Ukraine largely cut off food supplies to Crimea. The initiators of the blockade hoped that the Crimean residents will thus realize that they cannot do without Ukraine and they will seek to return. However, the result was quite different: instead of Ukrainian food, local retail chains started selling foodstuffs produced in Russia. Moreover, the locals were really hostile to that food blockade launched by Ukraine. So, the initiative brought no positive changes. Moreover, Ukraine lost the Crimean markets.

To a large extent, Russian propaganda, which enjoys a supreme reign over the peninsula, has also contributed to this outcome. Ukraine has nothing to offer to effectively counter this propaganda machine, so it is difficult to count on success and support.

The idea has been promoted lately in Ukraine’s various social circles of the Crimean National Autonomy and its mandatory consolidation in the national legislation.

This idea is innovative enough, and it has already found plenty of supporters. But it will remain meaningless as long as the Crimea is under Russian occupation. This means that the initiators of this effort bring the real work associated with the return of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea to Ukraine in another direction. The issues related to the restoration of violated economic rights of the Ukrainian state and businesses go to the background. Besides, this minimizes the importance of the issue of Crimea’s de-occupation not only in Ukraine, but also on the global arena.

Today, it is imperative that populism in the Crimean issue finally give way to pragmatism. It is important that the Ukrainian government and the public begin to apply effective measures to resolve this problem. This is especially true on the eve of the parliamentary hearings, which are scheduled for June 15. On this day, people's deputies, public figures and independent experts are planning to discuss the Crimean issue.

The idea has been promoted lately in Ukraine’s various social circles of the Crimean National Autonomy and its mandatory consolidation in the national legislation

The agenda of the upcoming hearing concerns the strategy of reintegration in Ukraine of the temporarily occupied territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol. It is expected that the participants of the parliamentary hearings will exchange views on today’s situation on the Ukrainian peninsula. They will also discuss problems the Ukrainian society faces as a result of the aggressive seizure of Crimea, as well as possible solutions.

It is noteworthy that such an important issue is only considered in the Ukrainian parliament two years after the annexation of Crimea. Besides, it’s only about discussions without specific solutions offered.

The need for a clear strategy has matured long ago. Furthermore, real prerequisites emerged for its development. Recently, a new ministry has been created in Ukraine, designed to address the issues of de-occupation of the territories over which the official Kyiv temporarily lost control. This new ministry should initiate the development of this draft strategy.

With regard to the global action plan for the de-occupation of Crimea, it is better to build a strategy of three parts: international, constitutional and civil.

First of all, the Ukrainian government should intensify activity in the international legal field. For once, it should file suit in the International Court of Justice against Russia for its aggression in relation to Ukraine. It is important to back up this claim with concrete facts and examples. This will contribute to resolving the Crimean issue in favor of Ukraine. A lawsuit in the International Court of Justice will confirm the seriousness of Ukraine's intentions to return the peninsula.

Recently, a new ministry has been created in Ukraine, designed to address the issues of de-occupation of territories

The international part of the strategy should also provide for the protection of rights of the Crimean and Ukrainian businesses in international commercial arbitration and international courts.

The constitutional part shall involve amendments to the Basic Law. Their need is due to the occupation of part of the Ukrainian territory, as well as due the introduction of restrictions on the realization of fundamental rights and freedoms of Ukrainian citizens living in Crimea. At the same time, this part must provide for the introduction of rules prohibiting the holding of local referenda.

The constitutional changes will allow to articulate and consolidate Ukraine’s internal position regarding Russian aggression.

The civil part involves addressing, in particular, the issues relating to the protection of the rights of Crimean residents to work, education and freedom of movement. It also provides for a mechanism to avoid double taxation of individuals and allocate social benefits, including pensions. Particular attention should also be paid to the rights of migrants from the peninsula to mainland Ukraine.

At the same time, Ukraine has to constantly record and provide the international community with evidence of the economic loss that the country continues to bear as a result of the Russian occupation of Crimea. All of this gives Kyiv the right to subsequently ask its European, American and other partners to strengthen sanctions against the Russian Federation.

The proposed strategy will allow Ukraine to replace the current populism for specific, well-planned and efficient work. The main thing is not to delay with the approval of this important document. The sooner Ukraine begins to implement it, the faster Crimea returns to Ukraine.

Oleksiy Starodubov is a director of the Crimean Expert Center

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