Week's milestones. Tectonic visa-lib, Rada at crossroads, and Avakov in spotlight
The introduction of a visa-free travel across the EU for the Ukrainians has become a reality that could have a serious impact on Ukrainian society. The parliament’s decision to confirm the country’s strategic objective to become a NATO member state was a much easier move than launching healthcare reform. Arsen Avakov has come to a spotlight playing a role of the state’s guardian angel and the enemy of firarms possession by civilians.
June 11 was the day of pure shame for those numerous skeptics who believed that “ritual dances” around the EU-Ukraine visa liberalization issue would drag forever. It’s been already more than 24 hours since Ukrainian citizens holders of biometric passports (and their numbers increase by thousands each day) are able to travel visa-free across the European Union member states. These citizens can say goodbye to the sometimes humiliating standing in lines at the consulates and nerve-exhausting routine at visa centers. The visa-free regime has become a demonstration of Ukraine's ability to fulfill its obligations, albeit somewhat slower than many expected. The possibility to visit Europe in a casual manner is inherently able to seriously transform the Ukrainian society, and, among other things, increase public request for reform.
Meanwhile, parliamentarians enjoy their opportunity to live and work in a Communist type of way: a step forward and two steps back. The decision to return the idea of Ukraine’s accession to NATO to the category of foreign policy priorities was taken by the Verkhovna Rada much easier than the move to give start to the healthcare reform. Andriy Parubiy can throw scornful remarks at those absent in the session hall as much as he wants, but lawmakers actually work full time only two days out of four in a week, and so far we see no tools that could make them act more actively.
Among the exceptions to unhurried parliamentary life is the political activity of certain figures. Yulia Tymoshenko, whose participation in the signing of the gas contract the BPP faction suggested investigating by the NABU and Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office, promptly accused Petro Poroshenko of employing political tactics of Viktor Yanukovych. She hinted at her being the most dangerous rival of the president and claimed he would try to throw her behind bars. So far, we should note that the head of state speaks exclusively about political liability for signing a controversial gas contract. In turn, Tymoshenko publicly appeals to the price of gas a few years ago and today, at the same time elegantly keeping silent about the difference in the volume of past and current subsidies from the national budget aimed at closing gaps in that of Naftogaz.
Not everything is going smooth on the battlefields of the war against corruption the Ukrainian authorities have long announced. The process of forming the Council for Public Control at the National Anti-Corruption Bureau has raised a number of questions about the purity of the procedure. One of the country’s most famous anti-corruption activists Vitaly Shabunin perceived nervously the summons from the military enlistment office. Member of the National Agency for Prevention of Corruption Ruslan Riaboshapka resigned, apparently frustrated over the style the agency is being managed by Natalia Korchak. If the trend prevails, the anti-corruption impulse will not always be able to replace real changes in different spheres of Ukraine’s life.
While the government is waiting for the latest vacancies to fill in and monitor preparations for the Omelyan-Balczun battle, Arsen Avakov, well-experienced in political PR, has come in the spotlight. The Minister of the Interior skillfully combined the earlier rewarding with a personal handgun of Amina Okuyeva (the wife of Adam Osmayev, who helped her husband survive the attempt at his life by firing that very weapon at the attacker) with a statement that time has not yet come for the legalization of handguns for civilians. After that, the minister went to Odesa region, where he held talks with local activists and took part in the presentation of the National Guard's unit in Izmail.