Tag Archives: Government

#Ukraine: #Yatseniuk struggles to explain government achievements in half a year #Politics

by Katya Gorchinskaya.

Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk. © Courtesy

Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk struggled to explain the achievements of his government to an international audience of a high-key conference in Kyiv on Sept. 13. He admitted that few vital reforms have been completed in the past half a year, and said that the war undermines further prospects for quick change.

“In the past six months we have (had) a revolution, we’re still in war, and there are two elections,” he said at Yalta European Strategy conference in Kyiv. He said that making any radical changes is difficult under current circumstances, but the energy to do it comes from people’s “strong desire to live in another country.”

Yatseniuk said that his government, which was brought to power after the EuroMaidan revolution that thwarted corrupt former President Viktor Yanukovych, failed to tackle corruption, overhaul a fundamentally flawed legislative system and judiciary system full of “corrupt judges and prosecutor,” and fix the Soviet-style police system.

“This is our agenda,” he said.

Yatseniuk is running for parliament in the Oct. 26 snap election at the helm of his newly created People’s Front party, who is planning to bring to the legislature a number of commanders from the front lines and revolution activists on their party list. Half of the 450-seat parliament is elected though party lists, and the rest through majority constituencies.

Yatseniuk, however, said that the government can boast a number of achievements. “After we took over the office of the prime minister, our key task was to resume the IMF program,” he said. Ukraine managed to do it in a short time, and received the second tranche of the Stand-By Arrangement from the IMF earlier this month, which has helped the government to plug the budget hole.

Yatseniuk also said that his government managed to also adopt two austerity packages, cut down public spending by more than 10 percent, as well as cut privileges, and hike housing bills and taxes to be able to fill the budget. “The majority of Ukrainian accepted those austerity measures,” he said.

He also said the government started a pro-transparency and anti-corruption campaign by passing a vital new public procurement law, eliminating a handful of controlling agencies and inspections, and cutting the number of various licenses from 143 to 84.

Yatseniuk said that the achievements of his government should not be under-estimated considering that it also has to cope with a war raging in the east. “This government is a war-time government. The key aggressor is the Russian Federation. Until we get peace it will be really difficult to get real change,” he said.

He said that a constant flow of news from the frontlines is in no way helpful. He said when people switch on the TV and see that the Russian tanks invaded, they “rush to the banks to get out deposits” and change them to hard currency, further escalating economic problems. Fear, he said, drives their moves.

On this background it’s a “key priority to deter Russia and start reform,” Yatseniuk said. “If we stop the war, if we contain Russia, we will get a chance to attract international investors. It’s not easy to attract investors when you have Russian tanks and Russian artillery in your country.”

Moreover, Russia is waging war on more than one front in Ukraine. One of the toughest is the energy. Russia stopped supplying gas to Ukraine in June because of an ongoing dispute over price for gas and Ukraine’s debt.

Yatseniuk’s government filed an arbitration claim against Russia’s Gazprom in Stockholm and started shipping gas from Europe through the so-called “reverse flow.” However, Russia made a new move in the past few days, cutting gas supply to some EU member nations who have been selling gas to Ukraine. “The idea was to stop the reverse flow,” Yatseniuk said. He also added that the Russian army has deliberately targeted coal mines with their strikes, and “a number of coal mines were entirely demolished and dismantled.”

“We have a problem with coal supply,” Yatseniuk admitted, saying that Ukraine started importing coal from other countries, including South Africa, “for the first time in two decades.”

“These are tremendous challenges. We have huge problems, but also huge opportunities,” Yatseniuk said.

(Kyiv Post deputy chief editor Katya Gorchinskaya can be reached at katya.gorchinskaya@gmail.com).

Kyiv Post.

NATO Summit Wales 2014 #NATOSummitUK #NATO

10 Downing Street, LondonOn 4 to 5 September 2014, Wales will host the largest gathering of international leaders ever to take place in Britain as the UK hosts the NATO summit. President Obama, Chancellor Merkel, and President Hollande are expected to attend along with leaders and senior ministers from around 60 other countries.

The summit comes as NATO draws down from its longest ever mission in Afghanistan and against a backdrop of instability in Ukraine. It is an opportunity to ensure that NATO continues to be at the forefront of building stability in an unpredictable world.

This will be the first NATO Summit since Chicago in 2012, and the first NATO summit in the United Kingdom since Margaret Thatcher welcomed NATO leaders to London in 1990.

During working sessions at the Celtic Manor and more informal events in Cardiff, world leaders will look to address issues which threaten NATO countries’ national security, from fragile states to piracy, from terrorism to cyber attacks.

As a strong player in NATO over the last 65 years, the UK continues to provide forces for NATO operations around the world today. Beyond Afghanistan, there are British service personnel serving in the Baltic Air Police mission and on counter-piracy operations.

Bringing the summit to Wales is an opportunity to shine the global spotlight on this corner of the United Kingdom, highlighting its strong commercial sector – from manufacturing to innovation, life sciences to cyber, and its academic excellence. And showcasing the tremendous potential in Wales for investment and business, tourism and study.

Announcing that Wales would host the NATO Summit 2014, the Prime Minister said:

It’s a great moment for Wales to advertise its modern and economically brilliant face to the world. We are going to have up to 60 world leaders coming to Wales for this vitally important NATO conference, so I think it’s a very good moment for Wales to put its best foot forward.

We had the G8 in Northern Ireland, we had the Olympics in London, we’ve got the Commonwealth Games in Scotland – it is Wales’ turn for one of these big events, a great showcase for Wales and a great opportunity and I’m really pleased that we are going to be doing that.

Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street – GOV.UK.

#ElectionCommission Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk to vote in parliamentary elections

By Oleg Naumenko.Head of Ukraine's Central Election Commission Mykhaylo Okhendovsky. © AFPHead of Ukraine’s Central Election Commission Mykhaylo Okhendovsky. © AFP

Mykhaylo Okhendovsky, head of Ukraine’s Central Election Commission, says it’s important to provide an opportunity to vote for Ukrainian citizens living in Crimea, as well as in war-torn Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, during the Oct. 26 parliamentary election. These troubled regions are home to 20 percent of Ukraine’s 45 million people.

“These elections are the first of its kind in our history,” Okhendovsky said during an Aug. 26 news briefing. “Previous early elections happened in 2007 under a proportional system, whereas currently we have a mixed system whereby 225 lawmakers will be elected according to the party lists and another 213 MPs – from their constituencies. Once the president signs a decree that officially dissolves the parliament, there will be 60 days for the election campaign.”

Ukraine used to have 225 deputies from the constituencies, but since Crimea and Sevastopol had as many as 12, the figure has been changed. However, this year’s elections will not happen there due to the peculiar status of the region outlined in the law “on the temporarily occupied territories” that came into effect on May 14.

“Residents of Crimea will be able to vote in a different region of Ukraine, just as 117,000 of the Crimeans did during the presidential elections in May,” Okhendovsky explained.

He promised to put all the election commission’s efforts in organizing the elections in Donbas. “But we also need to ensure safety of the voters and all the members of local commissions and observers,” Okhendovsky added.

Although parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions are controlled by the Russia-backed insurgents, andmore than 2,000 people have been killed since mid-April in the war, the results of elections will be legitimate as long as at least one polling station will work in every constituency.

Price of elections

This year’s state budget has not allocated money for the election, which is why Hr 986 million will come from a reserve fund.

“However, David Zhvania, a non-affiliated MP, proposed a bill that can save up to Hr 140 million by cutting on expenditures on media, agitation and other electoral documentation. If the parliament passes this bill, we can significantly reduce the costs of elections,” emphasized Okhendovsky.

When being asked whether the separatists and rebel may participate in the elections as candidates, Okhendovsky said: “We do not give any comments on personalized issues. But if Ukrainian courts criminally prosecute such individuals, they will not take part in the elections according to the Ukrainian legislation.”

(Kyiv Post staff writer Oleg Naumenko can be reached at legasy@me.com).

Kyiv Post.

Ukrainian prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk announces resignation

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk resigns

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk announced his resignation Thursday following turmoil in government.

Yatsenyuk made the announcement from the dais of Parliament after two parties said they would pull out of the governing coalition.

“I am announcing my resignation in connect with the collapse of the coalition,” Yatsenyuk said. He said Parliament could no longer do its work and pass necessary laws.

The nationalist Svoboda party and the Udar party led by former boxer Vitali Klitschko pulled out of the group of legislators that took over after former President Viktor Yanukovich was ousted by protesters seeking closer ties with the European Union.

Parliament speaker Oleksandr Turchynov said it was up to Udar and Svoboda to propose a candidate for temporary prime minister to lead the government until early parliamentary elections can be held.

Associated Press.

UK: Arms export licences for Russia still in place despite claims of arms embargo

David Cameron told MPs on Monday: 'Future military sales from any country in Europe should not be going ahead. We have already stopped them from Britain.' Photograph: Pool/ReutersDavid Cameron told MPs on Monday: ‘Future military sales from any country in Europe should not be going ahead. We have already stopped them from Britain.’ Photograph: Pool/Reuters

More than 200 licences to sell British weapons to Russia, including missile-launching equipment, are still in place despite David Cameron’s claim in the Commons on Monday that the government had imposed an absolute arms embargo against the country, according to a report by a cross-party group of MPs released on Wednesday.

A large number of British weapons and military components which the MPs say are still approved for Russia are contained in a hard-hitting report by four Commons committees scrutinising arms export controls.

Existing arms export licences for Russia cover equipment for launching and controlling missiles, components for military helicopters and surface-launched rockets, small arms ammunition, sniper rifles, body armour, and military communications equipment, the committee says. They also include licences for night sites for weapons, components for operating military aircraft in confined spaces, and surface-to-surface missiles.

The MPs demand tighter controls on weapons sales to authoritarian regimes, saying that more than 3,000 export licences for arms worth £12bn were approved for 28 countries cited by the Foreign Office for their poor human rights records. They include Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Sri Lanka.

Sir John Stanley, former Conservative defence secretary and chairman of the Commons arms control committees, said there was evidence that appeared to directly contradict the prime minister’s claim that he had already stopped all arms exports to Russia.

Stanley told the Guardian that the prime minister’s statement appeared to be a “major policy change”.

Stanley had already written to Philip Hammond, the new foreign secretary, asking him to explain why, according to official figures given to the MPs, of 285 current licences for Russia, only 34 had been suspended or revoked.

They cover items worth at least £132m but almost certainly significantly more since equipment approved by “open licences” is not counted individually.

Stanley referred to a carefully-worded statement to the Commons by William Hague on 18 March, when the then foreign secretary said the UK would immediately suspend licences just for items “destined for units of the Russian armed forces or other state agencies which could be or are being deployed against Ukraine”.

In the Commons on Monday Cameron told MPs: “Future military sales from any country in Europe should not be going ahead. We have already stopped them from Britain.”

The prime minister added: “On the issue of defence equipment, we already unilaterally said – as did the US – that we would not sell further arms to Russia; we believe other European countries should do the same.”

These statements are at odds with the information given to MPs on his committees, Stanley made clear.

The MPs also say the government “would do well to acknowledge that there is an inherent conflict between strongly promoting arms exports to authoritarian regimes whilst strongly criticising their lack of human rights”.

It asks the government to explain why it has approved arms exports to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories including for “anti-riot/ballistic shields”, components for combat vehicles, small arms, sniper rifles, and military communications equipment.

The MPs say they have been unable to complete a report of its detailed scrutiny of government policy since 2004 on the export to Syria of dual-use chemicals that could be used in the manufacture of chemical weapons.

They say the government has refused to disclose the names of the companies to whom export licences were granted unless the MPs undertook to take evidence from the companies in private.

They describe the Labour government’s decision to approve five export licences to Syria for chemicals which could be used for weapons between July 2004 and May 2010 as “highly questionable”. The decision of the coalition government to approve two export licences for dual-use chemicals to Syria in January 2012 after the civil war had started in Syria in 2011 “was irresponsible”, the report adds.

It says the most significant change in the government’s policy on arms exports over the past year is the dropping of the wording in the arms sales criteria that: “An export licence will not be issued if the arguments for doing so are outweighed … by concern that the goods might be used for internal repression”.

That wording “represents an important safeguard against UK arms exports being used for internal repression” and should be reinstated, the MPs say.

The government “should apply significantly more cautious judgments when considering arms export licence applications for goods to authoritarian regimes which might be used for internal repression”, the report by the four Commons committees concerned with arms exports – business, defence, foreign affairs and international development – concludes.

On Tuesday night a UK government spokesperson said: “This government has never exported missiles or missile parts to the Russian military. The UK has granted an export licence for the Brazilian navy which enables their vessels to be repaired in 23 countries around the world, including Russia. This covers a wide range of equipment, including components for navy vessel missile launchers but these are exclusively for use by the Brazilian navy and not by Russian forces.”

The spokesperson added: “In March the former foreign secretary announced the suspension of all export licences to the Russian armed forces for any equipment that could be used against Ukraine. This report covers exports in 2013 before the suspension was in place. The majority of export licences that remain in place for Russia are for commercial use but we are keeping all licences under review.”

The spokesperson continued: “We will not a grant a licence where there is a clear risk the equipment might be used for internal repression.”

The Guardian.