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Focus on Ukraine, December 1-7, 2008

December 8, 2008

Overview of political events of the week

December 1

The parliament plans to elect a new speaker this week. Our Ukraine – People’s Self-defense (OU-PSD) proposed Ivan Pliushch as the new speaker of the parliament. OU-PSD agreed to this candidacy at a meeting with the president. Last week Pliushch stated he is a proponent of a coalition consisting of OU-PSD, the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc and the Party of Regions.

December 2

Deputies of the YTB Ivan Kyrylenko and Valeriy Pysarenko stated they are ready to form a coalition with the Party of Regions. Members of the YTB say they will do their best to convince political forces to unite in the current economic crisis.
At the same time, the leader of the YTB Ivan Kyrylenko added that his party is prepared to unite with any other political force on condition that Yulia Tymoshenko retains her post as the premier.

At a summit of foreign ministers of NATO member countries in Brussels it was announced that Kyiv or Tbilisi would not be offered to join the Membership Action Plan in preparation for joining NATO. In lieu of the MAP in NATO, Ukraine was proposed an annual national program. In addition to that, Ukraine and Georgia were proposed more active cooperation with the framework of the Ukraine-NATO Commission so they assimilate to preparing for possible membership.
In essence, the work of the commission will be an alternative to the MAP and will contain all provisions that were included in the official plan.

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer stated that Ukraine and Georgia will eventually become members of the Alliance, provided they are willing to do so and meet the required standards.
Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kushner announced that Kyiv should be denied the MAP due to the uncertain internal political situation in Ukraine.

From now on an inter-departmental group on Ukrainian-Russian relations will be responsible for mutual relations between Ukraine and Russia. President Viktor Yushchenko formed this group due to the inability of Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry to cut a deal with Moscow.
Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Raisa Bohatyryova will chair the group. She explained that the group’s task is to draft documents that will allow for reaching mutually acceptable decisions.
By virtue of another decree, President Viktor Yushchenko appointed Ambassador of Ukraine in Russia Kostyantyn Hryshchenko to serve as a special representative for the development of relations with Russia.

The Verkhovna Rada will reconvene this Thursday, by which time parliamentary factions will try to agree on a format of cooperation and forming a new coalition.
The YTB informed that talks are currently being held with the Party of Regions on the formation of a new parliamentary majority. The PoR confirms such information.
The part of the Our Ukraine – People’s Self-defense faction that represents the People’s Self-defense appealed to the YTB and the Lytvyn Bloc urging it to seriously consider forming a democratic coalition and appointing Volodymyr Lytvyn as the new speaker of the VR.

The government announced a plan of action in the event that the parliament delays the adoption of the budget for 2009.
According to the plan, the Ministry of Finance must approve a provisional budget for the first quarter of 2009. In addition to that, the plan calls for freezing of wages of employees on the budget payroll, cutting expenditures on management and skill enhancement programs and limitation of budget purchases.
As a reminder, the parliament already extended the adoption of the budget. According to the Budget Code, this should have been done by December 1.

December 3

Viktor Yanukovych told the Russian edition of Newsweek in an interview that he is prepared to form a coalition with the YTB.
Yanukovych said at this point in time there is no sense a confrontation. In a meeting with journalists in Armenia he said the leader of the Party of Regions said he is prepared to form a coalition, even if Yulia Tymoshenko remains the head of the government.
Yanukovych said he is not even thinking about his personal ambitions or a seat in power during these difficult economic times.

Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Volodymyr Ohryzko announced at the NATO Summit of Ministers of Foreign Affairs that NATO basically granted Ukraine the Membership Action Plan.
The minister said that the annual national program that NATO approved for Kyiv is an integral component of the MAP.

Presenting a communiqu? of the European Commission in Brussels, EU Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner announced that the European Union, which has come forth with a new initiative on development of relations with six countries of Eastern Europe, is proposing Ukraine an alternative to membership.
According to this document, a proposal has been made to sign an agreement on association with Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. New agreements will define the European identity of these countries, though they will not guarantee their membership in the EU in the future.

British Minister of European Affairs Caroline Flint said in an interview with BBC that Kyiv receive a powerful signal from NATO that the latter sees Ukraine as a future member of the organization.
Flint also confirmed the immutability of the position of London in support of Kyiv’s aspirations to joining the EU and promised to do her best to ensure simplified visa procedures for Ukrainians wanting to travel to Great Britain.

December 4

The parliament failed to agree on forming a new coalition and appointing a new speaker.
However, people’s deputies of the Party of Regions and the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc do not object to the formation of a coalition made up of their factions. The most probable variant of their collaboration is Yulia Tymoshenko retaining her post as premier and the leader of the party Viktor Yanukovych being named the speaker of the parliament.
The deputies promise to elect a new speaker and form a new coalition in a session on Tuesday, December 9 to which they invited President Viktor Yushchenko and Premier Yulia Tymoshenko.

Presidential Spokesperson Iryna Vannykova informed in a briefing that the president categorically declined the invitation of deputies requesting his presence in the Verkhovna Rada on December 9.
Vannykova said that the deputies should renew their work before inviting somebody to the parliament. Specifically, they should adopt the national budget for next year and a second package of anti-crisis bills and elect a new speaker.

President Viktor Yushchenko condemned the plans of the YTB and the Party of Regions to form a majority in the parliament.
The president suspects these forces of attempts to review the Constitution and elect a new speaker of the parliament. The president sees in the emergence of such a political force serious threats to Ukraine’s democratic achievements. The president made this statement in a joint press conference in Kyiv with his Tadjik colleague Emomali Rakhmon.

The press service of the Party of Regions announced that the party will enter into official talks on signing an anti-crisis coalition agreement.
The interlocutors with all factions of the parliament have been appointed. Andriy Klyuyev is responsible for talks with the YTB, Oleksander Yefremeov – with OU-PSD, Volodymyr Rybak – with the Communist Party of Ukraine, and Mykola Azarov – with the Lytvyn Bloc.
As the press service stated, exclusively economic issues establish the essence of the anti-crisis coalition agreement project.

Assistant to the NATO Secretary General on Security, Cooperation and Partnership Issues Robert Simmons stated during the Kyiv-Brussels televised space bridge organized by the Democratic Initiatives Foundation that NATO intends to strengthen its representation in Ukraine.
Simmons is convinced that in order for this to happen the statute of the Ukraine-NATO Commission must be improved. This body must be transformed from a consultative body to a body that will engage in concrete and pragmatic issues.

December 5

Ukraine’s Minister of Transport and Communications Yosyp Vinskiy stated live on the air of Channel 5 that Premier Yulia Tymoshenko has not yet made a final decision on the formation of a coalition between the YTB and the Party of Regions.
The minister feels that such a format of a coalition does not give any chances of a solution to the crisis as these two opposing political forces have absolutely fundamental points of view on social and economic issues.
Vinskiy assured that he will tender his resignation from the post of minister should such a coalition be formed.

December 6

Leader of the Ukrainian People’s Party Yuriy Kostenko said today at the party’s congress that the people should elect the president, not oligarchs in the VR.
Kostenko is convinced that the head of state can put forth the issue of electing the president in the parliament provided the deputies approve such amendments to the Constitution.

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