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The "Kyiv Post's" Survey of German Experts on Ukraine XIV: Andreas Stein

By Olena Tregub  Posted by Andreas Umland (about the submitter)     Permalink       (Page 1 of 1 pages)
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[This expert survey was conducted in May-June 2011, i.e. before the trial and arrest of Yulia Tymoshenko, and later partly updated. Abridged versions of the expert interviews were previously published on the website of Ukraine's major English-language weekly "Kyiv Post."]

Andreas Stein studied economics at Dresden and Novosibirsk. S ince 2007, he is the administrator and general editor of the website "Ukraine Nachrichten" ( ), the major daily German-language information ressource on Ukraine. He also works as a freelance political analyst for the Kyiv Office of the Heinrich Boell Foundation.

1. How would you assess the results of Yanukovych's first year of   presidency in comparison to those of the previous Orange leadership?

The first year has shown that the Yanukovych administration is able to act and is not falling apart through internal strifes, as the orange team. Nevertheless, the current leadership lacks also concrete results. It has done everything possible to unite power in one person, but obviously that achievement is only used to save this power and to redistribute property (once again). The declared reforms, for the implementation of which the concentraiton of power was allegedly needed, got either stuck halfway (administrative reform, education reform, tax reform ) or are not progressing beyond the declaration status (health care reform , pension reform). Still, the current team has under the benevolent economic conditions more begun to change, than the orange team that was more concerned with internal struggles of its representatives.

2. Should the EU use the Association, DCFTA and Visa-Free Regime negotiations as a leverage and conditionality factor to promote political and other reforms in Ukraine, or should these agreements be signed as soon as possible?

I would rather prefer a sooner signing of the Association Agreement with the EU. As part of the resulting freedom of travel for Ukrainians
and the following increase of experiences with the living standards in the European Union , what would follow is a rise in pressure on (every)Ukrainian government to change the living circumstances in Ukraine. If in doubt, the threat of Ukrainians voting with their feet is estimated to be larger than demands and postulations of the European side. Every Ukrainian government needs the economically active part of the population and in case of open borders they must do more to keep it here in Ukraine. Without reforms, this will not be possible. So, if the European Union is really interested in a change in Ukraine, they should open their borders to the Ukrainian people. But maybe I am too optimistic...

3. Could and should the current pro-Russian German position be replaced by a pro-Ukrainian position? To which degree may domestic political changes in Germany play a role for its future Eastern policy positions?

I see no basis for a change in German foreign policy towards Ukraine because the German economy depends on Russian supplies of raw materials (natural gas, oil). Even the now more Ukraine-oriented seeming Green party - if their current high ratings will remain - can not make completely new accents in foreign policy. Significant is the role of the former green foreign minister Joseph Fischer who is currently working as a lobbyist for the Nabucco pipeline . Nabucco is ultimately a project which beside the Gazprom projects also weakens the position of Ukraine as a gas transit country. We did not see signifcantly other positions in German foreign policy in relation to Ukraine after the changes from Kohl/Kinkel to Schroeder/Fischer to Merkel/Steinmeier or Merkel/Westerwelle.

4. Do you have any specific advice for the Ukrainian government to change Ukraine's image in Germany for the better, and improve Ukraine's attractiveness for German investors?

No, the Ukrainian government itself knows what it is doing wrong, and the Ukrainian press is already full of clues. This should really not be repeated. Despite this, Ukraine should focus on its own forces. An improvement of the situation in economic and political terms will not come from outside.

5. Did the decision of Viktor Yanukovych to prosecute the former president Leonid Kuchma for the murder of a journalist add credibility to the current government and improve its image in the West? What are your expectations about how this case should be resolved?

I do not believe that the Yanukovych government was able to gain more credibility in the West with this move. The dependence of the judiciary from decisions in the presidential administration is too obvious. Real credibility would appear only if corruption from the most recent history would be dealt with by an independent judiciary and we know, that this is under the actual circumstances illusory. I do not expect that we will ever get to know the real reasons behind the murder of Georgiy Gongadze.

6. Do you think Ukraine will ever enter the EU, and, if so, under which conditions and when approximately?

If the EU as a political and economical project is still existing in ten to fifteen years and Ukraine continues to develop and does not completely fall back into authoritarianism, then I think it is quite possible that Ukraine will be part of the European Union, one day.

7. Do you think Tymoshenko's arrest will affect the signing of an association agreement between Ukraine and the EU?  

With the arrest of Tymoshenko, the Ukrainian authorities are taking a high risk. Their intention to put Russia under pressure in the gas negotiations could end with a failure of the signing of the association agreement with the EU and an isolation of Ukraine similar to Belarus . The rapid reaction of the Russian Foreign Ministry suggests also that Russia is not willing to concede.

Olena Tregub is a GMAP student at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Medford, Mass., and works as a freelance journalist, in Washington, DC, and Kyiv, Ukraine.


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