The German Marshall Fund of United States (GMF), in partnership with Center for Independent Journalism from Romania, brought together a delegation of four European journalists to Ukraine from October 26 - 30, 2012, for a study tour focused on Ukraine’s current situation, its problems and progress, and the October 28 parliamentary elections.
The delegation included: Alina Inayeh, Director, GMF Bucharest and Black Sea Trust; Tim Judah, Special Correspondent, The Economist, UK; Arnout Brouwers, Moscow correspondent, De Volkskrant, the Netherlands, Thomas Ferenczi, Journalist, www.boulevard-exterieur.com, France, Reinhard Veser, Editor Politics, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Germany, Dinu Toderascu, Program Officer, GMF Bucharest.
The visit started on October 26 with a working dinner attended by a number of Ukrainian experts including Yevhen Bystrytsky, Executive Director of the Renaissance Foundation; Olexiy Haran, Professor at the Mohyla Academy; Valeiry Chaliy, Deputy General Director of Ukrainian Razumkov Center for Economic and Political Studies; Victoria Siumar, Executive Director of the Institute of Mass Information, and Igor Burakovsky, Director, Institute of Economic Studies and Political Consulting. During the discussion, a number of important issues were raised concerning constant pressure from the authorities on independent media in Ukraine, the pre-electoral situation in the country, and the ambitions of the ruling Party of Regions to secure a qualified majority in the parliament together with the Communist Party
This dinner was followed by a night-owl meeting with Serhiy Tihipko, Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine. Anna German, Adviser to the President of Ukraine, and Leonid Kozhara, Vice-chairman and spokesperson of the Party of Regions, were also in attendance. This meeting offered the GMF delegation a chance to familiarize themselves with the alleged reforms the government has undertaken in order to improve the living standards in the country, increase pensions and salaries, and make Ukraine more attractive for foreign investors. Vice Prime Minister Tihipko underlined the government’s commitment to EU integration, while noting that it is not possible for Ukraine to be part of the EU’s Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) and the Russian-backed Customs Union at the same time.
The delegation had the opportunity to be briefed on the current developments in Ukraine by the representatives of the diplomatic corp. in Ukraine including, Vladimir Ristovski, Head of Office of the Council of Europe; Eric Schultz, Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy; Hannes Schreiber, Head of Political Section from the EU Delegation to Ukraine; and Michael Martin, Office of Economic Growth Director of the USAID, joined the group for a breakfast discussion on October 27. They offered the GMF delegation their impressions about possible post-electoral scenarios and noted that the Ukrainian oligarchs would like to see a strong opposition to the Party of Regions in the new parliament in order to temper the enrichment of President’s Yanukovich family.
The view of civil society on the pre-electoral environment in the country was shared with the delegation during a meeting with Natalia Lynnyk, Deputy Chairman the Committee of Voters of Ukraine (CVU); Olha Aivazovska, Head of the OPORA NGO; and Peter Novotny, Head of ENEMO Election Observation Mission to Ukraine 2012.
The members of the delegation had another opportunity to discuss the stance of the ruling Party of Regions regarding Ukraine’s domestic and foreign policy during a meeting with Leonid Kozhara, Vice-chairman and Spokesperson of the Party of Regions. Mr. Kozhara pointed out that former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko is in prison because she signed a gas deal with Russia without having the mandate from the Cabinet of Ministers to do so. Mr. Kozhara also emphasized that Ukraine’s main goal is EU integration, but also maintaining good relations with Russia, the country’s main economic partner.
The delegation also had the opportunity to talk about Ukraine’s state of affairs with the representatives of opposition parties: Arseniy Yatseniuk, Chairman of the United Opposition "Batkivshina" and Vitaliy Kovalchuk, Deputy Chairman of the UDAR party. Both opposition leaders raised concerns about the fairness of the October 28 parliamentary elections and expressed a strong belief that the ruling party would try to influence the final results in their favor.
On Election Day, October 28, the delegation traveled 40km outside Kiev to Irpin, to observe the elections and talk to people about their expectations. When the polling stations closed, the delegation visited the campaign headquarters of the opposition UDAR party, where Vitali Klitschko, Leader of UDAR and the reigning world boxing heavyweight champion, held a press conference on the exit polls results and his party’s plans for the post-electoral period. Mr. Klitschko pointed out to the journalists that his party is ready to discuss possible coalitions with other opposition parties in the future parliament.
The day after elections, the delegation was briefed on the preliminary election results by Andriy Magera, Deputy Chairman of the Central Election Commission of Ukraine. The CEC official noted that high-level corruption in Ukraine is the main reason why results are so different from one election to another in Ukraine.
During this trip, the members of the delegation also had the opportunity to meet with representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, representatives from local media, and discuss the electoral process with long-term observers and the staff of the National Democratic Institute (NDI) office in Ukraine.
As a result of this trip, the members of the delegation produced a number of articles based on their observations. The articles are available below:
Tim Judah, The Economist:
Viktor Yanukovych's party claims victory, The Economist
Don’t Isolate Ukraine, and Watch Those Neo-Fascists, Bloomberg
Reinhard Veser, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
Thomas Ferenczi, www.boulevard-exterieur.com:
This study tour took place under the auspices of the German Marshall Fund’s efforts to further push the dialogue concerning the development of a coherent understanding and subsequent strategy for the countries of the Black Sea region.