The Arsenii Yatseniuk government was appointed in a difficult political situation. The country was still paying the last respects to Heavenly Sotnia heroes. The economy was in a shambles. And one more test awaited Ukraine – a Russian aggression that resulted in the occupation of Crimea and a war of sabotage and terror in the Donbas. The new provisional government was to take up serious challenges to Ukrainian statehood.
Experts say that portfolio distribution is the caretaker government’s main problem. The basic defect in this policy is the quota principle. As a result, not only specialist technocrats, who were supposed to tackle urgent problems, but also politicians without experience or with a dubious reputation found themselves in what Yatseniuk immediately called “kamikaze government.” The executive branch was never cleared of the old team of Regionnaires and corruptionists, and professionals were often ignored. This problem is considered as one of the causes of economic instability and loss of control over some parts of our territory. One of the Maidan’s demands – to change the system – is still to be met.
On the other hand, we must also note some positive shifts. Another demand of the Maidan has been satisfied. Thanks to a firm position of the prime minister and the minister of foreign affairs, Ukraine has renewed the course towards integration with Europe and received considerable financial aid from international organizations. The economic part of the EU Association Agreement is to be signed later this month by the new President Petro Poroshenko. Early presidential elections were also held and recognized as democratic, which made it possible to legitimize this country’s current political leadership.
Here follow the more detailed commentaries of The Day’s experts on what the Yatseniuk government has managed or failed to do.
Oleksii TOLKACHOV, public figure; President, European Association of Ukrainians:
“I have a negative impression of the government’s performance, for there were so many speculations about the economic plight, which allowed whitewashing ineffective public administration. There was so much talk that everything had been stolen, but I strongly doubt that the current government did not snatch what could still have remained behind. There have been some manipulations with the hryvnia and large-scale IMF borrowings.
“The ‘unpopular measures,’ of which the premier spoke, should have been unpopular not for the grassroots but for those who parasitize on the economy – banks, oligarchs, and importers.
“Can a prime minister drive without a motorcade and fly economy class if he pursues a real policy and makes powerful enemies in the political and oligarchic circles? If a premier is decisive, he can’t possibly do without bodyguards.
“All that is associated with the uniformed services has been messed up. The appointment of Avakov as interior minister resulted in a waste of time and failed to stabilize the situation. What happened in the ministry of defense was a complete flop, for Teniukh was making absolutely demoralizing statements that there was nothing to fight with. But the situation was not as awful as it was announced to be. In 100 days, the SBU failed to track down the planted spies in its own structure and in the executive branch, although this only requires political will.
“The only ones I am pleased with are the ministers of culture and education, who are trying to breathe in new strategies into a sphere financed by a leftover principle.
“Also promising is the reform of local self-government. But it should be worked out very thoroughly and professionally. Like unicellular organisms, our officials have been reacting to external irritants only. And this reform was a panicked response to separatism in the south and east.
“After being sworn in, the new president should conduct a serious inquiry into the inaction that led to the loss of territories and a disgrace for Ukraine. This particularly applies to the uniformed services: why did the Border Guard Service, the Interior Ministry, the Ministry of Defense, and the Security Service do nothing to avoid the result that we have?”
Serhii SOLODKY, First Deputy Director, Institute of World Politics, Kyiv:
“Foreign policy is continuation of domestic policy. Is this clear to everybody in Ukraine? Unfortunately, there has been as long a distance between the foreign and domestic policies as one between two different galaxies until now. Ukrainian diplomats have always held a strategic view, known the secret of Ukraine’s success, and been aware of true dangers to the state. Metaphorically, the Foreign Ministry has been a mine of information, an open chivalric order of sorts, but this information has rarely been reaching Ukrainian politicians. It is perhaps for this reason that diplomats were the first and only civil servants in 2004 that showed their active citizenship. Maybe for this reason, a considerable part of Ukrainian diplomats did not stand clear of Euromaidan events. Today, the foreign and domestic policies have come as much closer to each other as possible. Every diplomat has become a politician and every politician a diplomat. It is important that people who previously worked at the Foreign Ministry have come into politics: Prime Minister Yatseniuk headed this ministry in 2007, and the new President Poroshenko was foreign minister in 2009-10. This cannot but inspire a hope. Foreign and domestic policies have harmonized at last, albeit much belatedly and at a cost of considerable losses.
“From the foreign-policy view, the government’s 100 days have been as successful as the situation allowed, for the new leadership had to extinguish fire with bare hands. To give the government ‘top marks’ or ‘bad marks,’ one must analyze two scenarios of how things could have been developing in the past three months and correlate them with the realities. An optimistic scenario: Crimea remains part of Ukraine, Ukraine receives a prospect of EU and NATO membership, and Ukrainian citizens fully support this foreign-policy vector. Russia resigns itself to Ukraine’s choice and puts up no resistance. A pessimistic scenario: the Ukrainian government fails to bring the situation under control, the presidential elections have been disrupted, the Ukrainian government is being further de-legitimized on the international arena, the regions are further gripped with institutional vacuum, the West refuses to support us, and this further whets Russia’s territorial appetites. This pattern shows us that Ukraine has failed to reach the optimistic scenario but has managed to avoid the pessimistic one. Here are some concrete achievements. Firstly, Ukrainian diplomats managed to have at least the political part of the Association Agreement signed (although some EU members wanted it to be signed after the elections only). Secondly, the Ukrainian government managed to draw unanimous support from Western democracies in the war with Russia (incidentally, voters in some countries do not approve of their governments’ tough attitude to the Kremlin). Thirdly, the Ukrainian government managed at last to finish the first phase of visa liberalization with the EU (a visa-free regime no longer looks impossible in 2015). Fourthly, and by far most importantly, the Ukrainian government managed to hold an internationally-recognized election. The government has charted a right course in the European and democratic direction.”
Andrii NOVAK, chairman, Committee of Ukrainian Economists:
“A hundred days of this government are 100 days of putting out financial fires. In principle, the government of ‘firemen’ has coped with this difficult task. The state budget is making social payments, servicing debts, attracting foreign funds, and filling the National Bank’s hard-currency reserves. The downside is that the NBU cannot utilize them effectively and devaluation continues. But, as far as social and financial matters are concerned, the government has done a good job. As for reforms, there have been no reforms in these 100 days – what they called reforms were in fact IMF conditions for the government to receive money. I expected them to offer at least a few systemic economic reforms. But they failed to do so. Therefore, they were good at putting out fires but not at carrying out reforms because there were no reforms as such.
“We are saying that we must change the economic system. To change the economic system, we can change the economic rules of the game. And it is the code that lays down the rules. As we have a codified law system, every sector has a code which governs this system. And a true change is not a supplement, not an instance of face-lifting, but a complete revision of economic codes. This will give us new parameters for a new revised economic system.
“It is necessary to change the tax and budget codes. I think they should be combined into a single fiscal code of Ukraine. We also need a monetary code that will let the NBU have a clear-cut pattern of work. Thirdly, we need a social code with proper social parameters and mandatory indices. It should also comprise labor relations. Fourthly, we need a new economic code. Its purpose is to avoid the present-day situation, when an enterprise can be easily made to go bankrupt and then regained. These codes are supposed to provide the new economic rules of the game. But nothing of the sort has ever been put on the agenda.
“Obviously, the Cabinet must be reshuffled, for even the public is taking a dim view of many appointments. Secondly, those responsible for the economy need to be replaced.
“I would divide the evaluation of the government’s performance into two parts – I would give an A for achieving short-term goals and an F for making systemic changes.”
Nicu POPESCU, senior research fellow, European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS), Paris:
“Now that the country has in fact seen a foreign military intervention, overt in Crimea and partly covert in the Donetsk and Luhansk region, everything else recedes to the background. The second most important thing in the first 100 days has been the economy and the attempts to ward off an overall economic collapse and default. There seems to be a success here. I would say the general foreign policy was less important at this stage – also because very much depended on the presidential elections. The outside world is telling Ukraine what kind of foreign policy it should pursue.
“While in the past 20 years Ukraine has been playing with the ideas of a multi-vector foreign policy and hesitating about what and how to do, who integrate and cooperate with, now this uncertainty has been resolved. If you like, what caused this was not so much the Yatseniuk government’s performance in the first 100 days as Russia’s attitude to Ukraine after the departure of Yanukovych. And, to be more exact, the Euromaidan has in fact canceled orientation to Russia, which predetermined the departure of Yanukovych.
“The two strategic problems – what is to be done with Russia and the EU association – had been solved before Yatseniuk became the prime minister.
“The current government’s main goal was to try to mobilize international support for Ukraine.
“It does not practically matter that the Association Agreement was partially signed in March and will be fully signed in June. The very fact of signing its political part was an important moment in the EU’s symbolic support for Ukraine.
“Also quite successful was a vote at the UN General Assembly, where the majority of states supported Ukraine’s stand on Crimea. That was a diplomatic mini-victory.
“As for foreign-policy failures, it is, first of all, a complete collapse of relations with Russia. In this sense, there is a major foreign-policy problem – an extremely acute crisis in the relations between Ukraine and Russia, the intervention in and occupation of Crimea. As this collapse was caused by Russia, very little depended here on the government of Ukraine.
“As for relations with NATO, the Alliance has rendered certain assistance to Ukraine. This is the only sphere of cooperation that has made real progress owing to the situation in Ukraine. There is concrete military and political cooperation between Ukraine and many NATO countries. Certainly, there is success in this direction, although neither Ukraine nor the West comments much on this. At the same time, I do not see any noticeable progress as far as accession to NATO is concerned. This depends to a very large extent on the way Ukraine will solve its territorial problem.”