The new political season
The first full week of September has brought a new lease of life to an almost comatose Ukrainian body politic, which had been peacefully resting during the summer vacations. The new political season has started by offering a diverse range of new-old problems.
New is just almost forgotten old
The fall session of the national Parliament opened on Tuesday, 5 September 2000. In the next few months deputies will have to discuss 350 issues of differing importance and complexity. Issues at stake are the 2001 Budget and Codes on Land, Tax, Crime and Customs. However, the major issue that it is required to address immediately is the amendment to the Constitution in line with the 16 April national referendum (see spring issues).
Since the referendum gave positive conclusions as far as certain constitutional changes are concerned (eg a reduction in the number of the parliamentary members, the introduction of two-chambers in Parliament, the right of the President to dismiss Parliament under certain conditions, etc), the task of the legislature is now to implement the referendum results.
The importance and contradiction of this action must be properly considered-the referendum has already resulted in a range of different attitudes in Ukraine as well as abroad. Many politicians from the right and left wings of Parliament disagree with the legitimacy of the referendum and its results.
In addition, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has made some rather negative remarks regarding the whole idea of using a plebiscite when it comes to the question of constitutional changes. Now, when it's time to implement the results of the referendum -introducing changes to the Constitution-the issue of the referendum might provoke political protest.
Only one thing is quite certain-Parliament can consider the issue of the referendum of such great importance that it will fail to leave enough time for discussion of the other 349 issues at stake.
IMF decision on misuse of funds
The second new-old story in Ukrainian political life that appeared this week is the final decision by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on the question of the misuse/misreporting of the international reserves by the National Bank (NBU). Earlier this year two IMF missions found evidence of misreporting by Ukraine regarding the size of its international reserves. However, the final results could only be announced after the end of the final, third mission that completed its job this week.
Preliminary conclusions from first two missions found that had Ukraine presented the correct amount of its reserves, the country would probably never have obtained those credits from the IMF which it got through such unfair reporting.
Trying to justify itself and the situation around the credits, Ukraine stressed a difference in accounting systems used by the country and its Western creditors. To confirm its honesty and good will, the National Bank opened its other accounts for the international audit and on 25 August 2000 voluntary paid back USD 94.7 million to the IMF.
However, the last word had to come from the final report of the general IMF audit. A press release of this report was published last Wednesday in Washington. Although the IMF confirms that its audit has not uncovered any abuse of the loans, it stresses the fact that by overstating the size of its international reserves the National Bank sought to get new loans from the IMF.
In order to prevent a similar situation from occurring in the future, the IMF is planning "to conduct quarterly audits of the reserve position of the NBU; hold their reserves in first-rank international banks; and refrain from undertaking any transactions that would impair the liquidity of their reserves," the press release says.
Although according to the information in the Kyiv Post the government is pleased with the IMF decision, there is one very interesting detail in the IMF press release which was not noticed by the national media: confirming the absence of any abuse of its loans, the IMF nevertheless declares that "the examinations by the auditors were incomplete because of the non-response of some non-Ukrainian third-party banks to the audit confirmation requests."
The last new-old story developed according the best rules of old Soviet-style bureaucracy and is closely connected with the first story mentioned in this week's report. The issue of the 16 April referendum has had an unexpected continuation in the trip of the Ukrainian official delegation to the regular meeting of the Council of Europe (CE).
According to the rules of this European organization, members of the national delegations have to be present at the meetings of the Council of Europe where the agenda for the following month's activities is discussed. Besides that, each member of the delegation has to participate in the meetings of different CE's groups and committees according to his/her official duties.
However, participation of at least two members of the Ukrainian delegation in these activities is under a big question mark. The most interesting fact is that one of these two members, Borys Olijnyk, is the head of the delegation. As he informed national deputies during the first day of the fall session, the responsible organs in Parliament did not provide him with the means to undertake this official trip. In other words he did not get his money and tickets, both of which he should have received from Parliament in order to make his way to Paris.
Taking into account that other members of the delegation did not face any difficulties with their documents processing Olijnyk, who is also a member of the Communist faction in Parliament, has called such treatment political racism.
On the other hand, Serhyj Golovatyj the second victim of these "bureaucratic mistake" seems to be a quite logical choice. As a lawyer and member of the right-wing opposition in the National Parliament and simultaneously a member of the Monitoring Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Golovatyj has become one of the major opponents of the 16 April referendum.
In rejecting the legitimacy of the Ukrainian constitutional referendum, he has provoked an immediate negative reaction from the authorities. He was criticized for presenting his personal position and interests at PACE instead of attempting to present and confirm official Ukrainian guidelines.
Ukrainska Pravda, an electronic newspaper, lists the problems that Golovatyj can "produce" for Ukraine's officials participating in PACE meetings: "additionally to the fact that Golovatyj is an active member of the right opposition and a lawyer, he is the former minister of justice, knows a lot and speaks English."
At the same time, the online newspaper heavily criticizes the rash action against Golovatyj as insufficient, whoever was its initiator. First of all, refusing to give permission and the means for the business trip for an official member of the national delegation cannot have any legal power because it is not based on any legal norm.
Secondly, it can never have the desired result as Golovatyj will participate in this session of the committee anyway. Of course, he will get there by his own means but he will definitely tell his colleges in PACE about the innovations (old Soviet methods?) in the Ukrainian Parliament.
Natalya Krasnoboka, 8 September 2000
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Den', daily national newspaper
Kyiv Post, weekly national newspaper
Facty, daily national newspaper
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
UA Today, on-line information agency
Ukrainska Pravda, on-line independent