Coalition government to be established
This week, which is the first week of the month-long break between the two sessions of the Verkhovna Rada (the Ukrainian parliament), was marked by discussions on the establishment of a government coalition.
The original proposal came from Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko at a meeting, on 17 January, of the leaders of the parliamentary factions and groups. The meeting resulted in a decision to begin negotiations between the Cabinet of Ministers and the Verkhovna Rada on procedures for the establishment of a coalition government.
Although a typical practice in Western democracies, the establishment of a coalition government is quite unusual in Ukrainian politics, where the government has always lacked political responsibility and stood in conflict with the parliament. According to analysts, the fact that the representatives of the most influential parliamentary factions have not had access to key governmental positions is one of the reasons behind the distorted relationship between the two branches of power. The Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) faction, headed by the recently dismissed deputy energy minister, Yuliya Tymoshenko, was a notable exception.
The establishment of a coalition government will definitely be an uphill battle, given that Ukrainian legislation still lacks laws regulating the Cabinet of Ministers, as well as the majority and the opposition in parliament. However, there is strong political pressure for the move within the parliament. On 25 January, Serhiy Tyhypko, leader of the Trudova Ukraina (Labor Ukraine) party, told the parliament that his party would start the procedure of dismissing the Prime Minister if he did not make the decision to establish the coalition.
Such a coalition, many argue, would give strength to the parliamentary majority, which discredited itself and put its very existence in question as a result of its inability to take important decisions in a political crisis. According to other critics, Yushchenko's move is pre-determined by his desire for self-preservation in the face of frequent rumours of his possible dismissal.
Prime Minister Yushchenko's agenda includes meetings with the chairman of the parliamentary majority, Oleksandr Karpov, and representatives of the key parliamentary factions, including Vidrodzhennya Regioniv (Revival of Regions), Solidarnist (Unity) and Narodniy Rukh Ukrayiny (Popular Rukh of Ukraine).
Ukrainian foreign policy: clear-cut priorities?
On 23 January, Foreign Affairs Minister Anatoliy Zlenko held his first press conference since his appointment in October 2000. Zlenko was the first foreign minister of independent Ukraine between 1991 and 1994 and then served as Ukraine's representative at the United Nations, as well as the country's ambassador to Portugal and France.
His predecessor, Borys Tarasyuk, was known as a strong pro-Europe advocate, which, many argued, negatively affected Ukraine's relations with Russia. This was the alleged reason behind his dismissal. Zlenko, on the other hand, was the embodiment of a multifaceted foreign policy, which many believed kept Ukraine in the "gray zone."
This time, during the press conference, Zlenko rejected the multifaceted approach and said that a new phase in Ukraine's foreign policy was beginning: "a phase of pragmatic and tough protection of Ukraine's national interests." According to the foreign minister, Ukraine has already made its choice: European integration.
The three major directions of Ukraine's foreign policy, according to the Minister, are relations with the EU, the US and Russia. Poland was also identified as one of Ukraine's most important strategic partners. Zlenko added that Ukraine should work on making GUAAM, the politico-consultative forum of five post-Soviet states (Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Azeribaijan and Uzbekistan) established in 1997 and intended as an alternative to Russian hegemony in the CIS, a strong international organization and on improving Ukraine's image in the Council of Europe.
PACE debates freedom of speech in Ukraine
On 25 January, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted a resolution and approved recommendations on "The Freedom of Speech and Functioning of Parliamentary Democracy in Ukraine" based on a report compiled by a PACE delegation during its visit to Ukraine earlier this month.
Among these recommendations were calls for the adoption of legislation which would prohibit the shut-down of mass media organisations, barring the appropriate court decision, and the introduction of a number of amendments to legislation concerning fines and the National Board on Television and Radio. It was also recommended that equal conditions be created for the functioning of all mass media and that the European Convention on Television without Borders be ratified.
The resolution also states that a repeat of the forensic examination of the body thought to be that of the missing journalist Georgy Gongadze should be conducted and the authenticity of the tape recordings that allegedly reveal President Leonid Kuchma's involvement in the disappearance of the journalist should be established, with the participation of independent experts. The results are to be made public.
Iryna Solonenko, 26 January 2001
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