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Analysis

Shadow of a bear. How Viktor Medvedchuk turned from a marginal man into a grey eminence in Ukraine

Since the collapse of communism, Viktor Medvedchuk has been a prominent face in Ukraine’s political scene. His higher ambitions, however, have never come to be realised. He is now back in the parliament raising new questions of a political comeback.

On August 29th 2019 the first session of the new Ukrainian parliament since the July elections was convened. Now, the majority of the Verkhovna Rada is held by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s Servant of the People party which holds 254 of the 450 seats. The second largest fraction is the pro-Russian Opposition Platform – For Life; with 44 deputies, it cannot pride itself on having much influence. As a matter of fact, neither can any of the other opposition parties.

November 13, 2019 - Petro Bilian

Uncertainty and risk in Lukashenka’s times

The last 25 years in Belarus should not be seen as a period of development that was based on some predetermined plan. Rather it is a story of maintaining power, local successes and the failures of one man.

The history of a country can be divided into periods of growth and decline, euphoria and insecurity, crises and rebuilding. In Belarus, however, the past 25 years can be described as the time of Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Yet, a true picture of this period is much more blurred and nuanced. It is therefore difficult to make a clear, one-sided, assessment of the last quarter century and call it a period of decline or growth.

November 13, 2019 - Andrei Kazakevich

The downfall of a captured state

In June this year Moldova ended its one-party rule and political deadlock when a pragmatic coalition of pro-democratic and pro-Russian forces took power. This coalition now faces a series of challenges, which puts justice reform and anti-corruption as the top priorities. Realistically speaking, however, to deliver any substantial outcomes the government is going to need time, support and stability.

Moldova has produced an unexpected, though much welcomed, democratic recovery after it disembarked from the oligarchic-centred political system in June 2019. The unequivocal recognition by the major powers – the European Union, the United States and Russia – was certainly instrumental in helping Moldova overcome its political deadlock. The Socialist Party and the ACUM bloc of pro-democratic forces have, for now, put aside their geopolitical differences and agreed to govern together.

November 13, 2019 - Denis Cenusa

New president, old authorities

Kazakhstan’s presidential election on June 9th was a breakthrough. It was the first election in the history of the young country where the main candidate was not Nursultan Nazarbayev, who had ruled Kazakhstan for almost 30 years. The country’s new president is Qasym-Jomart Toqaev, a long-time diplomat and confidant of Nazarbayev.

“I have made a difficult decision for myself – to resign from the powers of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan.” It was a historic moment when Nursultan Nazarbayev announced his resignation live on TV on March 19th 2019. He made an unusual decision for a region where presidents tend to die in office rather than resign. This step came by surprise for many at that time but had been in preparation for years.

November 13, 2019 - Othmara Glas

Lord of the flies. Power struggles on Central Asia’s island of democracy

With its unique political model, Kyrgyzstan, in a region full of autocratic regimes, is sometimes called an “island of democracy”. This reference, however, does not imply full ascension of democracy.

Kyrgyzstan is often understood to be the only democracy in Central Asia. A transfer of power has happened here more often than its neighbours. Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan have witnessed replacement at the top following the death of their respective rulers; in Kazakhstan, the presidential change happened this year with the approval of its long-serving president Nursultan Nazarbayev, who, as an aksakal , still retains significant political power; Emomali Rakhmon has been ruling Tajikistan, unchallenged, since the mid-1990s, when he rose to power after political turbulences and a bitter civil war.

November 13, 2019 - Rusif Huseynov

Overcoming challenges with innovation. Capacity building in Ukraine

From the very beginning, the European Union’s Support Group for Ukraine has focused on governance issues, for which it has mobilised close to 300 million euros in support between 2015 and 2019. With this and the deployment of other resources, the EU is closely involved in the implementation of key reforms. A lot has been accomplished, but many challenges lie ahead.

Five years ago Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity signalled the beginning of an extraordinary period of change. This included the enormous reform programme initiated with the signature and implementation of the Association Agreement and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (AA/DCFTA) with the European Union. After decades of stalemate, this alignment to western and often specifically European standards, rules and structures was a particular challenge to Ukraine’s institutions, some of which had remained largely unchanged since the times of the Soviet Union.

November 13, 2019 - Berend De Groot Maria Maslowska Peter M. Wagner Stefan Schleuning

All is not quiet on the eastern front

A fateful combination of geopolitical facts has made Ukraine and Georgia key to the success of the Kremlin’s strategic goal of imperial resurgence, which apparently can only be achieved by controlling the fate of these two nations. Consequently, Georgia and Ukraine have become the primary targets of Russian aggression.

The world is rich with geopolitical hot spots right now. Iran, the Levant, North Korea, the waters east of China – all provide credible risks of a major war. Sino-American competition is clearly a major international issue for the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, multi-sided geopolitical struggle in the Middle East will certainly provide a plentiful supply of crises.

August 26, 2019 - David Batashvili

The dimensions of Georgia’s frozen conflicts

According to the Russian narrative, NATO at its border poses a risk to its national security. This narrative helps to legitimise the Kremlin’s aggressive action, which is aimed at restoring dominance on what it considers to be its “sphere of influence”. Yet the idea that Georgia reversing its Euro-Atlantic course would lead to the resolution of its internal frozen conflicts and ensure regional security is naïve.

When speaking about Georgia’s frozen conflicts, it is important to acknowledge the different parties, aspects and dimensions in order to accurately assess the situation between Georgia, the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and Russia. The conflicts can be viewed in three dimensions: first, an inter-power conflict between non-democratic rule and liberal democracy (i.e. Russia and the West); second, an interstate conflict between Russia and Georgia over the Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia; and third, as two intrastate conflicts – between ethnic Georgians and ethnic Abkhaz over the Abkhazia territory, and between ethnic Georgians and ethnic Ossetians over what Georgians call the territory of Samachablo/Tskhinvali Region (also known as South Ossetia).

August 26, 2019 - Nino Kukhianidze

When the state turns against its own citizens, resistance becomes duty?

In 2018 civic resistance in Bosnia and Herzegovina acquired a new symbol – the raised fist of Davor Dragičević who, in quiet desperation, demanded justice for his dead son, David. The situation triggered a significant public outrage and the politicisation of David’s death. Since March 2018, mass protests were organised demanding justice. By the end of the year, the authorities started to violently block them and, eventually, banned any further gatherings.

As Thomas Jefferson once said: “When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty”. Even in “stabilocracies” like Bosnia and Herzegovina or Serbia, whenever any form of government becomes destructive, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it. It was visible in 2014 when first the workers and later regular citizens paralyzed a number of Bosnian cities during events titled the “Bosnian spring”. Yet despite few governmental alterations, nothing has really changed – Bosnia and Herzegovina remains a captured state that protects its elites while citizens’ rights and control over the authorities are limited.

August 26, 2019 - Aleksandra Zdeb

Promises and challenges. Internationalisation of the transition economies

Since 1989 internationalisation has profoundly influenced the former communist countries, primarily economically but also politically. The unfinished transition process has put into perspective the vast differences between the countries that emerged from the deep shadow of the Soviet Union and the enormous difficulties they had in constructing functioning political and economic structures. Three decades on, the future of the entire region is inexorably linked to the West and the ideas of open markets.

Internationalisation has been one of the critical dimensions of the economic transformation undergone by the former command economies in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union since 1989. Openness and global interactions have had profound direct effects on their growth and development, and entry into international institutions has significantly shaped both domestic policies and institutions. During the past three decades of transition, all former socialist economies have moved decisively towards market-oriented ones.

August 26, 2019 - Kiril Kossev

Establishing a business in Ukraine

Reviewing key points of doing business in Ukraine.

June 25, 2019 - Irina Voyevodina Marta Sverdlikovskaya

Eastern Partnership. Partial progress

In May 2009, the European Union launched its Eastern Partnership. It was a product of Swedish-Polish partnership, spearheaded by the two foreign ministers Carl Bildt and Radosław Sikorski. After one decade, the verdict is mixed. The EU offered a framework for co-operation, free trade agreements, visa-free travel and reform programmes, but the financial support has been quite limited, giving the reform programmes too little clout and no clear perspective of EU membership has been offered.

May 2, 2019 - Anders Åslund

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