Can Ukrainians avoid a break-up of their country ?

Posted by Florian Pantazi on 23/02/14
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Saturday’s collapse of the accord brokered on Friday by the three EU foreign ministers in Kiev calls into question the wisdom of Western involvement in Ukraine. Over here we all knew that Ukraine was not only a new country on the map of Europe, but also very vulnerable to being partitioned in two by superpowers with geopolitical designs in the region. The 2004 US-inspired “orange” revolution in Russia’s “near-abroad” security zone has led nowhere. Once again, the direct involvement of the US will conceivably have similar results and the victim is going to be the Ukrainian population.

Following the events in Kiev, Russia has announced that it will suspend its promised financial assistance package to the country and, presumably, cheap gas prices are gone as well. Ukraine is facing economic ruin, social strife and an uncertain political future.

To their credit, no EU politician has supported calls for the demise of the President and the EU is not in any way responsible for the subsequent implosion of the Ukrainian political system. Nation-building is a difficult endeavor at the best of times, and Ukrainians are in desperately short supply of capable, un-corrupt politicians or specialists with statecraft skills.

If the country is to avoid partition, a few useful lessons learned by neighbouring Romania might come in handy. As Ukraine has 25 million citizens living in its pro-Russian zone, it should always elect a President hailing from that region.
In order to satisfy the aspirations of its Western, pro-European citizens, a future Ukrainian constitution should mandate that the job of prime minister be allotted to a Western Ukrainian political leader. Last but not least, executive power should be exercised equally by the President and the chosen prime minister. The former should be henceforth elected directly by the population, whereas the prime minister should be chosen by Parliament. The president of the country should be relieved of his duties only via referendum, whilst the prime minister could be replaced by a vote of the majority of parliamentarians.

These are but a few constitutional changes that might help prevent the break-up of Ukraine and improve the functioning of state institutions in the future. The rest is up to the Ukrainian people themselves.

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