This morning, at the Brussels conference : “Ukrainian crisis: towards reconciliation through inclusiveness”, EU Today was pleased to be granted an interview with Oleksandr Vilkul, former Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine, and candidate for the Opposition Bloc in the forthcoming elections on October 26th.
I asked Mr Vilkul about his manifesto for increased regional autonomy, and his role in the previous government of the Party of the Regions. Specifically, I wanted to know what progress towards autonomy could be claimed by the party.
Vilkul emphasised the pressing need for regional autonomy, and stated that the tensions we now see in Ukraine are the result of increased centralisation in the country. Devolution, he explained, is in the interest of all regions. He himself was in charge of developing a plan for decentralisation and reform, and his concept was endorsed by all cabinet ministers at the time. It was also positively received in debates in over 10,000 communities across the country. The plan was in line with European procedures, and therefore acceptable to the international community.
The rhetoric af the current government, he explained, is in line with his proposals. However, at the time of planning, it was envisaged that reforms would be taking place during peacetime, and would take 3-4 years to put in place. The situation now is very different, and the current government has done nothing to start the process.
I asked what, if anything, the global community as a whole should learn from the current conflict in Ukraine. “Attentiveness”, he feels, is the most important thing. When people live in an environment when truth is distorted, when the actions of government are masked, and where propaganda is the order of the day, radicals and extremists come to power. Division and war can be the result.
Vilkul believes that this is not the right time for elections. The timing - Oct 26th - is designed to favour the current government. Ukraine is not prepared for Winter, and by late November the electorate will not be so inclined to support them. The economic situation is worsening, inflation and unemployment are rising and salaries and pensions are frozen. All problems are conveniently blamed on the war. An early election clearly favours the incumbents.
As for future relations with the EU, Vilkul emphasised the importance to Ukraine of access to the single market. However, for Ukrainian business, meeting EU standards is a difficult and expensive business, and without assistance of the kind given to pre-accession states, this is proving problematic. What we need first, he said, “more Europe in Ukraine!”
An Interview With Former Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Vilkul
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