On 12 December the first session of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, elected in October this year, was held. The council is made up of the following parties: the Party of Regions (210 MPs, out of whom 25 elected as independent deputies), Batkivshchyna (99 MPs, two deputies did not join the party) UDAR (42 MPs, including two independents), Svoboda (37 MPs) and the Communist Party of Ukraine (32 MPs), 24 MPs elected as independent candidates remain outside the party groupings.
On 10 December, the EU Council stated that an association agreement could be signed with Ukraine in November 2013. However, this depends on the government in Kiev meeting conditions in three areas: making progress on reforms, ceasing its repression of the opposition, and establishing a democratic electoral system.
On 27 November, President Viktor Yanukovych signed a bill on national referendums, which allows laws to be made without any involvement by parliament. There is no provision for the parliament to take part in either the preparation of the referendum or the implementation of its results.
The All-Ukrainian Association ‘Svoboda’ scored an unexpected success in the parliamentary elections, winning support from over 10% of the voters and entering the select group of Ukrainian parliamentary parties which operate at a national level. Svoboda’s manifesto is nationalist and anti-liberal, in both economic and political aspects. It is in fact the anti-liberal component of this party’s manifesto which it can thank for achieving such a big electoral success.
On 19 November, the EU Council acknowledged that Moldova has completed the first phase of the Visa Liberalisation Action Plan (VLAP), and agreed that it can move onto the second phase. Fulfilling the VLAP should lead to the abolition of Schengen visas. The Action Plan consists of two phases: preparation (drawing up reforms and legislative changes) and implementation (of the planned reforms).
In the third quarter of 2012, Ukraine’s economy recorded negative growth (-1.3%) for the first time since its 2009 economic crisis. Q4 GDP is projected to suffer a further decline, bringing Ukraine into formal recession. In addition to the worsening macroeconomic indicators, Ukraine is also facing a series of concomitant economic problems: a growing trade deficit, industrial decline, shrinking foreign exchange reserves, and the weakening of the hryvnia.
Over the past few months, Stefan Fule, the European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, has expressed a positive approach in his statements to offering prospective EU membership to the countries located in the EU’s eastern neighbourhood. On 22 October, during the EU-Moldova Forum, he admitted that Chisinau deserved to be granted such prospective membership, and made a reference to article 49 of the Treaty on European Union, which affords any European country which respects European values the possibility of becoming an EU member state.
The parliamentary elections held in Ukraine on 28 October were won by the Party of Regions (PR), although they obtained far fewer votes than five years ago, and did not win an absolute majority in parliament. The total vote for the opposition parties (United Opposition Batkivshchyna [Fatherland], UDAR [STRIKE] and Svoboda [Freedom]) in the proportional elections was higher than that of the ruling party, which won 30% compared to the opposition’s 49.9% (see Appendix 1).
In recent weeks, shares in Ukraine’s regional and local natural gas distribution companies (NGDCs) have been privatised; these previously belonged to the state-owned Naftogaz. Fourteen of the seventeen winners of competitions were business structures linked to Dmytro Firtash, one of the most influential businessmen in Ukraine.
The parliamentary elections to be held in Ukraine on 28 October will most likely be won by the ruling Party of Regions (PR); they will receive the most support in the proportional voting, and win the largest number of seats in the single-mandate constituencies. The two main opposition forces, the United Opposition ‘Fatherland’ and the ‘UDAR’ party, which are currently receiving similar levels of support, will also exceed the five-percent electoral threshold; the Communist Party, quite probably the ‘Freedom’ party and perhaps ‘Forward, Ukraine!’ may do so as well. (see Appendix).