28/12/2013

The Importance of Hope

Amidst the celebrations of the holiday season, there is an element of hope in all messages; hope for health and happiness in the new year, hope for seeing friends and family more often, hope for peace and prosperity, etc.

What is the importance of hope? The recent manifestations in Ukraine are an excellent example. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in icy weather to protest the refusal of President Yanukovitch to sign an accession agreement with the European Union (EU). There was never any promise by the EU that the agreement would lead to eventual membership. Nor were there any promises by the EU that it would bail out Ukraine from its catastrophic economic situation. The people of Ukraine were in the streets because they had hope that being affiliated with Europe would give them a better future.

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16/12/2013

Ukraine and the Art of Creative Diplomacy

When most people think of diplomats, they think of aristocratic families and their descendants who attend private schools like Eton, Harrow or Le Rosey and universities like Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard or ENA. When most people think of diplomacy, they think of flying on special planes, feasting at fancy receptions in elegant embassies, sleeping in luxurious suites in hotels like the Hotel Intercontinental or savoring haute cuisine meals in restaurants like the Perle de Lac.

One does not think of diplomats as being creative. However, there are situations in which creativity is needed to get out of seemingly intractable situations. The current crisis in Ukraine is an excellent example. A large country with over 40 million citizens, Ukraine appears torn between entering into a customs union with the Russian Federation and some former Soviet Republics and an accession agreement with the European Union (EU). President Viktor Yanukovich said he would sign the EU agreement in Vilnius at the end of November, then changed his mind and appeared in Russia negotiating with President Putin. No one, perhaps even Yanukovich, knows his intentions.

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06/12/2013

Kiev, the OSCE and the Swiss Chairmanship

It’s cold in Kiev. No, this is not a weather report, though it is freezing here. Rather, it is a reflection on the current political turmoil since the Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovitch, did not sign an accession agreement with the European Union (EU) at the end of November in Vilnius. Protesters are braving the weather to gather in squares in the center of the city to express their clear desire to have Ukraine become an official part of Europe rather than join a customs union with Russia. European Union flags are being sold by street vendors, Ukrainian flags on cars are another sign of support, although the manifestations are very limited to a specific area in downtown Kiev.

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