Stepping back from the abyss

The resolution adopted this week by the National Parliament in Ukraine marks a major,albeit belated, step in rebuilding trust thoughout the country, after the weeks of turmoil and bloodshed.

Adopted by a substantial majority of the Members across the political spectrum, the Resolution entitled Memorandum of Peace and Concord, sets out some basic principles regarding language rights of Russian speakers as well as other 'minority' languages in the areas where such minorities exist, while confirming Ukranian as the state language.

However this decision will not be sufficient on its own and will need to be accompanied by other confidence building measures over the coming days and weeks, in order to overcome the deep divisions in society, particularly in the eastern part of the country. Such measures will be particularly important immediately after the Presidential elections taking place this Sunday, the legitimacy of which will probably be contested by pro-Russian activists who have already occupied voting stations and destroyed voting materials in a number of cities.

The Parliament should for example take the lead in the national dialogue process that has already been launched with a number of Round Tables both in Kiev and in the East, initiated by the current Swiss Chairmanship of the OSCE. This will help to reinforce the sense of ownership of Ukraine in the process, vital for its ultimate success. As stated by the EU's External Action Service in welcoming the adoption of the Memorandum, it should facilitate "Ukranian-led solutions adopted in unity". The statement also underlines that the Memorandum will "facilitate the adoption of important reforms in the coming months, including decentralisation and comprehensive constitutional reform."

At some stage, the Parliament will need to find ways, for example through the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission, to reach out to the pro-Russian activists. While refusal to deal with those armed extremists who have been at the heart of the violence and atrocities committed in the East is understandable, nevertheless efforts should be made to engage with the more moderate elements, whose voices have up to now been drowned out by the armed extremist groups. As other conflict peace processes have shown, the more inclusive the process from the start, the more chance it has of success in the long run.

Once the dialogue process launched by the Round Tables, accompanied by other outreach efforts conducted by the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission, will have gained sufficient traction throughout the country, a more structured process will need to be established. This could take the form of a Constitutional Convention. In a previous blog (#), we suggested that the Constitutional Convention of Ireland, which has just completed its work, could offer some usual guidance.

(#) National Dialogue Process in Ukraine - An Urgent Necessity, published on 12 May.