The threat of far-right populism in #Ukraine

| March 27, 2017 | 0 Comments

The slogan “Celebrate diversity” has been chosen as the strapline for this year’s Eurovision Song Contest which will be held in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv this May, writes Olexandr Vilkul, Co-Chairman of the Opposition Block in Ukraine

“Celebrate diversity” is an attractive soundbite, but the reality on the ground in Ukraine presents a different picture. There are plenty of examples of intolerance, exclusion and bigotry to illustrate the problems that Ukraine is struggling to deal with.

The Author, Olexandr Vilkul, is Co-chairman of the Opposition Block political party in the Parliament of Ukraine

The Author, Olexandr Vilkul, is Co-chairman of the Opposition Block political party in the Parliament of Ukraine

 

Throughout the European Union there has been a  dangerous surge of far-right populism, and Ukraine is no exception. The advance of the Far Right In Ukraine should be of concern to our Western partners who want to protect liberalism and respect for European democratic values, and keep my country on its path towards European values

 

In Ukraine today you can see militant radical groups (with armed units under their control) openly on the street displaying Nazi symbols in their political signs, boasting their radical nationalist and even racist agenda while enjoying the patronage of influential ministers in the government.

These regularly hold parades in Kyiv and other cities, and they threaten the government with military retaliation if the administration pursues the implementation of the Minsk agreements to settle the conflict in Donbass.

The Far Right groups are now forming political alliances with a view to catapulting them into the parliament at the next elections. What makes these manifestations of nationalism on the march dangerous is the will of the military hawks in government to keep the conflict in Donbass smouldering. The ongoing war creates a smokescreen to camouflage and obfuscate the ongoing malpractices of corruption, the abuse of office and the inefficient spending of funds provided by the IMF and other international donors.

In what country of the European Union could a speaker of parliament publicly deny millions of citizens in certain regions the right to have a say in a national debate for the simple reason that “they do not represent the indigenous population but are a product of Soviet migration policy?”

That is the case today in Ukraine where speaker Andriy Parubiy without hesitation ignored the will of more than 80% of the inhabitants of my native Dnipropetrovsk, who vocally objected to renaming the city. No one in the ruling coalition cared for the will of the people whom they have  downgraded to second class citizens, claiming that they lack the patriotic sentiments required from “real Ukrainians”.

For the same reasons they try to deprive me and my colleagues from the opposition political parties of the right to speak Russian in parliament – the language native to the vast majority of voters in my constituency. By doing so they try to break link between MPs and voters and deny our manifesto commitment to protect Russian and the other languages of ethnic minorities.

This behaviour also contradicts Ukraine’s own constitution and our obligations as a signatory to the European Charter for regional and minority languages, and does nothing to heal the social rifts that have been created by the war in Ukraine’s Eastern provinces.  The ruling coalition has already introduced a 70% quota for Ukrainian language content for radio and is a short step away from establishing a 75% quota for TV. I wonder how they plan to broadcast the multilingual Eurovision contest under such rules. This is no way to celebrate cultural and linguistic diversity.

It is time the European Union and our other Western partners stopped ignoring the grim reality of far right populism overtaking mainstream politics in Ukraine. Consistent support of tolerance, democracy and minority rights have traditionally illustrated European policies towards the EU’s Eastern Neighbourhood. The current government pays lip service to European ideals; but a commitment to European values is more than just a public relations slogan. Kyiv’s rulers need to be reminded to walk the talk.

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Category: A Frontpage, Ukraine, Uncategorized

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