Significant events have been taking place in the internal political life of Ukraine. The public conflict between Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman and the head of the Ministry of Infrastructure Volodymyr Omelyan has been going on and on for several weeks. The official reason of the conflict is the recent decision of Ukrainian government to transfer the control of Ukrzaliznytsia state railway corporation from the Ministry of Infrastructure to the Cabinet of Ministers and the Ministry of Economic Development.
Ukrzaliznytsia Public Joint Stock Company unites six regional railways and about 140 enterprises throughout the industry. The company operates 21,600 kilometres of railway lines, around 4,000 locomotives and 123,000 cars (wagons). In the spring of 2016 the Cabinet of Ministers appointed former head of the Polish PKP Cargo Railway Corporation, Wojciech Balczun, to be the head of Ukrzaliznytsia.
Ukraine Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman has justified the decision to transfer the control of state company by the existence of deep personal tensions between the board of Ukrzaliznytsia and Minister of Infrastructure that creates the dissonance in the work of one of the largest industries. The current head of the state monopoly W. Balczun has stated that he welcomes any steps, which may increase efficiency of the company. Whereas, the Minister of Infrastructure V. Omelyan explained his negative attitude to such decision with the inability of current head of railway to fight corruption and carry out reforms. The minister has issued an official claim to the board of Ukrzaliznytsia and handed corresponding materials over to Prime Minister during the government meeting. However, Groysman publicly told off Omelyan and supported Balczun.
According to opinion of Ukrainian experts and representatives of business, the claims to the board of Ukrzaliznytsia are perfectly reasonable. Positive statistics on the 2016 results are achieved due to raising of tariff rates. The enterprises have kept old corruption schemes and non-transparent rules of the game. Reforms of the sector and the arrival of large foreign investors are artificially postponed by the shadow lobbyists who are quite satisfied with the status quo. On the other hand, we have to agree with the fact that in the sphere of air transportation, management of seaports and development of road infrastructure, which are currently under the control of Ministry of Infrastructure, the situation with reforms and the results of economic activities is much better than in Ukrzaliznytsia. For example, it is pointed out that after years of loss-making activity, Borispol airport finally managed to earn about 1.5 billion UAH in 2016. This is not a solitary example.
Most likely, current conflict over the Ukrainian railway state monopoly is not purely subjective but reflects deeper internal processes. Some consider it as single reformers’ attempt to challenge the old state assets management system. Others note that the resistance from the local oligarchy is caused by arrival of large multinational players to Ukraine. Still others oversee this as emerging of the new technocratic elite, designed to substitute insufficiently competent and corrupted post-Soviet bureaucracy. Everyone is right in their own way.
By the way, ever since the controversial meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, the rhetoric of Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman has somehow changed. Ukrainian government intends to conduct an audit of Balczun’s activities. Appropriate personnel decisions will be taken based on the results of this auditing. We can only hope for an early audit and that the reformative course of Ukrainian government will be steady.
Joint statement by EU institutions: EU clears way for the EU Digital COVID Certificate
On 14 June, the presidents of the three EU institutions, the European Parliament, the Council of the EU and the European Commission attended the official signing ceremony for the Regulation on the EU Digital COVID Certificate, marking the end of the legislative process.
On this occasion Presidents David Sassoli and Ursula von der Leyen and Prime Minister António Costa said: “The EU Digital COVID Certificate is a symbol of what Europe stands for. Of a Europe that does not falter when put to the test. A Europe that unites and grows when faced with challenges. Our Union showed again that we work best when we work together. The EU Digital COVID Certificate Regulation was agreed between our institutions in the record time of 62 days. While we worked through the legislative process, we also built the technical backbone of the system, the EU gateway, which is live since 1 June.
"We can be proud of this great achievement. The Europe that we all know and that we all want back is a Europe without barriers. The EU Certificate will again enable citizens to enjoy this most tangible and cherished of EU rights – the right to free movement. Signed into law today, it will enable us to travel more safely this summer. Today we reaffirm together that an open Europe prevails.”
7th EU-Kazakhstan High-Level Business Platform focused on transition to low-carbon and green technologies
The EU-Kazakhstan High-Level Platform of dialogue on economic and business matters (Business Platform) held its 7th meeting in Nur-Sultan on 11 June, chaired by Prime Minister Askar Mamin.
The event brought together representatives of business and EU Heads of Mission led by the Ambassador of the EU to the Republic of Kazakhstan, Sven-Olov Carlsson. Visiting EU Special Representative for Central Asia Ambassador Peter Burian joined the event.
The High-level Business Platform complements the technical dialogue between the EU and Kazakhstan within the Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, in particular the Cooperation Committee in Trade Configuration, which took place in October 2020.
The EU has committed to climate neutrality by 2050 and is fully translating the implementation of the Paris Agreement into legislation. Ambitious targets and decisive actions demonstrate that EU is and will remain to be a global leader in the transition to green economy. The climate challenge is inherently global, the EU is only responsibly for approximately 10% of all global Greenhouse Gas emissions. The EU expects from its partners to share a comparable level of ambition to fight climate change and is ready to deepen co-operation with Kazakhstan in this area, including exploring new opportunities for trade and investment.
The recent EU-Kazakhstan Cooperation Council welcomed the progress made in the framework of the Business Platform chaired by the Prime Minister Mamin. The Platform acknowledges the importance of the EU in Kazakhstan's external trade, and discussions on a range of issues contribute to attract more investment in Kazakhstan.
The EU-Kazakhstan Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (EPCA), fully in force from 1 March 2020, aims at creating a better regulatory environment for businesses in areas such as trade in services, establishment and operation of companies, capital movements, raw materials and energy, intellectual property rights. It is a tool of regulatory convergence between Kazakhstan and the EU, with some “WTO plus” provisions, notably on public procurement. Even in a year as difficult as 2020, the EU has consolidated its position as Kazakhstan’s first trade partner and first foreign investor, and Kazakhstan remains the main trade partner of the EU in Central Asia. Total EU-Kazakhstan trade reached €18.6 billion in 2020, with EU imports worth €12.6bn and EU exports €5.9bn. The EU is by far Kazakhstan's first trading partner overall, representing 41% of total Kazakh exports.
Iranian Opposition rally in front of US embassy in Brussels to ask US and EU for a firm policy towards Iranian regime
Following the G7 summit in London, Brussels hosts the NATO summit with US and EU leaders. It is the first trip of President Joe Biden outside the US. Meanwhile, the Iran deal negotiations have started in Vienna and despite the international efforts to return Iran and the US to compliance with the JCPOA, Iranians regime showed no interest to return to its commitments under JCPOA context. In the recent IAEA report, important concerns have been raised that the Iranian regime failed to address.
The Iranian diaspora, supporters of the National Council of Resistance of Iran in Belgium, held a rally today (14 June) in front of the US embassy in Belgium. They held posters and banners with the picture of Maryam Rajavi, the leader of the Iranian opposition movement who has declared a non-nuclear Iran in her 10-point plan for the free and democratic Iran.
In their posters and slogans, Iranians asked the US and the EU to work harder to hold the mullahs’ regime accountable for its human rights violations too. The protesters emphasized the need for a decisive policy by the US and the European countries to harness the mullahs’ quest for a nuclear bomb, stepped up repression at home, and terrorist activities abroad.
According to the new IAEA report, despite the previous agreement, the clerical regime refuses to answer IAEA questions on four disputed sites and (to kill time) has postponed further talks until after its presidential election. According to the report, the regime's enriched uranium reserves have reached 16 times the limit allowed in the nuclear deal. The production of 2.4 kg of 60% enriched uranium and about 62.8kg of 20% enriched uranium are of grave concern.
IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi said: Despite agreed terms, “After many months, Iran has not provided the necessary explanation for the presence of the nuclear material particles…We are facing a country that has an advanced and ambitious nuclear program and is enriching Uranium very close to weapons-grade level.”
Grossi’s remarks, also reported by Reuters today, reiterated: “The lack of clarification of the agency’s questions regarding the accuracy and integrity of Iran’s Safeguard Declaration will seriously affect the agency’s ability to ensure the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program.”
Maryam Rajavi (pictured), the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), said that the recent report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the remarks by its Director-General once again show that to guarantee its survival, the clerical regime has not abandoned its atomic bomb project. It also shows that to buy time, the regime has continued its policy of secrecy to mislead the international community. At the same time, the regime is blackmailing its foreign interlocutors into lifting sanctions and ignoring its missile programs, export of terrorism, and criminal meddling in the region.
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