Author: Paul Pryce .
On April 27th, four explosions struck the Ukrainian city of Dnepropetrovsk. At least 27 people were injured in what is suspected to have been a terrorist attack. Since then, organizations and figures around the world have condemned the bombings, calling for a comprehensive investigation. But is there something more that Ukraine’s neighbours and the wider international community can do to assist in the prevention of future attacks? Surely there is more that can be offered than condemnations and condolences.
As shocking as the April 27th bombings were, terrorism is nothing new in Ukraine. In April 2006, two homemade bombs exploded in two separate supermarkets in the city of Kharkiv. Fourteen people were injured as a result, at least four seriously. In January 2011, two bombs exploded in another town in eastern Ukraine, though no injuries were reported. In November 2011, a bomb exploded in a garbage can near a tram stop in Dnepropetrovsk, killing one bystander. There is a long history of bombings, though they seem to be increasing in frequency, rather than abating with time.
This is not just limited to Ukraine. In April 2011, an attack was made on the Minsk Metro. At least 15 people were killed and more than two hundred were injured in that bombing. The two suspected perpetrators were executed by the Belarusian government in March 2012. Like the most recent bombings in Dnepropetrovsk, this was not the first experience Belarus has had with terrorism. At Independence Day celebrations in 2008, 50 people were injured in a bomb attack on a concert in Minsk. In 2005, a café in Vitebsk became the target of a bombing.
In short, the April 27th bombings in eastern Ukraine were not an isolated incident. Over the course of a decade, and across both the countries of Ukraine and Belarus, the horrors of terrorism have been repeated again and again. Offers of condolences, while no doubt appreciated, will not mitigate the impact of this phenomenon or help to end it.
Calls for a boycott of the upcoming Euro 2012 Football Championship would accomplish little. While removing some athletes from the immediate danger of a potential terrorist attack in Ukraine, a boycott would not effect the realization of any political objectives by those countries calling for such a boycott. A boycott of Euro 2012 would likely be no more successful in ensuring Yulia Tymoshenko’s release from prison than the boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow was in ensuring the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan. Regardless of the intentions behind these calls for a boycott – whether it be the release of Yulia Tymoshenko from prison or an improvement in the climate of political debate in the country – a boycott would do nothing more than deny athletes the opportunity to compete in a prestigious sporting event.
Rather than expending political capital on calls for a boycott, European politicians must urge Ukraine and Belarus to accept a greater role for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in the important work of conflict prevention. Thus far, the OSCE’s role has been severely limited by the governments of these two countries. From 2003 to 2011, the OSCE Office in Minsk served as a useful conflict prevention apparatus within Belarus, albeit with limited finances and a mandate severely restricted by the Belarusian authorities. At the end of 2010, the Belarusian authorities called for the institution’s closure, despite consensus among the other 55 OSCE countries that the OSCE Office in Minsk should continue to fulfil its mandate.
Meanwhile, the OSCE presence in Ukraine is limited to a Project Co-ordinator. During the 1990’s, a full OSCE field mission operated in the country, providing assistance to the Ukrainian government and civil society on a wide range of issues. However, the mandate for that OSCE Mission to Ukraine was suspended in 2000 and replaced with a Project Co-ordinator operating on a significantly diminished budget and a narrower scope of activities. The bulk of the work now fulfilled by the OSCE in Ukraine relates to the disposal of rocket fuel components left behind by the Soviet Union, as well as demining.
If the bombings in Belarus and Ukraine are an expression of frustration at the political process in these two respective countries, then it stands to reason that any OSCE involvement in Belarus and Ukraine should entail a robust commitment to civil society development. If peaceful means of expressing dissatisfaction are made more readily available, violent options will presumably become less attractive. But an examination of previously adopted OSCE Unified Budgets reveals that civil society development has not been high on the agenda for the OSCE in Belarus and Ukraine.
In the 2009 OSCE Unified Budget, the OSCE Office in Minsk was afforded €1,169,100. Of that funding, €361,100 was earmarked for ‘Institution Building, Rule of Law, and Civil Society’. While this may seem to be an impressive sum, it does not compare to the finances budgeted to full OSCE field missions in the same Unified Budget. For example, that same year the OSCE Mission to Serbia was budgeted €1,184,200 for ‘Rule of Law and Human Rights’, €1,216,100 for ‘Democratization’, and €416,800 for ‘Media’. In short, the funding made available only for the OSCE to promote civil society development in Serbia far exceeded the funding available to the entire operations of the OSCE Office in Minsk.
In the most recent OSCE Unified Budget, €2,752,300 is earmarked for the OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Ukraine. While this is more than double the funding the OSCE Office in Minsk received in 2009, only €134,000 is budgeted for ‘Democratization and Good Governance’. Despite such severely limited funding, the website of the OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Ukraine sets out four broad areas in which it seeks to work in relation to democratization and good governance: strengthening electoral processes; promoting gender equality; ensuring a free and independent media; and, assisting civil society development. In order to conduct work in these four areas of good governance, it is likely that the €134,000 of funding is spread very thin, undermining the effectiveness of the intended projects.
While the governments of Belarus and Ukraine must be willing to accept greater OSCE assistance, refraining from unjustifiably cancelling the mandates of OSCE field missions like the OSCE Office in Minsk or the OSCE Mission to Ukraine, Euro-Atlantic partners must also be willing to take up a more responsible attitude. Some OSCE participating States, such as the United States of America and Canada, have insisted upon a policy of zero nominal growth in the OSCE Unified Budget. This has meant dwindling finances but ever increasing responsibilities for the OSCE, with the Canadian and American governments blocking even proposed increases in the budget that are intended only to compensate for the effects of inflation.
As a result, cuts are made each year to the spending of OSCE field missions. In the 2009 OSCE Unified Budget, €255,600 was earmarked for ‘Democratization and Good Governance’ under the Project Co-ordinator in Ukraine. This worryingly indicates that the OSCE’s funding for civil society development in Ukraine has been cut nearly in half from 2009 to 2011. Yet the events taking place surrounding and following the 2010 presidential elections in Ukraine would suggest that a drastic increase in funding in this area would have been prudent, rather than a drastic reduction.
The bombings in Ukraine and Belarus, as well as the executions of the alleged bombers in the latter country, should come as a wake-up call to the OSCE and to its participating States. In early 2010, ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan led the OSCE to introduce various initiatives in the region, such as the Community Security Initiative. This Community Security Initiative has helped to improve the public’s confidence in the Kyrgyz police forces. At this juncture, Ukraine and Belarus require help to improve their public confidence in the political process. This does not require some form of outside intervention – only a commitment to realistic levels of funding and the expansion of existing (or, in the case of the OSCE Office in Minsk, previously existing) projects relating to independent media, civil society development, political party development, election administration, judicial oversight, and even prison conditions.
This renewed commitment to the OSCE’s role in Ukraine and Belarus, however, ought not to be cast as an immediate response to the recent terrorist attacks. To do so would be to invite further attacks, demonstrating that violence can be employed to attain an array of political objectives, some intended and others unintended. Rather, this should be cast as a deeper realization by Euro-Atlantic leaders that political development is as important to the stability of countries like Belarus and Ukraine as economic development. If a peaceful and prosperous Ukraine is the kind of neighbour the European Union desires, assistance for democratization and good governance should come at least remotely close to matching the EU’s €65 million of support for Ukraine’s transportation infrastructure. Indeed, if a peaceful and prosperous Ukraine is the kind of neighbour the European Union desires, offers of assistance should come long before calls for boycotts and isolation.