Maidan has been worth it

Nov 25th, 2015 | By | Category: Civil Society, Events, In Depth, Reforms, Ukraine

An article for the Danish newspaper translated by Google and edited by George V. Pinchuk (sorry, we have nobody with knowledge of Danish language in our NGO yet)

by Ota Tiefenbock

In November 2013, the former president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, abruptly refused to sign a cooperation agreement with the EU. This led the people of the former Soviet republic to Independence Square (Maidan) in Kyiv. Maidan suddenly became the scene of a wave of protests, where thousands of Ukrainian EU supporters, students, and representatives of the right-wing parties demanded democratic reforms and Ukraine’s orientation towards EU. These demonstrations, shown in pictures that went viral around the world, got the name “Euromaidan.” With time, they gained strength and were becoming more and more violent.

In February 2014, the protesters broke out in cheers and licked their wounds. Yanukovych gave up and fled to Russia, and a pro-European leadership took over. Yet, now, two years after the demonstrations began, the life of Ukrainians does not seem to turn to the better. They had to bid farewell to the Crimean peninsula; their economy is in shambles; and the eastern edge of their country remains extremely unstable due to a pro-Russian rebellion, which sometimes becomes very bloody.

Many Ukrainians, however, say that the Maidan uprising was a success anyway.

“It has clearly been worth it, “said Ukraine’s most read and translated author Andrej Kurkov, who had followed the Maidan uprising from its first day and documented the events of the book “The Ukrainian diary “, published in Danish in March. “Our hope still lives, although there are concerns that the reforms go too slowly”, he says.

Natalka Zubar agrees. She is the chairman of the Maidan Monitoring Information Center, a non-governmental organization whose purpose is to protect and ensure Ukraine’s democratic development and protection of human rights. “Maidan movement’s demands have been fully met. Ukraine is on its way to becoming a society with the Western democracy as a model. The public support of the integration into NATO has never been greater. We have implemented a reform of the country security forces, which is appreciated by the people. Other reforms go a little slower, slower than many would wish them to proceed, but they are on their way, “says Natalka Zubar. However, she also has some criticizing words to say, particularly about the President Petro Poroshenko. “Our president and government are not good, even though they are better than any of the former powers in Ukraine. Their biggest problem is a lack of common vision of the country’s development and unwillingness to open a broad dialogue. Still, I am an optimist and I am convinced that Ukraine will overcome war in the east and build a modern and sustainable democracy,” she says.

The president of the Ukrainian Journalists Union, Yuri Lucan (Florus), also believes that Ukraine is on track despite the many problems the country still struggling with. The Ukrainian media are still owned by oligarchs, but no longer systematically pressured by the authorities. “We have managed to build a strong civil society, and to make a big part of the Ukrainian society active. It is not strong enough yet, but it is strong enough to exercise pressure on the authorities. The only problem is that Ukraine continues to be influenced by oligarchs and plagued by rampant corruption,” he says.

Olexiy Haran, a professor of political science at the Kyiv-Mohyla University, considers the Maidan movement a resounding success, even though the protests were the catalyst for the conflict with Vladimir Putin’s Russia in Crimea and the Donbas region. “Our Parliament has upheld the constitutional reforms of 2004 (introduced by the Orange Revolution, – Ed.). It was one of the Maidan’s important requirements. Parliamentary elections were free and resulted in a pro-European majority. Putin’s plan to have Ukraine under his control, or to split Ukraine has failed, “said Olexiy Haran, who also emphasizes that there is still a long way to go for Ukraine. “The challenges remain large. President and Parliament have to undertake unpopular reforms in a time when the country’s economy is weak because of war, and when Russia continues its attempts to destabilize the young Ukrainian democracy. This situation is risky, and may lead to splits in the political coalition; yet, the parties who have stood on the Maidan have a clear goal: to either win together or lose together”, says Olexiy Haran.

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