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Leigh Turner

Ambassador to Austria and UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations and other International Organisations in Vienna

Part of UK in Ukraine

12th January 2011

A way to improve Ukrainian democracy in 2011

In what world ranking of democracy does Ukraine score three of the top eight places?  As part of its end-year summary of the events of 2010, the respected British newspaper The Guardian recently published a picture gallery entitled “The Year in Parliamentary Punch-Ups“.   The piece features pictures from Italy, Turkey, Nigeria, Taiwan, Argentina and Ukraine.  Ukraine appears three times as often as any other country.

Ukraine has an ugly tradition of physical violence in the Rada (parliament).  In my blog A bad day for Ukraine in September 2009 I noted the unfortunate habit of MPs of both main party groupings of blocking the rostrum to prevent the Rada working.  It was harder, I said, for Ukraine’s friends to make the case that this excellent country was moving towards the EU as a leader in democracy in the region when a bunch of burly MPs was blockading the rostrum or punching their opponents.  One of the most widespread international images of Ukraine in 2008 was a video of MPs fighting in the Rada, which appeared on international media channels alongside clips of tomato-throwing festivals in Spain and ugly dog competitions in California.  2010 was no better.

I’ve raised with leading figures of both main parties the damage such actions do Ukraine’s international image and European credentials.   They tend to respond with a “what can one do?” roll of the eyes, or with references to Ukraine’s young democracy.  These arguments are not convincing.  The leaders of Ukraine’s political parties are 100% capable of disciplining MPs who misbehave in the Rada; or of introducing sanctions, as in other parliaments, which will lead to MPs who do not obey the rules losing parliamentary privileges.  If they can ensure that in 2011 none of their MPs resort to blocking the rostrum or physical violence in the Rada, that will be a step forward for Ukrainian democracy.  If such behaviour continues we will have to assume that Ukraine’s leaders don’t really care about whether the Rada works properly – or how Ukraine’s democracy is perceived internationally.

About Leigh Turner

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of…

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of the UN and other organisations; stories here will reflect that.

About me: I arrived in Vienna in August 2016 for my second posting in this wonderful city, having first served here in the mid-1980s. My previous job was as HM Consul-General and Director-General for Trade and Investment for Turkey, Central Asia and South Caucasus based in Istanbul.

Further back: I grew up in Nigeria, Exeter, Lesotho, Swaziland and Manchester before attending Cambridge University 1976-79. I worked in several government departments before joining the Foreign Office in 1983.

Keen to go to Africa and South America, I’ve had postings in Vienna (twice), Moscow, Bonn, Berlin, Kyiv and Istanbul, plus jobs in London ranging from the EU Budget to the British Overseas Territories.

2002-6 I was lucky enough to spend four years in Berlin running the house, looking after the children (born 1992 and 1994) and doing some writing and journalism.

To return to Vienna as ambassador is a privilege and a pleasure. I hope this blog reflects that.