Photo: the Fatherland Party (c) 2016

Hryhoriy Nemyria MP gave a British Ukrainian Society lecture in London

26 October 2016

Dr Hryhoriy Nemyria, Deputy Head of the Fatherland Party led by Yulia Tymoshenko, spoke to a packed Macmillan Room at Portcullis House on 26 October 2016. His talk was entitled, “Where is Ukraine going?

Dr Nemyria went into politics after a distinguished academic career. He served as Deputy Prime Minister responsible for European and international integration in the second government of Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, and prior to that was Deputy Head of BYuT (the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc) and chaired the Subcommittee on European and Euro-Atlantic Integration. In Mrs Tymoshenko’s first government he served as her Foreign Policy and European Integration Advisor. He is currently Chairman of the Committee on Human Rights, National Minorities and Interethnic Relations of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. He is also Vice-Rector of the National University of “Kyiv -Mohyela Academy” and continues to serve on the boards of various foundations, non-governmental organisations and universities.

After starting his speech with a well-received quip about Brexit – revealing he and Lord Risby had just resolved the question, ‘Where is the United Kingdom going?’ (answer: “Who knows?!”) – Dr Nemyria launched into his view of Ukraine’s current trajectory. He explained that Ukraine’s future has usually been discussed on a superficial level, and more often than not the question posed in oversimplified geopolitical terms: “Eurasia or Europe? Towards Russia or the West?”. However, after two revolutions (the Orange Revolution and the Revolution of Dignity) and a very painful period of reinvention and rediscovering of its roots, that framework of East or West – that “geopolitical false choice” – is no longer pertinent since it’s evident that Ukraine belongs to Europe. Dr Nemyria calls the revelation a “self-sustainable momentum of change from the inside.” In his words, “It is the most precious thing. It is difficult to measure, but it’s palpable.” Ukraine is now confident in its European identity but is paying a high price for defending it with 22,000 wounded, and over 10,000 killed.

Dr Nemyria concentrated on two subjects – the war in the east (in terms of the Minsk process), and internally displaced people (IDPs). He began by explaining the three schools of thought held by Ukrainians about the Minsk agreement. The first is that Minsk is the equivalent to euthanasia and will ultimately kill Ukraine as an independent state. The second, more widely accepted, school is that Minsk is the only viable choice and Ukraine should embrace it. The third school, which Dr Nemyria subscribes to, considers Minsk as being necessary at the time of signing, but insufficient and inadequate in the longer term as a comprehensive solution for peace. Dr Nemyria feels the most pressing need is to decouple the security and political packages within the agreement.

In terms of the security package, he feels an organisation that can effectively monitor the ceasefire and withdrawal of troops needs to be found. Currently it is the responsibility of the OSCE, which Russia calls “the vegetarian organisation” as its peremit is more about prevention than peace keeping or peace making. It is not equipped to monitor 7000 sq kms, a vast territory larger than Switzerland. Dr Nemyria feels the OSCE should be given an enhanced mandate, or help from an organisation that was capable of dealing with monitoring and the verification mechanisms of arms control. “Unless this weakness is remedied, the security package will not be effective.”

As for the political package, Minsk’s approach should be reviewed as it is currently looking to create a dialogue between Kyiv and its two breakaway republics within the paradigm of a civil war, which it is not. The agreement treats Russia as a peace broker rather than the aggressor. Minsk should instead recognise that the rights of a sovereign state have been violated by force, and that part of Ukraine’s territory has been occupied and Crimea illegally annexed.

The political package is also flawed in that the Minsk agreements were not ratified by the Verkhovna Rada (nor was the Budapest Agreement in 1994), yet Ukraine’s parliament will likely be asked to amend its constitution. Participation in the Minsk process has put an obligation on Ukraine to adopt laws over which it has no sense of ownership. Dr Nemyria calls these amendments “a de facto, if not de jure, suicide pact.” “The poison pill of the so-called special status (of non-government-controlled territories in eastern Ukraine) will provoke a domino effect on the integrity of the whole Ukrainian state and its independence and sovereignty.”

Pressing the point, he reminded the audience that in the mid-1990s, Ukraine gave up its nuclear arsenal – the third largest in the world – in exchange for guarantees on the integrity of its territory. If the statesmen who signed the Budapest Memorandum – Bill Clinton, John Major, Leonid Kuchma, and Boris Yeltsin – and the countries they represent are serious about limiting nuclear proliferation and weapons of mass destruction, then thought should be given to the precedent that has been created. There is reluctance amongst politicians to discuss these issues which are seemingly far away and distract from immediate concerns like Brexit, but ending the war in eastern Ukraine should be a policy priority. Any short sightedness on the matter could lead to unintended consequences and we could all pay a great price for neglecting and underestimating the threat the current situation presents. Consideration should be given to Budapest Plus, and perhaps there could be a role for the politicians who signed the Budapest Memorandum to exercise their political weight and act as brokers.

Dr Nemyria then discussed the situation of IDPs in Ukraine, a subject he knows well as Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada’s Committee on Human Rights. He started off with the statistic that over 40.8 million people were internally displaced worldwide at the end of 2015, including 1.8 million in Ukraine – fifteen times the number displaced by the Chernobyl disaster. That figure puts Ukraine fourth in a recently published table of countries struggling with IDPs after Yemen, Syria and Iraq. Only 2% are from Crimea, with the majority displaced from eastern Ukraine. Ukraine needs long-term solutions to deal with what initially looked to be a short-term issue as Dr Nemyria foresees the war continuing as low-intensity conflict. IDPs, of whom 13% are children, 59% pensioners and 5% disabled, are now coping with the reality of a protracted displacement situation and are struggling to find housing, access to healthcare and education. Living standards are low and some can afford food and little else. Not solving this issue in a timely manner could eventually lead to civil unrest, with the fear that the vulnerability of IDPs could be exploited and weaponised as part of a hybrid war strategy. Regional security could also be compromised if the problem spills over the border. Ukraine touches four EU member states – Slovakia, Hungary, Poland and Romania – therefore it is in Europe’s interest to provide all necessary help to prevent the situation spreading. Dr Nemyria suggests the Ukrainian government could look to transform this humanitarian disaster into a development opportunity, stating, “Ukraine should stop considering IDPs exclusively as a problem and start seeing them as part of the solution and a way to reconciliation.”

Dr Nemyria answered a range of questions about Budapest Plus, Russian sanctions, the effect of Brexit on Ukraine, Ukraine’s agricultural sector and advice for investors in Ukraine. Lord Risby wrapped up the evening by explaining that the British Parliament, with help from organisations like the British Ukrainian Society and the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, is trying to link Britain and Ukraine on a parliamentary level and noted the enormous number of impressive Ukrainians passing through Parliament, from MPs to actors to filmmakers. He recognised the importance of this work and stated that only in London is such a process at such a high level taking place. Lord Risby thanked Dr Nemyria for his incisive speech, which he called “one of the most profound speeches I’ve heard on the subject of Ukraine.” Lord Risby also thanked James Butterwick, whose kind sponsorship made this event possible.


Speaker profile

Dr Hryhoriy Nemyria MP is the Deputy Chairman of the Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) Party and the Chairman of the Committee on Human Rights, National Minorities and Interethnic Relations in the Parliament of Ukraine.

Dr Nemyria served as the Deputy Prime Minister responsible for European and International Integration in the second government of Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko (December 2007 – March 2010). He was also the Governor from Ukraine at the World Bank.

Prior to this, Dr Nemyria was a Member of Parliament from the Yulia Tymoshenko Block (BYuT), where he chaired the Committee on European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, and was the Deputy Chairman of the BYuT Parliament Faction.

During 2006-2007, Dr Nemyria was the Vice-Chairman of the Permanent Parliamentary Delegation to the PACE (Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe), and the head of the Ukrainian delegation to the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Cooperation Committee.

In Ms Tymoshenko’s first government (January-September 2005), he served as her Foreign Policy and European Integration Advisor.

Dr Nemyria comes from Donetsk. He has an MA in History from the Donetsk State University, and a PhD from the Taras Shevchenko University in Kyiv. He became Vice-Rector of the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, and chaired the Department of European Integration at the National Academy of Public Administration.

Dr Nemyria was the Chairman of the Board of the International Renaissance Foundation, and Board Member of the Kyiv School of Economics. He is the Founder and Director of the Center for European and International Studies (CEIS).

Dr Nemyria is married and has a son and a daughter.


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