Photographs courtesy of Danielle Philomena Photography (c) 2015
Sir Gerald Howarth MP delivered the inaugural British Ukrainian Society lecture at the UK Parliament
27 October 2015
The British Ukrainian Society launched a new series of lectures on bilateral relations at the UK Parliament in London. The inaugural lecture was delivered on 26 October by Sir Gerald Howarth MP, Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ukraine.
With the Macmillan Room at Portcullis House packed full, the majority of the audience represented London’s business community, which illustrated the degree of interest in Ukraine in the United Kingdom. The lecture also drew significant interest from British politicians, diplomats, representatives of educational institutions and NGOs, members of the Ukrainian community in the UK, artists and mass media, that was highlighted by extensive coverage on Inter TV, the leading Ukrainian broadcaster (see the report here).
With Sir Gerald’s vast experience in the defence and security sectors, that included roles of the Shadow Defence Minister and Minister for International Security Strategy at the Ministry of Defence between 2002 and 2012, Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and its geopolitical aspirations were naturally at the centre of discussions during the lecture.
Sir Gerald stressed that events in Ukraine are of critical importance not just to the future of the region, but also to the future of relations between the West and Russia. He noted that, despite the experience of Russia’s annexation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia in 2008, the West was not remotely prepared for the annexation of Crimea. “Indeed, President Putin appears to calculate that the West is paralysed to such an extent, that he can act with complete impunity. This presents serious challenges to all of us. We shall ultimately find a modus vivendi with Russia,” said the British MP.
Sir Gerald also stressed that overcoming historic divisions between Ukraine’s East and West is an important precondition for achieving lasting peace and stability in the country. He noted that reconciliation is the only way forward, and that the UK has its own successful experience with Northern Ireland and Scotland. “Is that goal achievable in Ukraine? I think it should be. If we can do it in the United Kingdom, if South Africans can do it, I am sure it can be done in Ukraine,” he said.
“It is vital that the uneasy truce is strengthened. As difficult as it might be for some to accept, I believe the only way to achieve stability in the East is ultimately through talks with Russia,” said the British MP. He added that he would like the UK to become more involved in these talks to establish an effective solution to the crisis, and that he looks forward to personally contributing to this process in his role of the Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ukraine.
Sir Gerald also spoke about the importance of reforming Ukraine’s judiciary to ensure its independence, as the vital precondition for success of all the other reforms in the country. Having served in 2007-2010 as a Director at Landkom Ukraine, a major agricultural producer, he has personally experienced corruption and the difficulties of doing business in Ukraine. “To attract foreign investors, a country needs to provide a proper framework of law, so that those investors’ rights are protected,” said the British MP, offering examples of a number of major multinational companies curtailing their multi-billion-dollar projects in the country over the recent years.
“Of course, the corrupt judiciary is only one part of the wider corruption picture, and it is no secret Ukraine has faced challenges in this area with corruption and conflicts of interest. Politicians claim to have acted, but allegations of corruption swell around even among the higher echelons,” Sir Gerald stressed. He added that the UK is able to offer a wealth of experience in the area of assisting countries that seek to develop their accountability and transparency further.
The British MP also stressed the importance of pursuing decentralisation reforms in Ukraine, and encouraged the country to take an example from Poland where successful decentralisation reforms were an important part of the process of moving the country away from its socialist past and towards its European future. He also warned Ukraine of a failed decentralisation attempt in Russia that led to the emergence of sub-national authoritarianism.
In his concluding remarks, Sir Gerald acknowledged the reforms that have taken place in Ukraine recently. “However, rooting out communist corruption, establishing the rule of law, encouraging enterprise and foreign investment are the route to future prosperity,” he said. Sir Gerald Howarth’s full speech is available for download here.
The second lecture in the series will be delivered by Lord Macdonald, who has written a paper on legal reform in Ukraine, on 2 December 2015 in the Macmillan Room at Portcullis House. Spaces are limited. To attend, and for other enquiries, please RSVP to the London Secretariat of the BUS at email@example.com.
Sir Gerald Howarth MP profile
Sir Gerald Howarth is the Member of Parliament for Aldershot. He became Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ukraine in 2015.
Sir Gerald was elected an MP for Cannock and Burntwood in 1983 and held the seat for 2 terms. He returned to Parliament in 1997 to represent Aldershot. In 1991-1992, he was also Parliamentary Private Secretary to Margaret Thatcher.
Between 2002 and 2010, Sir Gerald served as a Shadow Defence Minister with responsibility for defence procurement and the Royal Air Force. In 2010-2012, he served in the Coalition Government as Minister for International Security Strategy at the Ministry of Defence with responsibility for the EU, defence diplomacy and exports.
Before he entered the Parliament, Sir Gerald had a career in international banking. In 2007-2010, he was a Director at Landkom Ukraine, an agricultural producer and a subsidiary of Landkom International PLC. In that capacity, he visited Ukraine on a number of occasions.
Sir Gerald studied English at the University of Southampton where he served with the Air Squadron. Today, he is President of the British Air Display Association and Patron of Aerobility (the British Disabled Flying Association). He is married to Elizabeth with 3 children and enjoys flying and photography.