Thursday

19th Jul 2018

Ukraine chief seeks friends in EU capital

Ukraine's new administration is pulling out the stops to win a better name for itself in the EU capital ahead of Sunday's (31 October) local elections and the EU-Ukraine summit in November.

Rattled by what they see as a stream of hostile articles against President Viktor Yanukovych in the best-respected media in Brussels, such as the Financial Times, the new authorities are putting together a constellation of various supporters.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... our join as a group

Public relations consultancy Glocal Communications is helping to organise off-the-record press meetings with high-level members of Mr Yanukovych's circle when they pass through Brussels. The little-known firm is based well-away from the EU district in the city. It has not signed up to the European Commission's lobbyist register and refused to disclose its list of clients when asked by this website.

Meanwhile, PR giant Burston Marsteller is working for Rinat Akhmetov, an energy-and-steel-sector billionaire who is also an MP for the president's Party of the Regions.

Another PR major, Apco, is working for billionaire MP Olexandr Feldman.

Mr Feldman was on Mr Yanukovych's side before the president was ousted from power in the 2004 Orange Revolution. He then switched over to Mr Yanukovych's nemesis, former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko. With Mr Yanukovych back in power, Mr Feldman now says he is "independent." But the Apco-Feldman tandem is circulating and endorsing pro-Yanukovych op-eds to Brussels reporters, penned by Yanukovych MPs, such Leonid Kozhara.

Glocal Communications is also reaching out to media to attend debates with Mr Feldman. And Yanukovych-sympathetic analysts from Brussels-based think-tanks have encouraged members of the press to meet with the MP at intimate dinners, describing him as "objective" and "a philanthropist."

In perhaps its biggest coup, the Party of the Regions on 14 October signed a two-year co-operation deal with the centre-left Socialists & Democrats group in the EU parliament. Following the move, S&D vice president and Romanian centre-left MEP Adrian Severin lobbied to quash a vote on a Yanukovych-critical resolution in the EU assembly on 21 October. The resolution fell.

On the other side, Ms Tymoshenko is working with the small, Hampshire, UK-based lobbying firm Ridge Consulting.

Ridge Consulting facilitates meetings for the press with high-level Tymoshenko supporters, such as former deputy prime minster Hryhoriy Nemyria, in the EU capital and it sends out email alerts of alleged Yanukovych abuses of power.

Ms Tymoshenko's lobbying activity is concentrated in the centre-right European People's Party, however. Her faction, the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc, joined the group in 2007 and Ms Tymoshenko attracts fierce loyalty from some senior EPP euro-deputies. The EPP adopted an anti-Yanukovych resolution on the very day of his visit to Brussels in September, thoroughly annoying Kiev.

The EPP's sister organisations, such as the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, the conservative German think-tank, are also helping Yanukovych critics, such as Taras Kuzio of the Austrian Marshall Plan Foundation, to reach out to Brussels-based media.

The competing narratives paint a phantasmagoria of heroes, villains and monsters doing battle in the former Soviet country of 46 million people.

The pro-Yanukovych narrative says that Orange Revolution leaders Viktor Yushchenko and Ms Tymoshenko are solely to blame for the political chaos of the past five years; that Ms Tymoshenko is a messianic figure in a cult-like party; that Mr Yanukovych is a pragmatist who can deliver stability and pro-EU reforms; and that the notion that he is anti-democratic is a lie believed by people who do not know what is really going on in Ukraine.

The pro-Tymoshenko narrative says he is a Kremlin stooge who will destroy Ukrainian independence; that the recent constitutional reforms handing him more power were carried out illegally; that his people in the Ukrainian secret services are strangling free speech and civil society; and that his friends in the gas business are crooks.

For their part, EU officials are trying to remain agnostic.

Brussels' top decision-makers on the Ukraine dossier - EU Council Prsident Herman Van Rompuy, EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and neighbourhood commissioner Stefan Fuele - have said that Sunday's elections will be a test of Mr Yanukovych's democratic credentials and have ratcheted up warnings that he must respect free media and NGOs.

The Yanukovych camp may be cheered to learn that Russian gas transit is more important than the romance of revolution and counter-revolution to some of the most influential behind-the-scenes figures in the EU capital, however.

"I don't think people [in the EU] will care who is in power in Ukraine if they can't heat their houses this winter," a senior EU official told this website, referring to the 2009 Russia-Ukraine gas crisis.

This story was amended at 8pm Brussels time on 29 October 2010. The original text contained a reference to the NGO, the People First Foundation. This reference was removed following a clarification

EU and Japan wave light in Trump's 'darkness'

EU leaders and Japanese prime minister signed a series of agreements, including the EU's biggest trade deal ever, designed as an answer to the disruption of the world order by the US president.

Stage set for Trump-Putin finale

Trump hoped to befriend Putin at a showcase summit in Helsinki, following US president's attacks on Nato and British leaders this week.

Opinion

EU must create safe, legal pathways to Europe

As the rapporteur for the European Parliament on an EU regulation on resettlement, my colleagues and I have outlined an effective plan based on solidarity and humanitarian principles.

News in Brief

  1. Trump threatens EU over Google fine
  2. Spain withdraws arrest warrant for Catalan separatists
  3. EU readies counter-measures on possible US car tariffs
  4. EU Commission launches probe into Hungary's 'Stop Soros' law
  5. EU warns Turkey on anti-terror bill
  6. Report: EU secretly scorns UK's Brexit paper
  7. Hungary: UN treaty could 'inspire millions' of migrants
  8. Nato reacts after Trump disparages Montenegro

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  2. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  4. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  5. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  7. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  8. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  9. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  10. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  12. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us