Ukraine’s hot political summer

Sergiy Gerasimchuk, Foreign Policy Council "Ukrainian Prism"

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Summer 2019 proved to be quite intense when it came to politics in Ukraine. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy significantly strengthened his political positions.  First Zelenskyy demonstrated phenomenal results winning the presidency, then pro-presidential political party “Servant of the People” followed up successfully winning snap parliamentary elections. Now Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his political allies possess absolute authority in Ukraine and this means that they bear full responsibility for the future of the country. Expectations both within Ukraine and among foreign partners are high as ever.  

Domestic Policy 

“Servant of the People” flexing political muscles 

Despite summer season and vacations, Ukraine’s political life went on, sometimes gathering pace, predetermined by presidential elections last spring and followed by a landslide victory of a complete political freshman and a former comic well-known on the territory of the entire post-USSR.  In his inauguration speech the sixth Ukrainian president declared the Parliament of the VIII convocation dissolved and announced snap parliamentary elections. The presidential decree was upheld by the Constitutional Court of Ukraine on June 20. This particular Constitutional Court ruling made way for early parliamentary campaign, which, as a side note, was one of the shortest in the history of Ukraine. 

Another important development happened on July 16 when the Constitutional Court of Ukraine made a final decision regarding the so-called “Law on decommunization” (a law that condemns the actions of communist and fascist regimes in Ukraine). The Constitutional Court declared this law fully constitutional within the Constitution of Ukraine, thus, this ruling is mandatory, final and cannot be appealed.

However, the most dramatic development in Ukraine’s political life came with early parliamentary elections in July, which resulted in a landslide victory for “Servant of the People” party supported by president Zelenskyy. This political power got 254 seats in the new Parliament of the IX convocation (in order for bills to be passed 226 votes are needed). It is for the first time in the history of independent Ukraine that one political power will be able to form a mono majority in the new Verkhovna Rada, without “looking back” at its opponents. “Servant of the People” got the positions of the Speaker and the first Vice Speaker in the new Parliament.

The Parliament’s support, in its turn, will help president Zelenskyy to promote high-priority tasks: renewing talks within the Minsk format, holding economic reforms and launching a financial investigation service, continuing fight against corruption and reforming government agencies.


High expectations and positive signals 

Against the backdrop of relative political stability, there are some positive changes coming in Ukraine’s economy. According to Info Sapiens, this summer saw the highest index of consumer moods. Current personal income grew the most in July, while economic growth is expected to continue this year and in the next five years to come. Better personal income numbers are related to real higher wages, stable currency exchange rate and pricing. Analysts believe that trusting new authorities has a positive impact on higher expectations regarding economic growth in general. 

Fact-based indicators also report economic growth. According to the State Statistics Service and its preliminary data, GDP growth in the second quarter made up 4,6% against the same period last year. As for 2019 first quarter, GDP grew by 1,6%. The second quarter indicators were the best in the last two and a half years. The most recent similar result, 4,6%, was achieved in the fourth quarter of 2016.

 Foreign policy 

Zelenskyy’s first steps

This summer saw some significant developments on the foreign policy arena. President V. Zelenskyy used this time to make his official foreign visits. His first visits were to Paris and Berlin on June 17-18, in order to meet German chancellor Angela Merkel and the president of France Emmanuel Macron – who are, in fact, participants of Normandy format (a format designed to solve the military conflict between Russia and Ukraine, instigated by Russia’s annexation of the Crimea and its participation in Donbas military activities). As a result, at a joint press-conference the president of France stated that his country will do everything possible in order to hold a meeting within the Normandy format and support Ukraine on its path to get the peace back. In his turn, president Zelenskyy expressed his gratitude to the French leader for France’s firm and consistent position in the issue of liberating imprisoned and captive Ukrainians in the Russian Federation.  

As for meeting Angela Merkel, Zelenskyy discussed the matter of releasing Ukrainian prisoners in Russia (including captured sailors) and expressed his hopes for Germany to support Ukraine’s European and Euro-atlantic aspirations. Canada was included in the president’s itinerary as well, being Ukraine’s long-time trusted partner and advocate in the international arena. During his official visit to Canada the Ukrainian leader expressed his gratitude to Canadian authorities for their consistent support to Ukraine both in G7 and UNO formats, as well as underscored the importance for consolidation of international coalition to counter Russia’s aggression

The first contact of Ukraine’s president and Russian leader Vladimir Putin was initiated as well. In particular, the presidents held a telephone conversation, with the main subject being the issue of releasing Ukrainian sailors. Moreover, Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Vladimir Putin discussed the expansion of the Normandy format, which would involve the participation of US president and UK prime minister.

Thus being said, European integration remains a consistent priority for Ukraine’s foreign policy. This was discussed at the 21st EU-Ukraine summit that took place in Kyiv in July. EU leaders Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker stated that current relations between Kyiv and Brussels are “best ever”.