Why Federalization Is Better Than Decentralization

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Translated by Ollie Richardson for Fort Russ

8th February, 2016


The Kiev regional Council, who became fat from their wealth, asked the Supreme power to approve and to organize elections of the heads of regional administrations – exactly what that was requested in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts in late April 2014. And what, now there will be ATO against Kiev?

Let me remind you that the rebellious Donetsk and Lugansk had put forward three demands before the beginning of the so-called ATO. Serhiy Tigipko spoke about these requirements, and even tried to introduce a bill in the Parliament  – one of the few politicians who dared to go to Donbass.

The requirements were simple: the rights of the Russian language, cultural autonomy… and governor elections with the possibility of their removal (impeachment).

Kiev refused to discuss the demands of the rebels, declaring them terrorists. The war then began. As a result, Kiev lost control over two regional centers. The Minsk agreements, which are currently enforced by Berlin and Washington, provide for a much broader autonomy than the original requirements of Donbass.

So were these two years of war necessary? And why have these “heretical” requirements suddenly risen in the Kiev regional Council?

It’s very simple.

The reason is the drying up of the budget.

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Yesterday, the forecast for the growth of the Ukrainian economy was published. The most optimistic and undoubtedly excessive version came from the IMF. According to the document, only in 2021 will Ukraine, perhaps(!), reach the level of the economy in 2013.

Decentralization has now been declared by the authorities –  this will cut Kiev’s social responsibility to the regions against the background of  economic decline and holiday regions having to survive on their own.

By the way, forget the Ukrainian media: Ukraine has long been a region with special status – it’s not seen in DPR and LPR. It is seen in Kiev.

In the capital they have their own fiscal policy, elective power, taxes, and separate subsidies from the budget. And now Kiev wants to also elect the Governors, fully, gradually, tearing up the economic plans of other regions.

The idea of the Minsk agreements on the special status of Donbass – is the idea of reconciliation, the initial stage of federalization.

Instead, Poroshenko pulled a project from a decade ago out of the closet – the project of Polish decentralization.

Unlike federalization, it will only increase the separation between the regions within Ukraine – it will generate inevitable conflict instead of reconciliation.

The regions of Poland are approximately equal in economic development, but the country is much more unified culturally, and in its geopolitical orientation, than Ukraine.

Ukraine does not fit the Polish script of decentralization. Unlike Poland, some Ukrainian regions are deeply subsidized. Now they propose to share the costs incurred, which in the past went to Kiev, for example, the funding of education.

Federalization involves large macroregional, partially autonomous, entities, but “Polish” decentralization atomizes the region, deepens the decline of some regions at the expense of others.

Besides, in Poland, the decentralization process took about 7 years — in the absence of war and huge infusions of subsidies from the EU budget.

Federalization is a step towards ending civil conflicts and, therefore, a step toward wholeness through real democracy. Decentralization is the expansion of civil strife and chaos on the ground.

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