Opinion: Chronic Disregard for Human Rights – the Main Threat to the European Future of Moldova and Ukraine

Home / Comments / Opinion: Chronic Disregard for Human Rights – the Main Threat to the European Future of Moldova and Ukraine
Semyon Satkovski Comment specially for RTA The unified Europe continues to expand in the 21st century, and European integration itself, no matter how fast it is, continues. We can argue with this statement, but if we exclude the geopolitical component from the understanding of reality, it becomes clear that the globalization processes lead to a further rapprochement of European countries by removing barriers, harmonizing legal standards and following the best practices of developed democracies. The process of embracing new states in the way of life of a single European home is not painless: the young states of Eastern Europe, which have embarked on the path of European integration, face today a huge number of challenges and dangers. So, referring to Ukraine and Moldova, these countries, which demonstrated “success stories” in their European aspirations at different periods, face serious external pressure at the current stage, which European politicians and experts are accustomed to explain by the Kremlin’s aggressive policy. European officials are absolutely right: Moscow’s economic, political and military pressure on these post-Soviet countries cannot be overestimated. The desire to return Ukraine and Moldova to the traditionally Russian area of the so-called “Russian world” significantly complicates the European policy of these countries and provokes disunity of society on a geopolitical basis. Unfortunately, this significant aspect is not the only obstacle to making the necessary changes in Ukraine and Moldova, reforms that would ensure development of the traditions of stable European rule-of-law states in these countries. In both countries, there are lots of domestic problems, many of which undeservedly remain in the shadow of geopolitics. These flaws in the governmental systems of Moldova and Ukraine are perhaps even a greater threat to their European future than external pressure. The first is the quality of the political process and its true goals. Quite often the confrontations of politicians in Kyiv and Chisinau are not based on competition of ideas and paradigms of building a prosperous state, but are connected with issues of controlling the maximum possible number of income sectors and political levers used for personal enrichment of pro-government groups. The situation with the theft of a billion euros from the Moldova’s banking system, or a significant increase in the business value of the president of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko allow us to speak about the high degree of corruption that struck the highest echelons of power and business of these countries. It can be assumed that corruption is a disease of the countries in transition with the not finally formed legislative base, which makes it possible to effectively prevent and combat such criminal aspects. In this context, we should be fair and recognize that the reform of the governmental systems in Ukraine and Moldova is under way, anti-corruption controlling bodies have been established, the desire to build independent judicial systems is declared, and the transparency of government purchases is being increased. However, the high level of corruption in Moldova and Ukraine is a problem known to the European community, and therefore in Brussels they openly talk about successes in fighting it as a necessary condition for further integration into the united Europe. So, corruption is a publicly recognized obstacle on the way of Chisinau and Kyiv to the European family, along with the Russian threat that has already led to the annexation of Crimea and the conflict in the Donbass, as well as the “frozen” political solution of the Pridnestrovian problem. At the same time, many experts often say that the main threat lies not in the foreign or domestic policies of these countries, but in the global backlog of Moldova and Ukraine in respect for human rights at the European and global levels. In recent weeks, the media has closely followed Moldova and Ukraine, again and again summing up reports on record rates of measles incidence. And the notorious ‘primacy’ over them belongs to Ukraine. Experts who assess the causes of the situation are convinced that the measles epidemic is provoked by the inadequate coverage of children’s vaccination. Inaccessibility of timely vaccination provokes serious risks in the field of health care and likelihood of continued worsening of the epidemiological situation in Ukraine due to the lack of vaccines. All politicians – both local and European – should be very attentive to this situation and realize that in the largest country in Europe, which demonstrated a good pace of economic growth and was moving confidently in line with European integration several years ago, there is simply not enough vaccines for children. Moreover, these are vaccines against a long and well-known disease, and not a new, unexplored virus. It should be understood that medical topics are rarely at the center of public attention when health care is working without failures. Unfortunately, the news feeds of Ukraine and Moldova once again are full of reports of deaths in maternity hospitals. These cases are due to doctors’ oversight, lack of proper conditions, and sometimes of necessary medications, and young mothers and newborns become victims of Ukrainian and Moldovan medicine. Today’s Ukraine is the European leader in cardiovascular diseases, lung diseases, oncological diseases, personal injuries, epidemics of socially dangerous infections. Moldovan medicine also faces a wide range of problems: civil and prison medical facilities are in critical condition, there is a staff shortage, the number of hospitals and out-patient departments is decreasing. All this leads to dangerous cases – patients die while waiting for an ambulance, and abortion can take place in a WC of the Kyiv center of mother and child. The extremely neglected situation in the penitentiary institutions of Ukraine and Moldova deserves particular attention. According to some experts, the situation in the prison institutions of these countries is approaching or even corresponds to inhuman treatment. There are not enough places in detention facilities, necessary repairs are not carried out, prisoners are deprived of access to an acceptable level of health. ECHR has repeatedly recognized Moldova as guilty of violating the rights of prisoners, similar precedents exist in Ukraine. The challenging situation in Ukraine and Moldova includes the issues of combating discrimination and ensuring accessibility to unprotected categories of citizens. People with special needs do not have the opportunity to barrier-free access even in government buildings, not to mention a significant number of private institutions. The possibility of people with special needs to apply for work is still a serious issue, despite it happens in the 21st century, at the very borders of Europe, where jobs for people with disabilities in enterprises are not an innovation, but a social norm. The subjects of discrimination in Moldova and Ukraine are ethnic and sexual minorities, representatives of the Jewish nation and Roma – the authorities began to think over the problems of the latter only in recent years, and for now only at a declarative level. All these and many other problems of Ukrainian and Moldovan citizens are not on the agenda of high-level talks at the level of the top officials of Kyiv and Chisinau, are hushed up amid extensive discussions about the need to overcome geopolitical threats for the future in a single European family. However, the principles of respect for and observance of human rights are the basis for building a democratic society of the European state, where the primary unit is equal access to all goods and a non-discriminatory approach, regardless of race, nationality, sex, age, ethnicity, language, so on. Ultimately, the current human rights situation in Moldova and Ukraine is a threat both to their European future and to the political authority of Europe as the main mentor of these countries in the matter of democratization and modernization of all spheres of life. The path of reforms, which Ukraine and Moldova have entered, should not only bring foreign policy dividends to their leadership in the form of endorsement from European partners or be measured financially in the form of grants, loans and other subsidies. Attitude of the authorities to their citizens needs to be reformed: from the resource they must turn into people who want to live in a state that provides normal living conditions. A vivid manifestation of such transformations may be the disappearance of Ukrainian and Moldovan mass media stories about the deaths of children and young mothers due to the inactivity of doctors, deaths in prisons, persecution and beatings of Roma and representatives of sexual minorities, outbreaks of epidemics due to irresponsible attitude to vaccination.