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COMMENTS 

The Democratic Disconnect

In the eurozone, the EU needs greater legitimacy at the national level not only to secure space for domestic politics but also to secure respect for social and economic commitments over time.
Prof. Albert Weale
24 November 2014 More...

Starts: Nov 24, 2014 12:00:00 AM

Europe: Six decades of strife and controversy for UK

It's groundhog day in Britain, where the European Union is concerned. The context changes, but the basic issues do not.
Sir Stephen Wall
18 November 2014 More...

Starts: Nov 18, 2014 12:00:00 AM

The 9 November poll in Catalonia

The recent Scottish referendum set a precedent in contemporary Europe by seeking to deliver, in agreement between Westminster and Holyrood, a binding decision on Scotland's future. The 'participatory process' that took place in Catalonia on 9 November could not be more different. Why is this so, what are its consequences, and where might we be heading?
Dr Claire Colomb
Dr Uta Staiger

13 November 2014
More...

Starts: Nov 13, 2014 12:00:00 AM

Ukraine's protests gather pace

Publication date: Dec 3, 2013 10:21:50 AM

Start: Dec 3, 2013 12:00:00 AM

As protests in Kiev are about to enter their third week, the ruling party is losing key members and morale. So what happens next?
Dr Andrew Wilson
December 2013


The protests in Kiev are now almost two weeks old. They began after the Ukrainian government first decided to suspend negotiations with the EU on 21 November, but have gained new intensity after President Yanukovych left the Vilnius Summit on 28-29 November empty-handed, without signing the key Agreements. But the attempt at violent dispersal of the crowds on his return, on Saturday the 30th , only led to bigger demonstrations on the Sunday. At the time of writing (Monday the 2nd), the protestors were looking more embedded – literally so, as several buildings have been occupied and barriers set up in the centre of Kiev. The stakes are especially high because the OSCE Ministerial Council is due to be held in Kiev on 5-6 December – the opposition want to keep the protest going until then, the authorities want to stamp them out. The ruling party is losing key members and morale. So what happens next?

  • One of the most depressing features of Ukraine’s many failures after the Orange Revolution in 2004 was that people lost the will to protest. Political demonstration even became an entirely artificial affair, with being-paid-to-protest becoming big business in Ukraine. So the return of real protests changes things dramatically. Participants at the first big demo held up signs saying “we are not paid”. The authorities are relying on the tired and discredited narrative that this is an artificial protest, ‘”paid for” by domestic oligarchs or foreign powers. At least in Kiev, everyone knows this is false.
  • So how will the authorities react? They have already tried violent dispersal of the demonstrators and it didn’t work. There is no iron law saying it wouldn’t work a second time; but the likely human cost now looks high and the regime’s ranks are far from united. The President has lost his Chief of Staff; the head of Kiev City Police has also gone. Yanukovych’s natural instinct, however, is not exactly negotiation. The authorities have been building up their defences since 2010. The use of thugs and paid provocateurs against demonstrators is still a real prospect – so the West should be wary of any Black PR that the demonstrators used violence first.
  • Yanukovych has phoned Barroso and promised to send a delegation to Brussels to “look at” key aspects of the EU-Ukraine Agreements. There will be severe disappointment in Brussels if they arrive without the power to negotiate. The EU was possibly saved from a bad agreement in Vilnius if it had acceded to some of Ukraine’s more outlandish demands. The authorities are no longer in a position to make such demands, so the ideal scenario of an Agreement without them may ironically be more possible now than it was last week.
  • Some demonstrators are calling for Yanukovych’s resignation and for “revolution”; but the real point of pressure is on the government. A dozen MPs have quit the ruling Party of Regions already and their parliamentary majority is under threat. Prime Minister Azarov could easily be the fall guy, and could be replaced with a compromise candidate. President Yanukovych would then be dangerously isolated, however, so will resist such a scenario as strongly as he can.
  • How will Russia react? Putin has invested heavily in sabotaging the Eastern Partnership across the board; but the great victory that Russia was celebrating at the end of the Vilnius Summit now looks potentially hollow. Even more fundamentally, Putin thought he had inoculated Russia, Ukraine and the surrounding states against any repeat of the kind of protests seen in 2004. Now they, or something like them, are happening again.

  • Dr Andrew Wilson, Reader in Ukranian Studies, UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies

First published on the European Council on Foreign Relations website.