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2020 | Book

Decentralization, Regional Diversity, and Conflict

The Case of Ukraine


About this book

This edited volume focuses on the links between the ongoing crisis in and around Ukraine, regional diversity, and the reform of decentralization. It provides in-depth insights into the historical constitution of regional diversity and the evolution of center-periphery relationships in Ukraine, the legal qualification of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, and the role of the decentralization reform in promoting conflict resolution, as well as modernization, democratization and European integration of Ukraine. Particular emphasis lies on the securitization of both regional diversity issues and territorial self-government arrangements in terms of Russia’s support for self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics. The volume captures the complexity of contemporary “hybrid” conflicts, involving both internal and external aspects, and the hybridization and securitization of territorial self-governance solutions. It thus provides an important contribution to the debate on territorial self-government and conflict resolution.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction: Regional Diversity, Decentralization, and Conflict in and around Ukraine
Despite a decreasing number of interstate wars, the contemporary era is marked by the rise in ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and identity conflicts within states, often leading to the establishment of de-facto states. An important feature of such conflicts is a foreign support to one of the conflicting parties. Most commonly, the international community seeks to address conflicts through territorial self-governance (TSG) arrangements (e.g. federalization, decentralization). In this vein, this introductory chapter offers insights into the state of research regarding the application of the TSG as a conflict-mitigation tool, and explains the relevance of the Ukrainian case to the TSG study in the context of intense foreign engagement. It also introduces each chapter of the volume and explains its contribution to the wider literature.
Maryna Rabinovych, Hanna Shelest

Regional Diversity in Ukraine and Its Accommodation in Government Policies

Chapter 2. Regionalism in Ukraine: Historic Evolution, Regional Claim-Making, and Centre–Periphery Conflict Resolution
This chapter examines the historical constitution of the present territory of Ukraine and its administrative-territorial system, identity and regional cleavages and the evolution and dynamics of claim-making and center-periphery contention related to them in different regions, namely Transcarpathia, Crimea and Donbas, since the late 1980s. It examines different forms of accommodation of claims such as an asymmetric state structure in the case of Crimean autonomy, power devolution, free economic zones, subsidies and budget disbursements, power-sharing at the national level, and local and regional legislation on historical memory and languages. Beyond the widely acknowledged role of external intervention in the escalation of conflict in eastern Ukraine in 2014, the chapter focuses on the long-term nonviolent contention related to regional cleavages prior to the escalation of the conflict and political exclusion. The chapter shows that while there has been an increasing identification with Ukrainian citizenship and support for decentralization since 2014, important regional differences in terms of historical memories, attitudes to the Euromaidan, and the nature of the ongoing conflict remain and may be loci of vulnerability to future regional mobilizations. The effect of the ongoing reforms in decentralization and democratic governance on the resolution of center–periphery conflicts and the accommodation of regional claims remains to be seen.
Oksana Myshlovska
Chapter 3. Navigating Ethnopolitical Disputes: Ukraine’s Constitutional Court in the Tug-of-War over Language
This chapter takes stock of constitutional adjudication of language policy and language legislation in Ukraine. It aims to unveil, on the one hand, how major political actors in Ukraine sought to engage Ukraine’s Constitutional Court in institutionalizing their competing views on a language regime of the country and, on the other, the responses of the Court to competing plaintiffs’ appeals within the last three decades. To this end, the chapter reviews the evolution of language policy in post-1991 Ukraine. It then introduces a framework on constitutional adjudication of the country, its evolution and main parameters. The authors argue that when considering the language appeals, Ukraine’s Constitutional Court can be profiled as an adherent of legal positivism. Usually, it checks if the parliament abided by a constitutional procedure for adopting a piece of language legislation, thus,  demurring on adjudicating between competing ethnopolitical claims substantively. .
Andrii Nekoliak, Vello Pettai
Chapter 4. Crimean Tatars and the Question of National and Ethnic Belonging in Ukraine
This chapter seeks to shed light on the issue of a national and ethnic identification of Crimean Tatars in mainland Ukraine. The question of their national belonging becomes central due to the fact that forced extensive exodus from Crimea to mainland Ukraine, after the illegal annexation of the peninsula by Russia in 2014, influences both the shifts in the identification strategies by Crimean Tatars as well as the perception of ‘Self’ in the context of war and annexation. The in-depth interviews with Crimean Tatars living in Kyiv and Lviv focus on questions of the politics of belonging and demonstrate how the personal experience and collective memory is being reconsidered by recent events in the history of Ukraine, such as Maidan, the annexation and war. The interviews embrace reflection on the situation in Crimea, self-identification and touch upon pressing issues pertaining to Ukraine’s political development.
Alina Zubkovych

The “Crisis In and Around Ukraine”, Occupied Territories and their Reintegration: The Legal Dimension

Chapter 5. The Domestic Dimension of Defining Uncontrolled Territories and Its Value for Conflict Transformation in Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine
The issue of uncontrolled territories in Moldova (Transnistria), Georgia (Abkhazia and South Ossetia), and since 2014 Ukraine (the separate districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions) has been featured in numerous international law studies. However, not much attention has been paid to definitions of the respective territories in the domestic law of the “maternal” states. To fill this gap, the chapter compares Moldova’s, Georgia’s, and Ukraine’s approaches to defining uncontrolled territories, and explores their value for conflict transformation. The author finds that domestic laws on uncontrolled territories perform numerous important functions with regard to the conflict transformation: leaving the space open or opening up the space for international talks on conflict settlement; defining “red lines” a “maternal state” may not cross in the context of international peace talks; promoting a particular qualification of the uncontrolled territories under international law; and promoting or hindering conflict transformation through different forms of cooperation.
Maryna Rabinovych
Chapter 6. The Reintegration of Donbas Through Reconstruction and Accountability. An International Law Perspective
This chapter focuses on the conflict in Eastern Ukraine from the international law perspective. It focuses on a design of the legal and political toolkit to be applied in the process of Donbas’ reintegration, which shall eventually lead to the final liquidation of the so-called “DPR” and “LPR” as “proto-states”, products of the Russian aggression. An analysis of the prospects of the restoration of the Ukrainian jurisdiction over seized territories zooms in on Russia’s accountability for supporting “rebels” in Eastern Ukraine, as well as a personal responsibility of the involved individuals. Based on the respective analysis, the chapter sets a proposal for a two-fold approach to reintegration efforts to be applied by Kyiv, combining post-conflict reconstruction (with the potential deployment of the UN peacekeeping mission), aimed at delivering justice in retributive and restorative dimensions, with the latter component emphasizing an accommodation of the regional diversity and the truth-telling practices.
Tomasz Lachowski

Federalization / Decentralization as a Tool of Conflict Resolution: Discursive and Foreign Policy Perspectives

Chapter 7. Three Faces of Federalism in the Foreign Policy: Russian and German Approaches to the “Ukraine Crisis”
This chapter considers the discursive use of federalism in the Ukrainian context in the official discourse of the two international players—Russia and Germany. In the hybrid war context of the “conflict in and around Ukraine,” the notion of federalism is simultaneously employed as (1) a way to influence country’s foreign policy and regional security order, (2) a conflict resolution instrument inside the state, and (3) a good governance mechanism destined to make a more just and effective administrative system. This mixture of ideas, facilitated by the multifaceted nature of the federalism theory and practice, and the diverging aims and tactics of actors of a hybrid war, brings about unorthodox solutions for Ukraine’s internal and foreign policy.
Nadiia Koval
Chapter 8. The Dark Side of Decentralization Reform in Ukraine: Deterring or Facilitating Russia-Sponsored Separatism?
This chapter argues that Ukraine’s decentralization process can carry as many risks to the state’s unity as Russia’s ambition to federalize Ukraine. In particular, the author looks at how “fake” territorial communities and special economic zones promoted by regional elites with an assistance of the pro-Russian NGO “Ukrainian Choice” and Russian “curators” distort the vocabulary and tools of the decentralization reform to establish a parallel system of power, and destabilize Ukraine’s constitutional order. The transition period leading up to the completion of the reform offers a window of opportunity to sow separatism. In fact, the link created between the reform and the granting of “special status” to Donbas as part of the Minsk process postpones, indefinitely, the decentralization-related constitutional amendments (including the institution of prefects as a form of state oversight over local government bodies). Thus, the author assesses possible threats to Ukraine’s national security associated with offering autonomy to Donbas.
Jaroslava Barbieri

Decentralization, Its Perceptions and Linkage to Democratization, Modernization, and European Integration of Ukraine

Chapter 9. Decentralization and a Risk of Local Elite Capture in Ukraine
The most notable element of Ukraine’s decentralization reform is a merging of municipalities into amalgamated territorial communities (ATCs). While the implementation of the reform is slower and more chaotic than anticipated, the reform has widely been hailed as one of the country’s biggest success stories since the Euromaidan Revolution. Scholarly literature on decentralization acknowledges its potential to, among other things, increase popular participation, improve service delivery, and strengthen legitimacy, but also warns of the “dangers of decentralization,” including local elite capture. This chapter argues that there is substantial reason to assume that there is a real risk of elite capture in the current decentralization reform, and suggests that not enough is being done by the central government to mitigate this risk.
Max Bader
Chapter 10. Signs of Progress: Local Democracy Developments in Ukrainian Cities
This chapter looks into citizens’ perceptions of and interactions with local authorities in Ukrainian cities. It is based on results from two local democracy surveys carried out in 20 cities in early 2014 and at the end of 2017—that is, before the decentralization reform was initiated, and some years into the reform. It shows that both in terms of citizens’ perceived responsiveness of local authorities as well as citizens’ political participation, there are signs of progress in most cities. A caution is a negative tendency in citizens’ assessment of their own possibilities for influencing politics locally. Using correspondence analysis, the chapter makes typologies of the interaction between citizens and local authorities and identifies citizen trust to be a core factor affecting perceptions of local authority’s responsiveness. Finally, the chapter discusses the implications of the findings for the ongoing reforms and prospects for stability.
Aadne Aasland, Oleksii Lyska
Chapter 11. Decentralization Reform: An Effective Vehicle for Modernization and Democratization in Ukraine?
A number of issues are delaying visible results of modernization efforts and decentralization reform. These are Ukraine’s de-industrialization, the conflict in and around Ukraine, centralization of administrative tasks, an absence of well-defined responsibilities, lack of the organizational, technical and financial resources of local authorities, duplication of structures, and in some cases the resulting weakness and incompetence of local authorities. This chapter examines the link between decentralization and modernization. Considering decentralization reform as a vehicle for modernization, the chapter shows how it can be an effective strategy to promote modernization, and focuses on key obstacles and solutions to improve local governance and public sector performance and to strengthen the economy in ways that enhance citizen wellbeing and democracy. It concludes with a discussion of necessary conditions for the successful modernization of post-Euromaidan Ukraine within the decentralization reform framework.
Olga Oleinikova
Chapter 12. Decentralization in Ukraine and Bottom-Up European Integration
Decentralization is one of the most profound reforms undertaken in Ukraine. It includes the voluntary merging of previously independent villages and towns into larger Amalgamated Territorial Communities (ATCs). The European Union strongly supports the reform but does not make Ukraine’s further European integration conditional upon it. In order to study whether decentralization can, nevertheless, contribute to the country’s European integration, this chapter adopts a sociological perspective. It asks whether decentralization has led to an increase in community twinning and participation of Ukrainian communities in transnational municipal networks. It is based on a survey conducted among the leaders of the 159 ATCs founded in 2015, and on publicly available data. The chapter finds that although the respondents generally value international cooperation and new transnational twinning partnerships that emerged after amalgamation, the overall number of such partnerships is relatively low.
Anne Pintsch
Chapter 13. Conclusions and Directions for Further Research
This concluding chapter reflects on lessons that the case of Ukraine offers to the study of interconnection and correlation between the regional diversity, decentralization, and conflicts, especially those with foreign involvement, and directions for further research.
Maryna Rabinovych, Hanna Shelest
Decentralization, Regional Diversity, and Conflict
Hanna Shelest
Maryna Rabinovych
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