Recently appointed Ukrainian government includes natives of the United States, Georgia and Lithuania. They were granted Ukrainian citizenship by the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko a few hours earlier to their confirmation by the Parliament. Dual nationality is forbidden by the law in Ukraine. Reportedly the candidates had to write applications to give up citizenship of their native countries.
The appointment of foreign nationals to the ministerial positions in the government is an unprecedented event and also an evidence of dire economic situation in Ukraine. Without foreign assistance the country would likely to default. According to the Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk the most urgent task is to overhaul the shrinking economy and end the armed conflict in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. He pledged to begin comprehensive structural reforms aimed at delivering economic growth in 2016.
In my opinion for the much needed reforms to go forward the country requires a “critical mass” of people who will help to transform the old business “mind set” and bring around the profound changes in the way the business is done in Ukraine. Appointment of international professionals to key positions in the government and business should greatly facilitate this transformation. Further new legal framework is necessary for employment of nationals from the countries friendly to Ukraine.
Currently Ukraine does not allow dual nationality with any country. The Ukrainians who work and reside abroad often receive another citizenship. When these Ukrainians attempt to repatriate back to Ukraine they can’t be officially employed as Ukrainian citizens unless they give up the other citizenship. This way Ukraine looses a great number of its productive citizens and taxpayers.
In addition the Ukrainian law is ambiguous about a legal residency in a foreign country. Peculiar situation happened last year to a former World heavyweight boxing champion and one of the most popular Ukrainian politicians Vitali Klitschko. He was facing the removal of his candidacy from the elections based on the grounds of his alleged residency in a foreign country during his international sport career.
It would hardly need arguing that for a Ukrainian citizen to achieve an internationally recognized performance in any professional field would require to live, study and work abroad. These international professionals should have incentives to return and work in Ukraine, at least there should be no additional barriers.
Ukraine has one of the most problematic demographic situations in the entire world. Since the break-up of the Soviet Union it has suffered a population collapse that is substantially worse compared even to Russia, which despite its acute sense of national interest and imperialistic ambitions, does not forbid its citizens to hold a second passport.
On 18 September during his 45-minute televised address in front of both houses of the United States Congress Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was agitating for a special security status of a non-NATO ally and partnership relationship similar to what Israel has with the United States. It should be noted that the United States and Israel allow dual citizenship between the two countries and there are many Israeli and American citizens including some high-level politicians who hold two passports.
Perhaps Ukrainian policy makers can learn from this experience and make some practical steps. There are several millions of people of Ukrainian origin living in North America and European Union. This is a great reservoir of know-how for revival and modernization of Ukraine. The cultural and political ties are proven pathway to a more meaningful economic cooperation. The recent government appointment is the first encouraging step going forward.
The article takes part in December round of MindSketch
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