a few choice words from Valeri Simeonov

a few choice words from Valeri Simeonov

As Bulgaria gets ready to take up the Presidency of the Council of the European Union in January, it’s time to hear from Valeri Simeonov – one of Bulgaria’s Deputy Prime Ministers (in charge of economy and demographical policies), co-spokesman of the far-right United Patriots and head of the Bulgarian Council on Ethnic Minority Integration.

  • Speaking in an interview on October 31 with a cable television channel, Simeonov said that “bTV turned out to be like an infantile fatty with certain mental abnormalities put into a porcelain shop, not knowing what he is doing.”
  • After it emerged that a deputy minister from the United Patriots had been photographed giving a Hitler salute, Simeonov reportedly made comments to the effect that in the 1970s, he had been taken on a visit to Buchenwald and “Come to think of it, who knows what kind of joke photos we took there…can anyone say now, submit your resignation and go back to the village”.
    • Also, “Is that really a Nazi salute? On what basis should he be withdrawn – that he’s a Hitlerite or a member of the Nazi party? Nonsense.”
  • “I cannot allow a handful of Sorosoids to badger us while we are trying to solve important problems.”
  • “…it is indisputed that a large part of the Gypsy ethnicity lives beyond any laws, rules and general human norms of behaviour. For them, the laws do not apply, taxes and charges are incomprehensible concepts, electricity, water, social and health insurance bills have been replaced by the belief that they have only rights, but not obligations and responsibilities. What has created the belief in our swarthy compatriots that everything is allowed… and that everyone is obliged to feed, dress and treat them for free?”
    • Roma are also, in his opinion, “naked, self-confident and ferocious humanoids ready to murder, to steal a few leva.”
    • …and Roma also want “sickness benefits without being ill, child care for children who play with the pigs in the streets and maternal benefits for women with the instincts of street bitches”.
  • In 2013 his National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria (NFSB), in its platform, said it “initially envisages the abolition of all illegal structures in Gypsy ghettos and the creation with minimum resources of individual settlements outside the large settlements. Promotion of voluntary birth limitation through free contraceptives. The isolated settlements can be turned into a tourist attraction, which is a mass practice in the most developed democracies (Indian Reserves in the US, Aboriginal Settlements in Australia, Gypsy Settlements in the Czech Republic and Hungary, etc.).”

He also assaulted an elderly woman during a protest to stop Turks from crossing the border to vote in March’s elections. Oh, and he also just got convicted of breaking anti-discrimination legislation with some of his comments above about Roma.  Happy Friday!

 

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Donbas, elections and visa-free travel: latest Razumkov Centre poll

Donbas, elections and visa-free travel: latest Razumkov Centre poll

New Ukraine survey/poll data, new blog post.

The Razumkov Centre just released findings from a survey. Boring stuff: more than 2,000 respondents, interviewed between Sept 9-14, 2016 across all of Ukraine except Crimea and the “LNR”/”DNR”, 2.3% MoE.

A few findings I found particularly interesting:

Special status

Half (50%) of respondents did not support granting special status to Donbas, with 23% agreeing and 27% being unsure (“difficult to say”).

The regional numbers don’t throw up any surprises, with respondents from western Ukrainian being the least supportive and respondents in eastern Ukraine in Donbas being the most supportive.

graph-1

I’d like to see breakdowns by a few other factors, particularly age and level of education (presumably done behind the scenes already? Not significant, possibly), but the Razumkov Centre does provide us with a comparison of how people responded to these questions six months ago.

graph-2

It’s not the decline in those saying ‘no’ over the two surveys (56% down to 50%) that grabs my attention here – it’s the increase in those respondents who aren’t sure (20% up to 27%) when it comes to special status for Donbas. Based just on these numbers here (i.e., without a bunch of data to nerd around with, whether the sample sizes are large enough to show regional trends over time, etc.) I’d say that an increasing number of Ukrainians aren’t sure what ‘special status’ means at all.

Elections, elections

The numbers aren’t all that different when it comes to elections in the occupied territories in Donbas (the “DNR”/”LNR”) – just under a quarter (24%) support them, half (51%) don’t support them and a quarter (25%) aren’t sure at all.

Again, the regional breakdowns are no surprise (though I’ll highlight, as per the Razumkov report, that the differences for eastern Ukraine and the Donbas aren’t statistically significant).

graph3

Want to see the most useless table ever? It’s right there. There’s basically been no significant change over six months on this one.

graph4

Visa-free regime with Europe

In the same survey (presented in a different document), people were asked what they thought about the still unrealized visa-free travel regime with the EU. Just over a third (35%) said visa-free travel with the EU was important or very important to them and, not surprisingly, it’s a lot more important to people in western Ukraine.

image-7
Yes, the colour scheme was a deliberate choice.

Fortunately the Razumkov Centre points out something about age before I can ask about it – younger respondents (aged 18-29) were more likely to say that a visa-free regime was important or very important (61%) than respondents 60 years and older (18%). Not particularly shocking.

But most Ukrainians aren’t expecting visa-free travel to land anytime soon. Only 7% expect it by the end of this year, 45% expect it in 2017 (either early or later in 2017) while one in five (20%) say it’ll never come. That pessimism is much stronger in eastern and southern Ukraine than anywhere else.

image-8

Comments/interpretations welcome.

Why EU attitudes in Ukraine are more than just east versus west

Why EU attitudes in Ukraine are more than just east versus west

To celebrate Europe Day in Ukraine and to drown out all that noise coming from Mikhailivsky Square I decided to go back and revisit something I wrote a few weeks ago.

I analyzed data from the most recent Omnibus Survey run by the Kiev International Institute of Sociology. Every three months KIIS surveys 2,000 Ukrainians, the most recent data being from February.

Their ‘attitudes towards the EU’ question:

Please, imagine, that now is a referendum on whether Ukraine should join the European Union. You can vote for, against or abstain from voting. What would you choose?”

Just under half (49%) of Ukrainians said they’d vote in favour of EU accession, and 28% would vote no. A few (9%) said they’d abstain, but about one in seven (14%) said they didn’t know how they’d vote.

And yes, there are regional differences, which is the point of all this:

  • Western Ukraine: 77% yes
  • Central Ukraine: 52% yes
  • South Ukraine: 36% yes
  • East Ukraine: 25% yes

If you feel like you can stop here and convince yourself that it’s all a matter of east vs west, ‘pro-Russian’ versus ‘pro-Ukrainian’ regions – please, for the love of all things holy, read on.

South

Point form.

  • There’s a divide between young and old. Almost half of 18-29 year olds (45%) and 30-39 year olds (46%) support EU accession in southern Ukraine, compared to 23% of 60-69 year olds and 12% of those older than 70.
  • There are some pretty big differences when it comes to levels of education. Those who had the highest levels of education (some level of higher education/degree) were more likely to support EU accession (46%) than those with less than ten years’ education (a whopping 6%).
  • People who indicated they were on some sort of state pension were less likely to support EU accession (22%).
  • People in the lowest of five socioeconomic brackets (those who said they ‘lack money for food’) were much less likely than those in the third (and most common) bracket (those who said they ‘have enough money for food and clothes’) to support EU accession (15% compared to 46%).
  • Self-identity as (more) Ukrainian or Russian also played a role.
    • Self-identity as Ukrainian: 41% yes
    • Self-identity as equally Russian and Ukrainian: 17% yes
    • Self-identity as Russian: 0% yes. Yes, zero – meaning that no one surveyed self-identified as Russian in south Ukraine and also supported EU accession
    • Affiliation with Kyiv Patriarchate (45% yes) compared to Moscow Patriarchate (19% yes)

East

More point form.

  • There’s also a divide between young and old. More than a third of 18-29 year olds (35%) and 30-39 year olds (41%) support EU accession in eastern Ukraine, compared to 17% of 60-69 year olds and 12% of those older than 70.
  • Education differences here too. Those who had the highest levels of education (some level of higher education/degree) were more likely to support EU accession (41%) than those with less than ten years’ education (11%).
  • People who indicated they were on some sort of state pension were less likely to support EU accession (12%).
  • Interestingly, the socioeconomic questions didn’t show any significant differences. I’ll get to that.
  • Self-identity as (more) Ukrainian or Russian again.
    • Self-identity as Ukrainian: 37% yes
    • Self-identity as equally Russian and Ukrainian: 2% yes
    • Self-identity as Russian: 7% yes.
    • Affiliation with Kyiv Patriarchate (41% yes) compared to Moscow Patriarchate (8% yes)

The survey data from eastern Ukraine also includes respondents from the ‘DNR.’ As I talked about a few weeks ago, results from the ‘DNR’ stand out pretty starkly against the rest of eastern Ukraine.

So what do the results look like if we just look at Ukrainian government-controlled eastern Ukraine?

East, sans ‘DNR’

The last bit of point form.

  • Age, yeah. Almost half of 18-29 year olds (44%) and more than half of 30-39 year olds (52%) support EU accession in eastern Ukraine, compared to 22% of 60-69 year olds and 13% of those older than 70.
  • Education. Those who had the highest levels of education (some level of higher education/degree) were more likely to support EU accession (50%) than those with less than ten years’ education (11%).
  • People who indicated they were on some sort of state pension were less likely to support EU accession (15%).
  • Take out the ‘DNR’ and socioeconomic status become significant, because statistics is fun. People in the second lowest of five socioeconomic brackets (those who said they ‘didn’t have enough money for clothes’) were much less likely than those in the third (and most common) bracket (those who said they ‘have enough money for food and clothes’) to support EU accession (24% compared to 47%).
  • Self-identity as (more) Ukrainian or Russian again.
    • Self-identity as Ukrainian: 38% yes
    • Self-identity as equally Russian and Ukrainian: 6% yes
    • Self-identity as Russian: 7% yes
    • Affiliation with Kyiv Patriarchate (44% yes) compared to Moscow Patriarchate (17% yes)

What do all these numbers mean?

There’s a lot more to Ukrainians’ attitudes towards the EU than just what part of the country they happen to be from. When almost half of young people in eastern Ukraine support EU accession, engaging in this ‘OMG pro-Russian east versus pro-Ukrainian west blah blah’ is more than just lazy oversimplification. It’s wrong.

And the factors that are associated in eastern and southern Ukraine with being opposed to EU accession? Being older. Being less educated. Being a pensioner. Being from a lower socioeconomic bracket. In other words: class, with a healthy dose of (self-) identity thrown into the mix. You know, just like that other country having a wee chat about the EU right now.  Ukraine’s not always that different, guys.

If there’s anything to take away from how I decided to spend my Saturday evening, it’s a point that’s been made before, repeated before and which, unfortunately, will need to be repeated again:

There is no magical giant line down the middle of this country that divides it into ‘pro-Russian’ and ‘pro-Ukrainian’ parts.

 Please, no more.