Andriy Chvalyuk, Ph.D.
The main task of state policy to promote the development of civil society, according to experts , is to legislate various forms of participation of the people in the exercise of power. The legal framework for the establishment and operation of civil society organizations (CSOs) should be shaped by global democratic standards. The state must also create conditions for CSOs to exercise effective public control over the activities of government bodies.
For example, such goals are set in the National Strategy for Promoting the Development of Civil Society in Ukraine for 2016–2020, approved by the Decree of the President of Ukraine, 2016 № 68/2016 . However, the strategic directions and tasks of this important document cover only the controlled territory of Ukraine, while the inhabitants of Crimea are forced to live by the “rules” established by the aggressor State.
Occupying the Crimea, Russia has imposed on its inhabitants the usual administrative-command system of government – that is, a way of economic organization of society, in which all issues are decided by government agencies. The main features of this system are state ownership of all key resources, bureaucratization and monopolization of the economy, administrative pricing, equal distribution of benefits, domination of the nomenklatura. Under such conditions, the effective operation of CSOs becomes so complicated that it becomes almost impossible, and the current state of affairs in the Crimea fully confirms this.
The “budgetary and financial sphere” of the Crimea, as we have noted in previous publications , is going through difficult times. And when resources are lacking, the “authorities” try to keep the processes of their distribution away from “outsiders”, but at the same time maintain a certain formalism, so that the local press, controlled by the invaders, and Russian propaganda would have something to write about.
For example, on December 23, 2020, a “public hearing” was held in Yevpatoria to discuss the “draft municipal budget”. The “hearings” were attended by the “head of the town administration” Roman Tikhonchuk, his “first deputy” Alexander Rytov, “head of the finance department” Svetlana Stelmashchuk, the head of the “control and accounting chamber of the town district” Natalia Kuderevko, representatives of other “executive bodies”, and “deputies” .
It turned out that the Crimean “journalists” and the “government” they work for seem to “misunderstand” the meaning of the term “public” and “demonstratively violate” the provisions of the occupation “legislation”, such as article 28 “Public hearings, public discussions” of the law “On general principles of local government in Russia” . If the “administration” of Yevpatoria believes that the public nature of the “hearing” is the presence of “chief budget managers”, who “made reports reflecting the main measures and areas of budget spending in 2021-2023” , then they are worth to be disappointed. As it doesn’t work in such way.
The photos attached to the news about the “hearings” do not give the “masses” to the event. Any angle you remove the “meeting room”, if there are only six people sitting in it, probably the same “main managers”, a priori interested in
“quietly” “fundings’ management”, the “publicity” of this “hearing” is questionable. But in the public domain you can find “Conclusion on the results of public hearings on the draft budget of the municipality of Yevpatoria town district of the Republic of Crimea for 2021 and for the planning period of 2022 and 2023”, according to which “the total number of participants was 25” and “no proposals and no comments were received on the issue submitted to the public hearings” . Thus, “dead souls” made the “necessary” decisions unanimously and without remarks, in the best traditions of the communist dictatorship. What prevents Crimean residents, “liberated from the Ukrainian Maidan”, who “enjoy Russian democracy”, to show a “high level of civic consciousness”? Maybe the rhythm of city life?
But if we consider the “Conclusion on the results of public hearings on the draft decision of the “Pakharevo village council”” “On the draft budget of the Pakharevo rural settlement of Dzhankoi District of the Republic of Crimea for 2020 and for the planning period 2021 and 2022” from November 29, 2019 , you can see the same picture, “the number of participants was 12”, “comments, changes and additions to the draft decision was not received”. Other “minutes of public hearings” in the Dzhankoi district of the peninsula were made under the obvious “photocopier”. Such examples are the “public hearings” of “Roskoshne village council” (“number of participants was 12”, “proposals and recommendations on the topic of hearings were not expressed”) , “Roshchine village council” (“suggestions and comments were not expressed”) [ 9],
“Yarkopolenskoye village council” (“no objections from the residents of the settlement”) .
I know from my own experience that a villager who has taken the time to visit the village council and spent an hour there has something to say at a public hearing, in particular about the draft village budget. Therefore, the “silence of the peasants” can be explained either by the fact that the “hearings” in Crimea are held by the occupation “administration” without the presence of the local population at all, or by the fact that the local community is so intimidated by such “administration” that it agrees with any “decisions”. But let us turn back to the Crimean cities.
At the “public hearings” on December 8, 2020, which concerned the “draft budget” of the city of Kerch , the only “expressed proposal” came from the “chairman of the Kerch City Council” O. Solodilova. Any of the ten persons, present at the “hearings”, including “media representatives”, took the “liberty of interfering” in such staged production, called “public hearings”.
Why do the inhabitants of the peninsula ignore such a seemingly common in the whole civilized world “form of cooperation between the city authorities and the inhabitants of the city” as “public hearings”? The answer can be found in the “Minutes of public hearings to discuss the draft budget of the municipality of Simferopol city of the Republic of Crimea for 2021 and the planning period of 2022 and 2023” of December 11, 2020 . These “public hearings” were held online with a broadcast on the website of the “municipal district of Simferopol”. Despite this modern form of conduct, city residents were not given the opportunity to ask questions live.
However, according to the “administrators of the state information system” “Portal of the Government of the Republic of Crimea”, the right to “listen to the hearing” was used by as many as 61 persons from the city with 300 thousands of inhabitants. Also, “all those who wish” to take part in these “public hearings” on the “draft budget” had the opportunity from “November 24, 2020 to December 9, 2020 to express their proposals and questions by filling out the appropriate form on the site”.
According to the occupation “administration”, the organizers of the “hearings” allegedly received as many as “13 questions and suggestions”. Let us consider four appeals that were clearly moderated by the “administration” and were considered “worthy” of those received for inclusion in the “protocol”, as well as responses to them.
First, it is a collective proposal from nine residents to include gasification of the district in Simferopol in the “draft budget”. The answer was as follows: “the question of the possibility of planning activities for the implementation of design and survey work in the budget will be considered in 2021”. The second proposal was to allocate funds from the “budget” for road works in the form of temporary sprinkling of the road surface on Mermersha Street. The response of the “administration” was as follows: “milled material for backfilling (asphalt crumb) are absent, if we find it in sufficient quantities in 2021 – the proposal will be implemented”.
The third proposal was to build a professional skate park at the expense of the “budget”. In response, it was stated that “the construction of the park is already engaged in LLC “Construction Technologies”, we will keep the issue of improvement of the park under control”. Another proposal made public by the “administration” was to improve the adjacent territories on Radyanska and Zelena streets at the expense of the “budget”. The response stated that this was possible “after receiving funding from the federal program”.
As you can see, all the answers of the “administration of the capital of the republic” were given in the style of “we have no money, but you hold on”, and most of the 13 appeals received were not even reflected in the “protocol”. The “public hearings” themselves were held on December 11 in the “Great Hall” of the “Simferopol city administration”, where 34 persons, including “members of the working group”, “deputies”, other “officials” and “media representatives”, gathered according to the “protocol” and lasted only 40 minutes. It is noteworthy that “the regulations did not allow” time to ask questions from the hall at all, and therefore “questions and suggestions were proposed to be submitted to the secretariat in writing”.
Is it worth to clarify that “questions and suggestions” were not received from the city residents? I think it is not.
From all the above, it can be concluded that in the occupied Crimea there is no possibility for the formation of civil society institutions, in particular in the budgetary and financial sphere of the de-facto “authorities”. The public, both the urban and rural population of the peninsula, is maximally removed by the Russia’s invaders from the processes of resolving important social issues, which is a gross violation of the democratic principle of openness and transparency of governance. It is also sad that the distrust of citizens in their ability to effectively influence the activities of “authorities” can become a habit. And then, after the deoccupation of Crimea, it will take years to restore the faith of the residents of the peninsula in their own institutional capacity to participate in public administration.