23 December 2004, Volume
HEATING SEASON GETS UNDER WAY, BUT INTEGRATION RHETORIC REMAINS LUKEWARM.
In previous years, November and December were months when Minsk and Moscow made more official statements about their integration within the Russia-Belarus Union than in other parts of the year. Such statements usually coincided with both sides' negotiations on quotas and prices for Russian gas deliveries to Belarus for the subsequent year. This well-oiled integration rhetoric suffered an attack of hiccups around the inauguration of the heating season in 2003, when the sides failed to agree on 2004 gas deliveries, which Moscow made dependant upon Minsk's consent to privatize its gas-pipeline network. The conflict culminated in February when Gazprom -- to the utter astonishment of the rest of the world -- turned off its gas tap for Belarus for one day.
This year, however, both Belarus and Russia are set to avoid such untoward steps in arranging gas supplies to Belarus for 2005. Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov visited Minsk on 21 December and agreed with his Belarusian counterpart Syarhey Sidorski that Gazprom will supply Belarus with 19.1 billion cubic meters of gas in 2005 and an additional 1.4 billion "if the technical capacity of the gas transport system is ensured," according to Gazprom deputy head Aleksandr Ryazanov. Earlier this month, a senior Belarusian official told journalists that Belarus will need 21.5 billion cubic meters of gas in 2005 -- suggesting that Minsk will likely seek to buy the remaining 1 billion cubic meters from other Russian gas providers -- possibly, Itera, Sibur, or Transnafta, which formally supplied Russian gas to Belarus in the first half of 2004, during Minsk's conflict with Gazprom.
But there is another problem this year. Fradkov told journalists following his meeting with Sikorski that the two sides have not yet agreed on a price. Moscow insists on maintaining the 2004 price of $46.68 per 1,000 cubic meters, while Minsk reportedly wants that figure reduced by 18 percent -- that is, by the amount that Belarus's Beltranshaz must pay to the Belarusian budget in the form of value-added tax (VAT) for Russian gas deliveries.
In 2005, Russia is switching to the country-of-destination principle of VAT collection for gas deliveries to Belarus. This means in practical terms that if the 2004 price is retained, Gazprom will gain $8.04 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas supplied to Belarus (Gazprom will not have to pay this amount to the Russian budget), while Belarus's Beltranshaz, which is the formal purchaser of Russian gas, will have to pay the 2004 price to Gazprom plus the 18 percent VAT to the Belarusian budget. Thus for Beltranshaz the price of Russian will increase by $8.04 per 1,000 cubic meters.
According to Russian media reports, Minsk is proposing that Gazprom decrease the gas price by some $7 per 1,000 cubic meters -- that is, approximately by the VAT sum Beltranshaz is obliged to pay to the Belarusian budget. Moscow is reportedly against such a reduction in the gas price and proposes that Belarus, like Ukraine, abolish VAT on its imports of Russian gas. It is unclear how this controversy will be resolved, but Fradkov assured journalists in Minsk that Belarus's gas delivery contract with Gazprom will be signed before the end of the year.
Fradkov also said he expects the Belarusian and Russian governments to agree on a date of the introduction of the Russian ruble in Belarus in mid-February 2005. "The matter is under permanent control," Belapan quoted Fradkov as saying. "A working group has been formed to make adjustments and study the matter in more detail." Originally, a 1999 treaty on the formation of the Russia-Belarus Union provided for the introduction of the Russian ruble in Belarus as of 1 January 2005, but in mid-2004 this event was postponed by one year.
Fradkov said in Minsk that neither side is likely to change the new date -- 1 January 2006 -- for launching a currency union. However, according to Russian press reports, this date is highly problematic as well, particularly since Belarus continues to insist that a currency union with Russia be dependent on the signing of two additional agreements whereby Russia agrees to finance Belarus's budget deficit and pay Belarus an unspecified albeit hefty sum in compensation for the abandonment of its own currency. Russia reportedly objects to such concessions.
According to a poll conducted by the NISEPI polling center last month, the introduction of the Russian ruble in Belarus is supported by 31.6 percent of Belarusians (compared to 44.2 percent in November 2003) and opposed by 52.4 percent (compared to 34.4 percent in November 2003). "The understanding has come [to Belarusians] that the Russian ruble is a currency of a specific country, not a collective currency of the euro type, and that the introduction of the Russian ruble will entail surrendering the right to manage Belarus's finances -- that is, surrendering a part of their sovereignty -- to the neighboring country," NISEPI concluded regarding the Russia-Belarus currency union. It seems that for the time being there is no apparent need for Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to revert this integration trend among his compatriots. (Jan Maksymiuk)
PRESIDENTIAL RIVALS SPAR IN TV DEBATE AHEAD OF NEW VOTE.
Ukrainian presidential candidates Viktor Yushchenko and Viktor Yanukovych on 20 December met in a live televised debate ahead of the upcoming repeat of last month's flawed presidential runoff.
In contrast to their first debate on 15 November, this time the two men were allowed to address each other directly with questions. This new format made the discussion lively and interesting to watch; nearly half of Ukraine's 47 million citizens reportedly watched the 100-minute verbal duel in which Yushchenko and Yanukovych traded accusations and barbs. According to many analysts, Yushchenko came out as the undeniable winner of the debate by assuming the role of a "president-in-waiting" and repeatedly putting Prime Minister Yanukovych on the defensive.
Yushchenko had two strong points that he emphasized throughout the debate. First, Yushchenko accused Yanukovych's election staff and political patrons, including President Leonid Kuchma and presidential-administration chief Viktor Medvedchuk, of stealing 3 million votes during the abortive 21 November runoff. Second, he sarcastically questioned Yanukovych's recently assumed status of an oppositionist to the ruling regime. Moreover, Yushchenko resolutely shunned Yanukovych's repeated attempts to elicit a pledge from him that both sit down and discuss "how we are to live after the elections." Yushchenko made an unambiguous impression during the debate that he is not going to treat Yanukovych as an equal political partner in the future. This, perhaps, was the most bitter pill Yanukovych had to swallow during the debate.
Yushchenko also managed to neutralize to some extent the myths disseminated about him by his opponent's election staff alleging that, as president, he would discriminate, economically and otherwise, against the country's Russian-speaking eastern and southern regions for their support for Yanukovych. "Under my presidency, each region will take an appropriate place in accordance with its potential," Yushchenko said in conclusion of the debate. "Second, nobody will close even a single Russian-language school. Third, nobody will divide Ukrainians into three sorts of people, as it was shown on posters distributed in Kyiv and all of Ukraine by a pro-government force.... [And] nobody will close a single Orthodox church in favor of some denomination or other."
The psychological advantage gained by Yushchenko from the "Orange Revolution" made him on 20 December a much more relaxed and self-confident interlocutor than during the first debate, in which, according to many analysts, he was limp and unconvincing and clearly lost to Yanukovych. On the other hand, Yanukovych has apparently not recovered from the invalidation of the 21 November vote by the Supreme Court and the subsequent political compromise that changed the election rules and visibly quelled the executive branch's enthusiasm to employ "administrative resources" on Yanukovych's side in the 26 December repeat runoff.
According to a poll conducted by the Kyiv-based Razumkov Center from 14-19 December, Yushchenko should safely win the 26 December ballot, with 48 percent of the vote against Yanukovych's 39 percent; 5 percent of respondents said they will vote against both candidates, 3 percent said they will not go to the polls, and 5 percent are undecided.
It also has not passed unnoticed that Russian President Vladimir Putin, who unofficially backed Yanukovych in the Ukrainian race and called to congratulate him even before all votes were counted, has seemingly reappraised the election situation in Ukraine. Asked on 21 December in Germany whether a Yushchenko victory would mean a personal defeat to him, Putin said he is ready to work with either candidate. "I know Mr. Yushchenko," international news agencies quoted Putin as saying. "He worked in the same position as the current Ukrainian prime minister, Mr. Yanukovych. He was the head of the Ukrainian government and we cooperated with him. It was a fair cooperation. He, like Mr. Yanukovych, is a member of the team of the current president, Mr. Kuchma. I see no problems here."
According to Interfax-Ukraine, Ukrainian analysts at a roundtable in Kyiv on 21 December agreed that the most probable scenario for Ukraine in the near future is a Yushchenko presidency under which Yanukovych will assume the role of the leader of an opposition camp. This camp -- as opposed to Yushchenko's Our Ukraine and its allies -- might include Yanukovych's Party of Regions, Viktor Medvedchuk's Social Democratic Party-united, and Petro Symonenko's Communist Party.
That Yanukovych may become an important political player in the post-Kuchma era was confirmed by a poll conducted by the Razumkov Center from 6-9 December, in which respondents were asked about their preferences in a hypothetical parliamentary ballot. It turned out that only four parties -- Yushchenko's Our Ukraine (28.8 percent backing), Yanukovych's Party of Regions (14.5 percent), Symonenko's Communist Party (6 percent), and Oleksandr Moroz's Socialist Party (4.5 percent) -- can count on overcoming the 3 percent voting barrier that is required for winning parliamentary mandates (parliamentary elections in 2006 are to be held under a fully proportional party-list system that was approved by the Verkhovna Rada in March).
In other words, the "Orange Revolution" might not only install Yushchenko in power and give Ukraine's shaky democracy a new lease on life, but also contribute to the transformation to a much more transparent and consolidated political scene -- a scenario that can only be welcomed by the two sides. (Jan Maksymiuk)'ORANGE REVOLUTION': PART HOMEGROWN UPRISING, PART IMPORTED PRODUCTION?
Participants in Ukraine's "Orange Revolution" say it's no accident theirs resembles the revolutions in Serbia and Georgia.
The peaceful rallies led by the OTPOR youth group that overthrew Slobodan Milosevic in October 2000 had a huge impact in the region.
It showed democratic opposition groups in former Soviet states that it was possible to peacefully change their governments. And it showed Western governments and NGOs that with their financial and technical assistance, they could actually help these groups achieve their goals.
The Belgrade experience inspired the West and the opposition in Belarus, where it failed to win power in 2001, and then in Georgia's successful "Rose Revolution" in 2003.
But advice and funding is one thing -- a successful peaceful revolution is another. OTPOR activist Aleksandar Maric made several trips to Ukraine before the elections.
"If citizens in a respective country are not interested in change, in replacing the authorities in a peaceful, democratic, and lawful way, no one can 'import' revolution from abroad," Maric said.
Maric said that any successful effort requires the will and energy of the local population, who cannot be coerced or bribed into taking to the streets for weeks at a time.
Maric and other OTPOR staffers spent the past two years advising young Ukrainians with a desire for change on building a movement that could succeed at the ballot box. They did not put revolutionary ideas into their heads, he said, but offered organizational tips.
"We trained them in how to set up an organization, how to open local chapters, how to create a 'brand,' how to create a logo, symbols, and key messages," Maric said. "We trained them in how to identify the key weaknesses in society and what people's most pressing problems were -- what might be a motivating factor for people, and above all young people, to go to the ballot box and in this way shape their own destiny."
Indeed, OTPOR's tactics have been replicated not only in Kyiv, but were also visible in Minsk and Tbilisi. They include nonviolent mass protests with humor and irony, a distinct logo and clear demands.
KMARA, which played a key part in Georgia's uprising, has also run seminars for the Ukrainian opposition.
But an activist with the group, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution during the closing days of the Ukrainian election campaign, dismissed any talk that the Rose Revolution was all part of a Western plot.
In an interview from Tbilisi, he said KMARA received only limited advice from the Belgrade revolutionaries.
"[The OTPOR activists] came here two times," the Georgian said. "We had summer camps for activists and they just told the story of how they did it and we made our own conclusions. Actually, there was a very comprehensive training planned later on but then the revolution happened and it never took place."
The KMARA activist insists that Georgia's revolution succeeded -- like its Ukrainian counterpart -- because it was homegrown and carried out by people determined to reclaim their government from corrupt elites.
"Actually, we had a great disillusionment in Western involvement after the elections in Azerbaijan," said one Georgian analyst. "Elections in Azerbaijan took place in October, if you remember, of 2003. And there also mass fraud took place and power was transferred from father to son and the country moved to feudalism. And Western reaction was completely shameful, I would say, with a really shameful report from the OSCE. And some observers from East European countries even staged protests in Warsaw, if you remember. So then it became clear for us that any outcome [in Georgia] would be acceptable for the West. Yes, relations would be cooler between [former Georgian President Eduard] Shevardnadze and the West but they would still shake hands. So we told ourselves either we do this or [nothing is going to change]."
To be sure, Western governments, often working through NGOs, have for years funded democracy-building initiatives across Eastern Europe. Officially, the U.S. government spent $41 million organizing and funding the yearlong drive to oust Milosevic.
And this month, the U.S. administration revealed that it had spent $65 million over the past two years on such efforts in Ukraine. The money went to local groups involved in a range of activities -- from education and legal reform to electoral monitoring.
The U.S. State Department said the money was not distributed directly to parties, nor was it meant to favor any one side.
Patrick Merloe, the director of election programs for the U.S.-based National Democratic Institute (NDI), which receives U.S. funds, said that the "NDI has conducted programs in Ukraine since 1992. All of the institute's programs are aimed towards helping Ukrainians build a democratic political process. It is not aimed at achieving any specific electoral outcome." As an example, he said, "NDI has supported the work of Ukraine's largest domestic nonpartisan monitoring organization, the Committee of Voters of Ukraine, since 1994 and through this very moment. The institute also has offered technical assistance to all of the political parties and blocs in Ukraine, to help them to build political party structures, to reach out to citizens, develop legislative agendas, consider coalition-building and particularly in this recent period, to monitor and help improve the integrity of the election process."
But there's more to revolutions than just money, said American political scientist Gene Sharp. For example, there are ideas.
Sharp's 1993 book "From Dictatorship To Democracy: A Conceptual Framework For Liberation" is a how-to manual offering practical advice on how to organize a nonviolent movement, what to focus on, when to be stubborn, and when to negotiate with authorities.
Although originally conceived for the Burmese opposition, the book was distributed in Serbia by an American NGO during the last days of the Milosevic regime.
Sharp said the concepts underpinning his book -- about democracy and the rights of the individual -- have been around for a long time, emanating from 18th century French and English philosophers. Leaders ranging from Mahatma Gandhi to Martin Luther King Jr. have used those concepts, underpinned by nonviolent protest, to achieve revolutionary goals.
The main ingredient, he said, is not money but a change in mindset.
"It's a very fundamental conceptual shift, from thinking that the government is all-powerful, that it can do everything it wants to do, to realizing that in fact it depends of sources [of power] and is therefore vulnerable to the shrinking or the cutting off of those sources of power," Sharp said.
Unlike other groups, Sharp and the Albert Einstein Institution -- the think-tank he founded in 1993 -- receive no U.S. government money. He laughs at the conspiracy theorists in Moscow and Kyiv.
"They always have some plausible explanation as to why ordinary people, using their heads, could not possibly have accomplished this," Sharp said. "Back in the days of Gandhi's struggle in India, they could only do that supposedly because the English were all gentlemen. Which is utter nonsense. The English machine-gunned hundreds of people at a time on occasion in India. And in other situations there's been some 'explanation.' We've had no contact with the CIA. We have no U.S. government funding. We barely scrape by to continue in existence, we have so little money."
Critics in former Soviet countries, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, accuse the West of meddling in Ukraine's affairs.
But critics in the West accuse Russia of doing far more than that.
Taras Kuzio, a Ukraine specialist at George Washington University in Washington, said that the major effort to influence the Ukrainian elections was run out of Moscow -- not Washington or Belgrade.
"All of the funds given by the United States government through think tanks like Freedom House or USAID, or the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute -- all of that is done transparently," Kuzio said. "Reports are published publicly and everything is noted as to exactly how the money is spent and who it's given to. With the case of the [Viktor] Yanukovych campaign, together with Russia's backing of it, there's no transparency at all, so all we can have ever are estimates. And the estimates, which I think are quite credible, by people like the Carnegie Endowment in Washington, are that the Yanukovych campaign spent -- in addition to what he legally declared to the Central Election Commission -- an additional $6 billion, half of which came from Russian companies such as Gazprom."
Russia's ambassador to Ukraine is former Gazprom Chairman Viktor Chernomyrdin. Putin twice visited Ukraine during the election campaign, speaking live to Ukrainian voters on state television on one occasion, praising Yanukovych's management abilities. (Jeremy Bransten, with contributions from RFE/RL correspondents Andrew Tully and Dragan Stavljanin)THE EU'S RESPONSE TO UKRAINIAN TURMOIL.
As Ukraine became embroiled in the "Orange Revolution," the European Union once again denied the prospect of EU membership to Ukraine. This is hardly surprising. Since outgoing President Leonid Kuchma first proclaimed his desire for EU membership for Ukraine in 1996, the EU has shown little inclination to examine this ambition in a favorable light. On the contrary, the institution rebuffed any initiatives on the part of Kyiv that might have helped turned this ambition into a reality. As a result, Ukraine's desire to "return to Europe" took on a hollow ring, and the authorities were able to reject the need for political and economic reforms (as insisted on by the EU) on the grounds that "nobody wants us in Europe." This somewhat dismissive stance of Europe undoubtedly emboldened Ukraine's authorities to falsify the November presidential election results to the extent that they did.
The history of relations between Ukraine and the EU is instructive. Although Ukraine has continuously failed to introduce much of the necessary political and economic reform, it did institute a series of measures designed to promote its chances of EU membership. For example, in 1998, Borys Tarasyuk, a pro-Western career diplomat, was appointed to the post of foreign minister to boost membership prospects. However, any illusions Kyiv had about its chances of joining were dispelled at the 1999 EU summit in Helsinki, when no offer of the much-vaunted 'prospect' was forthcoming from EU leaders. Instead, the EU's relations with Ukraine were to be strengthened by the "Common Strategy," a symbolic document that failed to add a new impetus to relations. Tarasyuk's sacking followed soon thereafter.
Relations limped on, despite the efforts of the Ukrainian foreign ministry to imbue them with more substance, in the hope that 'Europe' would be become a stimulant to reform in the country. However, not only did these efforts fail, but EU enlargement in May 2004, as a result of which Ukraine became a direct neighbor, deepened its disillusionment with the EU. This is because relations with new neighbors were to be based on the EU's European Neighborhood Policy' (ENP). And while the ENP has the worthy and ambitious objective of "promoting prosperity and stability" among the neighbors along the EU's newly enlarged borders, in practice, it fuelled the sense of exclusion from Europe.
From the Ukrainian point of view, the ENP suffered from a number of flaws. First, the policy covered all EU neighbors, whether European or not (e.g. Morocco). All "neighbors" had been lumped into one general category, with no differentiation between them. Worse was the fact that no distinction was made between aspirant states such as Ukraine, and non-aspirants such as Russia. Second, the ENP added little that was new and relied instead on the existing agreement to guide relations -- the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) -- which had long exhausted its potential for moving relations forward. Third, the ENP offered few real motivating incentives, at least in the short term. The offer of extending the EU's "four freedoms" (of movement of people, capital, goods, and labor) to neighbors was generous but unrealistic. This is because it failed to take into account Ukraine's impoverishment, making them an enticing but elusive prospect. In addition, the EU refused to make even relatively minor trade concessions to the neighbors, even though economic incentives represent the linchpin of the ENP. Fourth, and perhaps most important, the document made no reference to any possibility of Ukraine eventually joining the EU. The prospect of membership was effectively excluded.
Up to a point, the stance adopted by Brussels was understandable. Too often Ukraine has paid scant attention to the EU's insistence on the need to implement reform. In addition, the union had been concerned about Kuchma's regime for some time. There were real question marks over the validity of his reelection in 1999 and his increasingly authoritarian undertones. These concerns reached their peak when Kuchma was implicated in the murder of a journalist critical of his regime in late 2000 -- and have scarcely declined since. At the same time, the big EU member states put a premium on relations with Russia, which perceives the former Soviet Union as its own backyard. So relations with Ukraine were played down for the sake of better relations with the Kremlin. In light of these problems, it is hardly surprising that the EU has not been eager to enhance ties with Ukraine.
However, by failing to build stronger ties, the EU deprived itself of an important lever to influence developments in Kyiv and to empower the pro-reform forces there. Worse, it bolstered Viktor Yanukovych, the authorities' candidate, who could justify his decision to abandon EU membership ambitions (and with them the need to implement reform) and instead promote closer ties with Russia. The recent visits of EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana to Ukraine to mediate was a welcome sign of EU's belated interest in Ukraine, but it simultaneously exposed the vacuousness of Brussels' policy toward that country. Ironically, had Ukraine experienced the type of conflict that plagued the Western Balkans, and which the West is now trying to help prevent, Ukraine would have been higher up on the EU's agenda a lot earlier.
However, it is not too late for the EU to exert influence in Ukraine without actually committing itself to offering membership. Above all, it could formally recognize Ukraine's European aspirations without explicitly ruling membership out or in. Second, the EU could make greater trade concessions to Ukraine, an issue which has long hindered relations. In particular, the bloc has not allowed Ukrainian goods to compete openly with its agriculture and steel sectors. Third, the EU could ease its stance on the visa regime with Ukraine. Owing to enlargement, travel to the Schengen area has become an even more expensive and time-consuming undertaking for impoverished Ukrainians. This has not only resulted in a sense of alienation among them but has caused real hardship for those in border regions.
The recent decision by the EU to once again deny the prospect of membership but approve its Action Plan for Ukraine (finalized in 2004) does not augur well for future relations. The Action Plan, far from leading to membership, merely delineates a series of political and economic criteria according to which relations are expected to develop; Ukrainians are deeply dissatisfied with it. Negotiated before the "Orange Revolution," the plan relies on "old solutions" to a new situation and thus hardly brings a new lease on life to relations. The EU is in danger of once more failing to support Ukraine's population, which has already demonstrated that it is willing to bear the sacrifices of democratizing and Europeanizing itself.
If the EU is to achieve its long-term goal of having a stable and prosperous neighbor on its Eastern border, as outlined in the ENP, it will need to develop a vision and ambition for Ukraine it has thus far lacked. At the same time, it will need to offer reformists the tools they need to create a society imbued with European standards and values. Brussels must deprive the authorities of their argument that "nobody wants us in Europe." Only in this way might Ukraine implement the political and economic reforms to realize its pro-European ambitions -- and the EU might just end up with the prosperous and stable neighbor it wants and needs. (Kataryna Wolczuk and Roman Wolczuk)
[Kataryna Wolczuk is senior lecturer in East European Politics at the University of Birmingham. Roman Wolczuk is a research fellow at the University of Wolverhampton, U.K.]
Viktor Yushchenko and Viktor Yanukovych held a televised 100-minute live debate on 20 December, ahead of the 26 December presidential vote. Following are some quotes highlighting some of the main topics of that debate.
"There is one reason why we are here [in the television studio] today.... My opponent and his team stole more than 3 million votes on 21 November."
"Esteemed friends. An attempt has been made to steal the future from us."
"We need to remember that the driving engine behind this process [changes in the Ukrainian political scene during the 'Orange Revolution'] were not parties but ordinary Ukrainian citizens who refused to live in a country ruled by criminal authorities.... The people said they do not want to live any longer in a limited liability joint-stock company of Yanukovych, Kuchma, and Medvedchuk."
"I am astonished by your claims [that you are in opposition to Kuchma]. You are the only candidate of these authorities. You are Kuchma III; you are his best child. And today you say such things about the president. Do not spit into the well from which you will still have to drink."
"I can only agree with you that it is time to understand that a Ukrainian president must not be elected in Moscow. These trips [of yours] to Crimea or Moscow are humiliating for any candidate of independent Ukraine.... It is also relevant for Brussels, Warsaw, or Washington."
"You're a religious person, right? Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not steal things; thou shalt not steal factories; thou shalt not steal votes. [But then] you stole 3 million votes."
"These hands have stolen nothing. I was never in prison. I was an honest banker, and I am an honest person."
"I know that I will win."
"We witnessed how the authorities, embodied by Kuchma, united with representatives of the so-called orange coup and made all those illegal decisions [overturning Yanukovych's victory]."
"It think that, no matter who wins the election, we need to hold a forum of national concord after the vote and go on with living in our country."
"You think, Viktor Andriyjvych, that you will win and become president of Ukraine. You are making a huge mistake. You will be president of part of Ukraine."
"I have not fought for power, I have fought to prevent bloodshed and have harmony [in the country]."
"I do not want to say that [Putin] has not supported me. Yes, he has, exactly as you have been supported by Western countries, exactly as you have been supported by America."
"I want to apologize to all of you that there were some improprieties in this election campaign. I want us to have no bad will after this election. I want our people to emerge from this renewed. And I want us to celebrate New Year in our families with our children."