All Quiet on the Other Front? State and Prospectives of Reforms in Ukraine

Today, Ukraine fights on two fronts – one to regain its territorial integrity against Russia’s aggression, and the second one is the front of reforms.

In order to discuss how Ukraine implements various reforms, Ukrainian Think Tanks Liaison Office in Brussels in cooperation with the Open Society European Policy Institute and with support of the Think Tank Fund, the International Renaissance Foundation and SIDA organized a discussion Ukraine’s Other Front: State of Play and Prospects on Reforms on November 30th in Brussels.

Oleksiy Sudorchuk

Moderator of the event, Olena Prystayko, Executive Director of the Ukrainian Think Tanks Liaison Office in Brussels, stressed that the two fronts are interconnected.

“Ukraine has achieved noticeable results in the reform process; particularly impressive result is the stabilisation of the macroeconomic situation”, said Peter Wagner, Head of the Support for Ukraine, European Commission, in his keynote speech. The EU official drew attention to the striking performance of the Ukrainian civil society that supports and pushes for reforms. Although a lot has been done some legislation is either postponed or is being implemented very slowly. Despite other important issues, Ukraine remains high on the EU’s agenda, said Peter Wagner. According to him, fighting corruption and reforms of judiciary are very important for Ukraine because improvements in these areas will attract investors and stabilize economy.

Olexiy Sydorchuk, analyst, Democratic Initiatives Foundation, presented his recent publication on decentralization reform, particularly what has been already done, what are the further prospects and how can the EU help Ukraine in this reform. Certain progress in this area has been made, noted expert. 159 consolidated communities were created. However, the reform remains incomplete until the Verkhovna Rada approves constitutional amendments in the 2nd hearing. These amendments cause internal tension within Ukrainian society, as they attribute special status to some districts of Donbas and Lugansk regions. These amendments are required for Ukraine to fulfil the Minsk Agreements. In order to speed up decentralization, the expert recommends the government to conduct an informational campaign to explain a wider public why the constitutional changes are important. The experts also call upon the EU to “decouple decentralization from the Minsk agreements. Such step would greatly facilitate DSC00727decentralization”.

The Ukrainians indeed cast high expectations about the role of the EU in reformation process, confirmed Sergiy Solodkyy, Deputy Director, Institute of World Policy (IWP). According to IWP’s researchHow Could the EU Accelerate Reforms in Ukraine?”, 30% of the population expect greater pressure of the EU on Ukraine. The research also shows that 65% of the Ukrainians are disappointed with the pace of reforms. “Ukrainian civil society asks the EU institutions to get more engaged into the reform process, because civil society lacks leverage over the government”, said the expert. He also recommended that Ukrainian civil society and the EU should cooperate more in order to achieve greater and faster advance in the reforms, for example as in the case visa liberalization between Ukraine and the EU. “EU might react on the certain call from the civil society, which will ensure that the Ukrainians initiate the reforms on their own, not only on the demand of the international community”, concluded Sergiy Solodkyy.

Iskra Kirova, analyst, Open Society European Policy Institute, agreed that the cooperation between the EU and Ukrainian civil society is important prerogative for the fast and effective reforms in Ukraine. She used a case of visa liberalization to demonstrative how this cooperation could work in practice. Ms. Kirova agreed with the previous statement of Sergiy Solodkyy that the EU has greater leverage over Ukrainian government. Talking about achievements and failures, she noted that Ukraine has achieved noticeable success in the reformation of public administration, however Ukraine has still to implement legislation on acid recovery, and investigate corruption and crimes committed during Maidan”, stressed the analyst.

During Brussels visit, The UTTLOB also organized closed meetings of the experts with the officials of the Support Group for Ukraine, European Commission, European External Action Service, as well as Acting Head of the Mission of Ukraine to the EU – Lyubov Nepop.

The visit of experts and the conference were organized in the framework of the UTTLOB’s Project “Improving the communications capacity of Ukrainian think tanks”, in the framework of the initiative supporting development of Ukrainian think tanks, which is being implemented by the Think Tanks Fund (Budapest), International Renaissance Foundation (Kyiv) with the support of Embassy of Sweden in Ukraine (SIDA).