Moving Forward Together?! Joint Action for EU Association

On 6 June 2019, Olena Carbou, Executive Director of the Ukrainian Think Tanks Liaison Office in Brussels, moderated the panel discussion “Moving Forward Together?! Joint Action for EU Association” within the frame of the Convention “Ask. Act. Associate. Civic Action for EU Association”, which took place in the framework of the Civic School for Sound EU practice (CiSEP) organised by the Institut für Europäische Politik (Berlin) in cooperation with its partners: Polissya Foundation for International and Regional Studies (Chernihiv), Civil Network OPORA (Lviv), Odessa regional branch of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine, and Dnipro branch of the Public Chamber of Ukraine.

The Panel was devoted to the discussion of the main achievements and challenges on the path towards the implementation of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement.  Olena Carbou, started the panel by presenting a general picture to the audience. She stressed that both sides are on the stage of upgrade of the power. There are Presidential, early parliamentary elections and 2020 local elections in Ukraine. The EU is also on updating stage with the elections to the European Parliament to be followed by the appointment of the new constitution of the European Commission and the new leadership of the European Council.

The panel gathered to discuss the following questions: How do we assess that we achieved so far in EU – Ukraine relations? What are the tasks and expectations for the forthcoming period? How to improve the dialogue between civil society and authorities in order to promote and secure the European path of Ukraine?

H.E. Ernst Reichel, Ambassador of Germany to Ukraine, started his speech by mentioning the enthusiasm and strength of Ukraine’s civil society. He stressed that the results that have been achieved so far are quite impressive: we have 5 years of intensification of the relations, visa liberalisation, AA/DCFTA that entered into force.  Moreover, Ukraine has introduced EU membership as a goal in its Constitution. In this regards, Mr Reichel expressed his belief that this direction will be unchanged and the new President will be determined to continue approximation to the EU. He also noted that the implementation of the EU standards and values inside the country is important.

H.E Hughes Mingarelli, Ambassador, Head of the EU Delegation to Ukraine, emphasised the importance of such initiatives as the CiSEP and commended the organisers for the education of the Ukrainian civil society about the Association Agreement and DCFTA, which is important both for Ukraine and the EU. He underlined that during the last years there is a constant position of the majority of the population and the political class that they want to join the EU. There is also a strong basis for the implementation of the Association Agreement, and these bases are our common values. Besides, Mr Mingarelli emphasised that civil society is Ukraine’s exceptional asset. The implementation of the Association Agreement depends not just on political will, it is also important to explain to people what this agreement is about. He stressed that there are two main objectives in DCFTA: to get rid of remaining custom duties and to get rid of non-tariff barriers to trade. To do this it is necessary to harmonise the Ukrainian legislation with the EU one and then implement it, which is impossible without civil society, who can translate the bureaucratic language to the common public. Mr Mingarelli also emphasised that civil society should work more efficiently in the regions.

Iuliia Zaichenko, General Director for Strategic Planning and European Integration, Ministry of Justice of Ukraine, stressed that along with the European integration issues there was the issue with the public administration reform, which was supported by the EU during the last 3 years. It allowed people from other sectors to become public servants. She noted that they tried to make a very structured agenda of work with European institutions. It was approved that Ukraine and the EU work on enhancing cooperation in 4 main sectors: digital market; customs issues; energy and justice, freedom and security. Ms Zaichenko also gave an example of successful collaboration between the Ministry and the representatives of civil society – NGO “Europe without barriers”. She stressed that this dialogue is very important and encouraged NGOs to come to the ministries, to be more open because they are also more open now, and it is possible to move forward more efficiently together.

Summarising the results of the discussion, Olena Carbou emphasised that in order to continue to change the country and to move forward to the EU it is necessary for the Ukrainian civil society to be knowledgeable, innovative and open; and to work in regions, to become a part of the government and to communicate with people.