Reforms in Ukraine: Changing the Country and Learning from the Others

On the 2nd December 2015 in Brussels, in the framework of the Economic Ideas Forum, the Wilfred Martens Centre for European Studies organized a roundtable “Political Reform as a Driver of Economic Change: Ukraine, the Eastern Partnership, and Beyond” in order to have a close look on the lessons, which Ukraine can learn from the “new EU states”.Mikulas Dzurinda, President of the Martens Centre, former Prime Minister of Slovakia, presented the general context in which the post-Soviet countries have found themselves in. “While the whole Eastern Partnership project has some problems, the positive narrative in Ukraine is rather encouraging”, said Mr. Dzurinda. The substantial changes have already occurred in Ukraine, however the pace of reforms is not fast enough due to the lack of strong political leadership and insufficient communication about reforms to the public. In order for the reforms to succeed, the Ukrainians should take the responsibility for them, emphasized Mikulas Dzurinda.

 Andrius Kubilius, former Prime Minister of Lithuania and member of the Seimas: “Ukraine reminds me Lithuania in 1990s because it is a country after the revolution. Ukrainian people, just like the Lithuanians 15 years ago, have a lot of idealistic post-revolution expectations, which will disappear quite soon”. In order to prevent this, the Ukrainians need to have democracy on both legs with proper opposition in the Parliament. A promise of the potential EU membership might also accelerate the reform process in Ukraine, as it happened with Lithuania, stated the politician.

 Andrej Plenkovic, MEP, Chair of Delegation to the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Association Committee, believes that initial step to encourage Ukraine on its reformation path might be viіa liberalization. “Visa liberalization is a signal that the EU becomes more tangible for the Ukrainians. It is essentially important because only 13% of population have visited the EU”, said Mr. Plenkovic. Many EU officials as well as MEPs support Ukraine and many view it to be a priority for the EU.

 Aliona Shkrum, Member of Verkhovna Rada, expressed gratitude to the EU for its assistance with reformation of the country. In a firm though just tone she provided an overview of the main achievements and shortcomings of this process. While Ukraine has gone through the deregulation process in economy, started reforms of police and public administration, it still awaits for anti-corruption reform and reform of justice. Similarly, Ukraine did not managed to promote the reforms within broader social circles. Ms. Shkrum agreed with the position of Andrej Plenkovic that visa-free regime would be a nice sign for the Ukrainians that there are no more walls between Ukraine and the EU. “Although the glass of reforms is half-full, Ukrainian civil society pushes for the reforms and will succeed”, she concluded.