20 November 2015

Ukraine - No Shortcuts on the Long Road Ahead

There are no shortcuts and the reform process will be a long road, argue Věra Řiháčková, Advocacy & Membership Manager of the Secretariat of the Steering Committee of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum, and Jeff Lovitt, founder and Chair of New Diplomacy, in a paper prepared for the Prague European Summit, which took place in Prague, Czech Republic, on 12-13 November 2015.

 In their analysis, Ukraine - No Shortcuts on the Long Road Ahead, they call for security to be placed centre-stage so that Ukraine can take control of its own destiny.

The legacy of the Yanukovych government included the worst business climate of all six Eastern Partner countries, a dysfunctional judiciary and law enforcement authorities, and endemic corruption.

The efforts taken by the new government at national and local level to tackle corruption and reform the economy, alongside plans for decentralisation and privatisation, need to be sustained, and the peformance of the mayors and local government councils emerging from the October and November 2015 local elections will be an important factor in the likely successes of anti-graft efforts and in the reform process as a whole.

A key to the reform process will be the establishment of a culture of more inclusive policymaking, working closely with civil society and strategic international partners, such as the EU. Most importantly, the Ukrainian people need to be convinced that the political forces in power at national and local level are sincerely committed to long-term, sustained reforms in policymaking and implementation. In turn, the EU must sustain pressure on all democratic actors in Ukraine to work together for open government, rule of law, respect for and engagement with independent media, and the pursuit of a long-term commitment to public administration reform and democratic renewal.

The key recommendations of their paper are:

 • The security of Ukraine and its people - both those in the conflict zone in Eastern Ukraine and the internally displaced - must take centre-stage, so that Ukraine can take control of its own destiny. This will require:
• full implementation of the Minsk agreements, including the resumption of Ukraine’s control of its Eastern borders, and a Ukrainian military that is equipped to maintain and monitor its borders, and has training and equipment that enables it to deter foreign military incursions
• proactive crisis planning, and security co-operation with the EU, building on the EU Advisory Mission for Civilian Security Sector Reform Ukraine (EUAM Ukraine), but also working with the US and other NATO members, not only to manage crisis situations, but to preempt the escalation of tensions in Eastern Ukraine and the threat of further military intervention by Russia
• dynamic support for Ukraine from the side of NATO, which must strengthen its conventional defence capabilities in the Baltics and Poland, and at the same time provide greater military assistance to the Ukrainian army - both steps designed as deterrents to raise the costs of any further Russian offensive actions in Eastern Ukraine
• OSCE-mediated engagement between the Ukrainian government and the authorities in separatist-held Donetsk and Luhansk to open up space for greater autonomy within Ukraine, backed up by intensive EU diplomacy and political will to find a peaceful solution to the conflict on the part of the Ukrainian government. 
• The relationship between the EU and Ukraine needs to be based on clear long-term planning built around the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, with clear annual targets for policy reforms and clear measures of implementation.
• The EU needs to be consistent in its commitment to working with all democratic parties throughout Ukraine, not pinning its hopes on a small number of political forces. This long-term approach should be combined with strong engagement with civil society, not least in hiring independent expertise to monitor the use of EU funding in the country, and with support to independent media and a plularity of voices in Ukraine.
• The top challenges facing Ukraine include the need to stamp out the endemic rent-seeking and the stranglehold of oligarchs on Ukrainian politics. The new Anti-Corruption Bureau should be provided with the training and resources to tackle corruption, but its success will require continued reform of the police and a swift overhaul of the judiciary that should take place through a process engaging a wide spectrum of civil society and international experts.
• The privatisation of the ca 1,800 state-owned enterprises, which run up losses to the tune of billions of euros, needs to be launched in 2016. The process needs to be transparent with the publication of all bids, subject to independent monitoring, and designed alongside a strategy to foster a dynamic business sector in Ukraine, backed up by swift introduction of policy reforms to improve the business environment throughout the country.

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