EED10 Years Supporting Democracy

26 September 2016 17:30 to 19:30
Location European Endowment for Democracy Avenue des Gaulois 29
1040 Brussels, Belgium

Ukraine: Groundwork laid for accelerating reforms

26 September 2016 17:30 to 19:30
European Endowment for Democracy Avenue des Gaulois 29
1040 Brussels, Belgium

Two years have passed since civil society organisations proposed a comprehensive roadmap of reforms to be implemented by the government in Ukraine. On 26 September, EED hosted an event bringing together experts to reflect on the state-of-play.

Ukrainian civil platform “Reanimation Package of Reforms” (RPR), the Institute of World Policy (IWP), the Ukrainian Think Tanks Liaison Office joined the European Endowment for Democracy (EED) in a panel discussion to look at the ongoing process of reforms and what has been achieved so far. Participants debated current challenges and discussed solutions for sustainable future reform.

Key role for civil society

All agreed on the growing role of civil society as an active player in pushing for reforms and monitoring their implementation. RPR, initially a spontaneous initiative during the EuroMaidan protests when civic activists started to develop reform proposals, is now a strong coalition of 67 civil society organisations. They work with several hundred experts in 26 different sectors to support authorities with the reform progress.

Olena Halushka from RPR underlined that 60-80% of their roadmap ideas are included into the coalition agreement, making it an efficient tool for cooperation between civil society and authorities. In addition to the creation of anti-corruption investigative bodies, one notable success has been the creation of an electronic database to control assets of public officials. This already contains over one million declarations. She noted however that there is still resistance to full transparency, as well as a lack of effective tools to bring corrupt officials to justice.

RPR has also put forward the establishment of a dedicated anti-corruption court as one of seven key priorities of the new reform roadmap defined for 2016-2017. Such a move is critical for enabling investigations to proceed instead of being blocked by current courts, as is often currently the case.

On the issue of the reform of the prosecutor’s office, RPR expert Maryna Tsapok suggested that a new state investigation bureau should be created to investigate crimes committed by law enforcement officials. Even though the police reform has been very successful so far with the force becoming less military and more service-oriented and open, distrust in the police remains high. The fact that it is currently impossible to independently investigate certain crimes such as torture or abuse of power only reinforces this.

Anastasiia Krasnosilska, RPR expert on anti-corruption, underlined the prospect of visa liberalisation as a key incentive for driving reforms forward: “Without visa liberalisation, we would not have a quarter of what we have achieved in the anti-corruption reform process.”

Efforts acknowledged by EU

Peter Wagner, Head of the European Commission’s Support Group for Ukraine, confirmed the recent approval of visa liberalisation as part of a positive message acknowledging the efforts undertaken so far. This was underscored by Frank Paul, Leader of Justice and Home Affairs section in the Support Group: “You will see an acceleration of reforms now that the groundwork has been laid.”

However, Wagner stressed that there still is considerable progress to be made, particularly in the fields of anti-corruption and the rule of law. This is why the Commission is providing targeted support in form of two substantial projects currently underway.

Concerning the future of RPR, Mykhailo Zhernakov, board member and former judge, stated: “We want to disintegrate. We want to no longer be needed as that would give a signal that the state is strong enough to implement all reforms.”