European and Euro-Atlantic integration is the basis of Ukraine’s external vector – politicians and experts

02.12.2020

The online forum “Dialogues on Reforms: On the Way to Vilnius” was opened by Yuliia Kyrychenko, Co-Chairwoman of the RPR Coalition Board. She stressed that the event demonstrates the cooperation of civil society, government and international partners, and thanked Lithuania for its support.

“I urge you to speak without populism about Ukrainian problems and solutions.  To talk about a low constitutional culture, about a pandemic and in conditions of aggression, to be among the strong democracies» – the speaker added.

In his introductory speech, Linas Linkevičius, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, stressed the importance of all the reforms under discussion.  He noted that the conferences on the future of Ukraine in London, Copenhagen and Toronto will definitely be continued in Vilnius despite the pandemic.  “We need to make a certain inventory of all reforms.  Despite the difficult times, we must not stop, continue to work, create opportunities to build our networks and keep in touch not only during conferences, but also between them.  Lithuania and other partners will not stand aside and watch.  We will be actively involved. ”

Status and priorities of reforms in Ukraine

Moderator: Andriiy Kulykov, Chairman and a host of Hromadske Radio

Katarina Mathernova, Deputy Director-General for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Acting Head of the Support Group for Ukraine, European Commission stressed that 7 years after the Revolution of Dignity there was a difficult, but the most powerful movement in the history of Ukraine in the European direction.  The speaker noted the implemented decentralization reform, the development of civil society, the criminalization of illicit assets, anti-corruption reform and other changes.

Ms. Mathernova stressed that there are always doubts on the path to reforms, and no reform can be perfect, completely protected from rolling back.  An example is the constitutional dilemma facing Ukraine over a recent Constitutional Court ruling.  According to the speaker, it was an attempt to disrupt the anti-corruption architecture, which has just begun to build.  This has raised many concerns among international partners.

“The country is in a dilemma.  There are no simple answers and solutions.  Judicial reform, which addresses various elements, needs to be restarted comprehensively.  The international community is ready to help Ukraine find a way out of this extremely difficult dilemma. ”

Following the successful Ukraine-EU Summit, European partners are interested in deepening relations and renewing the Association Agreement and the Free Trade Area, as well as waiting for the signing of the Civil Aviation Agreement in 2021.

Paul Grod, President of Ukrainian World Congress, said that the independent organization supports reforms in Ukraine through projects in the fields of medicine, instruments of democracy, suffrage, and in defining Ukrainians’ identity.

The speaker named key problems for Ukraine’s development: economic issues, rule of law, transparency of decisions and transformations.  Paul Grod stressed that Ukrainian entrepreneurs working abroad should be encouraged to invest in Ukraine.  Another challenge is to create a favorable environment for attracting international experts to work in Ukraine, in particular to discuss the topical issue of dual citizenship in order to involve the diaspora in the active development of Ukraine.

Yuliia Kyrychenko, Co-Chairwoman of the RPR Coalition Board, outlined four priorities on the part of civil society and in particular 26 NGO members of the RPR Coalition:

1. Combating a low constitutional culture and the need for a comprehensive revision of the Basic Law.  It is necessary to provide a constitutional foundation for a number of reforms, in particular – decentralization.

“24 bills do not give any correct answer what we should do as a state.  And the correct answer is that the authorities need to abandon the politically dependent Constitutional Court in Ukraine, ” Yuliia Kyrychenko said.

According to the speaker, one independent competition commission is needed, which will be able to ensure the fulfillment of two constitutional requirements for judges – high moral qualities and professionalism.  As an option, to offer the judges of the Constitutional Court in the resignation of the first cadence to select judges in the conditions of low political culture of power.

2. Good governance.The speaker called on the government to return to the concept of civil service without political dismissals, in which the civil servant will be protected, as well as to return the competition for public positions, which were abolished.

3. Democracy at the national and local levels.”In our opinion, now there is no most effective tool in the context of decentralization – local referendums.  We look forward to the adoption of the law on the all-Ukrainian referendum in the fall and call for the development of the principles of a local referendum to address local issues. ”

4. Judicial reform.First of all, it is necessary to ensure a fair composition of the judiciary, which is responsible for the appointment of judges – VKKS and GRP.

5. Communication with society about reforms.The state should make every effort to develop a public broadcaster that can inform voters in a balanced way away from political players, as well as play an important role in a pandemic and disinformation.

6. Representative political parties instead of private political projects.

Olha Stefanishyna, Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine, stressed that Ukraine continues to move towards EU membership.  According to her words, for the first time in the last 10 years, the Summit reached political decisions on the Association Agreement and support for reforms.  The speaker also noted the importance of launching the Commission for Legal Reform, restarting the HCCJ and developing critical thinking.

European integration

Moderator: Yurii Panchenko, the editor of the European Pravda, invited speakers to answer the question: is the glass of European integration full, empty or no longer there?

Olha Stefanishyna, Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine, stressed that today there is no doubt that European and Euro-Atlantic integration remains an idea that unites and allows for the promotion of systemic strategic reforms.

Ukraine is inextricably linked with strategic partners, and this issue has been ongoing in recent years.

“Sustainability of processes allows us to be more ambitious, to play a serious role in the international arena and today to conduct a dialogue with the EU as full partners,” she added.

The speaker is convinced that the European community wants to see Ukraine not only as a successful country with a high level of economic development, but also as a leading country in the region.  She noted that the role of parliament and the president in the topic of European integration has increased: “The interaction between the president, parliament and government is established in such a way that we can afford to think as strategically and ambitiously as possible.”

The following government plans:

  1. To update the association agreement.Ukraine has demonstrated its ability to meet its conditions, the functioning of a free trade area and its capacity to build opportunities.
  2. Totake part in the New Green Course of the European Union.

Olha Stefanishyna added that in previous years progress in fulfilling the terms of the Association Agreement has reached 80%.  Therefore, striving for 100%, this year the government has done what has not been done since 2016.

Instead, in her video address, Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, MP, Head of the Parliament Committee on Ukraine’s Integration into the European Union, said that the government was guilty of  country and criticized the activities of the current government.  She appealed to important indicators of the continuity of reforms, communication with citizens and maintaining public debate.  “The government has not yet implemented a mechanism for agreeing with the EU laws and bylaws to implement the updated 27th energy annex of the Association Agreement with the EU.  This not only does not allow to obtain the expected effect, but can also have a negative impact on other areas.  Because the EU sees our institutional inability to implement agreements which even we are interested in.”

Finally, the speaker called for conclusions and six months before the conference in Vilnius to organize the joint work of the majority, the opposition, civil society, business, to form a real agenda for reform and implement it.

Olha Stefanishyna replied that from 2019 she would follow the instructions of the Transitional Book, which the previous “team of reformers offered to the new governments.”  She noted that the facts of the reaction of the ruling elite to the decision of the Constitutional Court in order to prevent the “rollback” of reforms demonstrate the increasing pace of European integration and the irreversibility of this course.

Andriy Bukvych, Director General of the Directorate for Foreign Policy of the Office of the President of Ukraine, noted that messages such as “there is no glass of European integration at all” are politicized and manipulative.  He confirmed that the European integration course enshrined in the Constitution has remained unchanged.  The Ukraine-EU summit considers the speaker a success: “The President is constantly trying to increase the degree of ambition of our European integration aspirations.”  He added that in 2022, Switzerland should host a conference on reforms in Ukraine.

Matti Maasikas, Head of the European Union Delegation to Ukraine, expressed the EU’s view on the reform process.  He agreed that the Ukraine-EU Summit was a success, adding that Ukraine’s progress in fulfilling its obligations under the Association Agreement would be published in an annual report.  The speaker stressed that next year the Agreement will be 5 years old, so it is planned to review all achievements.  According to him, the EU is fully committed to cooperation with the Ukrainian side.

“The anniversary of the Revolution is soon.  These heroic events cemented Ukraine’s Euro- and Euro-Atlantic course.  This value is enshrined in the Constitution, so let’s consider the Agreement greater than a collection of lists and tasks that need to be completed and put a cross, “said Matti Maasikas.

The speaker believes that the implementation of European reforms makes Ukraine more stable.  With them comes money to the country: since 2014, the EU has received 15 billion euros in grants and other financial instruments, including more than 190 million euros to fight coronavirus, as well as 1.2 billion euros in macro-financial assistance.

Matti Maasikas summed up that Ukraine has had many achievements in 7 years: the economy has stabilized, the banking sector has been cleansed, trade with the EU has increased, the energy sector has been reformed, and decentralization reform is important.  Therefore, the EU expects continued cooperation in order to overcome all critical consequences and firmly root achievements.

Taras Kachka, Deputy Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Agriculture of Ukraine – Trade Representative of Ukraine said: “By and large, today the driver of European integration is Ukraine, not the EU.  Because we are constantly talking about active agenda.  The renewal of the Agreement is not just a desire to add points: it is a desire for greater intensity and a clearer understanding of mutual rights and responsibilities. ”

He noted that the sphere of trade shows the most how fast Ukraine’s economy integrates with the EU.  This is more than 40% of trade with the EU, export growth, development of partnerships in the field of B2B.

“European integration is not a homework.  We are not students, we are partners.  Ukraine is a faithful follower of European policy in all economic spheres, “Taras Kachka summed up.

Veronika Movchan, Research Director, Head of the Center for Economic Studies, stressed that as a result of the Agreement, Ukraine has received the expected growth in trade, product range, and customs reforms.

“On the other hand, we did not get the other expected part – the rapid inflow of foreign direct investment.  The reason is a “hole” in the foundation: the rule of law, in particular in judicial and anti-corruption reforms, “the speaker said.

Leonid Litra, Senior Research Fellow at the New Europe Center, said the EU lacked the means to push for reforms in Ukraine.  On the other hand, Ukraine has exhausted arguments as to why it is failing to have a majority in parliament.  There is a lack of expectations on both sides.

“There is an Association Agreement, but it has reached its peak and, in my opinion, cannot mobilize the necessary amount of support for reforms.  We need something in between, because EU membership is impossible, and the Agreement is no longer strong.  That is, we need another incentive to do what is on the agenda, “said the speaker.

He added that Ukraine has the impression that the EU is less and less ready to deepen relations, regardless of how Ukraine implements its commitments and reforms.

“This is a dangerous trend that could eventually lead to an anti-EU narrative.  There is skepticism, and this is normal for a democratic society, but we need to make sure that we do not allow ourselves to be deprived of political support for European integration and the implementation of reforms, “Leonid Litra concluded.

He also recommended that the EU cooperate more widely with civil society organizations in Ukraine.

Euro-Atlantic integration and national security

Moderator: Taras Yemchura, team-lead of ANP-NATO initiative at “Support to Ukraine’s Reforms for Governance” (SURGe) project

Larisa Galadza, Ambassador of Canada to Ukraine, began by saying that Canada supports Ukraine in many ways and that joint projects are based on key values.  They must also underpin Euro-Atlantic reforms.  These are the values ​​of gender equality, democratic accountability, transparency of governance processes and the rule of law.

“In Ukraine, we see the intention to do just that.  There is a new action plan for peace and security presented by Ms. Stefanyshyna, and there is an extremely powerful lobby for women veterans who can take part in the reform process.  The Committee of the Verkhovna Rada is open to productive work, the relevant advisers work.  The structures are already working, but the priorities are not defined, so this gives room for manipulation and wasteful use of resources.  So we want to say that gender equality is an extremely important component and we need to do more in this direction. ”

Valdemaras Sarapinas, Ambassador of the Republic of Lithuania to Ukraine, noted that Ukraine’s membership in NATO is realistic and recalled the history of Lithuania.  He said it was never believed that Lithuania and other Baltic members could become members of NATO.  In 1994, the President of Lithuania addressed the NATO leadership and expressed his will to join, but it was seen as a dream.  10 years of effort – and in 2004 all three Baltic countries became members of NATO.  So nothing is impossible, the speaker summed up.

According to him, the most difficult part of the path to NATO is the transformation of the system and culture, changes in customs.  But Ukraine has a solid foundation, there are goals set out in the Constitution, as well as a new status in the framework of cooperation with NATO, which opens access to the formation of programs, joint exercises and more.  “We are fighting for Ukraine in Washington and Brussels.  We send advisers and instructors who help the Ukrainian military directly in the field.  Take the Berdychiv center or the Yavoriv landfill.  Even today, our military mission is working at full strength, despite the challenges of today. ”

The speaker recommended the Ministry of Defense to continue professional education and reform the staffing system.

“I am convinced that the biggest key to success is to have the right people in place.  People who have professional training, English language skills.  We need to form a critical mass of well-trained staff to implement reforms, ” Valdemaras Sarapinas summed up.

Kristina A. Kvien, United States Chargé d’Affaires in Ukraine, said she currently sees two challenges for Ukraine’s membership in NATO:

  1. External – the fight against Russia and disinformation;
  2. Internal – the fight against corruption.

The speaker drew attention to the anti-Western narratives that are spread inside Ukraine by Russia’s allies.

“Ukrainian institutions must be accountable to Ukrainian citizens.  The Prosecutor General must ensure that the prosecutor’s office works for the benefit of Ukrainian citizens, not private interests, – said Kristina A. Kvien.  “The US administration plans to continue cooperating with President Zelensky in the direction of Ukraine’s attempt at Euro-Atlantic integration.”

Alexander Vinnikov, Head of the NATO Representation to Ukraine, Director of the NATO Liaison Office, agreed that NATO’s cooperation with Ukrainian partners is growing.  The annual national plan remains a key guideline for Ukraine’s approach to NATO.

“The Allies agree that Ukraine has made great progress over the past few years, using this tool and maximizing its strategic effectiveness,” the speaker explained.

The speaker added that the adoption of the new National Security Strategy was highly praised in NATO, and noted this year’s success in the adoption of the law on intelligence.  “We are convinced that the services are working with greater civilian oversight and control, which is one of NATO’s key principles.”

The reform of the Security Service of Ukraine remains a cornerstone: “The current version of the draft law on the Security Service of Ukraine contains a number of important improvements over the previous ones, and international experts have jointly analyzed it.  We are convinced that it still needs to be worked on in order to achieve a greater level of affiliation with NATO standards after the reform, “Mr. Vinnikov said.

He summed up that understanding and accepting the need to go this way, fight corruption, fight for the rule of law and strengthen reforms is key to integration.

Oleksandr Buniak, Acting Director of the Department for International Military Cooperation of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, noted that integration for the Ministry of Defense is the main driver of transformation.

The Speaker briefly summed up the results of 4 years of implementation of the Strategic Defense Bulletin:  training of 12,000 servicemen in exercises with the participation of international partners, introduction of new approaches in resource management and planning, implementation of the first procurement by the Ministry of Defense. ”  The new strategic bulletin will balance institutional transformation and capacity development.

Oleksandr Buniak added that Ukraine’s new status will allow developing capabilities and approaching NATO standards.  In this context, the Ministry of Defense plans to increase the number of troops in NATO’s command structure, consider the initiative of voluntary contributions to NATO’s civilian structures, expand the exchange of sensitive information and hopes to be involved in a wider range of exercises.

Mariana Bezuhla, Deputy Chairperson of the Parliament Committee on National Security, Defence and Intelligence  stressed the important achievements of the parliament:

The law on defense procurement has already been signed by the president.  2021 should be a transition period from the state defense procurement and defense procurement planning system to the new procurement and medium-term planning system.

Bills on sergeant ranks and officers’ issues have been finalized and entered into force.

The Law on Intelligence has been adopted, additional bills are being developed to regulate innovations.

The speaker called the issue of restarting special services a priority.  In particular, it is a new law on the SSU, which will reformat it into a special counterintelligence service and revise its powers.  So far, the project has passed the Committee.

The second priority is a bill that will reformat military commissariats into recruitment centers as part of Euro-Atlantic integration.  He has already passed the first reading.

Priorities for the next year are issues of territorial defense and military policy, regulation of the implementation of laws, resolving the issue of civil democratic control, as well as discussing the need for a separate law on parliamentary control.

The People’s Deputy noted, instead, that during the year the Committee did not receive any law from the Ministry of Defense, and called for further assistance in developing initiatives.

Oleksiy Genchev, Acting Director General of the Government Office for Coordination of European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, which is currently the main goal – using the mechanisms of national programs to make Euro-Atlantic reforms planned, targeted and result-oriented, to move away from reporting for the sake of reporting.  The speaker noted that the activities voiced by colleagues would not be effective without the establishment of an effective governmental-parliamentary and civic platforms in the field of Euro-Atlantic integration.  Oleksiy Genchev also stressed the partners’ importance of fixing the prospect of Ukraine’s membership in the future NATO strategy and the need to work together with the constant exchange of information.

Olena Trehub, Secretary General at the Independent Defence Anti-Corruption Committee (DACC)), noted that the pace of reforms has slowed and even suspended since the previous forum.  She explained that, for example, the mentioned law on defense procurement will not come into force in January 2021, as expected.  Because it is unrealistic to start the implementation of this law without working out about 20 bylaws.

“We have some concerns that there is a strong delay in the implementation of defense procurement.  We understand that the pandemic really affects the work of parliament, but there is a reason for this in the political will.  There is fierce opposition in the areas of money and material security.  “Ukroboronprom’s transformation has also slowed down,” the speaker explained.  It has a number of claims to the work of the newly created Ministry of Strategic Industries.

Mykhailo Samus, Deputy Director for Foreign Affairs at the Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies, drew attention to the concept of national stability.  It provides for joint synergetic work of society and the state in counteracting threats to national security and ensuring the sustainable development of the nation without compromising national interests.  In this context, the experience of the Baltic States is interesting.

The speaker suggested that the slowdown in reforms is due to the fact that Ukraine is building Euro-Atlantic standards that do not destroy Soviet principles.  He provided a basic recommendation for the government in the defense sector, reflected in the analytical brief of civil society experts.  This is the creation of an effective model of the armed forces based on a professional core, voluntary territorial defense and a change in the system of general conscription, effective intensive military training with a departure from ineffective repressive Soviet models.  The speaker stressed that the conscription system still remains Soviet.  Recruitment centers should be integrated into another system – the system of involving civil society in creating these innovations.

Read the sectoral briefs on reforms prepared for Ukraine Reform Conference 2020/2021

The Forum is organized by the RPR Coalition in partnership with the Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania. The Forum is supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania, the European Union, the EU Project Pravo-Justice, «Civil Society for Enhanced Democracy and Human Rights in Ukraine» project implemented by UNDP Ukraine under financial support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, and the Embassy of Canada in Ukraine. The Forum is organized within the framework of the project “Core Support of the Reanimation Package of Reforms Coalition” carried out by the RPR Coalition and is made possible by the generous support of the American people through The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) within the Ukraine Civil Society Sectoral Support Activity, implemented by The Initiative Center to Support Social Action “Ednannia” in partnership with the Ukrainian Center for Independent Political Research and the Centre for Democracy and Rule of Law. 

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