Speaking at the Brussels UkraineLab, the Director General of DG NEAR at the European Commission Christian Danielsson said that Brussels expects Ukraine to be both better and more effective at implementing the dozens of much-needed fundamental reforms that the country so desperately needs.
While the EU actively assists Kyiv in improving its public finance management and fight against corruption, Brussels is less-than-pleased with the Ukrainian government’s lack of willingness to modernise the economic and political system five years after the Euromaidan Revolution overthrew the pro-Moscow government of former President Viktor Yanukovych.
“It is clear that more needs to be done. Though the first steps have been made, further actual implementation needs to take place. It is clear also that when it comes to governance, there are also important actions that need to be taken if Ukraine wants to move further down a reform path,” Danielsson said.
The EU is demanding that the Ukrainian government headed by President Petro Poroshenko must step up efforts against corruption and speed up the process of implementing vital reforms in the energy, defence, and public administration sectors in order to further deepen EU-Ukraine relations.
In a rare rebuke of Kyiv’s law enforcement officials, the European Commission expressed its deep concern over the major increase in the number of violent attacks and cyberbullying incidents that have occurred over the last year, both of which target civil society activists, journalists, and political opposition groups.
“We’re looking on with increasing concern at the level violence and intimidation that is being directed at Ukraine’s civil society,” said Danielsson, who also underlined the Commission’s unease about the lack of an effective response from the authorities.
According to Freedom House, a watchdog dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world, Ukraine’s current polling data shows that xenophobic far-right groups – who, along with most members of the Ukrainian diaspora, are both anti-Russian and deeply hostile to the West – have little chance of being elected in the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections in 2019.
They and pro-government internet trolls are, however, aggressively trying to impose their agenda on Ukrainian civil society by using multiple methods of intimidation that include violence and online smear campaigns against the majority of the Ukrainian population who oppose their political and cultural views.
Freedom House’s report comes only four months after Euromaidan civil society activist Ekaterina Gandzyuk died in hospital as a result of horrific injuries that she suffered after being doused with sulphuric acid outside her flat in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson.
The number of attacks on Ukrainian civil society activists has risen sharply since war broke out between Ukrainian and Russian forces in the country’s eastern Donbass region in April 2014 – most of which have been connected to investigations that involve corrupt government officials that continue to remain in office and various pro-Russian activities in areas of Ukraine’s southeast that are under the central government’s authority.
The report also dovetails an explosive revelation that emerged from Kyiv when representatives of the Ukrainian government, including Ukraine’s Vice Prime-Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze,
were in Brussels to make their case that fundamental reforms were being implemented and that Poroshenko’s administration has the country on the path to becoming a more law-abiding society.
A recent report by Ukraine’s investigative journalism project Nashi Groshi, the son of Oleg Gladkovsky, deputy head of Ukraine’s Security and Defence Council and one of Poroshenko’s top allies, played a leading role in a scheme that embezzled millions of dollars from state defence enterprises.
The EU and Ukraine signed an Association Agreement in 2014 after the overthrow of the Yanukovych regime. This was later followed by Kyiv’s ambitious plan to modernise its economic and political system that included fundamental reforms of the judiciary, a decentralisation of the federal government, improving transparency, and reforming public administration.