The future of Ukraine is intrinsically linked to the country’s further integration into the EU, said Dariusz Rosati, the Polish-born Chair of the Delegation to the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Association, when discussing Ukraine’s future path in Brussels.
European policymakers, however, want Kyiv to demonstrate more results in its fight against corruption and implement a set of reforms in the judicial and economic sectors.
Speaking at the conference, organised by the Hanns-Seidel Foundation, Rosati was candid in accessing the reforms implemented by the Ukrainian government since the 2013-14 Euromaidan Revolution, who said that while the EU remains strongly in favour of Ukraine’s European aspirations, the political feasibility for discussing a roadmap about any sort of integration is not currently in the cards. The Ukrainian government should instead step up its efforts to fight the chronic corruption that plagues all former Soviet republics, and establish independent judiciary institutions.
“The EU supports Ukraine’s membership aspirations but we see a lot of procrastination in the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) when it concerns the implementation of anti-corruption reforms. The progress has slowed significantly and, at present, we are not sure that it will continue,” said Rosati.
The artificial postponement of anti-corruption institutional reforms in Ukraine, a pre-condition of the further financial assistance to the country from the western donors, is unacceptable and adversely affects further cooperation between the European Union and Ukraine.
“When committing the financial resources of the European taxpayers to Ukraine, we want to be sure that this money is not wasted. Fighting corruption is the number one in that country, but there is a lot of resistance within the Verkhovna Rada in terms of implementing the needed reforms,” Rosati said.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko first tabled a draft law on the creation of a Higher Anti-Corruption Court in December 2017. According to the bill, a permanent high court fully integrated into the Ukrainian judicial system would be established to try corruption cases and work to establish credible rule-of-law.
The court’s creation, however, has been stalled for several months due to stiff backlash by Ukraine’s dozens of corrupt lawmakers and the country’s powerful oligarchs, both of whom feel threatened by the creation of an independent court charged with cracking down on the substantial wealth and power the two have accumulated since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. They have been buoyed by support from Ukraine’s large ultra-nationalist Canadian diaspora community that has taken up temporary residency in Kyiv in recent years. The Ukrainian-Canadian diaspora stands to lose significant influence over many of their associates in the Rada if those parliamentarians and cabinet members were subject to independent investigations.
As a result of the stalled reforms, the International Monetary Fund placed strict conditions on its next round of funding to Ukraine. If Poroshenko’s government fails to deliver on significant progress towards reforms, the IMF will continue to withhold US$ 2 billion in aid.
An increasingly impatient EU also suspended €600 million assistance package in December 2017 because of the Poroshenko government’s refusal to fight against corruption.
The Ukrainian Parliament last month approved a bill on the creation of an anti-corruption court in the first reading. But the draft law was criticised by legal experts for not being in- line with the recommendations of the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe’s advisory body on constitutional matters.