Ukraine’s Reform Struggles: From Failing to Ailing?

Written by | Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

In February 2014, Ukraine went through the revolution known as Euromaidan, which created a unique chance to transform the state. There was a hope that the country would emerge from the vicious circle of corruption, the influence of the oligarchs and irresponsible governance. Conditions for the implementation of the necessary reforms were favorable not only due to the fact that citizens were hungry for change but also because the ruling coalition won a constitutional majority in the Parliament, Ukraine was enjoying financial support from abroad, and the pro-Russian opposition had been weakened. However, three years after the outbreak of Euromaidan, people are becoming impatient, the original five-member ruling coalition now consists of two members and the anti-reformist party is coming back to power. What is the current situation regarding the reforms in the key areas such as corruption, politics, economy or judicial system?

One of the government priorities was the anti-corruption reform, whose results are not yet conclusive. According to Transparency International’s 2015 Corruption Index, Ukraine got 27 points out of 100, which was an improvement by one point only. As a positive step in this area can be seen the establishment of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau. Regarding the reform of the judicial system, President Petro Poroshenko promised that he would launch a thorough overhaul of the judiciary in September 2016. The basic aim of the reform is to ensure full political independence of the judiciary, increase the accountability of judges and eliminate corrupt members of the judicial corps.

Preliminary findings, however, unfortunately highlight the fact that the government is not yet willing to translate this plan into reality. Within the political system, no tangible progress has been made – in particular, no change in the financing of political parties is in sight, Ukraine does not show any signs of de-oligarchization of politics and the decentralization process significantly slowed down in 2016. But in the economic area, there has been a significant shift. In 2015, when the banking system was on the brink of collapse, the Ukrainian government introduced the biggest economic reform in the country’s history in order to stabilize the economy. Although Ukraine must also focus on a number of economic problems, such as large-scale tax evasion or enormous debt of the National Bank, the country expects a moderate economic growth in the coming years.

It turns out that the reform efforts are painful and they require tremendous levels of effort and perseverance. Their overall success is conditional upon cooperation among the reformist forces within the country and the international actors led by the EU, which should not be reluctant to impose certain conditions. Provided the conditions are complied with, the Union should definitely be ready to deliver on its promises.

Three Years after Euromaidan: Is Ukraine Still on the Reform Track?’ – a Briefing Paper by Ryhor Nizhnikau and Arkady Moshes – Finnish Institute of International Affairs.

(The study can be downloaded here)

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