The European Union is supporting a new program to promote decentralization of politics in Ukraine. After centuries of reliance on a central authority, Ukraine’s villages are beginning to feel the benefits of self-governance thanks to an EU-supported program called the Ukraine Local Empowerment and Development Program (U-LEAD). The program has now tripled its resources to support its initiatives in rural Ukraine.
“Ukraine decided after the Maidan Revolution to engage in a large-scale decentralization reform which leads to transferring more funds and also more responsibility to the local level,” U-LEAD director Bastian Veigel explained. “This has led to the need to train many, many people in the roughly 700 newly reformed municipalities.” The major task for U-LEAD is to support capacity building in local communities. This is the first major decentralization program by Ukraine following centuries of some kind of central control. U-LEAD does not directly distribute money but instead focuses on developing local governance that is transparent, accountable and responsive to the needs of the population.
U-LEAD is one of the many programs that the EU has launched to support the country. The core activities of the EU in Ukraine are managed by the so-called Support Group, established in 2014, to facilitate Kiev’s implementation of the Association Agreement with the bloc. Naturally, the biggest focus of the EU Commission is on Ukraine’s macroeconomic situation, which has been challenged since the outbreak of the crisis in early 2014. Since then, the EU has disbursed a total of EUR 2.8 billion in macro-financial assistance through three programs of low-interest loans, which represents the highest amount ever made available by the EU to a third partner.