Chatham House Calls For Engagement In Ukraine
29 October, 2017

Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, an independent policy institute based in London, carried out an independent and rigorous analysis of Ukraine’s transformations after the Revolution of Dignity.

The report is partly about country’s struggle to hold together and resist Russia’s interference and pressure – in the military, diplomatic, economic and media spheres. But it is also related to internal contest to determine the political, institutional and civic future of Ukraine.

Hromadske talked to Orysia Lutsevych, the manager of the Ukraine Forum in the Chatham House Russia and Eurasia Programme to discuss the findings.

Within the last four years, Ukraine has gone through massive changes and reforms – more than within the previous 22 years of independence. Would you say that this process was successful?

I think the process was successful and I think Ukraine managed to transform more than any other post-Soviet republic, with the exception of the Baltic states that are already members of the European Union. Partially, the success of this transformation was thanks to [the] very active and constructive role of Ukrainian civil society activists, volunteers.

In your opinion, what reforms are the most important? What should the priorities of the government be in this sphere?

Definitely, if we look at what has been achieved in the last four years, the most important reform was the higher level of transparency of public governance, public finance and the new anti-corruption infrastructure that Ukraine started to build with the National Anti-corruption Bureau, with the Agency for Prevention of Corruption and with the e-declarations that all government officials had to file publicly. This whole system exposes a lot corruption, it also starts investigation, but the next big step that Ukraine needs to really become rule based market economy is, of course, rule of law. The next step that will determine whether Ukraine will continue on the reform path and be successful, is record judicial reform and [the] establishment of anti-corruption courts.

We know that recently Ukraine and EU has agreed the financing by the European Union of the Ukrainian judiciary reform. In one of your statements – and especially in your report – you said that the EU strategy towards Ukraine is not very effective. How can it be improved, and why is that?

It's a very important question because, you know, we must remember that, as of September 1, EU-Ukraine Association Agreement and deep and comprehensive free-trade agreement entered into force, so now this is a legally binding agreement, where Ukraine takes certain responsibilities to reform in a political, in an economic, in the regulatory sphere and the European Union should be very vigilant in the oversight of this agreement. The EU-Ukraine Association Council, that is a special body that will oversee Ukraine's progress, has to work actively. Also, I think it's important to understand that Ukraine needs a much stronger domestic coordination agency for the implementation of the agreement.

I would also like to address one of the issues of civil society consolidation. Human capital is named as one of the most valuable assets in Ukraine's reform progress. Despite that, in one of your interviews, you said that for implementation of this big political reform, a great civil reform is a must. What do you mean by that?

I mean by that, that Ukraine needs to change also from the bottom up. As I said from the beginning, the impressive change that Ukraine started, the overhaul of the Ukrainian state, especially thanks to active engagement and very constructive engagement of civil society. But also, we must remember the main function of civil society in democracy, and that is structuring of citizens around specific interests, and that is also creating support networks among the citizens to defend and promote their rights, one of the weaknesses – the way I see it – of Ukrainian civil society [is] that it too much focused on advocating and lobbying for change in the offices of the state and is not spending enough time talking to the citizens and building consensus. So my suggestion is that, in the time of digital society - so much social media, so much information – citizens needs to come face to face and discuss important issues because that cannot be replaced just by Facebook discussion. So civil society organisations, community groups, have to convince citizens to talk about healthcare reform, decentralization, and they should also build linkages between small and medium enterprises and active citizens because, as we describe a case of Prozorro – the public procurement reform in Ukraine - it happened partially because there was a model that was working in the marketplace, and that this model was borrowed by the state, basically to perform its public procurement.

One of the final issues I would like to address is the Ukrainian resistance to Russian interference and the pressure, which is one of the key objects of the analysis. The report states that it is an illusion to believe that diplomatic sanctions alone will diminish Russia's determination to dominate in Ukraine. But what will?

It's a very difficult question. I think that the report argues both consistent political and diplomatic pressure on Russia, and also for increasing the resilience of Ukraine to defend itself. And I think the impressive achievement of Ukraine so far has been that it managed to preserve the independence and sovereignty of its state and build the beginning of an independent, professional army. But, again, the report says that Ukrainians' vulnerability  to Russian influence and aggression are coming often from within - from Ukraine Security Services, from infiltration in the police force, from propaganda and use of media inside Ukraine and from pro-Russian or Russian money inside Ukrainian politics. So what will make you stronger is more open and accountable institutions and I think in order to achieve this, it's very important that civil society and activists keep on watching and holding those in power to an account, to make sure that [the] security sector is not corrupt, to make sure that the best officers and soldiers who go through the war in the east are promoted to the positions and to make sure that the Ministry of Defense is accountable to the parliament and to the civilian sector.  

/By Mariia Ulianovska