“Ukraine is Taking Advantage of a Window of Opportunity" – Katarína Mathernová on Reforms
17 December, 2019

Ukraine has passed many reforms in the past five years, after over 20 years of stagnation. But now, Ukraine’s new government is aiming to speed up the pace of reforms even further, to reverse what critics of the previous administration say was a stalled pace. With a single-party majority in Parliament, Ukraine has entered a period of the ‘turboregime’, where massive reforms are passed in rapid succession. Hromadske spoke to Katarína Mathernová, the deputy Director-General of the EU’s European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations – a key partner in helping Ukraine realize its European ambitions.

We are still talking about the government as a fresh government, as a young government, but it’s already been 3 months. In Ukraine, there’s a certain meme around how the government works, and it’s called ‘turboregime.’ How would you assess that turboregime? Because in Ukraine, sometimes it looks – it’s considered to be something critical, because too many things are being done in a very quick pace. In your opinion – what are these things, and if there are too quick?

Thank you very much for the question. Before I get to the turbo-regime, just a quick comment: It is a very young government. Not only has it only been in office three months, but when I look at the composition of the government, it makes me look old, because you actually have – not only a very young and active prime minister, but a lot of the ministers are very youthful, and bring youthful energy, and you have a very young president, that is very much behind the turboregime. And rather than turboregime, I actually look at is as Ukraine now taking full advantage of a window of opportunity – a reform window of opportunity. And yes, I know that some of my colleagues are critical of the speed on this or that measure, but I think that the reform vigor and moving the country to the next level, is in general, perceived very positively. Now, whenever things are done quickly, mistakes can be made. And I’m sure some have already been made – I’m sure more mistakes will be made. But in general, moving reforms forward is better than not reforming. 

Among all the things that have been done, voted for, or started getting implemented, what would you name as the three main things on the path of reforms?

Well, I think that the whole package of economic reforms that were prepared, widely consulted, and expected and were not passed over the last 2 years of the previous Rada, I think in general is a very good move. The law on the economic operators, the unbundling of Naftogaz, the fact that already in the first reading, something as controversial and as important economically for Ukraine as land reform, has already passed. I know there’s going to be more discussion. These are extremely positive signs.

Deputy Director-General of the EU’s European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Katarina Mathernova speaks to Hromadske on December 11. Photo: hromadske

I would probably ask you more specific questions about the justice reform. It’s something crucial for Ukraine, because we know it’s not only about just general justice and the feeling of justice which Ukrainians really lack, but it’s also the way the institutions work, it’s also about how business works, it’s also the ties between different business groups, and feeling secure in the country. How would you assess that reform?

I think that moving with justice reform and expediting it is, again, a very important and very relevant reform for Ukraine. It’s important for domestic audience, for people’s feelings that there is no impunity, and that the justice system works. But it is also important from the perspective of international investors, foreign investors, right? The ability to enforce contracts, enforce agreements is something that is alpha-omega of attracting any foreign investment. On the side of the European Union, we have been critical of some aspects of the law that was adopted in the Rada. And in fact during my mission here, we’ll have a series of discussions to see whether we can find room for making improvements in some of the aspects of the reforms that would allow us to be more supportive of it, because from my perspective it’s a pity that we’re saying ‘If you adopted this law in the way it is, it doesn’t allow us to, for example, give international European experts to support it.’ So we will have a series of discussions to see whether we can find a path to the reform in such a way that would allow us to be more supportive. 

/Interview by Angelina Kariakina

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