Despite the challenges, Ukraine has taken significant steps in implementing its reform agenda

The European Union has published an annual report on the implementation of the Association Agreement by Ukraine: despite the challenges, the reforms undertaken allow Ukraine to serenely approach the new phase of its European integration.

“We will continue to support Ukraine on this path”, commented the European Commission on its Twitter page about the document published on the eve of the meeting of the EU-Ukraine Association Council, scheduled for September 5, which deals with the implementation of reforms by Ukraine within the framework of the Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine for the period from the publication of the last report on 1 December 2020 until the start of the aggression large-scale Russian military on February 24, 2022.

The EU’s High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Vice-President Josep Borrell, said in this regard: “Despite the challenges, including those coming from Russia, Ukraine has taken important steps in the implementation of the Association Agreement The reforms undertaken to date within this framework enable Ukraine to begin the new phase of its relations with the EU with confidence following the decision of the European Council on the status of candidate country of Ukraine. Russia’s illegitimate and unprovoked military aggression against Ukraine will not distract the EU from supporting Ukraine’s reform agenda.”

In turn, the European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi, said: “In 2021, Ukraine continued its journey of reform and European integration. Following the decision of the European Council to grant Ukraine the prospect of EU membership and the status of candidate country, Ukraine must pursue reforms, in particular in the field of justice, state of law, the fight against corruption and fundamental rights, in particular the adoption and implementation of legislation on a procedure for the selection of judges of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, the adoption of a plan overall strategy for the reform of the law enforcement sector as well as the finalization of the reform of the legal framework for national minorities and the adoption of effective implementation mechanisms. The EU will continue to support Ukraine on its European path and associate it with post-war reconstruction efforts.”

The report finds that during the reporting period, “Ukraine has been challenged by Russia’s destabilizing actions, the conflict in the east and the coronavirus pandemic.” The report underlines that Ukraine has nevertheless continued to prioritize association and deeper integration with the EU, and that despite these challenges, key reforms have gained new momentum.

In particular, in the area of ​​justice, rule of law and the fight against corruption, several positive developments have taken place, including the adoption of key laws aimed at reforming the High Council of Justice (HCJ) and to revive the High Qualifications Commission. judges (HQCJ) were adopted. Among the key outstanding challenges is the urgent reform of the Constitutional Court (CCU). A new National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) Act has been passed, establishing a clear and much-needed legal framework for the office. selection process for the new head of the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (SAPO) has not been concluded The High Anti-Corruption Court (HACC) has continued to build a strong reputation and law on the protection of “Whistleblowers was passed. Another important step has been taken in reforming the system for combating serious economic and financial crimes with the creation of the Bureau of Economic Security (BES)”, according to the main findings.

In addition, a new public administration reform strategy has been adopted by the government in line with OECD and European public administration principles, and merit-based recruitment in the civil service has been reinstated.

“Government intervention in the management of the state-owned energy company Naftogaz has raised concerns about the continued reform of corporate governance of state-owned enterprises. A new draft law on corporate governance of state-owned enterprises was adopted in the first parliamentary reading in July 2021. It aims to align Ukrainian legislation with the OECD guidelines. The Ukrainian financial sector has remained profitable despite the impact of the Covid-19 crisis. However, the developments at the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) have fueled concerns about central bank independence and banking supervision,” according to the report.

In the field of energy, the wholesale electricity market in Ukraine continued to operate “with some signs of market distortion and manipulation”. The strategic goal of connecting the Ukrainian power grid to the continental European CEN grid (grid synchronization) was a top priority for Ukraine in the electricity sector and enabled eventual grid connection on March 16, 2022,” says the text.

Moreover, little progress has been made in environmental reforms in 2021, and in the field of combating climate change, Ukraine has adopted and submitted its contribution to the Paris Agreement and the National Strategy for adaptation to climate change. “A targeted EU-Ukraine dialogue on the EU Green Deal and Ukraine’s green transformation has begun, with two extended working sessions held in Brussels and Kyiv,” the officials said in the report.

It should also be noted that Ukraine has continued to make significant progress in the area of ​​digital transformation. “Ukraine has passed the Telecommunications Regulator Law, an important step in aligning its legislation with the EU acquis. Digital transformation has already contributed to more efficient and transparent government and to the fight against against corruption,” according to the document.

Furthermore, the report recalls that the fourth report on the visa suspension mechanism (COM(2021) 602 final) of 4 August 2021 concluded that, overall, Ukraine continued to meet the visa liberalization criteria and had taken steps to address previous recommendations. “However, further efforts are needed, among others, in the areas of combating corruption, money laundering and preventing and combating organized crime,” the officials said in the document.

“The European Union will continue to support Ukraine in its comprehensive reform programme,” the European Commission said.

Andrew B. Reiter