“Cheering and Steering: Ukraine Reforms Reloaded” Conference in Brussels

On 9 February, the EOS Secretariat has attended the conference “Cheering and Steering: Ukraine Reforms Reloaded” hosted by the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies.

Ukraine is a country of extreme interest to the European Union as it is a country geographically close to the heart of Europe, with a large forest surface and a solid wood-working tradition. 

Several prestigious speakers, including Mikulas Dzurinda, former Slovakian Prime Minister, Andrius Kubilius, former Lithuanian Prime Minister, and Volodymyr Groysman, current Ukrainian Prime Minister, participated in this high-level conference. The first two speakers represent countries that managed to successfully undergo the economic transition from socialism to capitalism and are now integrated members of the European Union.

During the conference, it has been underlined the Ukrainian situation does resemble that of central Eastern European countries prior to the EU membership, but there are also significant differences, including, from the point of view of Ukraine, way less developed independent institutions, a much closer cultural and historical proximity to Russia, and pervasive corruption.

Overall, however, despite the difficulties connected to the political and military challenges of the last few years, Ukraine has been showing an impressive effort in coping with multiple domestic and external challenges. Kyiv has chosen the European path of strengthening democratic institutions, the market economy and the rule of law. Concrete steps have been taken in key reform sectors such as energy, administration, judiciary and anti-corruption.

Prime Minister Groysman stated that his government is sincerely doing its best to tackle the multiple issues the country is facing. Several reforms which will have beneficial long-term effects have been passed. It will be crucial to ensure economic growth to the country as the reform momentum can be maintained if there are concrete benefits for the population. The next few months will be especially difficult as some of these reforms may bring short-term hardships. For instance, gas prices will not be subsidized, a measure which is expected to alleviate the pain on depleted state coffers. Other important and far-reaching reforms include the civil service reform, whose aim is to make sure that Ukraine will have a Western-style professional civil service, and the judiciary reform: and independent and professional judiciary able to enforce the rule of law is vital to attract investments from abroad. A far-reaching and ambitious tax reform is also being elaborated by the government. Most important of all will be to progressively eradicate corruption. It has also been emphasized that civil society is now getting stronger.

Mr Kubilius stressed that the Ukrainian government has been doing impressive progress, but in the wake of the war in the Donbass and the loss of Crimea, it needs financial help to help alleviate its economic difficulties. Of course, Mr Kubilius emphasized that, due to the tension with Russia, the success of the Ukrainian transition will depend also on how the international political context will develop in the next few years.

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