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14. Ukraine Breakfast Debate: “Judicial Reform and the Fight against Corruption in the Ukrainian Regions“

On 15 July 2019, the 14th Ukraine Breakfast Debate took place at the Institut für Europäische Politik within the framework of the project “Platform for Analytics and Inter­cul­tural Commu­ni­cation” (PAIC).

Together with our experts Iryna Shyba, Executive Director at the DEJURE Foundation in Kyiv, and Oksana Huss, Post-Doctoral Researcher at Leiden University and co-founder of the Inter­dis­ci­plinary Corruption Research Network (ICR Network), our guests discussed “The Fight Against Corruption in Ukraine: The Role of the Judicial System and Regional Civil Society Organi­za­tions”.

Since the Revolution of Dignity, the Ukrainian judicial system undergoes compre­hensive reforms to strengthen the indepen­dence of the judiciary, the rule of law and the efficiency of courts. As early as 2015, the authority to appoint and remove judges was assigned to the High Quali­fi­cation Commission of Judges (HQCJ) and the High Council of Judges (HCJ) to ensure political indepen­dence of the judges. Previ­ously, these were solely appointed by the president and could be removed from office by the president and parliament. However, the appointment of judges by other judges bears risks and conflicts within the judicial community. Therefore, a lot of Ukranian experts recom­mended that at least 50 per cent of the HQCJ positions should be held by lawyers, human rights activistis, academics, and journalists nominated by civil society organi­za­tions. Additionally, all candi­dates should be examined to detail by inter­na­tional experts and be confirmed by electronic voting to ensure anonymity during the voting process. The campaign ”The Agenda for Justice“ of the DEJURE Foundation seeks political support in the ongoing parlia­mentary election campaigns for these and other anti-corruption measures.

The second topic of the Breakfast debate revolved around the fight against corruption the Ukrainian regions. With the estab­lishment of the High Anti-Corruption Court and the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) in early 2019, the Ukrainian state set a milestone in the fight against corruption. However, as a byproduct of the decen­tral­ization reform, corrupt schemes shifted from the center to the periph­eries and now pose challenges for local activists. Against this backdrop, our speakers addressed the contextual factors which determine the success of regional anti-corruption organizations.

Moreover, during the Breakfast first findings from the research project „Civil Society against Corruption in Ukraine: Political Roles, Advocacy, Strategies and Impact” were presented. Factors that influence the success or failure of different anti-corruption strategies include the political will of the local elites to contain corruption, the elite’s (informal) compe­tition for power and the degree of central­ization. Therefore, a tailored strategy needs to be applied on each case. While confronta­tional strategies that is, acting against the will of the political elites, might create a certain impact in some cases, cooper­ative approaches lead to more successful and sustainable results in other cases. With regard to civil society organi­za­tions, limited capac­ities and a lack of public support were identified to be the greatest obstacles to success­fully containing corruption. However, these short­comings might be compen­sated by insti­tu­tional funding and cooper­ating with high-capacity organi­za­tions. As a conclusion, it was suggested that some inter­na­tional donors should reassess their funding practices.

The research project which was conducted by Leiden University in cooper­ation with the Anti-Corruption Research and Education Centre der Kiewer Mohyla Academy (ACREC, Kyiv) and supported by the Nether­lands Organ­i­sation for Scien­tific Research (NWO, Den Haag).

The Ukraine Breakfast Debates take place within the framework of the project “Platform for Analytics and Inter­cul­tural Commu­ni­cation” (PAIC) and are designed as Ukraine expert talks on topical and relevant issues, which are discussed with our guests over crois­sants and coffee. The project PAIC aims at promoting profes­sional expertise among Ukrainian think tanks, creating synergies between German and Ukrainian think tanks and trans­ferring knowledge about devel­op­ments in Ukraine to Germany. PAIC is conducted in close cooper­ation with the Ilko Kucheriv Democ­ratic Initia­tives Foundation (DIF, Kyiv) and the think tanks devel­opment and research initiative think twice UA (Kyiv) and is kindly supported by the Federal Foreign Office.