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„Update on Ukraine“ – Panel Discussion on the New Government’s Economic, Judicial and Anti-Corruption Reforms

The newly elected Ukrainian government has launched a number of large-scale reforms to spur economic devel­opment and increase foreign direct invest­ments. At the same time, the ambitious reform agenda includes new efforts in fighting corruption and strength­ening the rule of law in Ukraine, as these are crucial in attracting foreign investors and creating a positive business environment.

On 30 January 2020, the Berlin Policy Hub from Institut für Europäische Politik organized a panel discussion to assess the new Ukrainian government’s ambitious agenda in the sectors of economic devel­opment, judiciary and anti-corruption reform. Three Ukrainian experts were invited to share their insights: Hlib Vyshlinsky, Executive Director of the economic think tank Centre for Economic Strategy (CES), Iryna Shyba, Executive Director of the DEJURE Foundation, a think tank focusing on the promotion of rule of law, as well as Oleksandr Liemienov, the founder of the anti-corruption NGO State­Watch. The discussion was attended by around 25 partic­i­pants from research insti­tu­tions, the business sector, politics and media.

During the assessment of the state of the Ukrainian economy in 2020, the restoration of macro­eco­nomic stability with a relatively small budget deficit and decreased inflation was positively highlighted. Furthermore, the liberal economic agenda of the new government including priva­ti­zation of state-owned companies, the reform of the labour code and plans to open the farmland market was described as an oppor­tunity to promote economic growth and invest­ments. At the same time, the undue influence of oligarchic interests and a still rather weak rule of law constitute major risks to a stable and prosperous economic outlook for the Ukraine.

The reforms concerning the judiciary, especially the attempt to clear the judiciary of corrupt judges and to change the vetting process, were described as good signs in principle. However, flaws still persist as the reforms might allow for increased political control over the judiciary. Concerning the fight against corruption, there has been some success with regards to high profile cases. The National Anti-corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) is still enjoying a good reputation. However, what is still missing is a compre­hensive reform of the National Police.

The fact that the new government is more open to advice and expertise from civil society was under­lined, however, it was also stated that the speed of drafting laws often results in reduced capacity to criti­cally monitor and assess bills before their adoption. The panel discussion concluded that there was reason to be cautiously optimistic about the new government and its reform agenda, but that some doubts remained and that constant oversight was needed both from the Ukrainian civil society as well as the inter­na­tional partners.

The Berlin Policy Hub is part of the “Europeanization beyond process” initiative supported by the Open Society Foundation and aims to intensify exchanges between Eastern European think tanks and their German counter­parts and to facil­itate new forms of cooper­ation. The project gives researchers from Georgia, Moldova and the Ukraine the oppor­tunity to present their expertise and research results to a German audience, while at the same time gaining a better under­standing of the discourse within Germany on these topics.