Kyiv, July 21, 2015. The Association Agreement is a roadmap of changes that are required for Ukraine’s rapprochement with the European Union. Several Ukrainian ministries have already shifted from short-term to long-term thinking on the integration process. During the debate at Ukraine Crisis Media Center, Jan Tombinski, the Head of the EU Delegation to Ukraine, emphasized that for a successful European integration reforms should not only be declared, but also implemented. “The Parliament should add to its legislative functions a control, that is, reports on what has been done so far. Reforms can be registered on paper, but afterwards you need to explain what happened in reality,” Tombinski said. The EU official marked the reform-oriented actions of the Vekhovna Rada as a move toward Ukraine’s “historical mission” in implementing the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement.
Case Klompenhouwer, Ambassador of the Netherlands to Ukraine, voiced his opinion that regime change is easier than changing the very system itself, adding that this change needs to happen today. “I see light at the end of the tunnel. There is a dream to change the country and there is the willingness,“ Klompenhouwer stated. However, sometimes there is dissatisfaction on the part of business, and here we need to change rules of the game, and then change the very institutions themselves. This work is hard and the achievements still small. Klompenhouwer is convinced that making real reforms is the only way to return investment to the country, and for that Ukraine needs leaders who are willing and able to see the job done.
The responsibility of implementing the Association Agreement lies with the government. Vladyslava Rutytska, Deputy Minister of Agrarian Policy and Food of Ukraine for European Integration, says that Ukraine has become a major player in Europe’s agricultural market. This trend began in early 2015, when Ukraine exported $1 billion worth in products to the European Union over the course of three months. The process of harmonizing domestic legislation with its European counterpart is under way. The adoption of a number of laws, particularly those regarding feed and domestic animal identification, brings Ukraine closer to European standards.
Oksana Reiter, Deputy Minister of Infrastructure of Ukraine for European Integration said that the major transportation sector and postal service Association Agreement reforms were aimed at creating transparent, competitive and equal access to their respective markets, the liberalization of international transportation, barrier removal and creating conditions for the optimization of traffic flows. “The liberalization of all forms of transportation between Ukraine and the EU Member States is one of our top priorities,” Reiter said.
Maria Nizhnik, State Commissioner of the Antimonopoly Committee of Ukraine, stated that among the Antimonopoly Committee’s main achievements was the decision to make public all of its resolutions, which are already in action. Another important innovation was the approval of the decision penalizes parties violating the law protecting economic competition. “This obligation, directly specified in the Association Agreement, is also a precondition for financial assistance to the country,” reported Nizhnik.
The updated Roadmap for European integration reforms was presented at the round table. The 2015 Roadmap includes a list of key laws, the adoption of which are essential to the implementation of both the Association Agreement and the Free Trade Area. “Even having such a Roadmap, there still is a lot of issues for us to resolve in September. Regardless, I’m sure that we will cooperate. Public representatives and ministries, we will all band together to put more pressure on the Verkhovna Rada to approve the European integration legislation,” stated Lyubov Akulenko, Coordinator of the information campaign, Stronger Together.
Viktoria Ptashnyk, MP and member of the Parliamentary Committee on Economic Policy, says that while a number of draft laws related to the economy were approved, the country is still being killed by four factors: populism, PR, popularity ratings and the preparation for the elections.
Olha Belkova, MP and Deputy Head of the Parliamentary Committee on Fuel and Energy, Nuclear Policy and Nuclear Safety, said that changes had been made to legislation regarding joint stock companies. The newly approved law on the natural gas market de-monopolizes the role of Naftogaz and allows other players to enter the market and set the market price through competition. “Naftogaz’s debts have been disposed of. This debt was a black hole in the Ukraine’s budget, and we hope to see results in the coming years. Unlike before, both state and citizens will pay less taxes compared to the prior, non-transparent funding schemes,” Belkova said. For the first time, there is full agreement amongst society, business, and the legislative and executive branches to disclose information regarding all budget payments,” explained Belkova.
In addition, Oleksii Ryabchyn, MP, noted that the law on alternative sources of energy was adopted. “We should reduce the level of dependence on Russia and develop alternative sources,” Ryabchyn said.
Olena Sotnik, MP, Head of the Parliamentary Committee on European Integration, noted some problems on the path to integration, particularly the absence of both the position of Vice Prime Minister for European Integration and a government body which would control the fulfilment of the Association Agreement by the Ukrainian ministries.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s EU partners are working faster than expected on the ratification of the Association Agreement. Only Cyprus, Greece and EURATOM have yet to complete the process yet. “The leadership should nevertheless be for Ukraine,” noted Svitlana Zalishchuk, Head of the Subcommittee on Euro-Atlantic Cooperation and Euro-Integration of the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs.