Kyiv
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The number of those who prefer to maintain economic ties with Russia is almost equal to those who prefer re-orientation to EU market – research

Kyiv, February 20, 2017.

Experts presented results of a survey conducted among experts from Donbas and their suggestions how the life of the region could be improved in the context of European integration

The armed conflict is considered to be the biggest problem of Donbas, followed by corruption and economic problems on the 2nd and 3rd places, according to results of a survey among 89 experts, presented by the NGO “Center for International Security” at a press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. In the opinion of 37 per cent of responders, Donbas should maintain economic ties with Russia, for six per cent it is “very important”. Meanwhile, 28 per cent of respondents said that this is not important, 14 per cent choose the answer “not important at all”. 70 per cent of experts said that they feel support from the EU countries, while 30 per cent gave a negative answer.

The survey was held by experts of NGO “Center for International Security” in partnership with the National Institute for Strategic Research at the President of Ukraine and with support of the International Renaissance Foundation. The survey was conducted in January during a trip to Severodonetsk, Kramarorsk and Mariupol, said Valeriy Kravchenko, director at the NGO “Center for International Security”. 12 rountables were held there with participation of representatives of NGOs, business and local authorities.

Recommendations
1.
Education

The experts suggest that it is necessary to contribute to mobility of students and professors, support youth platforms and encourage young activists joining the local authorities. Other recommendations include support to displaced universities and to professional colleges and launching job retraining programs for internally displaced persons.

  1. Local authorities

First of all, it is important to improve efficiency of work, as rather often it is not systematic. “We have heard an example about reform of the National Police. There are many questions related to this issue, because people are facing cases of incompetence and corruption,” noted Andriy Karakuts, project manager and deputy director of the “Center for International Security”. To change the situation, it is necessary to find solution to a conflict between regional and local authorities, to put an end to political monopoly in the region and contribute to formation of new political elites, engaging IDPs as well. One more recommendation is to simplify bureaucratic procedures.

  1. Economy

In the field of economic development the experts advise to invest into new enterprises which would ensure economic self-sufficiency of the region and would be able to enter new markets. “Many towns of Donbas are focused on production of one product, it is necessary to diversify their economic policy. Money on Donbas renovation should also be invested into this field to ensure a “new industrialization”, noted Andriy Karakuts. “New big enterprises are not a priority, we suggest focusing attention on development of small and medium enterprises, especially in the tertiary sector. The enterprises that will be opened instead of obsolete ones should be focused on European market. These should be computer aided manufacturing enterprises, producing products with high added value,” he added. To contribute to this process, it is necessary to explain the entrepreneurs how the Association Agreement works and provide assistance in standardization and certification procedures.

Experts recommend that the donors’ funding be targeted for creation of business incubators, project bank and start-ups. “A project bank in an up-to-date idea, as in small towns of the region there is lack of initiatives and qualified specialists which could prepare a project application,” he added.

It is also necessary to improve energy and transport infrastructure and ensure protection of the basic infrastructure. To encourage people to stay in the region, the experts advise to offer them social benefits such as accommodation etc.

  1. Civil society development

Experts recommend that competitive environment for NGOs be created and better control on their activity be ensured. “We noticed that donors’ funds are spent mostly on trainings and their efficiency is rather low. These should be conceptual projects aimed at solution of local problems and strengthening institutional capacity of NGOs,” noted the expert. One more problem is that there are many “puppet” NGOs controlled by local authorities and that the local authorities sometimes expose the results of a donor-funded project as their own merit. The experts suggest that regional offices of the international donors be created to ensure integrity and better control on equal distribution of donors’ funds inside the region. Nowadays this money stays mostly in big cities.

  1. Information policy

Independent platforms and media should be created and developed, the experts suggest. They also recommend that a regional program providing information on EU integration be launched. “Many people in the region thing that Association Agreement means only a visa free regime and free trade agreement. They know little about advantages of comprehensive cooperation with the EU,” noted Andriy Karakuts. Experts suggest that emphasis be made on information about values such as rule of law and respect of human rights. This information could be provided through films, social and cultural events.

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