Ukraine: 20 EaP Deliverables progress report

Hennadiy Maksak, Foreign Policy Council "Ukrainian Prism", National Coordinator of the Ukrainian National Platform of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum

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On October 15, 2018, the Foreign Ministers of EU and Eastern Partnership (EaP) member-states met in Luxembourg. The agenda included a discussion of progress in achieving the 20 Deliverables for 2020 that were officially approved at the EaP Summit in Brussels in November 2017. This progress update is based on a monitoring report prepared by the European External Action Service.

The Ukrainian National Platform of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum has prepared its own monitoring of the country’s progress with the 20 deliverables as of September 1, 2018. Ukraine is generally in the process of actively implementing nearly all priorities because most of the 2020 deliverables, in one way or another, reflect the goals envisaged by the Association Agreement, which fully came into effect on September 1, 2017.

Ukraine has adopted a number of mid-term strategies and concepts for 2020 and 2021 as part of its overall reforms, and as part of the Ukraine 2020 Sustainable Development Strategy. Before 2017, some of the program and strategic documents were developed to fit thematic segments of planned milestones. Examples include the Concept for Reforming Local Government and Territorial Organization of Government in Ukraine for 2014-2017 and the State Program on the Basics of Anti-Corruption Policy in Ukraine, or the Anti-Corruption Strategy, for 2015-2017.

Cross-cutting deliverables: Visible progress

Ukraine has made noticeable progress in fulfilling the tasks within three cross-cutting deliverables. Structured engagement with a wide range of CSOs got an extra boost with the introduction of institutional support for the Ukrainian National Platform of the EaP Civil Society Forum and for the Ukrainian side of the EU-Ukraine Civil Society Platform from the EU-funded Civic Synergy Project. This has allowed the country to significantly improve the quality of analytical and communication projects implemented by these platforms, and to reinforce cooperation with decision-maker, both in Ukraine and at EU institutions.

In the context of gender equality and non-discrimination, Ukraine has established the necessary legislative and procedural framework, strengthened the gender mechanism, and set up the office of Ombudsman for Gender Policy.

The use of strategic communications with a unified approach to the visualization of projects in Ukraine under the umbrella of the Moving Forward Together campaign has enabled broader dissemination of information about EU activities and reform support among Ukrainians. In the future, joint efforts should focus on resisting anti-EU disinformation and messages in Russia-influenced media that are likely to be propagated during the pre-election and election periods.

Economic development: Digital market problems

Ukraine has improved some socio-economic indicators for economic development and market opportunities. The regulatory environment and SMEs have seen positive changes thanks to support from EU programs. More specifically, 840 SMEs received support between 2016 and 2017. In order to reduce gaps in access to financing and financial infrastructure, Ukraine has updated program documents focusing on the development of the financial sector, and passed laws on a credit register and credit risk management. However, it still lacks practical steps to establish and develop alternative sources of funding for SMEs and incentives for lending in the national currency. EU projects like Mayors for Economic Growth and Smart Specialization, in which Ukraine participated actively throughout 2018, generate new job opportunities at local and regional level.

Trade and DCFTA implementation has also been dynamic. In 2017, Ukraine exported 30% more goods to the EU and imported 21% more goods from it. Trade with EaP states is following a similar trend. In 2017, the exports of five EaP countries to the EU grew 29% and imports from the EU went up 30%.

The lack of a coordinated strategic approach to the shaping of policies in harmonization of digital markets with the EU and the EaP region is the greatest challenge for Ukraine right now, despite some positive steps at the national level. Because of this, progress in this segment received poor marks. The Ukrainian side needs to develop and approve a coordinated national strategy and road maps for all key sectors of this industry.

Strengthening institutions: Mixed results

Priority II, strengthening institutions and good governance, has shown the most mixed results. On one hand, the reform of state governance has been quite productive and is described in the EU SIGMA 2017 report based on an assessment of the government system in Ukraine. On the other hand, strengthening rule of law and anti-corruption mechanisms, as well as implementing key judicial reforms have not delivered significant results on the ground in Ukraine and were given a low grade by Ukrainian National Platform experts. Ukraine is failing to guarantee effective, results-oriented work at its anti-corruption institutions and to fully automate the verification of e-declarations from officials within a unified declaration system. As part of its judiciary reform, Ukraine amended the provisions of its Constitution regarding justice in 2016 and adopted a package of laws to increase the transparency and accountability of judges. However, the procedure for appointing judges and the judiciary’s administrative staff who were supposed to carry out the reform have led to the conservation of problems such as corruption and political dependence in the country’s judiciary. For Ukraine to effectively complete anti-corruption and judiciary reform, serious political will is needed, first and foremost.

Security is the critical sphere for cooperation with the EU in which Ukraine has demonstrated serious progress. The adoption of the Law on National Security in 2018 contributed to the existing system of strategic documents on security that foster Ukraine’s integration with the EU and NATO. However, the EU needs to pay more attention to institutionally strengthening the fight against the hybrid elements of Russia’s aggression and the protection of critical infrastructure.

Energy: Below average

Priority ІІІ, connectivity, energy efficiency, environment and climate change, aims to strengthen transport and energy links and to develop uniform approaches to the environment and climate change.

In 2017, Ukraine signed an agreement to extend the indicative maps of the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T), the Mediterranean and the Rhine-Danube Corridors, to its territory. In addition, Ukraine has joined GO-HIGHWAY Gdansk-Odesa and Via Carpatia, two international projects under the TEN-T framework. The main challenge for Ukraine here is to prepare and implement priority projects within the network and to find funding.

While energy supply has a key place in EU-Ukraine relations, the 20 EaP Deliverables cover only some aspects of EU energy cooperation with EaP countries, and most of these have nothing to do with Ukraine directly. In 2018, a national working plan was agreed under the EU4Energy framework to continue reforms in the energy sector and to develop relations with the EaP countries that are not members of the Energy Union. Overall, progress in this deliverable is below average, compared to other areas.

The energy efficiency, use of renewable energy, and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions deliverable provides Ukraine with two tools: the Sustainable Energy Action Plans (SEAP) for cities and towns in Ukraine that have signed the Covenant of Mayors, and the Energy Efficiency Fund based on co-funding from the EU. Ukraine leads in the preparation of SEAP alongside other EaP countries, but the quality of this preparation and implementation is not always up to par. The Energy Efficiency Fund was established in 2018 with an EU commitment of  €50mn. However, additional efforts are necessary to organize its work.

Environment and adaptation to climate change were in the spotlight, too. Government policy on climate change is framed by long-term concept documents. Laws on the Assessment of Environmental Impact and on Strategic Environmental Assessment were adopted in 2017 and 2018 and are now being implemented. Reform of the water resources management system continues. The lack of systematic action on the part of the Government to tackle illegal logging continues to raise concerns.

People-to-people contacts: Positively active

Priority IV mobility and people-to-people contacts aims at a separate assessment of cooperation between the EU and Ukraine.

The visa liberalization and mobility partnerships deliverable celebrated the first anniversary of a visa-free travel regime for Ukraine with EU and Schengen Area member-states in June 2018. In the first year of visa-free travel, nearly 5 million biometric passports were issued to Ukrainians and close to 1mn Ukrainian citizens travelled to the EU without visas. Young people, education, skill development and culture are always important to provide high mobility among Ukrainians. Ukraine is an active user of the EU4Youth, Erasmus + and Creative Europe programs.

In terms of research and innovation, Ukraine is an associate member of Horizon 2020 and Ukrainian organizations are engaged in an increasing number of projects under its aegis. To strengthen integration with the European research community, Ukraine could assess the implementation of recommendations in a 2016 research and innovations audit under the Horizon 2020 peer-review instrument (PSF).

Multilateral architecture: Under renovation

20 Deliverables for 2020 contains a vision for reforming the multilateral format. Officially launched in March 2018, the updated multilateral architecture of EaP aims to strengthen the political component of the Eastern Partnership. The Senior Officials Meetings format is a positive development, as is the provision of more political weight to cross-government platforms. However, the EU still underestimates the security dimension as an element of cooperation.

Alongside its active engagement in the multilateral format for the six EaP countries, Ukraine is showing interest in establishing institutional cooperation with the three EaP states that have signed Association Agreements.

Such forms of cooperation were mentioned in the final documents of the EaP Summit in November 2017 and the Ukraine-EU Summit in July 2018, which is a positive development. 2018 has essentially been the year of institution-building. In September 2018, the first informal ministerial meeting in the EU+3 took place. It confirmed the prospects for and meaningfulness of this platform for issues linked to the implementation of the DCFTA. As to civil society, Kyiv hosted the Second Association Exchange Forum in September 2018, for NGOs and think-tanks to share their views on the implementation of the Association Agreement in the three countries. In October, the charter of the Interparliamentary Assembly of Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova was signed in Tbilisi.

Overall, the monitoring conducted by experts from the Ukrainian National Platform of the EaP Civil Society Forum underscores the added value of the 2020 Deliverables for Ukraine, compared to the norms of the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement and their implementation documents. Some results complement and streamline the areas of cooperation and instruments envisaged by the Association Agreement. They also facilitate deeper reforms of sectors that are vital to Ukrainian society.

At the same time, the 20 Deliverables can be updated based on the strategic vision of the EaP’s further development after 2020. This update could include the development of clearer criteria for EaP+ formats, focusing on the integration of EaP countries into EU sectoral and thematic areas, such as the Customs Union, the Digital Single Market, the Energy Union, and the Schengen Area. A specific discussion of its future could be officially launched on the EaP’s 10th anniversary in May 2019. This was mentioned many times during a meeting of EU and EaP foreign ministers in Luxemburg. For some strategic sectors, the Ukrainian government and civil society could develop individual road maps or action plans with clear indicators of success. As an example, the Ukraine-EU Action Plan for justice, freedom and security has already been updated. The draft Road Map of Integration with the Energy Union is nearly complete. Similar plans are necessary for Ukraine’s integration into the Digital Single Market and progress towards the standards of the Schengen Area and the Customs Union.

Finally, official Kyiv should use financial instruments for support within the EaP 20 Deliverables framework, despite the lack of clear legal commitments on its part to deliver on all 20. This will facilitate the implementation of reforms that have already been launched and the fulfillment of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement.

This article draws on the monitoring report by the Ukrainian National Platform of the EaP Civil Society Forum as of September 1, 2018.