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The overall score of the 2017 assessment of the foreign policy performance has improved. Among the positive results, one can clearly see the activation of the institutions that elaborate and implement the foreign policy in the priority directions. However, the strategic vision of the foreign policy development traditionally remains at low level. Therefore, it is not a surprise that the strategic vision issue is one of our recommendations key points.
For the third year in a row now, the report provides a sufficient comparative basis for diplomats and foreign policy experts aimed at the comprehensive understanding of the foreign policy, its political, institutional and strategic components. We believe that the “Ukrainian Prism: Foreign Policy 2017” report brought us one more step further in creation of a practical and objective tool for the Ukraine’s foreign policy assessment.
Traditionally in this report, experts of the Foreign Policy Council “Ukrainian Prism” in partnership with the Regional Representation of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Ukraine analysed details of the Ukrainian foreign policy elaboration and implementation, as well as systematically evaluated its success according to the proposed scale.
Every year we improve our methodology of evaluation and take into account results of the discussions held both in Ukraine and abroad. While preparing this year foreign policy assessment, we decided to expand it with some important geographical and functional directions. In such a way, the total number of the analysed foreign policy vectors reached 50.
Scores for regional and bilateral cooperation of Ukraine in 2017
Political Interest / Engagement
In 2017, compared with the previous years, political interest analysis demonstrated that the Ukrainian political actors were mainly focused on the foreign policy priority areas identified in 2015-2016.
The foreign policy position of the President of Ukraine was summed up in his speech at the traditional annual meeting with the foreign ambassadors accredited in Ukraine (in January), as well as in the Annual Address of the President of Ukraine to the Verkhovna Rada “On the internal and the external position of Ukraine in 2017” (in September). These public statements allow identifying the priority areas of the foreign policy interest. In particular, the special emphasis was put on the protection of the territorial integrity of Ukraine, its European integration and belonging to the Euro-Atlantic civilization space.
A creation of the international coalition to support Ukraine in its fight against the Russian aggression was also repeatedly mentioned as a foreign policy priority. European support in the security issues was tangible in relations with Austria, Germany, Lithuania, Poland, and France. The preservation of sanctions against Russia was a common denominator of the agenda, with the Ukrainian politicians emphasizing it on all international platforms.
The European integration in the analysed year had its specific frames that needed a political support. . In particular, they concerned the full enactment of the Association Agreement, and an introduction of the visa-free regime for the Ukrainian citizens travelling to the EU. Implementation of the Association Agreement in the future also requires other forms of the strategic long-term cooperation.
According to the President’s vision, people at the referendum should approve the Ukraine’s future membership in NATO. At the moment, the Euro-Atlantic direction, and the country’s compliance with the NATO standards have a high priority among other issues in the foreign policy of Ukraine.
Most of the political actors in 2017, like in the previous years, defined the United States as a key partner and an ally of Ukraine in the political, security, economic and energy spheres.
Traditionally intensive dialogue with Japan and Canada, strategic relations with Turkey and Azerbaijan were be noted, in particular, in the presidential statements. The head of the state also declared his interest in improving of the bilateral relations with the Middle East and Latin America countries.
The medium-term Governmental Action Plan till 2020 is a political document describing the government activities aimed at the development of the Ukraine’s foreign policy priority areas. It postulates the need for such issues as the national legislation approximation to the EU norms, functioning of the deep and comprehensive free trade area between Ukraine and the EU, bringing the Armed Forces to the NATO standards, strengthening international trade and investment attractiveness of Ukraine as well.
At the parliamentary level, it was managed to adopt a number of concerted political documents dedicated to the foreign affairs and the bilateral relations. In particular, in 2017, the following decisions of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine were adopted, all of them demonstrating the consolidated position of the various factions: “On the Appeal of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine to the parliaments of the foreign states and the international organizations concerning condemnation of the escalation of the armed aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine”, “On the Appeal of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine regarding the Final Report of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) on the monitoring of the elections to the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation in 2016”, and “On the Appeal of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine to the Congress of the United States on security guarantees”. In addition, some attention was paid to the cooperation with the EU and NATO, the human rights and the territorial integrity issues.
In general, according to the results of the analysis, in 2017, the greatest political attention were divided between the following directions: relations with the USA, Canada, the EU member states and the organization at large, and Turkey, human rights protection, and the Ukraine’s activities within the Council of Europe and the UN.
The overall score for the political interest/engagement – “4-“
The institutional cooperation in 2017 slightly improved for the overwhelming majority of the foreign policy directions.
In October, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine announced a creation of the new Government Office for the Coordination of European and Euro-Atlantic Integration. The new provision was approved in the framework of the public administration reform and adopted by the Governmental resolution. The office is responsible for the coordination of the executive authorities’ activities aiming at the implementation of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU, as well as for directing political, political-military dialogue and practical cooperation with NATO and its member states. The political level of the integration processes coordination was carried out by the Office of the Vice Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration of Ukraine, as well as by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine.
The economic diplomacy was strengthened by a number of coordinating institutions. As early as in January 2017, President Poroshenko announced the launch of the National Investment Council under the, President of Ukraine. In August, its Provision, and in October -members of the Council headed by the President were approved. The Prime Minister of Ukraine, the First Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine -the Minister of Economic Development and Trade, the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Energy and Coal Mining, the Minister of Infrastructure, the Minister of Justice, the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada, the Head and the Deputy Head of the Administration of the President of Ukraine, and other persons joined the Council.
The majority of the bilateral foreign policy directions remained under the responsibility of the MFA and the diplomatic missions abroad, though the dynamics of the Ukrainian officials’ visits shows the active involvement, in particular, of the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Infrastructure, the General Prosecutor’s Office and others.
In order to implement the Strategic Trade Development Roadmap, the International Trade Council was created as a temporary consultative and advisory body of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine. The Council should facilitate coordination of the central executive bodies to support the exports growth and the international trade procedures simplification. The Council is headed by the First Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine – the Minister of Economic Development and Trade, with some deputy ministers, heads of the Parliamentary committees and others taking part in its work. At the same time, despite the plans for 2017, the launch of the Export Credit Agency failed.
The Export Promotion Council and the Export Promotion Office under the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, as well as the Exporters and Investors Council under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, were rather active. . The meetings of the Ukrainian part of the bilateral intergovernmental commissions on trade and economic cooperation, as well as working groups on the organization of the bilateral economic forums added a lot to the coordination efforts at the national level.
In June, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine established the Interagency Commission on the Popularization of Ukraine in the World, formed with the governmental and non-governmental structures representatives. From the moment of its creation, the commission managed to hold a number of thematic meetings about the creation of the brand of Ukraine.
The public councils under the ministries and agencies were re-elected, allowing to strengthen the cooperation of the relevant ministries with non-governmental organizations and to raise the expert consultations level. At the end of the year, the MFA of Ukraine developed a procedure for the Ukrainian independent experts’ secondment abroad to participate in thematic public events, while strengthening the public and expert diplomacy. Supported by the Public Council under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a list of the well-known expert platforms was prepared, where it was advised to facilitate the Ukrainian representatives’ participation.
However, it should be also noted that there was a certain coordination imbalance between the governmental structures and the parliament, causing several internal discussions (for example, on the draft law No. 7206 “Buy Ukrainian, Pay to Ukrainians“) and misunderstandings with the neighbouring states (Article 7 of the Law of Ukraine “On Education”).
The cooperation between the executive and legislative branches of power on the implementation of the Association Agreement remained extremely low, resulting in a considerable fall behind the schedule of the legislative support and the agreement implementation.
The lack of a coordinated approach, unfortunately, was a characteristic feature when considering the important law “On Diplomatic Service”, which was supposed to reboot the work of Ukrainian diplomacy according to realities and needs of the time.
. The working group, chaired by B. Tarasyuk, the Deputy Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, in a period of November 2016 – June 2017, substantially polished the original draft prepared by the MFA. However, further handoff of the document to the President of Ukraine slowed down the process for almost six months, and the law was adopted in the first reading only in December 2017. The exclusion of a norm regarding consultations with the profile parliamentary committee members on the candidates of the heads of the Ukrainian diplomatic missions abroad became a specific feature of the presidential version of the Law of Ukraine “On Diplomatic Service”.
According to the authors of this study, the relations with the USA, the EU, NATO, the Council of Europe, as well as a sphere of human rights protection can be distinguished as the most coordinated foreign policy directions at the national level.
The overall score for the institutional cooperation – “4-“
Until now, there is any generalized conceptual vision. The guidelines for the foreign policy and the international security of Ukraine are defined in a number of the strategic documents. These documents are the Coalition Agreement, the National Security Strategy of Ukraine, the Military Doctrine of Ukraine, the Sustainable Development Strategy for Ukraine by 2020, the Association Agreement with the EU, the IMF Memorandum, the Charter on a Distinctive Partnership between Ukraine and NATO, the National Human Rights Strategy of Ukraine, the National Action Plan for the implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 “Women, Peace, and Security” for the period until 2020, the Concept of Ukraine’s popularization in the world and promotion of Ukraine’s interests in the global information space.
In 2017, a number of documents and programs that could be classified as the framework-strategic or operational, developed to meet the existing strategic requirements, were adopted.
In February, the Doctrine of Information Security of Ukraine was adopted, and in July, the Energy Strategy of Ukraine until 2035 was adopted too. Both documents form and refine in parts some principles of the foreign policy and security elaboration and implementation.
Medium-term Governmental Action Plan till 2020 adopted April 3, 2017, consist of some tasks and events in the sphere of economic and energy diplomacy, European and Euro-Atlantic integration.
In December, the Government approved the Export Strategy of Ukraine – the Strategic Trade Development Roadmap for 2017-2021. The Action Plan for the Roadmap implementation defines 56 tasks, involving about 40 state and non-state institutions, some of them still to be created.
The Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU also became an important strategic document, introducing the DCFTA and the AA implementation plan. In October, the Government approved a plan of the AA implementation, with 2016 tasks and about 5000 activities, in line with the Governmental Action Plan, strategic documents on the sectoral reforms, including the EU-agreed roadmaps. In the context of the Euro-Atlantic integration, it is necessary to mention the adoption of the Concept on improving the public awareness of Ukraine’s cooperation with NATO for the period 2017-2020 (in February).
At the operational documents level, in June, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine approved the Plan for the implementation of the Concept of Ukraine’s popularization in the world and promotion of Ukraine’s interests in the global information space, adopted in the end of 2016.
The Public Diplomacy Division of the MFA of Ukraine is developing the Public Diplomacy Strategy.
At the regional and bilateral level, there are some initiatives that can contribute to the establishment of the strategic or privileged partnership. For example, the Joint Statement of the Prime Ministers of Ukraine, the Republic of Estonia, the Republic of Latvia and the Republic of Lithuania, adopted in April 2017 can be considered as a strategic reference point for the relations between Ukraine and the Baltic states.
A number of medium-term intergovernmental action plans for 2017-2019 and 2017-2020 (with Turkey and Belarus) indicates the formulation of a multi-year planning horizon. The strategic character is also observed in the thematic orientation of the Ukraine – PRС Action Plan on the implementation of the “Economic Belt of the Great Silk Road” and the “Sea Silk Road of the XXI Century” joint development.
At the same time, in the majority of the analysed foreign policy areas, there are any mentions of the existing strategic documents of Ukraine, as well as the medium-term bilateral documents, that could fully represent the Ukrainian goals and interests in a separate vector of the international relations.
The overall score for the strategic vision – “3+”
Traditionally, this indicator of the foreign policy implementation gets the highest scores among others. However, in 2017, it will be fair to note grow in activity of almost all Ukrainian actors engaged in the foreign policy.
In the context of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, the effective communication with the key partner countries of Ukraine, meaning the North America and the EU countries, as well as work in the framework of the United Nations, the OSCE, the CoE, and cooperation with NATO, gained its importance. The main tasks include the following: support of the territorial integrity of Ukraine, condemnation of the armed aggression against Ukraine, non-recognition of the illegal annexation of Crimea, prolongation and strengthening of the sanctions policy against Russia, pressure on its leadership to implement the Minsk agreements, protection of the rights of the Ukrainian citizens in the occupied territories, launch of the UN peacekeeping operation in the Donbas region. In this context, it is worth pointing out the high level of the foreign policy activity of the President of Ukraine, who tried to keep these issues on the agenda of his official and working visits abroad and to the international organizations, as well as while accepting his foreign colleagues in Ukraine. The successful contacts at the highest level (with the US, the EU, the UK, Canada, Turkey, and the Baltic states) matched with the enhanced contacts between the governments’ heads, and the intergovernmental level meetings, including MFAs.
In the context of the international security and territorial integrity, the Minsk agreements remained to be the main mechanism for the Russia – Ukraine conflict settlement. In addition, the Ukraine’s activity within the international institutions framework was aimed at focusing of the international community’s attention (in particular, the UN, the International Court of Justice, the OSCE, the Council of Europe) to this issue.
In February 2017, under its presidency in the UN Security Council, Ukraine managed to draw attention to the conflicts in Europe. The Ukrainian high-rank officials took part in a great number of the UN Security Council meetings in New York. In particular, the President of Ukraine took his part in the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly opening and in the UN Security Council high-level meeting on the reforms of the UN peacekeeping operations (in September). The international platform “Friends of De-occupation of Crimea“, initiated by the President of Ukraine in 2017 during the UN General Assembly, became important in terms of coordinating efforts in the Crimean issue resolution.
2017, compared to the previous period, can be considered as a year of the enforced and productive relations between Ukraine and the EU, since the mutual attention of Kyiv and Brussels to each other was at a high level. The President of Ukraine paid a visit to the capital of the EU twice (in June with a bilateral visit, and in November to take part in the 5th Eastern Partnership summit). The Prime Minister of Ukraine also paid two visits to Brussels (in February and December). In addition, the Ukraine – EU summit, which took place on July 12-13, 2017 in Kyiv, attracted a lot of attention.
The Ukraine’s cooperation with NATO was active at all levels. In July 2017, an appointment of V. Prystaiko as the Head of the Mission of Ukraine to NATO became an extremely important development, since it confirmed the seriousness of the Ukraine’s intentions in regards to the further rapprochement strategy. The NATO – Ukraine Joint working group on the defence and technical cooperation took its regular meetings. Another important political step was the NATO – Ukraine Commission meeting in Kyiv, with the participation of the NATO Secretary General and the President of Ukraine (in July). The cooperation at the parliamentary level was equally active.
The economic diplomacy also gained its momentum. In the context of cooperation with the EU and in the framework of the Association Agreement implementation, a number of the bilateral meetings were held: the High-level Ukraine – EU dialogue in horizontal and specific industrial sectors (in March), the first meeting of the EU – Ukraine Subcommittee on trade and sustainable development (in May), the 4th meeting of the EU – Ukraine Association Council (in December).
During the year, negotiations with Turkey and Israel to reach the free trade agreements were held. There were a number of bilateral (with Albania, Hungary, Belarus, Lithuania, and South Korea) and international economic forums (with Canada and Georgia) with the participation of the Ukraine’s leadership. The joint intergovernmental commissions (in particular, with Moldova, Belarus, Vietnam, and Saudi Arabia) were also rather active. With some partners, such work has been renewed after a long break (Poland, China), while others agreed to set up the joint commissions (Albania, Qatar, Colombia).
In June, the Cabinet of Ministers approved a decision on the establishment of a state body – “Ukrainian Institute”. Its branches were planned to be opened in 2017 in four European capitals (Warsaw, Berlin, Paris, Rome), but due to the complicated process of the interinstitutional approval, the implementation of this task was slowed down. In 2017, initiated by the Public Diplomacy Division, about 200 various projects in the field of public and cultural diplomacy were implemented.
The parliamentary diplomacy strengthening should be emphasized separately. In May, the Verkhovna Rada approved the recommendations of the parliamentary hearings on “Current Issues of Ukraine’s Foreign Policy” (held in December 2016). In October, the joint parliamentary committees hearings on the implementation of the Annual National Programme under the aegis of the NATO – Ukraine Commission and the Strategic Defence Bulletin of Ukraine. The Committee’s on Foreign Affairs public events were dedicated to the elaboration of the Ukraine’s foreign policy strategy, energy security, economic diplomacy, and foreign policy dimension of the Donbas reintegration strategy.
Under the aegis of the relevant committee on foreign affairs, 90 parliamentary groups developed the inter-parliamentary relations with the foreign countries’ parliaments. In 2017, the parliamentarians initiated creation of the parliamentary friendship groups with Ethiopia, Iceland, Colombia, Liechtenstein, Macedonia, Malaysia, Malta, Nigeria, South Africa, and Tunisia.
Some legislative initiatives led to the bilateral relations deterioration with a number of neighbouring countries (for example, Hungary, Romania).
In general, the study indicates the most intense official and informal events and contacts in the following directions: the United Kingdom, Canada, and the USA, economic cooperation with the European Union, Eastern Partnership, Euro-Atlantic integration, Lithuania, Poland, Baltic States, the UN, Council of Europe, human rights protection, and public diplomacy.
The overall score for the activities – “4+”
2017 became a year of further development of the international support provided to Ukraine in its counteraction to the Russian aggression, including the sanctions packages, with both personal and sectoral restrictive measures against Russia and its business and political elites expanded, strengthened and prolonged by the EU, the US, Canada, and other partners of Ukraine. To the Crimea annexation anniversary, the European Parliament adopted a resolution “On the Ukrainian prisoners in Russia and the situation in Crimea”.
The international courts brought Russia to justice, that was also positive for Ukraine. On April 19, the International Court of Justice delivered its order on the first provisional measured in the case of Ukraine v. Russian Federation. In July, the documents, adopted at the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly session in Minsk, in particular the resolution “On the restoration of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”, once again condemned the fact of the Russia’s armed aggression against Ukraine, the temporary occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol by Russia, and called on the Russian Federation to cease the hostilities in Ukraine.
On December 19 2017, the UN General Assembly positively voted for the revised draft resolution “The situation of human rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol (Ukraine)”. Moreover, for the first time in history, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution on the critical infrastructure protection against terrorist attacks, initiated by Ukraine and co-sponsored by 41 states,
In May, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, in its decision on the situation in the ARC and Sevastopol (Ukraine), recognized the Russia’s responsibility in accordance with the International humanitarian law and international human rights law, and called on the Russian Federation authorities to fulfil their obligations and to stop repressions. The Permanent delegation of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine to the PACE had a success with extending the sanctions imposed by the Assembly on suspension of the Russian delegation to the PACE rights until the end of 2017.
During the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE, the resolution “On the restoration of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”, proposed by the parliamentary delegation of Ukraine and containing provisions on human rights protection in the occupied territories, was approved as well.
2017 was a fateful time in the history of the Ukraine – EU relations, since they achieved both AA final ratification and its coming into force, as well as a visa-free regime for the Ukrainian citizens. However, the progress was to a certain extent overshadowed by the final text of the Eastern Partnership summit declaration, as well as the EU refusal to grant Ukraine a third tranche of EUR 600 million because of its failure to comply with the four pre-agreed requirements.
In the context of relations with the United States, the adoption of the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act, as well as the US active sanction policy became another important achievement of the year. Under the Trump administration, the US – Ukraine cooperation in the security and defence sphere found its new forms. K. Volker was appointed as the United States Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations, responsible for the coordination of the interaction with Ukraine in order to accelerate the progress under the Minsk agreement. In addition, within the US budget limits for 2018, they allocated $350 million for the security assistance and providing defensive lethal weapon to Ukraine.
The co-operation with the Western partners (the USA, the United Kingdom, Canada, Lithuania, and Poland) in the defence and security spheres also had its steady development. The Orbital, a British training program for the military personnel, was prolonged until March 2018. Canada decided to continue its military training mission UNIFIER until 2019, and Ukraine joined the Automatic Firearms Country Control List, which grants sale or supply of firearms to its member states.
Despite the specific nature of the Turkey – Russia relations, the Turkey – Ukraine relations gained positive dynamics. In particular, in October, with the mediation of Turkey, Russia released imprisoned in the annexed Crimea the Deputy Chairmen of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people A. Chiogoz and I. Umerov. During the Prime Minister V. Groysman visit to Turkey, the Turkish side sent a note on the prohibition for the Turkish vessels to visit the occupied Crimea. Nonetheless, the violations did not stop.
The Ukraine-Baltic Forum of the Heads of the Governments in April became another significant event. The Joint Final Statement of the Prime Ministers of Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, dated April 6, 2017, declared the support for the territorial integrity of Ukraine, the condemnation of the Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, the encouragement for the further assistance to Ukraine, from the EU and NATO, in particular, as well as the support of the Euro-Atlantic course of Ukraine, the AA ratification, and a visa-free regime launch.
The active economic diplomacy resulted in the Ukraine – Canada free trade area launch on August 1. Also, the European Council decision, dated June 28, 2017, on the extension of the three-year EU quota for the duty-free import of a number of products from the important sectors of the national economy, can be considered a success too.
In May, Ukraine was officially invited to join the Pan-Euro-Med Convention. The internal procedures continued till the end of 2017, however, since May, Ukraine participated in the working bodies of the Convention as an observer.
In January-November 2017, the volume of the Ukrainian goods export equalled $39.5 billion, with an increase of $6.8 billion, compared to the same period in 2016. In geography terms, there was a raise in goods export to Australia and Oceania – by 304.4%, America – by 59.8%, Europe – by 30.4%, the CIS – 15.6%, Asia – by 12.9%, and Africa – by 7.5%. At the same time, within 11 months of 2017, the main partners’ shares in the Ukrainian goods’ trade turnover were as following: the EU countries – 41.3%, China – 8.4%, Turkey – 4.0%, and the USA – 3.6%.
The 2017 most successful directions are: the USA, the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Lithuania, the political dialogue with the EU, the Euro-Atlantic integration, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the UN, the Council of Europe and human rights protection, and a visa-free regime.
The overall score for the results – “4-“
G -7 countries cooperation
В+ United Kingdom
A- European Union
B- Eastern Partnership
C- European Energy Community
A- Euroatlantic integration
Build-up international support on countering Russian aggression
B Build-up international support on countering Russian aggression
B+ Economic Diplomacy
C+ Russian Federation
C Asia-Pacific Region
C Middle East
C- Western Balkans
B+ Baltic States
C+ Northern Europe
D+ Latin America
C- South Asia
D+ Sub-Saharan Africa
D- Central Asia
C Black Sea Region
C+ Visegrad Group
B+ United Nations
A- Council of Europe
A- Human Rights
C Climate Change
C Nuclear Non-proliferation
C+ International Security
B+ Public Diplomacy
C+ Ukrainians abroad