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2019 was a special year for Ukraine both in terms of foreign policy and in terms of domestic political processes. Strategically, Ukraine continues its advancement along the European and Euro-Atlantic paths, counteracts Russian aggression, and attempts to strengthen the foreign economic focus of its diplomatic efforts. However, the change of approaches and tactic with regard to the implementation of foreign policy, certain institutional and personal misunderstandings have caused the loss of momentum gained in 2017-2018. The overall assessments of how Ukrainian government offices implement their foreign policy goals have dropped to what they were in 2015-2016, not least due to a decline in political interest in interstate relations.
Experts from the Foreign Policy Council “Ukrainian Prism” and our colleagues from the top Ukrainian think tanks have analysed 50 directions of Ukraine’s foreign policy. This study gives an overview of 2019 and offers an opportunity to follow five years dynamics, highlighting the best examples of efforts concentration by Ukrainian government offices as well as, unfortunately, the emergence of the reverse trends.
Therefore, on behalf of the “Ukrainian Prism” team and our strategic partner, the Regional Office of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Ukraine, I would like to invite you to peruse our study.
Hennadiy Maksak, Executive Director of the Foreign Policy Council “Ukrainian Prism”
G -7 countries cooperation
В+ United Kingdom
2019 was somewhat quieter in relations between Ukraine and the UK as a result of the Brexit turbulence and the long election period in Ukraine. Still, this only affected the intensity of contacts, not their quality. Therefore, they are expected to intensify again in the first half of 2020.
Ukraine’s relations with the UK in 2015-2019 can be described as a success story. The UK has consistently supported Ukraine in the bilateral format since 2014 (reforms and security cooperation), in the EU (including in the context of implementing and compliance with sanctions), as well as in various international platforms. Brexit has undermined the part of the EU member-states critical of Russia and the influence of supporters of further EU and NATO expansion eastward. Apart from that, the turbulence triggered by Brexit in the UK distracted it from Ukraine and had a negative impact on the intensity of contacts in the past two years. From the positive perspective, the new solidarity and experience of cooperation gained in 2014-2019 allow the two sides to establish new strategic goals.
In 2019, Italy continued to support the European integration aspirations and territorial integrity of Ukraine. Italy does not recognize the annexation of Crimea and officially supports the introduction of sanctions against the Russian Federation. Security, military, cultural and humanitarian cooperation formed an important dimension. There was no increase in activity on the part of Ukraine, except for some cultural initiatives at the end of 2019.
Political and economic relations between Ukraine and Italy have remained quite asymmetrical over five years. The change of governments both in Ukraine and in Italy did not facilitate co-operation and understanding of the strategic interests of both countries. Although Italy is home to one of the largest Ukrainian communities in the EU, its potential for engagement has been minimal.
A strategic vision for further interaction for the next period after the implementation of the Roadmap for Cooperation between Ukraine and Italy for 2016-2017 has not been presented. Despite the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Parliaments of Ukraine and Italy in 2017, interparliamentary interaction was low until 2019.
Although exports of goods and services to Italy did not increase significantly from 2015 to 2019 (from USD 2.11 billion in 2015 to USD2.54 billion in 2019), imports doubled up (from USD1.01 billion to USD2.15 billion). The withdrawal of the Italian Unicredit bank from the Ukrainian market in 2016 was quite painful for Italian investors, which did not prompt more small and medium-sized enterprises to invest in cooperation with Ukraine. In addition, the great potential for the development of bilateral trade and economic cooperation, which existed in the areas of industrial cooperation and investment cooperation, was not used.
Positive developments took place in late 2019, when a joint Ukrainian-Italian photo project on the events in Donbas and a film about Markiv allowed the Italian society to understand for the first time that there was a war in eastern Ukraine.
2019 was extremely favourable for the development of cooperation with Canada. Various forms of bilateral and multilateral cooperation, including high-level visits and especially the Ukraine Reform Conference in Toronto, helped to enhance the political, security and investment relations. The Free Trade Agreement contributes to the intensification of trade relations and an entry of Ukrainian goods to the Canadian market. Canada traditionally continued to support domestic reforms in Ukraine, particularly in public administration and defence sectors. This allows the two countries to move to a long-term planning and setting common priorities in bilateral relations.
Bilateral cooperation between Ukraine and Canada improved significantly over the past five years, most notably in the areas of security, economic, trade, consular and healthcare. Both countries recognized the priority of Ukraine’s cooperation with Canada where unique consensus has emerged in support of Ukraine from all key political players. Starting with S. Harper's Government, Canada consistently adhered to the sanctions against Russia and provided material and technical assistance to Ukraine, which amounted to about USD 800mn over the five years.
According to the State Statistics Bureau of Ukraine, total trade turnover of 2015-2018 almost doubled from USD 236mn in 2015 (exports to Canada at USD 30 mn, imports at USD 206 mn) to USD 411 mn in 2018 (exports to Canada at USD 78 mn, imports at USD 333 mn). The Free Trade Area launched in 2017 boosted this growth. However, in 2019 trade turnover fall till USD 280.2 mn due to the Canadian import.
Germany remains the most important political partner of Ukraine. Official Kyiv counts on Germany’s support for keeping the pressure of sanctions on Russia and for solving the armed conflict in Donbas in the framework of the Normandy Four. Scheduled for 2020, the finalization of Nord Stream 2 remains one of the most problematic issues in the bilateral relations. With Germany’s mediation, Ukraine has managed to sign an agreement on gas transit from Russia through the Ukrainian territory. Ukraine’s priorities also include the attraction of German investment and Germany’s assistance in rebuilding the war-damaged infrastructure in the East.
Ukraine’s foreign policy cooperation with Germany in the past five years predictably focused on the solution of the conflict with Russia (cooperation within the Normandy Format and the Minsk process). Another focus was on countering the construction of Nord Stream 2. In 2015-2019, the level of the political dialog was very intense on the top level (president, prime minister, foreign affairs minister). The Ukrainian Embassy in Germany promoted Ukrainian interests proactively, including with public diplomacy. Despite the fact that Germany is not listed among Ukraine’s strategic partners in the legal framework, the role of Germany in supporting territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, mediation between Ukraine and Russia in the Normandy Format, provision of macro-financial and humanitarian assistance is unprecedented. In the past five years, all political forces in Ukraine have been unilateral in pointing an important role of Germany in the support of territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and condemnation of the annexation of Crimea.
Numerous projects of technical assistance are implemented for sustainable economic development, energy efficiency, decentralization and democracy building. In 2016, the joint German-Ukrainian Trade and Industrial Chamber was launched. Starting from January 1, 2016, when the DCFTA with the EU came into effect, bilateral trade has been developing. For now, the key products of Ukrainian exports to Germany include electric machinery, agricultural products, clothing and knitwear, ore and slag, metals and wood.
Considering the priority nature of cooperation with the United States, political interest in this direction was demonstrated at all levels, while foreign policy activities focused on a security dimension of cooperation, as well as on its political, economic and energy components. Despite the deep involvement and existing strategic vision, its results were overshadowed by the fact that in 2019 Ukraine found itself at the epicentre of the domestic political scandal in the USA. Nevertheless, in 2019, the USA continued to support Ukraine and help it to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity. It insisted on the need to ensure the release of Ukrainian political prisoners and the return of control over occupied Crimea to Ukraine. Sanctions against Russia were extended and the new ones were introduced over Nord Stream 2. Assistance to Ukraine from the US defence budget for 2020 was increased to USD 300 million.
Over the period in question, relations with the USA have always been of priority and strategic significance to Ukraine. This is reflected in the main strategic documents as well as in the statements and speeches by Ukraine’s high-ranking officials, who have always emphasized the leading role of the United States in supporting the sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression (the US Crimea Declaration reaffirming its rejection of Russian’s annexation of Crimea was important in this regard). There was an ongoing active dialogue with the US counterparts, the sides maintained intergovernmental and interagency contacts. The US-Ukraine Strategic Partnership Commission resumed its work in an updated format in 2018.
Ukrainian diplomats focused their main efforts on security issues, in particular the supply of defensive weapons (the supply of lethal defensive weapons was authorized in 2017, the sale of the Javelin systems was approved in 2018 and 2019), extension of sanctions against Russia. Considerable attention was paid to sectoral cooperation, in particular in the energy sector.
However, Ukraine’s aspirations to become a major non-NATO ally and to involve the USA in negotiations on Donbas conflict have not been fulfilled.
The trend that has shaped Franco-Ukrainian relations over the past five years, namely the priority of issues related to the resolution of the Ukrainian-Russian conflict, peaked in 2019, when matching goals resulted in active communication and effective cooperation between the two presidents, and culminated with a Normandy summit. Economic and investment cooperation is advancing very slowly. Ukraine has so far failed to develop a strategic approach to its relations with France.
Ukrainian-French relations intensified from 2014 to 2019, under the influence of Russian aggression, in connection with Paris’s initiatives to boost its diplomatic involvement on behalf of the EU in general and in the Eastern European affairs in particular. Naturally, this intensification was primarily concerned with the conflict resolution; however, there was a real chance to use the “transfusion effect” for a new qualitative leap in bilateral relations. This chance was lost. Ukraine and France continue to have diametrically opposite strategic visions on the prospects for Ukraine's integration into the EU and NATO, on the role of the Russian Federation in the EaP and the European security architecture, and on the return to the “Russia first” logic in general. Despite the steady growth of economic exchanges and investment, there is a lack of initiatives and steps aimed at expanding the French presence, which has a significant impact given France’s efforts to economise diplomacy.
Despite a rather reserved strategic stance on Japan and an openly low political interest in Ukraine, public offices have traditionally demonstrated a high level of engagement in dialogue on security, use of nuclear and renewable energy, reforms implementation, and healthcare. Japan has consistently supported Ukraine in the framework of international cooperation and bilaterally within numerous investment projects.
The reporting period is characterized by the steady development of economic relations: an increase in general trade, implementation of investment projects, and active cooperation at the government level. As part of the Kusanone programme, Japan implements projects for the development of medical and educational institutions, material assistance to the occupied territories, and provides technical assistance under JICA. The systematic support for Ukrainian diplomatic initiatives in the international arena contributes to the fruitful implementation of Ukraine's foreign policy priorities. Japan was one of the first to condemn Russian occupation and to support sanctions.
EUROPEAN INTEGRATION B+
A- European Union
Over five years, Ukraine has come a very long and constructive way towards the EU but failed to persuade the EU to consolidate the prospect of its membership in any binding document. However, at the practical level, the EU provides all necessary and possible assistance to Ukraine: it signed the Association Agreement, including the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area; introduced visa-free travel; approved and extended on a regular basis four levels of sanctions against the Russian Federation over the occupation of Crimea and aggression in eastern Ukraine, etc.
Ukraine, for its part, continues to prove its European choice by amending the Constitution, setting up the Government Office for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, introducing the post of Vice Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, appointing deputy ministers for European integration, developing numerous roadmaps and action plans on the content and deadlines of deliverables, as well as incorporating EU norms and standards in Ukrainian legislation.
Ukraine's economic cooperation with the EU is based on the DCFTA and has a positive dynamic, although the growth of Ukrainian exports has been slowing down in recent years. The country maintains political unity on European integration and proper institutional cooperation. The energy sector, the digital market, customs policy and technical regulation are turning into real priorities for Ukraine's bilateral cooperation with the EU. Based on the results of 2019, a position was elaborated regarding the need not only to implement the AA by both parties, but also to revise its provisions.
At the end of 2019, the vacuum of understanding of the foreign policy vision for European integration by the new Ukrainian authorities gradually gave way to cautious optimism that the chosen instruments, methods, tone of discussion, and the promises implementation pace were correct. Although it is too early to draw unambiguous conclusions, official Kyiv’s actions currently evoke more approval and support from the EU, giving it carte blanche to implement reforms and receive additional support under the “more for more” formula.
Positive trends in the development of economic cooperation between Ukraine and the EU continued in 2019. Following the presidential and parliamentary elections, the country has maintained political unity with regard to European integration and proper institutional cooperation. The EU is Ukraine’s largest trade partner and the volume of foreign trade turnover continues to grow. Ukraine’s deeper sectoral integration and a revision of the Association Agreement with regard to the DCFTA are even more topical now.
B Eastern Partnership
The Eastern Partnership has regained the lost focus following the completion of the current political cycle and due to the need to determine its future format. Although the anniversary summit was postponed to the next year, the structured consultation on the future of the EaP held by the European Commission gave a significant boost to the Ukrainian stakeholders’ activity. Continued implementation of the "20 Deliverables by 2020" and public monitoring of this process have shown that this approach is not ambitious enough for Ukraine. The strategic vision that Ukraine is promoting together with Georgia and Moldova is that the track of the three countries that signed the Association Agreements should be separated in order to bring them closer to the EU faster. The new A3 format was filled with quality content as a result of numerous events and consultations held throughout the year.
Despite changes in the EaP, including, above all, the evolution of the initial format into “20 Deliverables by 2020”, Ukraine’s position that it is secondary to the bilateral dimension of cooperation with the EU has remained unchanged over the five years. Ukraine has been actively using opportunities provided by the Eastern Partnership. The year of 2019 was marked by the emergence of a clear position on the need to separate the track of the three AA signatory states in order to bring them closer to the EU faster.
B- European Energy Community
During 2019, Ukraine and the Energy Community worked closely to implement a new model of the electricity market in Ukraine, to separate and certify the gas transmission system operator, and to fulfil other commitments within the framework of the energy sector reform. The launch of the electricity market became an important achievement, but it still requires considerable work to deregulate and certify the transmission system operator. While a creation of the independent GTS operator took place in quickest-ever time and helped to keep a transit role, the reduction in physical volumes of gas transportation requires a revision of the state's gas strategy. Elaboration of an integrated energy and climate plan for 2030, development or update of the second phase of the Energy Strategy by 2025, resolution of the RES problem and implementation of the European Green Agreement approaches in energy are the next timely issues.
The dynamics of the five-year relationship between Ukraine and the EU is positive. During this period, they managed to launch the natural gas and electricity markets, to reform the NKREPK, to implement most of the measures of the first stage of the Energy Strategy of Ukraine for the period until 2035, to ensure high dynamics of energy resources (gas and electricity) export-import operations with the EU Member States, to launch the Energy Efficiency Fund. Ukraine became one of the regional leaders in terms of renewable energy introduction. At the same time, the political populism of the Ukrainian authorities in keeping price preferences for certain categories of consumers remains an obstacle to large-scale implementation of the European energy legislation, and the oligarchic influence dominance distorts competition and increases energy resources costs for the national economy.
Ukraine and the EU failed to use the potential of working together to prevent the implementation of Russian bypass energy projects. Also, the EU did not become a platform for advocating Ukraine's interests in the EU institutions in the implementation of the Association Agreement in terms of coordination of decisions on infrastructure projects of common interest.
B+ EURO-ATLANTIC INTEGRATION
In 2019, Ukraine-NATO cooperation continued at all levels with the participation of both presidents and governments. Ukraine’s integration into NATO and reform of the security sector in accordance with NATO standards remained a priority. The most important development was the adoption of the Law of Ukraine “On Amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine (concerning the strategic course of the state for Ukraine’s full membership in the EU and NATO). However, compared with previous years, the level of results and activities has decreased.
Over the past five years, Ukraine and NATO have cooperated at the high level, which included political dialogue, practical cooperation, advisory and financial assistance. Despite the different views of individual political parties represented in the VRU, amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine regarding the strategic course for NATO membership were adopted.
The establishment of the post of Vice Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Cooperation and relevant coordination offices and commissions marked a significant progress in institutional cooperation. The Cabinet of Ministers, the MFA, the MoD, the General Staff, the VRU and other institutions responsible for individual areas of cooperation were involved in the dialogue at all levels.
Cooperation has been taken to a new level thanks to the launch of NATO Trust Funds for Ukraine, the decision on the Comprehensive Assistance Package, advisory support for security and defence reform, the transformation of the annual national programmes, and continuous operational exchange of experience, in particular in combating hybrid and cyber threats.
In 2019, despite the change of political elites in Ukraine, they managed to keep good contacts with Belarus at the highest level, as well as systematic work at the level of the Foreign Ministries. The Forum of Regions of Ukraine and the Republic of Belarus traditionally became the main event of the year and a platform for formal negotiations and business contracts. Trade cooperation remained a priority area of cooperation.
During five years, Ukraine's foreign policy towards Belarus underwent a significant evolution caused by Russian aggression. As the Republic of Belarus is in a strong orbit of the Russia's influence in political, security and economic terms, Kyiv had to take a special approach. Belarus was and still remains a strategically important partner of Ukraine in the economic and fuel-and-energy spheres. Stable personal contact between the presidents of Ukraine and Belarus allowed preserving an atmosphere of trust despite not always friendly public discourse. Therefore, it is not surprising that in most cases political interest among politicians in Ukraine in Belarus was provoked rather by the negative context than by the positive practices of cooperation.
Despite Belarus' strong involvement in Russian integration projects, official Minsk declares support for Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty. Since 2014, Minsk served as a venue for negotiations in the format of the Trilateral Contact Group of Ukraine, Russia, and the OSCE.
In the economic sphere, bilateral cooperation is characterized by active inter-industry contacts, transition to medium-term projects and road maps, and a gradual increase in turnover. At the same time, trade restrictions on strategic export groups from Ukraine, predominantly provoked by Russia's destructive policies through the economic instruments of the Eurasian Economic Union, cannot be fully resolved.
Ukraine’s foreign policy on Georgia in 2019 did not walk away from the strategic line of bilateral relations focused on strengthening European and Euro-Atlantic integration. With new political leaders both in Ukraine and in Georgia, the two countries mostly used accomplishments of the previous two years to strengthen political ties in bilateral cooperation and in solving common challenges — restoration of territorial integrity undermined by Russia’s aggression.
Ukraine’s foreign policy on Georgia evolved from passive cooperation to strategic partnership in 2015-2019. Some domestic political differences turned out to be smaller than common interest in implementing foreign policy priorities on integration with NATO and the EU, restoration of territorial integrity and resistance against Russia’s aggressive policies in the region. These factors were the main ones shaping the strengthening of political and humanitarian ties, diplomatic contacts (especially since 2017). Trade and economic indicators of bilateral cooperation demonstrated slight growth in 2015-2018 and declined in 2019. The number and the quality of measures on all aspects of bilateral relations grew annually.
2019 saw a decline in bilateral activities. There were no contacts at the level of parliaments, and interaction between governments shrank compared to previous years. The existing contacts at the top level and the completion of work on the free trade zone offset this to a certain extent. The first visit of Israel’s Prime Minister to Ukraine in 20 years ended with the signing of a number of bilateral agreements, and generally was an evident of deeper cooperation prospects.
In the past five years, negotiating the free trade zone was the key foreign policy task of Ukraine on Israel. The respective ministries (MFA, Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, Ministry of Agricultural Policy, Ministry of Infrastructure etc.) coordinated their work on this, regulate meeting of the interagency commission on trade and economic cooperation took place, leading to the signing of the Free Trade Agreement in 2019 and its ratification by the Ukrainian side. Technology, healthcare, education, infrastructure and investment remained other important spheres of cooperation. In 2015-2019, contacts on the level of the two countries’ leaders took place. Ukrainian politicians demonstrated interest in Israel, including through regular mentions of the importance of Israeli experience in state building in a difficult security context and of its military experience in general.
In 2019, Ukraine’s policy on the Islamic Republic of Iran narrowed down somewhat as a result of two factors. One was an application of a more comprehensive package of US economic sanctions against Iran back in 2018. The other factor was Iran’s political line, which sometimes showed lack of solidarity with Ukraine’s political position on the international arena.
Overall, the summary of Ukraine-Iran relations in the past five years shows that bilateral cooperation has serious potential. This includes energy, machine building, agriculture and services. However, the situation around Iran’s nuclear program (including the EU and the US sanctions before 2015) and the withdrawal of the US from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in 2018 seriously undermine this potential. Despite the attempts to maintain relations with Iran beyond the position of the third parties, the US policy was the stumbling block impossible to bypass financially or politically.
Ukraine’s relations with Iran intensified somewhat in 2015-2016 after the signing of the JCPA and the lifting of most economic sanctions from Teheran. It was in 2016 that Ukraine’s Strategic Vision on Relations with Iran was adopted and then-MFA P. Klimkin visited Teheran. As a result, 2017 saw the highest trade between Ukraine and Iran (USD 622.7mn) and proactive work of the joint intergovernmental Ukraine-Iran Commission for Economic and Trade Cooperation. In 2019, trade dropped almost threefold compared to 2017.
Political interest in Ukraine-China relations somewhat decreased in 2019. There were no breakthroughs in institutional cooperation between government offices. The fact that a new ambassador to China was not appointed for over half a year marked a significant drawback. As a result, while economic indicators improved, there was no visible progress in political relations.
In general, the dynamics of relations with China has been heterogeneous over the last five years. Shortly after the Revolution of Dignity, Ukrainian diplomats made efforts to resume bilateral cooperation. The peak was reached in 2017 when Vice Premier of China Ma Kai visited Ukraine. However, the dynamics subsided again soon. The fact that the leaders of Ukraine and China have not exchanged visits over the last five years, while their bilateral meetings have been limited to the side-lines of international events, constitutes a significant gap in relations. Filling this gap and establishing a trusting relationship at the highest level could be the key to a significant improvement in relations.
Lithuania continues comprehensive support to Ukraine across platforms and spheres. MPs of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania established such groups as ProUkraine and Group of Friends of Ukrainian Crimea. The change of presidents in both countries did not affect the intensity of the top-level dialogue — this was reflected in the visit of Ukraine’s President to Vilnius and the agreements accomplished in security and defence throughout the year.
International relations between Ukraine and Lithuania offer a good illustration of virtually perfect interstate interaction, their dynamics intensifying throughout these five years. The illegal annexation of Crimea and Russia’s aggression against Ukraine were followed by the record-breaking reinforcement of bilateral cooperation between Ukraine and Lithuania. Lithuania continued supporting Ukraine both bilaterally and via the EU, demonstrating maximum unanimity in supporting Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, as well as sanctions against Russia.
In response to the request of the Ukrainian government, Lithuania was the first state to provide military assistance followed by humanitarian and other types of support. These included treatment and rehabilitation for hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers. In these five years, in Ukraine, Lithuania was referred to as “an advocate of Ukraine’s European aspirations,” “friend” and “strategic partner” — all these references were confirmed with real actions from Lithuania. At the same time, Lithuania has always been consistent in pushing the Ukrainian government to intensify reforms and make progress in fighting corruption.
The dynamics of relations between Ukraine and Moldova slowed down substantially in 2019. In particular, there was a decline in the level of political interest, and there were no breakthroughs in institutional cooperation. Moldova had a greater interest in Ukraine than other way around. Older problems have added to the new ones, including the risk of Moldova’s U-turn towards Russia, while the results achieved do not match the declared ambitions and the level of activity.
Overall, the positive and vibrant dynamics of bilateral relations between Ukraine and Moldova of recent years slowed down significantly in 2019. Probable causes may include the political turbulence in the Republic of Moldova, as well as the presidential and parliamentary elections in Ukraine. At the same time, a number of issues in bilateral relations - the settlement of property disputes inherited after the Soviet Union, the final demarcation of the state border, and the functioning of the Dniester hydroelectric complex – have remained unresolved for a long period of time regardless of the level of intensity of bilateral contacts.
In 2019, the relations between Poland and Ukraine saw some positive transformations. Ukraine unblocked for Poland the search of the burial sites of the Poles in Ukraine from the WWII period, allowing intensifying contacts on the top level including new President Zelenskyy. While differences in interpretations of historical events remain in place, the main focus in bilateral relations has shifted towards the implementation of economic and infrastructural projects, as well as strategic elements of security cooperation.
In 2015-2019, Polish-Ukrainian relations remained strategic — mostly in the context of supporting Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic integration and solidarity in countering Russian aggression. Warsaw supported Ukraine as an Eastern Partnership partner-state and a signatory of the Association Agreement with the EU in the V4 and the EU formats.
The change of the political team in Poland and the election of Law and Justice political party made an issue of historic memory more topical, but that did not find understanding in Ukraine. Given the lack of compromise on historical issues, the relations on the high level between the Presidents of Ukraine and Poland deteriorated, affecting the work of bilateral institutions and the dynamics of dialogue. At the same time, Poland gradually gained weight as a trade partner as Ukraine reoriented its trade flows, getting into the top five trading partners for Ukraine.
Political dynamics in Ukraine-Romania relations subsided to some extent in 2019 compared with previous years. The second half of the year also saw a decrease in political interest. The implementation of the Law of Ukraine “On Education” remains a controversial issue. In the meantime, relations in other sectors were at the level of 2018, although without significant results. A drop in dynamics can be explained by the presidential and parliamentary elections in Ukraine and the presidential elections in Romania.
In general, recent years have seen a noticeable revival in bilateral relations and active political dialogue. Romania has supported Ukraine on its path to European and Euro-Atlantic integration, and relations have essentially reached the level of strategic partnership. Differences in the views on Article 7 of the Law of Ukraine “On Education” did not interfere with military and political cooperation.
Relations with Slovakia remain focused on political and diplomatic activities given the special role of this country in political processes in Central and Eastern Europe. The bilateral agenda does not have problematic issues as most strategic interests of the two countries are similar, including those on reverse supply of gas, prevention of Nord Stream 2 construction, the need to restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity, etc. However, limited trade, economic or military-political cooperation and the absence of major agreements of strategic nature prevent full-scale fulfilment of the potential in bilateral relations.
In the past five years, the dialogue between Ukraine and Slovakia was stable and predictable regardless of the change of government teams and heads of states. Slovakia proved a reliable partner for Ukraine in the past years, solidarizing with it in supporting Ukraine’s territorial integrity, non-recognition of the annexation of Crimea and sanctions against Russia, including by organizing reverse delivery of gas to Ukraine — thus helping Ukraine ensure its energy independence from Russia. Despite controversial views of some political leaders in Slovakia (former Prime Minister R. Fico or Parliament Speaker A. Danko), the country under the last government resisted swinging the state by the revisionist forces, and Ukraine preserved official support. The key task in the bilateral dialogue now is the transfer from statements about absence of conflicts or problems in bilateral relations to the start of work on strategic topics (other than energy) by the authorities of both states, which the Slovak or Ukrainian governments have not addressed before systematically.
In 2019, Turkish-Ukrainian relations developed mainly at the working level, in particular in the economic and military-technical sectors. However, the dynamics of political dialogue and the official rhetoric of the Turkish leadership have changed considerably. The main reasons for this were the lack of a strategic vision of the development of bilateral relations on the part of Ukraine and the general changes in Turkey's foreign policy, which led to its rapprochement with Moscow and striving to avoid any steps in support of Ukraine that could impede close cooperation with the Russian Federation.
After the beginning of Russian aggression against Ukraine and the illegal annexation of Crimea, Turkey assumed a special role among Ukraine’s foreign policy partners. Whereas previously Ankara was perceived primarily as an important trade and economic partner, after 2014, it became a key actor in the Black Sea security. Turkey has not recognised the annexation of Crimea, consistently campaigned in support of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and traditionally paid great attention to protecting rights of Crimean Tatars.
On the other hand, despite its status of a strategic partner, expectations that Turkey would play a role of a potential counterweight to Russia in the region proved unjustified. Ankara did not align itself with sanctions against Russia, and the official rhetoric of the Turkish leadership has changed over five years from the harsh condemnation of Moscow to calls for restoration of the inclusive dialogue aimed at bolstering trust in the Black Sea region. Currently, Ukrainian-Turkish relations are still subject to objective restrictions because of Turkey’s growing economic and military-political cooperation with Russia.
After a significant decline in 2014-2015, trade has shown steady growth after 2017. At the same time, the bilateral trade surplus has been rapidly decreasing (by 30-50% annually). At present, the trade turnover amounts to almost USD 5 billion and has not reached the 2008 pre-crisis level of USD 8 billion.
The election of Ukraine’s new president and parliament and the change of government to some extent softened the tension in relations between Kyiv and Budapest and shaped inflated expectations of a quick ending of the conflict around the rights of the Hungarian minority in Ukraine, and of a reset in the bilateral relations. At the end of 2019, however, the bilateral relations are stagnating on the same crisis and conflict level as shaped in 2017-2018.
Over the past five years, the Hungarian vector of the Ukrainian foreign policy enjoyed a lot of political interest and reactive policy due to the ongoing dispute. There is good ground for a change in bilateral relations now — and such windows of opportunity emerged regularly in the past five years despite the serious disputes over Ukraine’s education and language laws. This dispute between Kyiv and Budapest has lasted for two years now, involving NATO, the EU, the OSCE and other influential international players. It affects the whole range of the bilateral dialogue. This situation is caused by the lack of expertise on Hungary in Ukraine, the absence of a strategic vision for its development, and of an understanding how to turn Ukraine’s dialogue with Hungary into a success story.
B- Czech Republic
In 2019, Ukraine’s relations with the Czech Republic had a positive dynamics both at the level of political dialogue and in the context of trade and economic cooperation. Bilateral relations were partly affected by the change of the domestic political situation in both countries. For the first time in 11 years, Czech Prime Minister A. Babiš came to Ukraine on an official visit. A compromise emerged in solving problematic issues, for example with the “Yamburg Debt”.
Since 2015, despite the support of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty by the Czech Republic, there was no significant interest in developing bilateral relations neither in Kyiv nor in Prague. The political position of Czech President M. Zeman did not contribute to a more fruitful political dialogue as he stands on the pro-Russian position. In 2019, Ukraine-Czech relations intensified seriously to develop bilateral political dialogue and cooperation. Czech PM visited Ukraine for the first time in 11 years, in addition to the strengthening of business contacts formats development. In 2017, the Czech Republic lifted all barriers for military and technical cooperation with Ukraine. In the past five years, EUR15mn was provided to Ukraine to support reforms, educational and humanitarian projects. Cooperation is widespread on the level of civil society organizations. Despite the growing trade and economic cooperation, there are few infrastructure or investment projects so far. Ukraine has no contacts with the Czech Republic on historical memory or the rights of national minorities, yet the issue that needs to be solved is the payment of the “Yamburg Debt” by Ukraine whereby Ukraine has to find ways to cover its debt liabilities to the Czech Republic.
POLITICAL RELATIONS C-
2019 did not become a year of positive changes in Ukrainian-Russian political dialogue. Although the new political authorities promised a quick end to the war and re-establishment of pragmatic relations with Russia among its election slogans, there were no qualitative changes in bilateral relations. For the most part, the new authorities lack a holistic view of a new model of political dialogue with Russia, both bilaterally and multilaterally.
ECONOMIC COOPERATION C+
Economic cooperation with Russia received less attention compared to other issues in 2019. By contrast to 2018, new lines of conflict did not emerge in this sphere in 2019. Sanctions are still in place and cooperation is shrinking, Russia is losing a position of Ukraine’s key trade partner. Yet, Ukraine is still highly dependent on imports from Russia. Ukraine does not have a strategic vision or systemic policy in this area. Just like before, Ukraine’s policy is reactive.
ENERGY RELATIONS C
In 2019, energy relations of Ukraine and the Russian Federation were marked with several significant events, such as hydrocarbons’ import taxes review aimed at reduction of dependence on the monopoly supplier, opening of the domestic electricity market for imports from the Russian Federation and Belarus, payment of debt according to the decision of the Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce, signing of a 5-year contract on the Russian gas transit through the Ukrainian gas transmission network, and a fierce political struggle over the Nord Stream-2 project, which resulted in its implementation delay.
C Asia-Pacific Region
In 2019, cooperation with countries in the region was generally at the same level as in 2018. Institutional cooperation and strategic vision hardly changed. The MFA was in active political dialogue with the Republic of Korea and Malaysia. Also noteworthy was the work of embassies in Australia, Indonesia and Malaysia. In general, there is a lack of strategic vision for cooperation with the region. There were no high-level meetings with representatives of the countries of the region in 2019.
Ukraine's foreign policy was revitalized at various levels on the Asia-Pacific region in the past five years. The greatest focus was on trade and economy, cooperation in the military and technical spheres. Despite limited resources, Embassies of Ukraine in the region actively worked to build these relationships. However, a separate strategy for cooperation with the region was not developed in five years despite political attention to the dynamics of the Asia-Pacific region development and the need to deepen relations with these countries. The region is hardly mentioned in the documents that shape Ukraine’s development strategy.
C+ Middle East
In 2019, the intensity of activities at the high-level and and at the parliamentary one declined. There was proactive intergovernmental work on trade and economic cooperation, energy, education and a military industrial complex. The greatest attention in bilateral cooperation was on Qatar and OAE. Intensification of cooperation with Oman is noteworthy. Parliamentary and presidential elections did not affect Ukraine’s policy on the region.
In 2015-2019, Ukraine did not see the Middle East as a vector of its foreign policy — the absence of strategies, concepts or mentions in strategic documents reflects this. The priorities included the development of trade cooperation, which points to the economization of Ukraine’s foreign policy on the Middle East, and of cooperation by industries (agriculture, defence industry, infrastructure, healthcare, energy, education etc.). The share of Ukrainian exports to the Middle Eastern markets reached 13% of its total exports — Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Tunisia being the key partners. The most interesting countries for cooperation were those of the Persian Gulf as reflected in a series of high-level visits and the increasing number of agreements with these countries. Despite the lack of systemic attention to the region from Ukrainian politicians, it was mentioned from time to time throughout all five years. These mentions were mostly in the context of global security threats and Russia’s destructive activities in the Middle East. However, the focus on a security aspect is gradually declining after peaking in 2016-2017 when Ukraine held a non-permanent membership at the UN Security Council.
C+ Western Balkans
In 2019, Ukraine’s foreign policy activity with regard to Western Balkans was low and mostly focused on counteraction to Russian aggression and mitigation of its aftermath, as well as facilitation of Ukraine’s European and Euro-Atlantic integration. The absence of visit of the top political leaders of Ukraine to the countries of the region and low dynamics of interparliamentary cooperation resulted in the weakening of political dialogue and its limitation to the ministerial level. Measures aimed at stimulating economic cooperation with the countries of the region (except Slovenia) were at a low level.
The Western Balkans has not been one of Ukraine's foreign policy priorities for the past five years. The lack of a comprehensive approach to the region was compensated by the tendency towards building relations with individual countries, notably Croatia and Slovenia. Dialogue with Albania has intensified, resulting in Minister of Foreign Affairs D. Bushati's visit to Kyiv in February 2018 and an agreement on the opening of diplomatic missions. The key foreign policy tasks in relations with the countries of the region included securing their support for international counteraction to Russian aggression and an assistance to Ukraine’s European and Euro-Atlantic integration.
Among the results achieved, the most significant ones were international support for Ukraine on the part of most countries in the region, with the exception of Serbia's negative attitude and BiH's neutral position; Slovenia’s and Croatia’s assistance in organizing humanitarian demining, rehabilitation of Ukrainian servicemen and children, and training of Ukrainian psychologists. Ukraine has short-term visa-free travel arrangements with all the countries in the region. The participation of the Ukrainian contingent in the KFOR stabilization mission contributed to the positive image of Ukraine in the region.
Economic cooperation between Ukraine and the countries of the region remained at a rather low level, with the trade turnover with none of these states exceeding USD 500 million. Cooperation in the tourism sector has intensified somewhat. In the energy sphere, Ukraine has shown an interest in the implementation of gasification projects in North Macedonia and the construction of a liquefied gas terminal in Croatia.
A- BALTIC STATES
The Baltic States remain among the top “advocates” of Ukraine on the international arena. Thanks to their efforts, the Baltic Plus initiative was launched at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and also the position that Nord Stream 2 is an unacceptable and politically motivated remains on the table. The Baltic States have repeatedly called for non-recognition of the so-called “elections” in Crimea and for a termination of the illegal actions against Crimean Tatars by Russia. The dynamics of cooperation between Ukraine and the Baltic States leans towards increasing intensification in many important spheres. Still, a forced pause in relations due to the presidential and parliamentary elections in Ukraine affected results of relations with the region. In fall, however, this deficiency was fully addressed.
The Baltic States de facto have long been Ukraine’s strategic partners. These countries proactively support Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and its European and Euro-Atlantic aspirations.
The common challenges and risks faced by Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia forced them to revise their vision and reinvigorate international cooperation in the past years. During this time, the attention of the Baltic States to Ukraine increased seriously as reflected by many top-level meetings and messages exchanged by the top officials on Ukraine’s reforms and resolution of the conflict in the East. Cooperation primarily took place in the military, humanitarian and economic spheres. 2018 can certainly be listed as one of the most productive and intense years for Ukraine’s foreign affairs with the Baltic States. Among other things, the visits of the presidents of all three countries to Ukraine reflected this. In 2019, the newly-elected President Zelenskyy visited all three countries of the region in the span of several months. One of the important results of cooperation with the Baltic States was a launch of the Four-Capital-Train (Kyiv, Minsk, Vilnius, and Riga with the prospect of Tallinn joining in 2020).
C Visegrad Four
In 2019, the Visegrad Four was chaired by Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Although its priorities were formed by the member states that are friendly towards Ukraine, the group’s agenda for cooperation with Kyiv has not radically improved, traditionally focusing on V4+EaP meetings at the level of ministers of foreign affairs.
From 2015 to 2019, cooperation with both the Visegrad Four as a regional initiative and its individual member states has undergone significant transformation but, unfortunately, not towards improvement or positive dynamics in relations. At the same time, it should be noted that as part of joint initiatives, Visegrad Four member states have repeatedly adopted political statements and appeals in support of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine. In practical terms of cooperation, Ukraine has received humanitarian assistance for residents of the regions affected by the Russian aggression and for the projects of rehabilitation and treatment of Ukrainian servicemen. V4 member states have placed a particular emphasis on the implementation of reforms in Ukraine. The V4+Ukraine cooperation format has taken on many new practical dimensions. Ukraine's energy security was directly dependent on the support of the V4 countries for organizing reverse natural gas supplies to Ukraine. The situation changed in 2016-2017 in parallel to the deterioration of political dialogue with individual V4 countries. Hardly any use has been made of the V4+Ukraine format. To be able to resume active cooperation, Ukraine faces the task of rebuilding bilateral trust in relations with Warsaw and Budapest. The first steps in this direction were mapped after the new authorities came to power.
B NORTHERN EUROPE
The elections year of 2019 led to a pause in Ukraine's political relations with the Northern Europe states, with its aftermaths overcome in the second half of the year. The countries of the region continue to provide Kyiv with political support in the international arena. However, in the future, political dialogue needs to be revitalized and inter-parliamentary interaction resuscitated. At the same time, Nordic countries strengthened their positions as sponsors and promoters of several important Ukrainian reforms. The economic sphere needs urgent measures to stimulate both Ukrainian exports to these countries and to attract investments for Ukraine from there.
2017 can be considered the peak of the Kyiv's political interest in Northern Europe, when the state tasks for Northern Europe were most clearly outlined in security context. In 2016-2017, the high-level dialogue was the most intense - four official visits of the president of Ukraine to the countries of the region were an impetus for a number of important events and trends in the following years (meetings of joint intergovernmental commissions, intensification of inter-parliamentary dialogue, implementation of large-scale projects facilitating reforms, and promotion of Ukraine's artistic presence in the region).
C- Latin America
Interest in bilateral cooperation with countries in the region has been clearly articulated after the 2019 presidential elections. However, the developers of Ukraine’s foreign policy strategy continue to underestimate the human and resource potential of Latin America. This was reflected in the slow growth of Ukrainian exports and the subsequent loss of international support for Ukraine in counteracting Russian aggression from the ruling elites, in particular in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Chile, and others, as confirmed by the results of the UN GA vote on the updated and reinforced Resolution “Situation of human rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine (18.12.2019). At the same time, compared with the previous year, there were more votes in support of the Resolution "Problem of the militarization of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine, as well as parts of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov" (09.12.2019).
Russian aggression against Ukraine has first and foremost brought to the fore the political aspects of cooperation with the countries of the region. However, despite Ukraine’s best efforts, Latin American and Caribbean states have a reserved position regarding the issue of countering Russian aggression against Ukraine, as evidenced by the results of their votes on the UN “Ukrainian resolutions" in 2014-2019.
The period of 2014-2016 saw a rapid decline in Ukrainian exports to the countries of the region, but in 2017-2018 there was a positive dynamics of export growth, which, however, has not reached the level of 2011-2013. Local political elites do not have a positive image of Ukraine, first of all, due to the lack of well-articulated state policy, goals and objectives of Ukraine in the region. Ukraine suffered a blow to its image, in addition to large financial losses, due to the unilateral termination of the "space" agreement with Brazil.
C+ South Asia
Cooperation with South Asian countries did not see much change in 2019 compared with the previous year. A certain revival of political interest in the region as such, and India and Pakistan in particular, was observed. A breakthrough was achieved in establishing government and parliamentary relations with Afghanistan. At the same time, almost no attention was paid to Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives.
For five years, Ukraine's relations with the countries of South Asia have remained within the defined trajectories, including in the trade-economic, military-technical and aviation sectors. There is a lack of strategic vision of relations with the Asia-Pacific region in general and individual countries of this region in particular. For the past five years, there have been no high-level visits or meetings between Ukraine and the countries of the region, which is critical given Russia's active efforts in the region. A positive achievement of this period was the revival of political dialogue with Sri Lanka.
C- Sub-Saharan Africa
There was a noticeable increase in attention to African countries in the political discourse at the level of declarations after the change of power in Ukraine in 2019. In particular, it was announced that preparations were underway for high-level political dialogue in the framework of the President of Ukraine’s pending visit to Africa in 2020. The emphasis was placed on making relations pragmatic with a view to economic benefits. Attention to Africa has also increased in the context of prospects for the distribution of Ukrainian agricultural products. Trade between Ukraine and Sub-Saharan Africa in 2019 demonstrated strong growth, although the number of trading partners has stayed unchanged. Support for Kyiv in international organisations has remained at the previous level. However, given the intensification of Russia’s efforts on the continent, further development of Ukraine-Africa dialogue in multinational formats will continue with limitations.
Despite the growing weight of Sub-Saharan African countries in the international arena, stabilization of the military-political situation on the continent, and positive economic dynamics, the Ukraine's political position on relations with the region has hardly changed over the past five years. Africa remains at the periphery of interests in strategic documents, although attention to it has been showing a trend towards cautious growth. Still, a high-level political dialogue has never taken place. However, in 2019, the hope of holding it in the short-term perspective appeared.
There has been a slow increase in Ukraine’s presence in African markets, but there has been no significant expansion of the range of African partners. Trade contacts with many countries in the region remain situational and do not tend to be sustainable. Due to increasing competition in African markets, conditions for strengthening Ukraine's partnership with African countries, while still favourable, require prompt and urgent action by Kyiv.
D+ Central Asia
The great political and economic dependence of the Central Asian countries on the Russian Federation, as well as the lack of joint political and economic projects between Ukraine and the countries of the region, significantly reduce the prospect of this foreign policy direction. The geographical remoteness of the region and Russia's actual blocking of Ukraine's transit and trade access to it continue to affect dynamics of interstate relations development with the countries of Central Asia.
Within five years, the Central Asian trend has did not become a priority due to some objective reasons (the pro-Western vector of the Ukraine's foreign policy and the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, as well as a geographical distance of the region). The foreign political and economic relations stagnation between Ukraine and the Central Asian countries became a permanent reality. With exception made to several economically attractive projects, the volume of exports and imports of goods and services between Ukraine and the CA countries remains insignificant, and there is a steady tendency for further decline in mutual business activity. In fact, the absence of a common economic and political agenda, the preservation of the post-Soviet regimes of the Central Asian countries, focus on their own agenda, as well as economic and political dependence on Russia led to the situation of Ukraine absence in the region in the med-term perspective. An important indicator of the lack of prospective relations with the countries of the region is their already established foreign policy position on the Russian occupation of the Crimea. Russia's influence on the regimes of these countries and the lack of an effective Ukrainian presence in the region close it for further prospective cooperation with Ukraine.
B- Black Sea Region
In 2019, the Black Sea region remained one of the most important dimensions for Ukraine’s national interests. Just like in 2018, Ukraine’s attention was mostly focused on countering the Russian threat to free navigation, including overcoming consequences of Russia’s policy towards the Ukrainian trade and navy fleets in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. Ukraine’s deeper cooperation with NATO countries and Georgia on the Black Sea issues developed further. In 2019, Ukraine presided in GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development.
In five years, the Black Sea direction of Ukraine’s foreign policy turned out to be the most vulnerable in terms of protecting national interests. The fact that it was on the list of the top priorities in foreign policy triggered proactive involvement of Ukrainian political institutions in tackling the problems. The key tasks were focused on challenges to Ukraine’s sovereignty resulting from the annexation of Crimea and the Russian aggression in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, and regional international relations. Despite significant political interest at all levels of government, Ukraine’s foreign policy efforts had restricted impact in terms of restoring its sovereignty over Crimea and deterring Russia’s aggression. Still, Ukraine managed to build proactive support and engagement of the international community — primarily of NATO — in deterring further aggression in the region from Russia. Ukrainian government gradually developed some tactical steps as part of its strategic vision for the Black Sea perspectives, including the strengthening of its Navy and intensification of bilateral relations with the Black Sea countries — primarily under the GUAM framework, where Kyiv is a driver of regional cooperation.
B United Nations
Ukraine managed to keep its issues on the agenda of the UN institutions in 2019 and accomplish a positive result on important resolutions. Despite the lower political interest and less intense activities of ministries and MPs, Ukraine was proactively represented at the sectoral level, and had victories in international legal institutions of the UN system.
Ukraine’s activities at the UN reached their high in 2016-2017, during its membership at the UN Security Council. More broadly, Ukraine proactively used mechanisms of the UN and its organizations to promote national interests, to defend its sovereignty and draw the attention towards the Russian aggression, receive humanitarian assistance. Until 2019, representatives of all branches of power participated proactively in the UN-led events regardless an absence of active political interest in the UN itself. At the same time, Ukraine’s presence in peace operations and the interest in global issues on the UN agenda was moderate and did not match Ukraine’s potential. The passing of three “Ukrainian” resolutions by the UN General Assembly and the Orders and Rulings of the International Tribunal and the Court of Justice are significant accomplishments.
B+ Council of Europe
Important issues in Ukrainian relations with the Council of Europe remain as follows: strengthening the rule of law, democratic institutions, human rights; reforms continuation and their successful implementation; Russian aggression, renewal and increased sanctions against Russia. In 2019, the position of Ukraine in the CoE was significantly undermined by the so-called "Russia’s return" scandal. The CoE Committee of Ministers lobbied for a renewal of the Russian delegation rights in the PACE, which, by a majority vote, approved the decision despite its contradiction with the institutional principles. This provoked the Ukrainian delegation protest in the PACE, curtailed political co-operation and, in general, created a risk of relations stagnation.
During the last five years, Ukraine's dialogue and relations with the CoE were firmly positive. The Ukrainian side consistently followed the CoE recommendations, and joint projects were successfully implemented. Ukraine felt full support from the organization. There was high political interest in cooperation in Ukraine. Institutional cooperation was at a rather high level, enabling effective implementation of projects aimed at strengthening reforms in Ukraine. 2016-2018 were the most active and positive for Ukraine in the CoE and the PACE. In 2019, there was some deterioration in relations, which can be to some extent explained by the problem of the Russian delegation return to the PACE.
In 2019, Ukraine’s activities in the OSCE focused on countering Russia’s aggression and dealing with the consequences of it, and on conducting presidential and parliamentary elections properly. The newly elected government continued the previous course while intensifying activities within the Trilateral Contact Group and interaction with the OSCE SMM to implement some articles of the Minsk Agreements. Ukraine managed to keep the attention on important issues thanks to close cooperation with the OSCE institutions and a series of visits of the President and members of the OSCE PA, OSCE Chairperson-in-Office from Slovakia, the High Commissioner on National Minorities and monitoring missions to Ukraine. Cooperation with the OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Ukraine contributed to domestic reforms and the implementation of projects to stabilize the situation in Ukraine and overcome consequences of the conflict.
In these five years, Ukraine was proactive within the OSCE framework, including in its Parliamentary Assembly. This reflected the key task of Ukraine’s foreign policy - to stop Russia’s war against Ukraine, including by means of the Trilateral Contact Group, the OSCE SMM and OSCE Special Representative, as well as overcoming conflict consequences via the Project Co-ordinator Office in Ukraine. Complementing this were the annual visits of ministers of foreign affairs of the OSCE chairing states, meetings of the Ukrainian leaders with the OSCE leadership and the participation of Ukrainian representatives in the OSCE events.
The key accomplishment of Ukraine in the OSCE was keeping its attention constantly focused on the Russian aggression and its consequences. Ukraine managed to accomplish adoption of resolutions condemning Russia’s aggression and expressing support for Ukraine virtually every year. Ukraine was more successful in the OSCE PA framework than in the OSCE itself, what is due to the decision-making mechanisms — unanimous in the OSCE and majority in the OSCE PA. Using this mechanism, Russia blocked virtually any practical steps to solve the conflict, including the expansion of the OSCE SMM mandate and the OSCE Observer Mission (Gukovo, Donetsk), and its monitoring along the line of the Ukraine-Russia border and of the temporarily occupied Crimea. The OSCE remained the only international organization directly involved in the resolution of the conflict at various levels.
B- Human rights
In 2019, the UN, the Council of Europe, and the OSCE platforms remained the mechanisms used to promote human rights in Ukraine, as well as for Ukrainian citizens abroad, mostly illegally held in the Russian Federation, separate areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and the annexed Crimea. At the same time, institutional cooperation and political involvement were influenced by the results of the 2019 electoral cycle and the rotation of elites, including those involved in human rights-related processes. In particular, changes to the composition of the Ukrainian delegation to the PACE and refraining from participating in the September session cut possibilities to influence the retention of the institutions’ attention. At the same time, the MFA’s great achievement was a decision of the International Court of Justice to extend the jurisdiction of the International Convention on the Financing of Terrorism and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination against the Russian Federation in the Crimea.
For five years, Ukraine focused on human rights as a tool of diplomacy (initiating resolutions at the UN GA, the UN treaty bodies, the PACE, the OSCE Permanent Council, the Trilateral Contact Group negotiation process, etc.). The second dimension is the fulfilment of Ukraine's international legal obligations (going through the 2017 Universal Periodic Review, working with international partners to develop an action plan to ensure human rights in the reform process in Ukraine, launched in 2018 Human Rights Dialogue between Ukraine and EU), support for the protection of human rights in the framework of cooperation between Ukraine and the Council of Europe Office.
The National Human Rights Strategy and the Action Plan for its Implementation for 2015-2020 remain the main document reflecting the strategic vision on the human rights development in Ukraine. At the same time, human rights consolidation as a strategic direction for five years was not mentioned in Strategy-2020, annual addresses of the president of Ukraine to the Verkhovna Rada. Indirectly, certain aspects of human rights respect, related to the Russian Federation armed aggression aftermaths, had some place in the rhetoric of the President of Ukraine V. Zelenskyy (an emphasis on the release of prisoners of war was part of public speeches in 2019).
C+ Climate Change
The year of 2019 saw a merger of two ministries into the Ministry of Energy and Environmental Protection of Ukraine. The process of preparing the second Nationally Determined Contribution and the National Energy and Climate Change Plan for 2021-2030 has begun. Work on implementing climate-related requirements of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement continued.
Political parties and the Parliament have not paid much attention to climate change over the last five years. Members of the respective parliamentary committee make the only exception. At the same time, cross-profile cooperation between ministries and international partners has intensified. The Ministry in charge gave higher priority to climate policy. The implementation of Ukraine's international commitments has been delayed, but in recent years, the first important strategic documents on climate policy have been developed in cooperation with international organizations.
The end of the decade was marked by the beginning of the review of strategic documents on climate change. The process of preparing the second Nationally Determined Contribution and the National Energy and Climate Change Plan for 2021-2030 has begun; the review of the 2035 Energy Strategy is underway. Work is still in progress on the implementation of the climate change requirements under the Association Agreement. The review and development of the documents will demonstrate Ukraine’s willingness to work on climate policy for the next 10-15 years.
D- Nuclear Non-proliferation
During the reporting period, Ukraine’s foreign policy on non-proliferation was even more passive than last year and was aimed at avoiding elaboration of any independent position on global issues. On the practical side, special attention was paid to the fulfilment of international commitments on physical protection, export control and non-proliferation.
Ukraine's non-proliferation policy over the last five years should be described as rather ambiguous. On the one hand, there were no particular changes as its foreign policy vector was stable and sustainable. Ukraine fulfilled its obligations under international treaties in full, working systematically within international institutions to strengthen the NPT regime. In the international arena, Ukraine mostly aligned its position with that of the USA and the EU. Ukraine has significantly improved its ability to control exports and counter illicit trafficking in nuclear and radioactive materials. Active cooperation with international partners in these areas took place.
On the other hand, one can point out a rather passive nature of Ukraine's non-proliferation policy, which is reflected in the absence of its own vision of strategic issues of non-proliferation and arms control. In particular, this concerns both the lack of a clear position on the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and the formal refusal of the MFA of Ukraine to recognize its membership in the INF Treaty. The latter looks rather strange, given that for many years Ukraine had been involved in the implementation of the INF Treaty and that in 1991 it passed the succession law under which it is a party to all treaties signed by the USSR.
D+ International security
In 2019, international security issues were virtually absent from Ukrainian politics. Activities were limited to political statements and traditional cooperation with the UN and NATO. Most international security problems lacked a well-articulated state position.
International security issues were not on the agenda of Ukrainian foreign policy and enjoyed limited political interest only in the framework of cooperation on issues of Russian aggression against Ukraine and other states. Ukraine has lost its position as a mediator in the Transnistrian conflict. Despite statements about Ukraine’s increasing participation in peacekeeping operations under the auspices of various international organizations, the total number of its personnel has remained unchanged. The peak of Ukrainian activity and involvement in international security happened in 2016-2017, when Ukraine was a non-permanent member of the UN SC. For the most part, Ukraine’s activities and results are limited to its efforts in the UN, OSCE and NATO.
C+ Consolidation of International Support on Countering Russian Aggression
2019 demonstrated the existence of dangerous trends in the erosion of Ukraine's international support in its countering Russian aggression. Due to certain domestic and foreign policy factors, the Ukrainian strategy of expanding the international support circle and increasing the pressure on the Russian Federation policy, in its previous form, became obsolete. Nonetheless, the EU and Ukraine's international partners extended anti-Russian sanctions and restrictive measures once again, and NATO continued to support Ukraine in resisting Russian military aggression. The Russian delegation's return to the PACE was a major defeat for the Ukrainian diplomacy. Ukraine continued its active work within the UN and international courts to condemn Russia's actions in Crimea and Donbas region.
While summarizing the five-year efforts of the Ukrainian state to consolidate international support on countering Russian aggression, it should be noted that, in general, national diplomacy effectively accomplished unprecedented in its history tasks. Russian aggression against Ukraine continues to emerge against the backdrop of conflicting norms of international law and cumbersome procedures for its application. In this reality, they managed to form an effective coalition of international support within the UN, the EU, NATO and several other international organizations. At the same time, there is still no consolidated counteraction strategy. Political transit within Ukraine weakened Ukraine's position, imposing of sanctions needs more efforts, and the international partners’ calls for dialogue intensifies. The main challenge is to maintain the "nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine" strategy.
C+ Economic diplomacy
Return to the nationwide discourse an issue of raising the status of economic diplomacy by restoring a separate ministry responsible for Ukraine’s foreign economic policy within the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine is one of the results of the change of power in Ukraine. This step resolves the main problem of national economic diplomacy of the past several years concerning a single decision-making centre.
Over the last five years, foreign economic activity has continued to remain under the influence of certain large oligarchic groups, it was controlled by numerous administrative bodies and limited by imperfect legislation. There is no strategic vision on trade relations with Russia. There has been no cooperation with certain regions and leading international economic and financial organizations.
B+ Public Diplomacy
In 2019, Ukraine continued to develop public diplomacy by coordinating efforts of the MFA Departmentof Public Diplomacy, the Ukrainian Institute, the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation and others. An important task here is to ensure its sustainable and systemic nature, which is to be provided by a strategy of public diplomacy, which has not been presented yet. The cultural and image components became dominant in 2019, with Ukraine being represented at a number of cultural events of international importance. There are now Ukrainian-language guides in a number of museums, and international media and airports have changed the spelling to Kyiv. However, there is still a lack of proper support for the academic and expert components, in particular mobility programmes for researchers and scientists, while grant support for Ukrainian NGOs have not been outlined. The foreign offices of the Ukrainian Institute and Ukrainian language courses abroad have not been launched.
The period of 2015-2019 saw a true breakthrough in Ukraine’s public diplomacy, which is a fairly new direction in the country's foreign policy. From individual initiatives, this direction has evolved to become institutionalized and is slowly gaining a systemic character. This was facilitated by the establishment and active efforts of the MFA Department of Public Diplomacy, an establishment and launch of the Ukrainian Institute and the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation. The issue of the Ukrainian Institute’s foreign offices has not been resolved yet.
Given that this area is new for Ukraine, political interest and involvement in it are quite moderate. So far, not everyone in political establishment adequately understands the potential and impact of public diplomacy, as well as its necessity, especially in the face of hybrid warfare. Proper interagency cooperation was not always the case. Although a monitoring study of culture and information centres in foreign diplomatic offices was carried out in 2018, a model of the Ukrainian Institute’s cooperation with them has not been finalized. The launch of Ukrainian language courses abroad, which programmes should be developed by the Ministry of Education and Science, has not been scheduled either.
Still, a whole number of strategic documents have been adopted, reflecting the tasks and importance of public diplomacy, including the Concept of Ukraine’s popularization in the world and promotion of Ukraine’s interests in the global information space, the Information Security Doctrine of Ukraine, the Law “On Diplomatic Service”, the Sustainable Development Strategy “Ukraine-2020” and others. The Strategy of the Ukrainian Institute and the Strategy of Public Diplomacy are still being developed and have not been presented yet.
B- Ukrainians Abroad
The Ukrainian authorities did not leave Ukrainians abroad without attention as evidenced by the country leadership’s meetings with representatives of the diaspora and the implementation of the State Programme for Cooperation with Ukrainians Abroad until 2020. Communication has been established with Ukrainian diaspora organisations to promote Ukraine and Ukrainians, protect Ukraine’s interests in the world, and draw attention to important security issues, especially in the light of Russian aggression. However, interaction with the diaspora often lacked systemic approach and was largely declarative.
Cooperation with Ukrainians abroad increased in 2015-2019, primarily due to the Russian aggression and strengthening of Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic integration policy. Ukraine adopted the State Programme for Cooperation with Ukrainians Abroad until 2020, opened the Ukrainian Institute, created a separate department at the MFA, and boosted foreign diplomatic missions’ efforts in this area.
The issues of dual citizenship and assistance to migrant workers remain unresolved. There are no programmes to protect the national identity of people of Ukrainian descent in the post-Soviet space, as well as of Ukrainians in Ukrainian territories occupied by Russia.