From Germany to Malta: How EU countries are supporting Ukraine’s transformation

Author : Gustav Gressel

Source : 112 Ukraine

Find out a detailed investigation on the support of different Member States
13:16, 24 October 2016

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The survey was conducted by the leading European analytical center European Council for Foreign Relations; it is not just the opinion of experts. Their conclusions are often based on analytical reports in European capitals and influence on the formation of official policy.


Since the Russian annexation of Crimea and invasion of the Donbas, German foreign policy towards Russia and Eastern Europe has undergone a remarkable transformation. Germany’s traditionally “Russia-first” policy pivoted towards Ukraine after 2014. Ukraine has now become the focus of Germany's policy in the eastern neighborhood.

Together with France, the German government has taken on a mediator role within the “Normandy Format”, which seeks to de-escalate the ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia over the Donbas region within the Minsk II process. On the other hand, Germany has been very reluctant to engage in Ukraine’s defense sector reform and is hesitant to agree to a broader EU/NATO role in this reform. Still, the German Bundeswehr has provided medical assistance to Ukrainian forces.

With the refugee crisis Germany’s political attention shifted away from Ukraine to some extent and German reluctance to engage more deeply on security issues became an obstacle as the Minsk II agreement failed to end hostilities in the Donbas. Uneven German pressure on Ukraine to unilaterally progress on elections and the special status law for the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk Peoples’ Republics (DNR/LNR), as well as lukewarm and conciliatory rhetoric from Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier towards easing sanctions, has begun to erode the strong reputation Germany had built over time.

In 2015, alongside Germany’s share in EU, IMF and other multilateral funding schemes, the German government offered assistance through three different channels. First, it offered humanitarian aid to Ukraine in order to help displaced Ukrainians from the conflict regions, second it provided a loan of €500 million to the Ukrainian government ― €200 million of which goes towards stabilising the Ukrainian budget and €300 million of which is devoted to reconstruction projects in eastern Ukraine. Third, the German government has set up an Action Plan amounting to €200 million with funds going to partner organisations, implementation agencies, businesses and civil society. The financed programs have the following priorities: energy and resource efficiency, business development and infrastructure, decentralisation and local self-government, rule of law, the fight against corruption, building civil society, education, research and development, and media.

Moreover, the German government has provided technical support and expertise, also in terms of consulting resources.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom did not set out to be a public frontrunner in its policy towards Ukraine. Nonetheless, British ministers constantly raise Ukraine, and it is one of the top three issues on the Foreign Secretary’s list of priorities.

British technical assistance and advice increased throughout 2015, and the UK has provided active assistance in the process of reforming the Ukrainian defense sector. British support to Ukraine has been delivered mainly through NATO and bilateral channels. Bilateral support started in mid-March 2015, consisting of training for infantry, tactical intelligence, capacity building, and medical support.

The UK is also delivering projects in partnership with international financial institutions. These so-called “managed funds” provide particular technical assistance, for example with banking reform.

British diplomacy efforts helped to coordinate and facilitate cooperation between NATO and the EU, in particular in delivering good strategic communications. Brits who worked on Ukraine in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as well as within the EU structures, have done an excellent job to date, and as such it is especially sad that the UK is about to leave the Union.


 Sweden was one of the main drivers or creators the EU's Eastern Partnership, perceiving the democratic and economic transition of the eastern neighborhood as a key interest of the country. Sweden and its development agency ― SIDA ― is one of the most active players in Ukraine, and has had an established presence in the country for some time.

The overall value of SIDA programmes in Ukraine is $29.7 million (€26.5 million), of which the most important strands are governance, human rights and gender (€12.4 million), humanitarian aid (€5.8 million), conflict prevention and human security (€3 million), and energy generation and supply (€1.6 million). However, for the time being, Sweden does not engage in defense sector reform and military training as it is not part of NATO and has launched no bilateral initiative on any military dossiers. Despite this, Sweden is active in reforming the non-military security sector, both through EU programmes and missions as well as through bilateral cooperation.

Sweden is firmly sticking to sanctions, despite the economic losses it faces from them. On Minsk, Sweden tends to remind other member states that above all it is Russia that needs to fulfil its obligations.


Poland has been one of the key supporters for Ukraine's transition ever since its independence. Poland has been one of the most determined member states on Ukraine, advocating for the Union not to let it fall off the agenda, even when 84 relations have worn thin.

The Polish political establishment was particularly unhappy about being side-lined by Germany and France on the Normandy format, to which it was not party. However, once it became clear that involvement in that format would have made them co-owners of the Minsk-agreement, the bitterness quickly faded. Polish enthusiasm for Ukraine wound down in 2015, and Poland's influence within the EU diminished after the election of the conservative Law and Justice Party in late 2015. Apart from political support, Poland provided Ukraine with loans worth $100 million (€89 million) on favourable conditions making Poland the second-biggest bilateral European creditor after Germany. Poland signed an agreement to increase the capacity of the gas inter-connector between both countries and is eager to become the second largest supplier of gas to Ukraine after Slovakia. The funds that the Polish Official Development Assistance (ODA) allocated to Ukraine increased significantly after the Maidan movement. According to preliminary estimates, Poland has allocated over $12 million (€10.7 million) to Ukraine.

Related: Ukraine wants to jump into the last train of European Union

Poland has also opened up its market to Ukrainian seasonal workers. According to estimations, their number in the first half of 2015 exceeded 410,000. Poland issues the largest number of visas for Ukrainians in the EU. In the first half of 2015 Poland issued almost 435,000 visas for Ukrainians, 10 percent more than in 2014 in the same period. Poland took part in all multilateral military exercises with Ukraine and delivered non-lethal equipment to the Ukrainian army through NATO. Poland also trained 75 Ukrainian officers, and the Lithuanian-Polish-Ukrainian Brigade finally became operational in 2016.


Lithuania tries to mobilize EU and NATO support for Ukraine due to its limited national capacity. Lithuania pushed for an early visa-liberalization process, and the Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevičius is one of the most eloquent and outspoken diplomats in the EU on Ukrainian issues. In December 2014, upon the initiative of an MEP from Lithuania ― Petras Auštrevičius ―, an informal group called “Friends of European Ukraine” was created in the European Parliament. Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė was announced as “Ukraine’s Person of the Year 2014” for “her solid support to Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and European aspirations”.

Related: Stoltenberg: NATO and allies to assist Ukraine via trust funds

In 2015, Lithuanian support to Ukraine amounted to around €1.4 million, bilateral development cooperation projects received €535,000; contributions to international organisations, missions and projects amounted to €42,187; support for the education sector amounted to €460,000; medical support to the Ukrainian army was €127,000, and €449,000 was given for humanitarian aid.


A major part of the bilateral development aid – totalling $23 million (€20.2 million) for all countries in 2015 – is allocated by Latvia to support Ukraine’s reform process, with particular stress on the agriculture sector. Financial and human resources have also been allocated in the fight against corruption, advisory missions, and promotion of the reform process. Latvia has also frozen the assets of several Ukrainian oligarchs and provided training for customs personnel. Medical, financial and rehabilitation support has also been offered by Latvia to Ukrainian families and children from war affected zones. Latvia also contributes in NATO training initiatives for Ukrainian officers and specialized military personnel.


Over the past year, Estonia has directed the largest part of its bilateral development assistance and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine. Wounded Ukrainian servicemen have been brought to Estonian hospitals, Estonia has offered consulting resources in setting up e-governance digital solutions, it has provided scholarships and special programs for Ukrainian students, bilateral assistance to NGOs and international organisations, such as UNICEF and UNHCR, and dealt with Ukrainian internally displaced people. Estonian officials and NGOs from the full spectrum of public sector and civil society are involved in advising Ukraine on reforms or providing assistance to ease the reform process. Estonia’s overall bilateral development assistance is €11.5 million, of which Ukraine receives the largest share. The other recipients are primarily from the post-soviet space. In Estonia, the Centre for the Eastern Partnership trains officials from EAP countries to meet European standards and procedures, and has been working closely with Ukraine.

Related: Deputy Finance Minister: Next tranche of EU financial assistance suspended until early 2017


Denmark is presiding over the Nordic council in 2016 and announced that it will continue its support for Ukraine via NordicBaltic (NB-8) cooperation. Beyond the EU-framework Denmark has launched several projects in Ukraine which aim to support the country in fulfilling its obligations vis-à-vis the Association Agreement with the EU.

Direct development aid via the Danish development cooperation initiative – DANIDA – amounts to9 8.6 million Danish krones (about €1.15 million) across 26 projects. This support represents 0.26 percent of the overall DANIDA budget. In November 2015 Denmark launched an investment facility project aimed at promoting Danish investments in Ukraine. There are also a range of civil society programmes in Ukraine run by Danish NGOs.


In 2015, Finland supported Ukraine with a total of €7.1 million in aid. In addition, Finland has spent about €1.9 million to send OSCE monitors, border security experts, election monitors and anti-corruption experts to Ukraine. Humanitarian aid accounts for €1.5 million of the total funds, and is channelled evenly through the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (ICRC). Finland’s reconstruction aid totals €3.5 million. Finland has also channeled €175,000 to Ukraine to support cooperation at the local level, mainly targeting civil society actors.

Related: Hahn: EU to provide financial assistance for reforms in Ukraine


 Since joining the EU in 2007 Romania has been a strong supporter for the Union's eastern neighborhood policies, and later, the Eastern Partnership. Romania's approach to Ukraine has primarily been driven by strategic concerns. After the annexation of Crimea, Russia created an amphibious hub in the Black Sea that is seen as an immediate danger in Bucharest. Only a strong and western allied Ukraine can prevent further Russian expansion. Hence Romania does not shy away from supporting Ukraine’s military sector, with €250,000 provided for bilateral technical and military assistance and €500,000 for NATO trust funds in 2015. Romania is one of the few countries where supplying lethal aid is discussed publicly, however the country would not do so unless there is wider support for such a policy among allies.


Within the Visegrád Four, the burden for different strands of the reform effort is divided out between the Central European states. Slovakia is responsible for energy security and reform of the security sector in Ukraine, and its biggest added value has been the substantial support received for the reverse flow of gas to Ukraine ― something that helped Ukraine to survive the winter and also increased the negotiation capacity of Kyiv towards Moscow.

Related: NATO agreed on package of assistance for Ukraine in field of security

Furthermore, Slovakia supports Ukraine’s reform efforts in the areas of state governance, self-government, civil society, justice, rule of law and reform of administration, public finance, and anti-corruption reforms. Slovakia has also engaged in medical assistance and rehabilitation programmes, as well as demining trust-funds through NATO.


Bulgaria contributes to NATO’s Trust Fund for Ukraine, which helps rehabilitate wounded military personnel and the NATO Trust Fund for Logistics and Standardization. Since 2014 Bulgaria has contributed €50,000 per year towards humanitarian aid for Ukraine. This is delivered through the ICRC. With Ukraine a de-facto neighbour of Bulgaria, just across the Black Sea, and the home of a sizeable Bulgarian minority, Bulgaria is a strong supporter of the DCFTA and Association Agreement.

Fence sitters


On the diplomatic front, France has been very active within the Normandy Format to broker a more sustainable ceasefire between Russia and Ukraine. However, France has barely contributed to the support effort for Ukraine. The humanitarian assistance for Ukrainian refugees pledged by France is only a fraction of the German effort. There are few French operative personnel in EU missions working in Ukraine, and barely any visible effort being made to help the reform process.

Related: This autumn European Union missions will visit Ukraine to evaluate country’s progress in visa-free issues

The Netherlands

 In April 2016, the Netherlands voted to reject the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement in a non-binding referendum. Although only 32 percent of the population came out to vote, the decision shocked the Dutch government. The Hague was heading the presidency of the Council of the European Union at the time and was trying to keep the war in the Donbas on the European agenda, particularly as the downing of MH-17 ― most likely by Russian servicemen ― caused almost 200 Dutch fatalities. The Netherlands have therefore been supportive on sanctions despite losing one of their biggest export markets for agricultural goods. However, with growing right-wing pressure to “take the referendum seriously” the Netherlands faces a dilemma. Europe won't renegotiate the Association Agreement over a non-binding referendum for the reason of internal cohesion. But on the other hand the Dutch government is not yet ready to explain this to its electorate – hence the Association Agreement hangs in limbo.

Related: NATO will provide Ukraine assistance package in 50 fields, - Klympush-Tsintsadze


Belgium neither obstructs nor supports sanctions or Ukraine. Belgium does not take its own initiative on supporting Ukraine but sticks to the decisions and programmes of multilateral organisations, specifically the EU and NATO. Since the Maidan movement various officials have visited Ukraine and several official declarations of support have been issued, which also insisted that both sides comply with the Minsk Agreements.

Czech Republic

Ukraine belongs among the priority countries of the Czech Republic’s transition promotion assistance. Its priority areas are the reform of the educational system, free media and support for NGOs. Overall, support for Ukraine in the framework of this programme is about €550,000. A further €200,000 has been provided from the humanitarian assistance programme with €780,000 earmarked for humanitarian aid supplies. The Czech Republic is one of the major contributors to the Visegrád fund (alongside Poland and Slovakia). The fund provided €3.4 million in grants to various civil society and cultural projects in Ukraine. Ukraine is by far the largest recipient of the fund among all non-Visegrád countries.

Related: Klitschko met with Oxford University students and members of Oxford Union


In 2015, Ireland provided a total of €202,000 to two NGOs for humanitarian relief and gender-based violence response programmes in eastern Ukraine. This funding represented an increase of €17,000 on the previous year’s funding. In addition, Ireland has provided a total of €7.5 million in un-earmarked global core funding to the ICRC. The ICRC is very active in eastern Ukraine, and an element of that funding will go towards the work in Ukraine. However, no precise figures are available because the way this money is spent is down to the ICRC rather than the Irish government. Ireland has also contributed approximately €4 million, indirectly through the EU, to Ukraine’s macrofinancial assistance programme.


Ukraine is a direct neighbor of Hungary, and home to a sizeable Hungarian minority. With Hungary's eastern regions heavily underdeveloped, economic transition in Ukraine is also regarded as a tool to promote the country’s own economic interests. Hence the Hungarian development assistance to Ukraine is confined to the west of Ukraine, particularly the Transcarpathia oblast. In the military field, Hungary offers language training and wounded soldier rehabilitation on a limited scale. Hungary also sent a NATO liaison officer to Kyiv in March 2015. In cooperation with other Visegrád countries, transition support (technical and advisory assistance) was offered to Ukraine in various sectors. Hungary chose to fund SMEs, which is in line with the new trade focus of Hungarian foreign policy. The Eastern Partnership programme of the Hungarian 95 MFA focuses on infrastructural development, and renovation of buildings in order to improve their energy efficiency in the region. Hungary’s contribution in 2015 was 155 million HUF (€500,000). As of February, Hungary had already offered 340 million HUF (€1 million) to support public institutions in Transcarpathia.


Despite being relatively distant from Ukraine geographically, Portugal is a strong supporter of the Ukraine’s reform agenda and the ongoing democratic transition process in the country. During his visit to Ukraine, Portugal’s secretary of state Bruno Maçães also held several meeting with political and administrative authorities in Kyiv, Mariupol and Rivne. In all these meetings Maçães confirmed Portugal’s support to Ukraine reform agenda, underlining the imperative to fight corruption. He also met with representatives of Portuguese companies investing in Ukraine.

Related: Diplomat: Ukraine poses no migration threat for European Union


Although Slovenia does not recognise Russia's annexation of Crimea, the country has been careful not to blame Russia directly for the invasion in the Donbas, treating the conflict as an internal one that can be solved through direct negotiations between the parties. Assistance to Ukraine is limited even when compared to the size of the country. Slovenia offers some advice on administrative reform, and since the beginning of the war has contributed €219,500 to Ukraine. In 2015 in particular it contributed the following: €95,000 for post-conflict children rehabilitation; €50,000 for soldier rehabilitation; and €43,000 worth of donations in kind, the remaining €29,500 stemming from development assistance programmes of earlier years.


Searching for a new government and dealing with a domestic economic crisis, Europe's east has not been at the core of Madrid's policymaking since the events of Maidan. Hence there is, and has been, a certain amount of division or contradiction within the government on Ukraine and Russia. Some actors in Spanish politics, like Foreign Minister José García-Margallo y Marfil or the populist party Podemos have often demonstrated a level of understanding for Russian arguments about the war in Ukraine – those arguments being that Russia has legitimate interests in Ukraine, that the West has neglected the geopolitical environment of the Eastern Partnership, and that the EU preaches double standards. However, so far Madrid has had an overall interest in maintaining European unity and aligning with Germany. The Ministry of Defence took the lead in criciticing Russia, citing the danger to European unity and cohesion above all. As such, Madrid’s position on the annexation of Crimea has been very firm from the beginning.

Related: European Broadcasting Union delegation arrives in Ukraine


Croatia has continued to support EU efforts to assist Ukraine in its economic and political reform process, especially regarding its capabilities to carry out structural reform and state modernisation. Croatia considers the AA/DCFTA to be a crucial instrument in the fulfilment of the aforementioned goals. As for development aid, Croatia, is a country that has encountered war-related challenges in its recent past, has focused on sharing know-how and experience acquired through its war and post-war democratic transition. Up until November 2015, Croatia has implemented and initiated the preparation of the following projects, related to know-how and experience transfer, and which amount to €200,000. The first project focuses on managing displaced persons and refugees; the second focuses on training of medics in the field of war psychiatrics and psychology; the third trains Ukrainian on how to document war crimes and crimes against humanity; the fourth focuses on how to reintegrate war veterans (NATO Military Career Transition); the fifth project focuses on installing antimine systems; and by extension, the sixth project focuses on anti-mine training.


Given the size of Luxembourg its contribution to the European support effort has been limited. The country’s attempts to facilitate an EU-Russian dialogue are rather influenced by the desire to salvage country's own financial interests in Moscow than to improve the situation on the ground. However, Luxembourg does not sabotage sanctions or the European support effort.

Related: European Broadcasting Union delegation arrives in Ukraine


Malta has not provided any direct military support, development assistance, humanitarian assistance, or macro-financial support to Ukraine. Both the prime minister and foreign minister insist that Malta is “toeing the EU line” on Ukraine and providing financial and political support through the EU.


Cyprus is the strongest foreign investor in Ukraine (US $11.7 billion of investment as of April 2015) because in essence it is a part of the offshore-banking system of Ukraine. But the same is true for Russia, which the island has strong relations with. Hence, Cyprus has walked a tight-rope through the crisis, trying not to alienate either side. As it remains heavily dependent on the EU, Cyprus has, in essence, stuck to the EU line. The country has contributed to the IMF’s macrofinancial stability programmes and provided in-kind humanitarian assistance.



 In official declarations, Italy pays lip-service to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine. However, beyond diplomatic politeness, Italy seems more concerned with preserving or re-establishing its economic ties with Russia. Unlike Finland, the Baltic States, Poland or Bulgaria, Italy hardly feels the consequences of sanctions, but complains the loudest about them. Many Italian politicians and policymakers think, like Russia, in terms of “great power politics” and “spheres of influence”. With the migration-crisis occupying the minds of politicians, and Italian officials particularly unhappy about the results of the western intervention in Libya, the temptation to fall for Russian arguments about a “division of spheres of influence” is strong.

Related: EU leaders develop union renovation plan taking Brexit into account

The Italian Government perceives Russia as a key interlocutor, not only for Ukraine, but also for some other important dossiers such as Libya, Syria and the Iran nuclear deal. However, Italy deems Russian unilateral intervention in support of Assad as detrimental to any political solution in Syria. Rome would be ready to reach out to Russia exclusively in the case of concrete progress in the implementation of the ceasefire. Italy has barely done anything to support Ukraine’s transition. In 2015, the Italian government earmarked an overall contribution of €200,000 for emergency humanitarian interventions to the International Red Cross Committee (IRCC). This is about the same amount of assistance Slovenia provides to the support effort.


Austria officially condemned the annexation of Crimea as a violation of international law but calls for Ukraine to take responsibility for their internal reforms. Although it toes the EU's official line on Crimea, Austria was the first states to host Putin as an official guest after the Crimean annexation (June 2014) and made proposals for deepening economic relations during 100 that visit. This conversation took place at the same time that the EU was discussing the ramping up of sanctions against Russia due to the war in the Donbas. Sympathy for Putin is widespread among the political and administrative classes in Austria. Austrian diplomacy is heavily tilted towards a “Russia first” approach and the country prioritizes the security of its own economic interests in Russia above support to Ukraine.

Related: Head of Russian Union of fans deported from France


Greek-Russian relations have traditionally been strong, and even more so on the extreme left and extreme right. The war in Ukraine and the deterioration of European-Russian relations was a political shock for Greece. Representatives of the Russian nomenklatura – including Putin himself – frequently visit Greece. Verbal dissatisfaction with sanctions is aired frequently by Greece and threats of undermining side-deals – both on sanctions and on energy – undermine European cohesion. However, Greece is too dependent on Europe, and particularly Germany, to solve its own structural and monetary problems, limiting how far it can challenge Berlin on sanctions. Still, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias made a number of proposals to Ukraine on how Greece can offer medical care for wounded soldiers and could facilitate access to Greece for Ukrainian citizens. However, due to the restrictive financial situation, none of these proposals has been realised yet. Greece has no ongoing development cooperation with Ukraine, and no governmental programmes to support reform efforts.

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