Reforms in Ukraine mostly are just some cosmetic changes

Author : 112.UA 112.UA

Respondent : Agnieszka Piasecka

Source : 112 Ukraine

Agnieszka Piasecka, NGO activist and journalist, shares her opinion on progress made by Ukraine and its cooperation with the European institutions
10:18, 10 November 2015

Agnieszka Piasecka is a project manager at the Open Dialog Foundation, responsible for strategic planning and organization of the reforms support project with focus on lustration and reform of the judiciary. Agnieszka cooperates with USAID FAIR Justice Project, and EU Advisory Mission in Ukraine, among others. She is a member of Reanimation Package of Reforms Judiciary Group and Analyst of Imorevox – a project of Vox Ukraine. Majored in International Relations. Previously -  a journalist and columnist in Poland.

- You have been living in Kyiv for year and a half. What are the mission and priorities you got here, and what changes have you noticed during this time in Ukraine?

I arrived in Ukraine with humanitarian aid campaign during the Maidan. After the fall of Yanukovych, we decided to open an office in Ukraine on a permanent basis. Then we had a strategic discussion what to do - to be engaged in humanitarian issues, or focus on advocacy and support of ATO fighters, or on maintenance and monitoring of reforms. We have divided these areas among ourselves, and support of reforms fell on me, with excellent help of the team.

- Most European politicians commenting reforms publicly state that Ukraine is "on the right road". Have you noticed any qualitative change in the time after the Maidan?

Agnieszka's Facebook
I have a little bit different view on it. Of course, diplomats, for example, often miss details. A foreign ambassador cannot delve into all of the affairs of a sovereign state. Little has changed. I see rather good changes in economic sector – the package that Ministry of Economy and Trade accepted is very good, and progresses. Same for the National Bank of Ukraine – macroeconomic stabilization in times of war is an excellent achievement. But in other areas – there are many superficial, cosmetic changes. For example, the new police, they have new cars and so on. If senior management of the Interior Ministry is not changed, it will remain purely external: specific new officers may not take bribes, but the state won’t change, I'm afraid.

As for the reform of justice, it is worse. Despite some new laws, the laws on lustration or restore confidence in the judiciary, there is a huge resistance of the system. For example, the High Council of Justice has blocked the decision on dismissal of judges who have not passed the verification, blocking the resolution of the Interim Special Commission. This is an example of how judges could have been disciplined. But if there is no political will, the question arises what could be changed.

I see one - if there is pressure from international donors and control over spending every hryvnia, then maybe there is some future. The more you are accountable - the better for Ukraine. Some cities, as Drohobych, received money to support development of their infrastructure in the Yanukovych's epoch, but of course, new bus stops did not appear. I do not know where the money vanished, but they just were from abroad. In war, perennial donors has not asked Ukraine where money are gone. Thus, up to them there is also a part of the problem.

- Ukraine is not the only country that receives money for reform. There are many politically unstable regions and countries in the world who seek help for their survival. Why the West does not require detailed reports?

It is now trying because the Association Agreement with the EU requires more detailed reporting. When Poland entered into Association Agreement, we also received money for development, infrastructure and support to enterprises, and we have been very accountable in detail where the money went. In the Ministry of Economy of Poland, I saw detailed documents on how often the control must be occured, who reports, and what information should be provided. And there is the questions of penalties for violations - either withdraw the money back, or impose large fines. The supervision of the EU has helped Poland become a normal state - concerning corruption and spending of budget money.

- On the issue of corruption. US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt very strongly expressed on the reform of the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine, supporting Sakvarelidze and Kaskiv. He said the same thing as you - the internal resistance of the system and corruption that hinder reforms. What are the prospects of reforms of the prosecution system, and what is the problem here – the people working, or something else?

In the prosecutor's office, there are two problems. Firstly, this is a "syndrome of the surrounded camp", a psychological state when everyone talks bad about us, so we shut. I respect the work of Mr. Sakvarelidze, but it is not opened to civil society. So it should not be in this way. He needs support from society so there should be more trust and better communication as well. However, I understand that as a person from abroad it is difficult for him to survive in the system: one must spend a year or two in order to become able to achieve something. And he came, got the job in hand ... I understand that it is difficult.

As for the Prosecutor General's Office, it is necessary to make its work more transparent. I know that there is competition for new prosecutors, and public supervision of the Commission under this call. However, all legal acts upon which prosecutors will operate,are still not finished - this must be completed and published. There may be various reasons why they cannot finish as successfully as they would like. At first it is hard to break the old schemes. And Ukraine will face still many rotten political compromises and appointing Sakvarelidze to be responsible for the reform next to Shokin, is an example. At second, it is hard to gain trust of average citizens who are tired of endless years with chaos and no changes, but who, on the other hand, start considering consultants and foreign ministers rather a threat than any help.

There is the question of how old schemes should be broken and trust gained and whether it will be soon. If the President of Ukraine showed support to Sakvarelidze ... would be worth to dismiss the current Attorney General, because he leads the entire old scheme. This is not my own opinion, so say all the experts that monitor the reform of the justice sector and police. New police cars are not enough for the reform to be fully implemented.

President Yushchenko had a huge trust of the West, money went, and after four years foreign partners were all shocked, how could it happen that nothing has changed, the same problems remained. There should be pressure of civil society, independent professional journalists, and foreign partners in order to have the information prepared. They should be able to see and feel the lies and take appropriate consequences.

But again we touch the issue of sovereignty and finding a balance between control from outside and inner autonomy of taking independent decisions.

Related: Federica Mogherini: Ukrainian issues are under the scrutiny of the EU

Related: Tax reform in Ukraine must comply with commitments to IMF - G7 Ambassadors

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