Fourth Ukraine Breakfast Debate with Liubov Akulenko on the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement

On 8 February 2018, the fourth Ukraine Breakfast Debate of the project “Platform for Analytics and Inter­cul­tural Commu­ni­cation” (PAIC) took place at the Institute for European Politics (IEP) in Berlin. Liubov Akulenko from the think tank “Ukrainian Centre for European Policy” (UCEP) intro­duced the partic­i­pants to the topic of the EU-Ukraine Associ­ation Agreement and shed light on the current successes, problems, and challenges of the imple­men­tation of the Agreement.

During the presen­tation, three key issues concerning the imple­men­tation process of the Agreement were discussed: the insti­tu­tional framework of the imple­men­tation, the existing monitoring instru­ments developed by state agencies as well as by civil society groups, and the achieve­ments, challenges and failures within the imple­men­tation process.

The coordi­nation process of the Agreement can be divided into three stages: planning, imple­men­tation, and monitoring. Within all these three stages, the vice prime minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration plays the most important insti­tu­tional role. However, the insti­tu­tional framework for the imple­men­tation of the Associ­ation Agreement appears to be generally problematic as respon­si­bil­ities and compe­tencies are often overlapping and not clearly defined. This problem should be solved through an internal reform and simpli­fi­cation of the framework.

When speaking about the monitoring possi­bil­ities of the imple­men­tation process, a differ­en­ti­ation between govern­mental and private tools has to be made. The Ukrainian government developed the monitoring system “Pulse of the Associ­ation Agreement” in 2016. Nonetheless, the instrument is currently not acces­sible to the public. The “AA Navigator”, created by UCEP, therefore remains currently the only instrument which can be publicly used for tracking the devel­op­ments in the imple­men­tation process.

While the Associ­ation Agreement has to be fully imple­mented by 2025, the analyses by UCEP show that only 13% of the relevant legis­lation has been harmo­nized with the EU acquis. Successes regarding the legal alignment process can mainly be found in the areas of public procure­ments, energy (especially gas, electricity and energy efficiency) and environment, according to Akulenko. In the agriculture, public health and taxation sectors as well as within social policy, some positive devel­op­ments are observable. However, almost no successes can be traced in the areas of (public) transport, nuclear energy, customs, and intel­lectual property. Akulenko referred to economic conflicts of interest within the political elite as main reason why only some sectors show positive devel­op­ments. In order to find deep and profound support for the successful imple­men­tation of the Associ­ation agreement, concrete and direct incen­tives, such as an EU-membership perspective, have to exist, argued Akulenko.

In subse­quence to the presen­tation, Constanze Aka, project manager in the Capacity Devel­opment Team at the Institute for European Politics, commented on the progress in the imple­men­tation of the Associ­ation. She empha­sized that a lacking EU-coordi­nation in Ukraine dimin­ishes the pace of the legislative approx­i­mation and hinders the imple­men­tation of the Associ­ation Agreement and the Deep Compre­hensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA). It is important to foster insti­tu­tional devel­opment and to provide profes­sional support to the respon­sible insti­tu­tions in Ukraine, especially the Ministry for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration as well as the newly admin­is­tered EU-direc­torates in the ministries. Similarly, a demand for better coordi­nation exists within the civil society sector as well. An improved coordi­nation would strengthen insti­tu­tional support for civil society organi­za­tions and would furthermore allow the organi­za­tions to fulfil their task as watchdog. Finally, Constanze Aka referred to the non-publi­cation of the Associ­ation Imple­men­tation Action Plan, which has been adopted by the Ukrainian government in October 2017, as example for the futile destruction of trust between civil society actors and the coordi­nating author­ities.

The partic­i­pants of the Breakfast Debate seemed to be partic­u­larly inter­ested in possi­bil­ities for the Ukrainian civil society to advocate their work among the political and economic elite in Ukraine as well as the reasons for the slowed-down pace in the imple­men­tation process. Another central aspect concerned the question of creating incen­tives for Ukraine, in order to support the imple­men­tation of the Agreement. In this regard, the question of an EU-membership perspective was widely discussed.

Liubov Akulenko is the founder and director of the think tank “Ukrainian Centre for European Policy” (UCEP). UCEP, founded in 2015, focuses on the Associ­ation Agreement between the European Union and Ukraine and provides for profes­sional support of its imple­men­tation through independent analyses, trainings and workshops. In the “2017 Global Go To Think Tank Index”, UCEP was ranked among the 50 best new think tanks. The recently published Interview (German/Ukrainian) from the “Klartext: Ukrainische Think Tanks im Gespräch” series with Liubov Akulenko on the EU-Ukraine Associ­ation Agreement is available here.

The Ukraine Breakfast Debates take place under the project “Platform for Analytics and Inter­cul­tural Commu­ni­cation” (PAIC) at the Institute for European Politics (IEP) in Berlin. Designed as a place for discussion, experts from Ukrainian think tanks present current topics which are after­wards discussed with guests over crois­sants and coffee.

The project “Platform for Analytics and Inter­cul­tural Commu­ni­cation” (PAIC) is conducted by the Institute for European Politics e.V. (IEP, Berlin), in cooper­ation with the Inter­na­tional Renais­sance Foundation (IRF, Kiev), the der Ilko Kucheriv Democ­ratic Initia­tives Foundation (DIF, Kiev) and the think tank initiative “think twice UA” (Kiev), supported by the Federal Foreign Office of Germany in 2017–2018.