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.