Ukraine 2019: Elections, Reforms, and Civil Society

PAIC study trip for young academics from Germany to Kyiv

Between November 4th and 9th, 2018, eight young social scientists with a clear research focus on Ukraine had the opportunity to gain a comprehensive insight into the Kyiv think tank landscape, to examine current political processes and to discuss them with proven local experts. The main aim of the excursion was the strengthening of German-Ukrainian synergies in the academic field and the identification of cooperation opportunities with Ukrainian colleagues.

In 2019, two elections are scheduled in Ukraine: a presidential one in March 2019 and a parliamentary ballot in October 2019. In addition, Ukraine is currently undertaking a comprehensive reform process with the fight against corruption, the energy sector and public administration as key priorities for next year. The government work is systematically assisted by civil society organisations (CSOs) in an advisory capacity, which hence enjoy an increasing importance in policy-making since the Revolution of Dignity in 2014. Reason enough to dedicate this year’s study trip to the Topic “Ukraine 2019: Elections, Reforms, and Civil Society”.

Throughout the study trip, our participants came together with key organisations in the areas of anti-corruption, energy sector, EU integration, security, electoral and decentralisation processes to take their research work forward and to study the prevailing political developments in Ukraine in depth. During the discussions, it became clear that a noticeable reform success will strongly determine Ukraine’s long-term course in Europe. Challenging reforms await both the Ukrainian elite and the citizens, which on the one hand have the potential to either sustainably secure the democratic transformation of the country or to diminish popular support for European integration. Of particular importance here is the establishment of the High Anti-Corruption Court, which is expected to commence operations in March 2019.

The outcome of the elections remains highly uncertain despite Yulia Timoshenko’s lead in current opinion polls. The high campaign costs have however assuredly eliminated the possibility for representatives of post-Maidan parties to get elected. In contrast, the CSOs visited during the study trip see local elections in 2020 as a more significant opportunity for young reform parties to extend their voter base. The main challenges for CSOs in this context are to provide comprehensive information on political processes to a broad scale of constituents outside of major cities as well as to encourage active citizenship in the regions.

Civil society organisations and in particular think tanks in Ukraine have become professionalized and their capacities have increased, also thanks to international support. Furthermore, the creation of the Reform Delivery Office within the Cabinet of Ministers in 2014 provided them with an improved access to decision-makers. With regard to the various actors and interests within Ukraine, CSOs will remain Europe’s most natural ally for the foreseeable future.

The study trip took place within the framework of the project “Platform for Analytics and Intercultural Communication” (PAIC) implemented by the Institute for European Politics (IEP, Berlin) in cooperation with the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation (DIF, Kyiv) and the think tank initiative „think  twice UA“ (Kyiv) and with the kind support of the Federal Foreign Office in 2018 and 2019. The project aims at the creation of synergies between Ukrainian and German think tanks, the transfer of knowledge about processes in Ukraine to Germany as well as the promotion of professional skills among Ukrainian think thanks.