Sunday

21st Apr 2019

Opinion

A new Ukraine rising

  • Ukraine in 2015 - four years on, international allies are looking, at a conference in Copenhagen, for progress on corruption (Photo: Christopher Bobyn)

In Copenhagen this week we will see the international community gather for the Ukraine Reform Conference, an important driver for change in a country still torn by war.

Much is at stake for Ukraine and for Europe. Let us take the opportunity to take a step back to remember how and why.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Former president Viktor Yanukovych fled for Russia in February 2014 (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

In 2014 - 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall - a European country once again found itself caught in a make-believe zero-sum game, where outdated principles of spheres of influence and territorial claims incited the Kremlin to use military aggression against a neighboring country.

Today, four years later, Russian aggression against Ukraine is still ongoing and includes the conflict in Donbas and the attempted annexation of Crimea, as well as other attempts at destabilisation.

Russia has set aside international law and principles and has caused instability and unpredictability in Europe.

People are suffering, 1.5 million are displaced and many are dying in a military conflict on European soil, in a neighbour country to the EU.

Choose Europe

Europe must not allow itself to forget this, or forget what caused it: a people's free choice of a European future in the winter of 2014, a choice which was attempted hindered through violence by Russia and the corrupt elite - embodied by former president Viktor Yanukovych.

Yet the Ukrainian people prevailed and through democratic elections, they chose a leadership committed to reforms and European values.

Ukraine has come a long way since 2014, not least through the will of the Ukrainian people and its active civil society and with the firm backing of the international community.

The government of Ukraine has undertaken remarkable reforms to ensure economic growth, provide effective governance, facilitate human capital development, implement the rule of law and fight corruption.

The government has launched pension, education and healthcare reforms, prepared the ground for transparent privatisation practices and the efficient management of state-owned enterprises.

In addition, the government has started reforms within the banking sector, the energy sector, public procurements, public administration and de-centralisation, just to mention a few.

Through these reform efforts, Ukraine is slowly revealing its potential.

With the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement and the visa free status, Ukraine has moved closer to the EU.

Trade with the EU has expanded tremendously during the last two years, and the potential is even greater.

Ukraine's membership in the Energy Community and its continued work to ensure full integration into the European energy market are important steps as well.

Further, Ukraine remains a strategic key transit country for gas to the EU. No doubt, Ukraine has much to offer its European neighbours.

Corruption court

For the reform process to succeed, the fight against corruption is crucial.

We welcome the recent breakthrough decision of the Ukrainian parliament, the Rada, to establish an independent high anti-corruption court in line with the Venice Commission's recommendations.

This is a major achievement. Ukraine is committed to establishing the new court as soon as possible.

The Danish-led EU anti-corruption programme in Ukraine stands ready to provide support.

We know that any transition from one system and one set of values to another is lengthy and not without risk. The Ukrainian pursuit of European values cannot be taken for granted. Vested economic and political interests are still present in Ukraine and jeopardise further reforms.

Ukrainian elections in 2019 will be critical for reforms to proceed. And on a daily basis we see Russia literally fighting to counter a Western-oriented Ukraine.

In this environment, it demands strong political will to maintain reform momentum. And it demands building public trust in the government's commitment to reforms. Strong international support remains crucial.

We believe that the rise and success of a reformed and prosperous Ukraine is of paramount importance.

Not only to the Ukrainian people, but also to Europe as a whole. We are all dependent on international law and established principles and rules to determine relations between states.

Denmark's small, open and liberal economy will not be able to prosper without it. We all need to react when faced with challenges to this international framework, violations of a state's territorial integrity and obstruction of its free choice of alliance.

For Ukraine, part of the answer is to stand up for European values and pursue a reformed and prosperous society.

It is in Europe's interest to support these efforts. Therefore, Denmark is donating 530m million Danish kroner (€72m) to good governance and human rights and sustainable economic growth in Ukraine over the next five years.

And therefore, Denmark will host the Ukraine Reform Conference on June 27 in Copenhagen.

The Copenhagen Conference constitutes more than a gathering of governments; it is also a driver for change and a process in Ukraine and internationally in support of a reformed Ukraine and a stronger partnership between Ukraine and the international community.

It is our hope, that the rising of a reformed new Ukraine will demonstrate to Russia that 19th century aggression will not be tolerated nor prove itself worthwhile in our 21st century Europe.

Lars Lokke Rasmussen is prime minister of Denmark, Volodymyr Groysman is prime minister of Ukraine

Interview

Ukraine eyes €500m EU aid, while fighting corruption

Kiev is hoping to secure more than €500m in EU aid by July, amid its never-ending fight against corruption. The finance minister tells EUobserver the prosecutor general should resign - meanwhile privatisations of 3,500 state-owned companies go ahead, despite war.

What might be next in EU-Ukraine relations?

The EU-Ukraine association deal - probably the most explosive EU deal with a third country in history - was long on open markets and trade barriers, but quiet on welfare states, poverty and inequality: all of which feed populism.

US probe into Ukraine 'lobbying' by former EU officials

A former EU commission president, ex-European parliament president and an ex-Austrian chancellor all deny being paid €2m by Donald Trump's former campaign chief to lobby on the behalf of the Russian-backed government in Ukraine in 2012.

How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament

British plans to - maybe - take part in EU elections risk legal chaos in the next European Parliament, which could be resolved only by treaty change - an unlikely prospect.

Press freedom and the EU elections

We are campaigning for the next European Commission to appoint a commissioner with a clear mandate to take on the challenge of the protection of freedom, independence and diversity of journalism.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  2. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  3. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute
  4. Brunei defends stoning to death of gay men in EU letter
  5. US Democrats side with Ireland on Brexit
  6. Wifi or 5G to connect EU cars? MEPs weigh in
  7. How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament
  8. EU parliament backs whistleblower law

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  6. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  7. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  9. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  12. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us