The birth of new Ukraine

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Ukraine now greatly needs help and support of the European Union: a speedy signature of the Association Agreement, short-term economic assistance and a longer-term commitment based on real reform, writes Bohdan Sumenko.

Bohdan Sumenko is co-founder of the Centre for information and analysis “Content and Consulting”.

The end of February 2014 became the period of demise for authoritarian and corrupted Ukraine and its transition into new quality. There is no doubt that at the end of all transformations and changes Ukraine will appear as a democratic country governed by rule-of-law,  closely cooperating with the EU in many areas. However, the reforming process will be painful and lingering. But this doesn’t scare anybody, especially the Ukrainian people and civil society, as the very high price for the right to alter their own country has already been paid. About a hundred Ukrainian patriots gave their lives and approximately a thousand more were injured for the right to live in a free country.

Essence of the Ukrainian revolution

After the failure at the Vilnius Summit, Ukraine fought the regime of Viktor Yanukovich and defended its European choice. After the first bloody dispersal of the protesters on the night of 1 December 2013, one more demand was added, the most important one – the right of justice, safety and freedom. The longer the confrontation lasted the stronger the Maidan activists asserted the right to life in a country free for all citizens, where human rights and freedoms are respected. Against this background the authorities intensified the demonstration of an assault on these rights and the devaluation of the importance of human life. This was exactly what provoked the outrage in Ukraine.

The consolidation of the Ukrainian citizens of different nationalities, religions and languages in the single group of protesters with the general name “Maidan” (the central square in Kyiv having become the base for the revolution) showed that the Ukrainian people had become an active player. People became fighting for their rights on their own without relying on corrupted politicians and state officials, demonstrating the high level of morality, self-organisation and consciousness, which the current political and business elite of Ukraine will only have to strive to achieve. This occurrence allows stating that since now on people’s control over politics will be much higher than before. This is creating a new political reality, which many participants of the political process in Ukraine have not realised yet. However, the question is the very mechanisms of such a control.

One more important factor for the victory in the revolution is that it was not the opposition which managed to defeat the Yanukovich regime but civil society comprising many organizations and having powerful horizontal communication. That is exactly why the authorities failed to neutralize all the revolutionary leaders who were a great number. Modern information technologies yielded a great help for the process of self-organization.

What to do?

The question of Ukraine’s future worries extremely all citizens who clearly demonstrated their desire to live in the united country and oppose ideas of dividing it into parts. The agenda has to be dynamic and most constructive. Populism is now absolutely out of place. The key issue is stabilizing the political and economic situation.

The dynamics of the political area reload is observed to be high enough so far. The Ukrainian parliament, having returned the country the status of the parliamentary-presidential republic, for the first time in many years demonstrates high responsibility and the high pace of work. Legitimate authorities have been created, recognized by the EU, the US, China and other countries in the world (only Russia still cannot put up with the failure of its scenario in Ukraine), and this development is actively reloading the system. The presidential elections have been set for 25 May 2014 as well as the election of the mayor and of the deputies at the city council of the Ukrainian capital. The possibility that the parliamentary elections will be able to complete the renewal of the authorities is high. The reform of the judicial power started at the same time as did the one of the law enforcement. The very important issue is the fair investigation, finding the guilty and the punishment of all connected with the crimes against the Ukrainian people over the last three months of the protests. The possibility of the lustration of the state officials having tainted themselves with corruption and abuses during the period of the functioning of the Yanukovich regime is being discussed.  The process of cleansing the authorities has been initiated but everybody understands that it will be a long lasting and complex exercise. At the same time, no one is going to engage in “witch hunting”, which would only incite hatred in Ukrainian society.

In the economic field Ukraine is experiencing a rather difficult situation. The country is facing default with hefty foreign debt and minimal financial reserves. However, the authorities have already started consultations on the subject of the financial and economic aid by the IMF, the EU, the US and international financial organizations, which gives hope for reaching soon agreements for receiving short-term financial aid. The unity of the position of Germany, Poland and other EU countries as well as the governing bodies of the European Union to provide for Ukraine at first a minimal aid (to the level of €1 billion) and further an extended one for the accomplishing the clearly defined reforms, plays a positive role. This lowers the risk of default, of social tension, and also allows taking up the immediate process of reforming the Ukrainian economy. The main benchmark is taking on board the EU and WTO standards and principles allowing the modernization of the economy on the basis of the market principles, and abandoning the monopolisation which prevailed before.

Ukrainian agenda for Europe

Ukraine now greatly needs help and support of the European Union. What does this involve?

First of all, it means the fast signature of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU. It must be done as soon as possible, in the first part of 2014. The more time there is until the Association signature, the more actively Russia and the representatives of the Yanukovich power will be able to oppose it. It is now very important not to lose the historic chance. Besides, the Association Agreement will allow the Ukrainian bureaucratic apparatus to receive the European matrix of functioning, providing the basis for reforming the bodies of state services and administrations of Ukraine. This will allow drastic decreasing the level of corruption and unprofessionalism among the state officials.

The other aspect is actually the provision of the financial and economic aid. According to various data, Europe, the US and the IMF are ready to provide Ukraine with up to €20-25 billion of financial aid in 2014 to assist the reforms. The mere provision of the funds is not as important as assistance in developing the reforms and the control over their implementation. This will make it impossible for the new authorities to return to the old corruption mechanisms.

The very important symbol of support on the part of the EU for the Ukrainian people will be the maximum simplification of the visa system between Ukraine and the EU with its further cancellation. The sooner the visa barrier between the EU and Ukraine is removed, the faster Europe will make sure that Ukrainians are willing to live and work in their own country on the basis of common European values, especially considering the fact that there will be more than enough work on changing Ukraine in the nearest future. Everybody will find their niche in creating new democratic Ukraine which will rightfully become a pearl of all Europe rather than a source of potential hazards and geopolitical clashes.

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