Ukraine before the Vilnius summit: time to summarize

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

No matter the result, the Vilnius summit of the Eastern partnership will be historical for Eastern Europe, Ukraine, the EU and even for Russia. The eve of the summit is a good occasion to summarise the last year of preparations made by Kyiv, writes Valeriy Kucheruk.

Valeriy Kucheruk is a Ukrainian political expert.

In December 2012 the Council of the EU approved the 11 criteria for the signing of the association agreement (the so-called " Füle list"), which were coordinated with the Ukrainian president at the Ukraine-EU summit in February 2013. Thus, it was stipulated right away that for the signing of the AA the Ukrainian party needs to demonstrate "decisive actions and significant progress" in all 11 points, instead of fulfilling them fully and obligatory.

What has Ukraine done in 2013 for signing of the AA in Vilnius? Progress can be seen practically in all criteria.

Positive changes in the sphere of reforming of the electoral legislation consist in scheduling of the re-elections to the Parliament in the problem districts for 15 December 2013. Moreover, the draft law on the improvement of the legislation on the conduction of elections was adopted in the first reading and sent for the follow-up completion.  It is quite possible that joint amendments inclusive of remarks of the opposition will be introduced even before the Vilnius summit. 

Positive dynamics is also observed in terms of the change of the legislation in the sphere of execution of Ukrainian courts' decisions on social payments not paid by the state. At the same time, meanwhile it is difficult to speak about the prompt fulfillment of all decisions of the European Court of Human Rights by Ukraine.

Positive changes can be seen on the issue of reduction of the number of detainees in the pre-trial detention centers after the adoption of the new Criminal Procedure Code. The National preventive mechanism against tortures has begun its work.   Changes have been introduced to the Code in the part of improvement of the state of prisoner welfare.

In the sphere of reforming of the judicial system, amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine which received positive assessments of the Venice Commission and the Constitutional court have been submitted for consideration of the Parliament. The draft law about public prosecution has been approved in the first reading, and the second reading can definitely take place before the Vilnius summit. Several laws in the sphere of combatting corruption were positively voted for by the majority in the Parliament, although the work in this direction still needs considerable efforts.

Besides, amendments to the Constitution have been introduced, and they expand powers of the Accounting Chamber of the Verkhovna Rada [the Parliament], which has acquired the right to control revenues to the state budget of Ukraine. The government has adopted the State Finances Management Strategy.

Besides, the Ukrainian government doesn't intend to stop reforms at the Vilnius summit, but it is already now planning to further advance the transformations. For example, the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade has prepared the draft programme on the implementation of the association agreement envisaging 552 actions. They are divided into 5 main groups: institutional and administrative, infrastructural, system and regulatory, adaptation of the legislation and fulfilment of obligations on the AA implementation, actions concerning cooperation and ensuring the Ukraine-EU dialog.

The main thing is that the Ukrainian authorities understand that harmonisation of the national legislation with the European one and coordination of technical regulations is a long and difficult process and the EU is ready to allocate the necessary assistance to Ukraine for that. Thanks to such cooperation of the parties there are all bases to increase goods turnover between Ukraine and the EU, which only in 2012 made $50,7 billion (€37.75 billion) which is 29,2% of the total amount of foreign trade of Ukraine. 

Naturally, the significant progress of Ukraine in all EU criteria necessary for the AA signing doesn't mean the complete conduction of the process of reforms with its successful conclusion. A lot of things are still to be done and the Ukrainian authorities understand it. In particular, according to experts, it is necessary to find mechanisms for the further solution of the "Tymoshenko question" which is quite capable of taking the eurointegration breakthrough of Ukraine to the blind corner. The new law on elections to the Ukrainian Parliament taking into account all recommendations of the Venice Commission will become important in the course of reforms. It is also necessary to solve the question of scheduling the date of Kyiv mayor elections. The adoption of the new law on public prosecution and the law on the judicial system and the status of judges in Ukraine are extremely important for our country. The reform of the law-enforcement bodies is also important, the same as the reform of the whole civil service of Ukraine.

Amid considerable successes of Ukraine in the sphere of fulfilment of the EU criteria for the AA signing in 2013, it is possible to confidently note that the Ukrainian state and the Ukrainian People have deserved the right to the AA signing.  Retreat from the signing of the Agreement under the pretext of the still unsolved "Tymoshenko question" or other reasons will mean Europe's unwillingness to more open and frank policy with its Eastern neighbours among which Ukraine takes a special place. In that case the EU shouldn't be surprised if the pendulum of European sympathies of Ukrainian citizens takes the opposite direction and turns towards the Eurasian integration.

Whether Europe is ready to this is an open question without an answer.”

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