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Foreign Policy Research Institute

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The election year did not become a year of success in European integration

At the end of 2019, on November 20, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine adopted a resolution that amended the Action Plan on Implementation of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. The updated plan takes into account the deepening of bilateral relations between Ukraine and the EU and a series of decisions adopted by the bilateral bodies of the Association in recent years. The Action Plan is aimed at fulfilling the tasks of the Government's Action Program, namely to achieve Ukraine's compliance with the European Union membership criteria. The Government's decision allows to "reset" the software for the operating system of the European integration of Ukraine. This will accelerate Ukraine's advancement towards the EU, in parallel will make it more transparent, and make the government really accountable to citizens of Ukraine.[1]

On December 12, 2019, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted Law No. 2172 "On amendments to certain legislative acts of Ukraine regarding reducing pressure upon businesses by market surveillance authorities". The adoption of the relevant law is one of the last conditions that Ukraine has to fulfill  in order to start negotiations with the EU on signing the first agreements on the introduction of "industrial visa-free" regime, that is, simplified export of industrial goods from Ukraine to the EU without additional certification. The law also provides for the implementation of Ukraine's obligations in the field of European integration, provided for by the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, and brings closer current legislation of Ukraine in the field of state market surveillance with the requirements of the European Union legislation.[2]

Nevertheless, according to the report for 2019, parliament, government and other executive authorities fulfilled only 37% of the planned tasks of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement last year - this is the lowest figure in recent yearsThe government showed the highest level of fulfilling the tasks - 53% of the activities according to the Plan. The Verkhovna Rada fulfilled only 12% of the tasks, other state authorities – 21%. "100% of tasks were fulfilled in the fields of "Political dialogue, national security and defense", "Education, training, youth", "Financial cooperation and combating fraud", as well as "Social policy and labor relations" during 2019,  the report said.

Ukraine showed the worst progress in the fields "Statistics and information exchange", "Public Financial Management"and "Consumer protection". On January 1, 2020, the overall progress in implementing the Association Agreement over a 10-year period (2014-2024 years) was 43%. "The greatest progress since the implementation of the Association Agreement achieved in the following areas "Political dialogue, national security and defense" - 86%, "Justice, freedom, security, human rights" - 82%, "Government procurement" - 80%, "Technical barriers to trade" - 79%, "Entrepreneurship" - 76%", the report said. Ukraine is significantly behind schedule in implementation of its obligations under the Agreement in such areas as "Transport, transport infrastructure, postal and courier services" (19%), "Financial sector" (22%), "Energy industry" (29%).[3]

Unfortunately, the election year did not become a year of success in European integration. Quite the contrary. Most eloquent figure: An indicator of overall progress in the implementation of the Agreement. At the beginning of 2019 it was 42%. For the year, at the beginning of 2020, the government reported about 43% of the overall progress."This result was unexpected for us. It probably makes sense to move away from the principles of awarding points for intermediate work and evaluate only fulfilled tasks. It turns out that the final implementation of the necessary reforms, which was the most difficult, received a very moderate assessment", the office of the Vice Prime Minister for European integration informally explains. However, without preparatory work, the reform will not be possible to carry out. And more trouble with them. Because only 37% of the tasks planned were completed in the schedule for 2019. This is the lowest progress this year during the implementation of the Agreement. Thus, in the report for 2018, this figure was 52%, for 2017 – 41%.

The government reminds that they were forced not only to perform current tasks, but also to "pull up old debts". This is true (and this explanation was in past years). Especially what concerns the Verkhovn Rada -having failed to implement the plan for 2019, for the autumn, the Rada really pulled up the figures of previous years. The low result of 2019 can be explained by two election campaigns. According to this logic, it follows that the results of this year should be completely different. Moreover, local authorities (and this year will be planned local elections in the state) are almost not involved in the implementation of the Association Agreement. But will this logic work? The results of the first two months can produce results. [4]

Already on February 13, 2020, President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky agreed with European Commissioner, Oliver Vargey on the priorities of cooperation between Ukraine and the EU for 2020. Among them are the signing of an Agreement on Common Aviation Area, the beginning of negotiations on the so-called "industrial visa-free" regime, the deepening of cooperation in the digital sphere, cooperation within the framework of the "European Green Deal", the beginning of a system update of the annexes to the Association Agreement. The parties discussed progress in realisation systemic reforms in Ukraine, in particular in the context of implementing the Association Agreement, and agreed on further support from the EU to ensure the state's economic growth. Volodymyr Zelensky noted that Ukraine expects investment support from the European Union and EU member-states. [5]

Summing up the above, 2019 showed that despite the low threshold of the implementation of the Association Agreement with the EU, the newly elected authorities continue to work on the European integration of Ukraine. According to this report, Ukraine needs to improve its results, and in particular this concerns the achievement of "industrial visa-free" regime with the European Union as soon as possible, which will certainly be an important achievement of our state within the framework of the Agreement. Also, in the future, the Ukrainian authorities should focus on those aspects in which we are lagging behind, namely: "Transport, transport infrastructure, postal and courier services", "Financial sector"and "Energy industry".