*No time to relax for Ukraine
There are several trends in international and Ukrainian politics that lead to a not very optimistic conclusion: 2018 will be a challenging year.
When it comes to the relations between Ukraine and its leading foreign partners the agenda of the most important issues looks like this: bringing peace to the Donbas, delivering on more reforms, and continuing the fight against corruption. Currently, there is a tension when it comes to fulfilment of each of those provisions.
Let’s start with a fight against corruption. In the last months of 2017 Ukrainian authorities did almost everything to deserve a title of saboteurs of the fight against corruption.
Many still remember the accusations of Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko against the National Anti Corruption Bureau of Ukraine, the leading national anti-corruption institution. He claimed NABU was abusing its power, breaking the law, and conducts illegal investigations. The GPO went as far as detaining NABU agents during a sting operation at the national migration service and publicly called NABU “an illegal clique”.
Together with the obvious lack of progress in creating a specialized anti-corruption court and the investigations against anti-corruption activists, the attack on NABU looked like a deliberate step back in the fight against corruption.
The events in Kyiv drew a harsh critique from civil society and the country’s foreign partners who reminded the government, in diplomatic but pointed tones, that progress in the fight against corruption is one of the preconditions of the continuation of foreign support to Ukraine.
Under pressure President Petro Poroshenko has submitted a long-awaited law on the specialized anti-corruption court to the parliament. Yet the president’s draft proposal was received by a civil society with a great deal of scepticism.
The tension was resolved over the Christmas holidays and the beginning of the long holiday period, but now with the Verkhovna Rada back to work, the anti-corruption agenda will inevitably return. Last-year’s attack on NABU showed the determination of the civil sector and its constant “combat readiness”. Whatever was the reason for GPO and SBU to start the attack, let’s hope they learned the lesson that no-one will tolerate sabotage of the fight against corruption. It is obvious it will remain among the top topics of 2018.
Yet it is important to remember that the attack on anti-corruption institutions wasn’t the only reason for people to take to the streets during the cold winter months in Kyiv. That became a trigger to gather for people who have already felt connected to something else: a feeling of frustration.
There is a general feeling that the tempo of changes in Ukraine has slowed significantly and the stabilization that has been achieved, compared to the economic collapse in 2014, has led to a relaxation of the pressure to pursue change.
What happens when authorities don’t feel the urge to demand change? They stop trying and return to playing their power games. Frustration over the lack of progress with Ukrainian reforms and economic development is felt not only in Kyiv. Ukrainians have been showing their disappointment on social media, local protests, or much more often, by simply leaving the country.
Foreign donors are also sending signals something is going very wrong. The European Union cancelled its last tranche of €600mn after Ukraine failed to fulfil four of its preconditions for support. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) was supposed to give Ukraine credits of $4bn in 2017 but the country received only $1bn, while it had to pay back $1.3bn. Even Ukrainian Finance Minister Oleksandr Danylyuk shared his fear Ukraine will not receive the 2018 tranche, which, according to him, is the last chance to receive financing as part of the current IMF programme that expires in the first quarter of 2019.
An activist, journalist and co-founder of Global Ukrainians, an international network of Ukrainians worldwide, Kateryna Kruk was awarded the Atlantic Council Freedom Award for her work communicating the Euromaidan revolution to the world. She predicted a frozen conflict in July 2014, which has largely come to pass, and now comments on the progress of crucial reforms in Ukraine.
* The publication is not an editorial. It reflects solely the point of view and argumentation of the author. The publication is presented in the presentation. Start in the previous issue. The original is available at: http://intellinews.com
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