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Another reformation plan for Ukraine

January 29, 2015

There seems to be an increasing number of plans to reform Ukraine.

There is the EU Association Agreement (and DCFTA) that has, since its negotiations were concluded, been widely touted as a framework reform plan for Ukraine.

There is the 66 page coalition agreement, agreeing a reform plan for Ukraine.

There is also the President’s 2020 Plan for Ukraine, outlining reform.

There are almost 30 parliamentary committees designed to reform their respective competencies.

We have the Venice Commission asked to suggest reforms to the Constitution of Ukraine.

Economic reforms will be shaped by the IMF and other global lenders, once they have rewritten the Ukrainian budget – so written as to be rewritten, thus providing the ability for the Ukrainian government to blame the IMF for what will be very unpopular (but required) actions.  A particularly spineless act by a government that knows what is required and still shies away from do what is necessary.

There is also the NATO plan for reforming the Ukrainian military.

Indeed, though it possible to continue listing reform plans, instead let us add yet another plan to the list of reformation plans.

We now have a Council of Europe plan for reforming Ukraine.

At some point, perhaps, somebody plans to read it.  Maybe there will be a plan for somebody to sit down with all the plans and collate, compare, and come up with another plan – perhaps a grand reformation plan – incorporating all the plans that already exist.

In fact, the Council of Europe’s plan is a well structured, well explained and clearly financed plan.  It is far less woolly than any plans created within Ukraine and far more transparent too.  As a plan that runs until 2017, it is also an ambitious plan if it expects to make serious inroads into the areas listed.

As with most things in need of reform in Ukraine, the Council of Europe’s plan centres on the law and the need to synchronise Ukrainian law within the parameters of European laws.  Insomuch as that is a necessary step for Ukraine to pursue its European integration desires, it is a good plan.  The requirement for a legal framework within the parameters of the European normative is clear.

However, writing laws is not enough on its own – even writing laws that fall comfortably within the European parameters of acceptability.  Writing new laws is not a form of magic that will instantly – or perhaps ever – cure or prevent the ills they were written to address.

Words such as “implementation”, “benchmark” and “reporting” do indeed feature frequently within the Council of Europe plan – making it far and away better than any Ukrainian plan simply by mentioning the words, for it implies a form of, and system of, measurement – a much needed way to (accurately) assess results along the way.

Yet this may still not be enough to reform Ukraine.

Ukraine has little problem in writing laws – be they good, bad or indifferent.  It can also form policy – be it effective, ineffective or counterproductive.

What Ukraine consistently fails upon is implementation, whether it genuinely tries to implement policy or law, or not.

The reason for this is a complete unwillingness to accept responsibility.

Nobody takes ownership of a policy, or a reform, or a law.  It may be argued that “the government” may occasionally be forced to recognise the failing of this or that policy or law, but nobody ever gets sacked (let alone offers to resign) because of bureaucratic/administrative/institutional failings – not government ministers, not RADA committee members, rarely regional governors or metropolitan leaders.  Personal accountability and readiness to accept that responsibility is (almost) zero.

If anybody gets sacked (as nobody ever resigns because nobody ever takes responsibility) it is somebody nobody has ever heard of, so low down the food chain, they are swimming amongst the plankton in the sea of culpability.  If those who are sacked are “connected”, then within a few months they are reappointed, even if elsewhere within the behemoth of governance in Ukraine.

There are EU missions on the ground in Ukraine to monitor reform – for example the “rule of law” monitoring mission will be in Ukraine until at least summer 2016.  But monitoring, like observing, means just that – it does not mean get involved (and if you do, stretching your mandate, your influence is generally zero).

Thus, amongst all the plans, as well meaning and necessary as they are, perhaps there is a need to generate yet another plan.  A plan to change the psyche of those in positions of leadership, authority and public service.  A plan to euthenise homo-sovieticus within all State apparatus and replace them with more advanced beings perhaps.

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