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Reframing “The Ukrainian Roadshow”

July 5, 2017

As is known the blog is a Chatham House member, and was thus interested in the oratory at the Chatham House Ukraine Conference in London of 5th July.  Sadly as a Chatham House member permanently in Ukraine, there was no live webcast and it was unfortunately necessary to follow events via twitter.  Not exactly the best way to absorb the wisdom (or not) of so many people known to the blog personally.  Perhaps somewhere in the Chatham House Members Enclosure a recording will appear at a future date.

To rub salt into that Chatham House wound, the UK FCO will actually be broadcasting their Ukrainian reform conference event live on 6th June – in both English and Ukrainian.

Chatham House being outdone by the FCO, quite frankly, will not do!  Perhaps it is time for the blog to defect from Chatham House and enter the warm embrace of RUSI instead.

But what will be different about this Ukraine reform event compared to those historically?

Will it not be more of the same – “Please invest in a recovering Ukrainian economy (which it is) despite our weak grasp upon the rule of law and thoroughly unpredictable and corrupt courts.”  Or, “Please buy our entities for privatisation despite numerous eddies and swirling troubled waters beneath many of them at the price we say is fair, rather than at a price anybody is prepared to pay on the understanding that they actually have little understanding of what lurks beneath any SOE – due diligence or not.”

Apparently it will not be more of the same (though time, as it always does, will tell).

It appears having now achieved Visa-free travel within the Schengen nations and eventually reached the end of a very slow ratification process of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement (and DCFTA), Ukraine will draw a line under the past few extremely difficult and meandering years with regard to reform and associated “Ukrainian roadshows”.  The new foundation looking to the future, are these newly effective Ukrainian anchors now firmly dropped within Europe.

That will mean taking stock of what has been achieved thus far – and trumpeting it loudly as successes despite the very difficult circumstances.  Successes there have been – how consolidated and irreversible they are is perhaps an different matter.

Therefore the next stage of the reform journey will have to be outlined, specifically, in terms of what is achievable, over what time period, and where benchmarks will be placed to measure progress.  (For those readers now pondering the fact that the Association Agreement (and DCFTA) is in and of itself a 10 year plan replete with specifics, time frames, and benchmarks against which to measure progress – well, good point, well made!)

There is also a requirement to address and plan any common future beyond the scope of existing ratified obligations.

EU and NATO Membership can reasonably be counted in decades from becoming a reality – if Ukraine would still want to join whatever those institutions look like decades hence.

Nevertheless in the meantime between “what there is now” and “what is still over the medium long-term horizon” there is scope for further integration and partnership.  Yet more Ukrainian anchors to be dropped in European waters etc. if those areas can be identified and strategically ticked off in parallel to existing Association Agreement obligations.

Naturally having a 10 year plan within the ratified Association Agreement is not the same thing as having a short term Ukrainian plan.  Nor is it enough to make the short term 3 year Ukrainian plan a simple abstract of the commitments within 3 years of the Association Agreement.

One plan of which all Ukrainian roadshow hosts are already aware?  One obligated goal?    That would be too easy and also present little to sell to an audience.

The reframed Ukrainian roadshow will have at its core the new 534 page Cabinet of Ministers 2017 – 2020 Action Plan.

To save the less adventurous reader clicking the above link, this Action Pan can be broken down to strategic competencies – Economic growth, good governance, human capital development, rule of law/corruption and security and defence.

There are Tables within that have the following headers – “Problems”, “Priority Actions, “Brief Description” and “Link to International Commitments”.

For those that live by bullet points – Economic Tables, pages 14 – 34.  Governance Tables, pages 38 – 45.  Human Capital Development Tables, pages 49 -66.  Rule of Law/Corruption pages 70 – 77.  Security and Defence Tables, pages 81 – 94.

Those who swiftly peruse those tables  will surely be struck by just how empty the “Problems” columns are – with the exception of Governance and Rule of Law which have the most “problems” listed.

To be entirely blunt, the “Problems” column should be full where there is nothing in all tables.

It should list “Governance” and “Rule of Law” as a problem for achieving each and every objective.  At its most fundamental, Ukraine’s problem today is the same as it has always been since independence – Rule of Law – or more precisely the lack of it and/or even application of it, from enforcement to verdict and everything in between.

Its second most problematic issue is good governance – or more to the point, a lack of it and/or inconsistency in the application of good governance and policy implementation.

Without the rule of law and good governance all else is on very dodgy foundations.  To be blunt good governance is not exactly the norm in Ukraine, and the State’s grasp upon the rule of law is somewhat weak.  Lady Justice is not so much blind, but rather a harlot.

As such, every line item in every table within the “Problems” column of the 2017-2020 Action Plan should state “Rule of Law” and “Political Will” – for these are the two that will facilitate or undermine all else.

Nevertheless, the Ukrainian roadshows will henceforth be reframed around the Action Plan, and who can do what among the supporters of Ukraine to further assist in its achievement.  It seems there will be far less of simply holding out a cap and hoping a naive investor will thoughtlessly throw in some cash.

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