Need­ing bold lead­ers

Kyiv Post - - Opinion -

The Euro­pean Union and the West, in­clud­ing the United States and Canada, have lost the ini­tia­tive in Ukraine.

Ukraine’s lead­ers, buoyed by six quar­ters of low eco­nomic growth and tax col­lec­tions ex­ceed­ing es­ti­mates by $1.5 bil­lion so far this year, are ig­nor­ing their friends and their com­mit­ments to lenders and donors such as the In­ter­na­tional Mone­tary Fund and the Euro­pean Union.

They will live to re­gret such a de­ci­sion, ei­ther at the next elec­tion in 2019 or at the next rev­o­lu­tion, which the elite are has­ten­ing with each missed op­por­tu­nity.

When des­per­ate for money, Ukraine’s lead­ers are all too ea­ger to ac­com­plish some re­form — at least start­ing with painful util­ity hikes, which did not dis­turb the oli­garchy’s grip on power and priv­i­lege.

They fur­ther were dragged into cre­at­ing more trans­parency and new anti-cor­rup­tion in­sti­tu­tions, know­ing full well that the changes were mainly cos­metic. Politi­cians still con­trol what mat­ters: the courts, prose­cu­tors and po­lice agen­cies, es­pe­cially the Se­cu­rity Ser­vice of Ukraine and In­te­rior Min­istry. So the Na­tional Anti-Cor­rup­tion Bu­reau of Ukraine, lack­ing com­plete in­de­pen­dence, un­der­staffed and with dys­func­tional courts, is in­ca­pable of de­liv­er­ing jus­tice — by de­sign.

Rel­a­tive eco­nomic pros­per­ity re­turned about the same time that pres­sure peaked for Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko to de­liver on the anti-cor­rup­tion agenda, in­clud­ing a new Supreme Court and cre­ation of an in­de­pen­dent anti-cor­rup­tion court.

In­stead, he will keep con­trol over a largely un­con­structed Supreme Court, join­ing another list of re­form fail­ures that in­cludes feigned at­tempts to over­haul Soviet-style prose­cu­tors and po­lice (ex­cept pa­trol of­fi­cers). Poroshenko will ob­struct the cre­ation of an anti-cor­rup­tion court be­cause no pres­i­dent or top oli­garch can tol­er­ate the risk of an in­de­pen­dent ju­di­cial sys­tem. Re­lent­ing to pres­sure, Poroshenko’s claimed on Oct. 4 that he all of a sud­den sup­ports an anti-cor­rup­tion court. His claim is not cred­i­ble, es­pe­cially his caveat that ev­ery­one should agree on what kind of court and that par­lia­ment should study the ques­tion -- yet another of his stalling tac­tic.

Ad­di­tion­ally, par­lia­ment passed a law un­der the guise of ju­di­cial “re­form” that re­quires crim­i­nal charges to be filed within six months of open­ing cases in­volv­ing se­ri­ous crimes and three months for less se­ri­ous crimes. It’s a ridicu­lous pro­vi­sion that will only bring more in­jus­tice.

Par­lia­ment also passed a law de­signed to cut the pen­sion deficit, but it still needs to be an­a­lyzed for its ef­fect on pen­sion­ers and the bud­get.

So far, par­lia­ment has not cre­ated an agri­cul­tural land mar­ket, made progress in sell­ing off state-owned en­ter­prises or rid the health sec­tor of waste­ful and cor­rupt prac­tices, although a key vote was sched­uled for Oct. 5. All changes are long over­due but not as­sured this ses­sion.

The West can re­gain the ini­tia­tive by show­ing bold lead­er­ship. Col­lec­tively, Ukraine’s friends have more lev­er­age than they think — if they sim­ply would use it in sup­port of Ukraini­ans. One big start would be to of­fer Ukraine a de­fin­i­tive per­spec­tive for EU mem­ber­ship. The EU could then set the tough con­di­tions and time­line to en­sure that Ukraine’s lead­ers don’t make just more empty prom­ises. The car­rot could be a ver­sion of a bold in­vest­ment plan, cham­pi­oned by a mem­ber of par­lia­ment Hanna Hopko and oth­ers, to pump at least $5 bil­lion a year in loans and grants to Ukrainian busi­nesses and in­fra­struc­ture. Right now, no gov­ern­ment in its right mind is go­ing to in­vest such sig­nif­i­cant amounts in Ukraine un­til its lead­ers demon­strate progress in rule of law -- and that means re­sults and an end to im­punity. Even un­der the best of cir­cum­stances, many govern­ments are too fi­nan­cially stressed and Ukraine, sadly, re­mains a low pri­or­ity.

A con­crete EU mem­ber­ship of­fer will gal­va­nize Ukrainian so­ci­ety to­wards a goal that most cit­i­zens as­pire to achieve. Pres­sure from out­side, the West, and in­side, from so­ci­ety, has worked won­ders. Ab­sent a mem­ber­ship per­spec­tive, the EU has lit­tle lev­er­age over Ukraine’s re­cal­ci­trant lead­ers — 600 mil­lion eu­ros here and there in tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance means noth­ing to Ukraine’s oli­garchs.

The 28-mem­ber bloc has al­ready granted visa-free travel and opened up trade, so those levers of in­flu­ence are gone. Still, those changes are smart and have al­ready pos­i­tively trans­formed Ukraine, so a clear EU mem­ber­ship path is needed to mo­ti­vate Ukraini­ans and their friends to find new ways to pre­vail against Rus­sia’s war. The more suc­cess that Ukraine achieves, the more de­mor­al­ized the Krem­lin will be­come. Courage and vi­sion are re­quired now to break the stale­mate.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ukraine

© PressReader. All rights reserved.