Ukraine Re­form Con­fer­ence will test na­tion’s progress


Ukraine's busi­ness and po­lit­i­cal lead­ers are pre­par­ing for a big in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence in Copen­hagen, Den­mark, on June 27 with three big ques­tion marks:

Will par­lia­ment pass leg­is­la­tion cre­at­ing a gen­uinely in­de­pen­dent anti-cor­rup­tion court?

Will it raise house­hold gas prices to mar­ket lev­els?

Will it cut its bud­get deficit to 2.5 per­cent of gross do­mes­tic prod­uct?

Th­ese are the three re­main­ing con­di­tions that the In­ter­na­tional Mone­tary Fund re­quires in order to restart lend­ing from a $17.5 bil­lion pro­gram that ends in March. Ukraine's stalling and back­slid­ing on th­ese three key re­forms froze lend­ing last year at $8.4 bil­lion in the four-year pro­gram.

Ruben Mad­sen, Den­mark's am­bas­sador in Ukraine, was optimistic on June 19 that Ukraine will de­liver on th­ese key ar­eas be­fore coming to Copen­hagen.

Den­mark is pick­ing up the ba­ton from the United King­dom, which last year hosted the Ukraine Re­form Con­fer­ence.

The an­nual event, which may be hosted by Canada in 2019, is a way for Ukraine's West­ern friends to dis­cuss Ukraine's progress and chart re­form pri­or­i­ties to get the na­tion closer to the stan­dards of even­tual mem­ber­ship in the Euro­pean Union, which is the goal of most Ukraini­ans.

Mad­sen said the con­fer­ence will fo­cus on two themes this year — good gov­er­nance and eco­nomic de­velpo­ment. It ap­pears that the Nord Stream 2 pro­ject, the ex­pan­sion of a gas pipe­line be­tween Rus­sia and Ger­many, will be dis­cussed. Ukraine and some of its friends are adamantly op­posed to the pro­ject be­cause it would by­pass Ukraine — de­priv­ing the na­tion of up to $2 bil­lion an­nu­ally in fees from tran­sit­ing gas from Rus­sia to Europe. Den­mark plays a piv­otal role as one of three na­tions where the pipe­line passes through ter­ri­to­rial waters, so it could con­ceiv­ably stop the pro­ject en­tirely. (The other two na­tions — Rus­sia and Ger­many — are pro­po­nents.)

Mad­sen said he ex­pects that Nord Stream 2 will come up on the side­lines. He said he doesn't know when Den­mark will de­cide whether to ap­prove or re­ject Nord Stream 2. The na­tion hopes for a Euro­pean Union so­lu­tion to the con­tro­ver­sial pro­ject.

Mad­sens said Den­mark is ex­pect­ing at least 10 for­eign min­is­ters to at­tend the Ukraine Re­form Con­fer­ence, in­clud­ing those from the Nordic and Baltic na­tions, as well as Poland. In­vi­ta­tions have been sent out to na­tions part of the G7, NATO and Euro­pean Union. Ad­di­tion­ally, Euro­pean Com­mis­sioner Jo­hannes Hahn is ex­pected.

Dan­ish Prime Min­is­ter Lars Løkke Ras­mussen and Ukrainian Prime Min­is­ter Volodymyr Groys­man will host the June 27 event.

The day be­fore, June 26, will be de­voted to strength­en­ing busi­ness ties with meet­ings of rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Con­fed­er­a­tion of Dan­ish In­dus­try and Ukrainian busi­nesses.

Be­sides Groys­man, among those mak­ing the trip from Ukraine, ac­cord­ing to pre­lim­i­nary plans, in­clude: Stepan Ku­biv, vice prime min­is­ter; Ok­sana Markarova, act­ing fi­nance min­is­ter; Fran­cis Malige of the Euro­pean Bank for Re­con­struc­tion and De­vel­op­ment; Hlib Vysh­lin­sky, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Cen­tre for Eco­nomic Strat­egy; Anna Derevyanko, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Euro­pean Busi­ness As­so­ci­a­toni; Ivanna Klym­push-Ts­in­tas­dze, vice prime min­is­ter; Hanna Hopko, head of the Com­mit­tee on For­eign Af­fairs of the Verkhovna Rada; and Lenna Koszarny, CEO of Hori­zon Cap­i­tal and ex­ec­u­tive vice president of the West­ern NIS En­ter­prise Fund.

Ukraine could not have found a more sup­port­ive host — or a bet­ter role model.

The Scan­di­na­vian na­tion, with only 5.7 mil­lion peo­ple com­pared to Ukraine's 42 mil­lion peo­ple, has an econ­omy three times the size of Ukraine's $100 bil­lion a year out­put. The King­dom of Den­mark is one of the rich­est, hap­pi­est, least cor­rupt and most gen­er­ous na­tions.

Mad­sen is strik­ing a "mod­estly optimistic" tone about the con­fer­ence if Ukraine can get the right anti-cor­rup­tion court leg­is­la­tion passed be­fore the June 27 meet­ing. Ukraine's West­ern friends "would have liked to have seen" such an anti-cor­rup­tion court "a long time ago," he said.

"We should be care­ful not to fall into the gloomy ditch," Mad­sen said from the Dan­ish Em­bassy in Kyiv. "Ev­ery road has a ditch on each side — too gloomy and too rosy… Ukraine is on the road to get­ting rid of the 'old Ukraine," he said, and de­serves sup­port in reach­ing its des- tina­tions, he said.

But im­punity for those "steaing the fu­ture of the coun­try" must stop, he said. "They should be pros­e­cuted. No­body has been con­victed. Ukraine must get out of the sit­u­a­tion with this im­punity — that any­body could steal and noth­ing would hap­pen."

Nonethe­less, Mad­sen said, Ukraine has achieved "re­mark­able re­sults, not dra­matic, but re­mark­able re­sults" in re­form, cit­ing as last year's adop­tion of trans­par­ent value-added tax re­turns that elim­i­nate ar­bi­trari­ness and re­duce cor­rup­tion.

Ukraine is "not at the point of no re­turn," he said, and must reach that point "where the fruits are so clear and the costs are so ob­vi­ous."

He cau­tions against push­ing too hard.

"West­ern coun­tries lose tran­si­tion coun­tries by ask­ing too much," Mad­sen said. "We can't af­ford for Ukraine to slide away and into sta­bil­ity."

A sight­see­ing ves­sel is seen at Ny­havn Canal in Copen­hagen, Den­mark, on Oct. 9, 2015. (AFP)

Dan­ish Am­bas­sador to Ukraine Ruben Mad­sen speaks with the Kyiv Post on June 19, of­fer­ing a pre­view of the June 27 Ukraine Re­form Con­fer­ence in Copen­hagen, Den­mark. (Volodymyr Petrov)

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