Fine-tuning support for Ukrainian democratization


Ukraine has made some progress along the path of democratization, but the government has stalled on many reform imperatives and has recently been mired in a debilitating political crisis, argues Carnegie Europe analyst Richard Youngs. The European Union (EU) can most usefully fine-tune support for Ukraine’s still-fragile democracy in three areas in which the most room for improvement exists – conditionality, decentralization, and civil society, he contends:

Tailor conditionality to put greater focus on key political pressure points and less on technical and economic reforms. The EU’s primary leverage over Ukrainian political change is its ability to condition its support on reform progress. Indeed, this is where the union has clear added influence compared with other international actors—because of the amount of money it provides and because EU laws are used as the template for many Ukrainian reforms. ….

Broaden and reinforce support for decentralization to facilitate local-level political participation across the whole of Ukraine. Decentralization is a pivotal area of political reform. While decentralization is not inherently beneficial for democratization, evidence shows that when accompanied by strong institutions and a rules-based legal culture, it can provide a fillip to popular support for political reforms….. 

Widen support for agents of change to include new and not necessarily pro-EU civic and political actors. The EU needs to update the way it supports civic and political actors…..The European Endowment for Democracy, which receives funds from the European Commission and some EU member states, has tried to foster innovative linkages between the civic and political spheres, for instance by helping activists’ efforts to forge new party structures. But such approaches are few and far between. U.S. party foundations are well ahead of their European counterparts in the vital area of political party work, in particular on party financing issues and manifesto preparation. The EU and member states need to rectify this oversight. …..The EU also needs to widen its circle of civil society and political interlocutors. It needs to engage with those who do not share liberal, pro-EU views—a sector that is gaining ground in parts of Ukraine. This is because Ukraine needs deeper civic capabilities, not merely louder pro-EU voices.

“These three recommendations offer a very select set of suggestions for how the EU can mold its policies more tightly around the specific state of play in Ukrainian reform,” Youngs suggests. RTWT

Corruption and weak rule of law are generally considered to be the main obstacles to foreign direct investment in Ukraine, Rutgers University’s Alexander J. Motyl (right) notes in World Affairs. Does Ukraine differ in this respect from other post-Soviet states? he asks Ukraine investor, Ian Hague.

HAGUE: I think that, compared to other countries in the former Soviet Union with broad and deep corruption problems, Ukraine is unique in having a government whose principal claim to legitimacy is that it has credibly committed to do something about it. Given that Ukraine has a strong civil society with a track record of compelling accountability from its leaders, I have confidence that progress can be made on the corruption and rule of law issues, but it will be hard work. As in Russia, the administration of justice is still more a profit-oriented business than a function of government. This is intolerable and greatly undermines the authority and legitimacy of the state. For entrepreneurs it makes setting up and operating new businesses unthinkable without the right “connections.” 


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