Why can’t Ukraine establish the rule of law?


Why is Ukraine having so much trouble establishing a state governed by the rule of law? According to analyst Susan Stewart, maintaining a legal vacuum obviously serves the interests of economic and political elites who put personal power and enrichment above all else.

An evaluation of the measures taken to introduce the rule of law shows that large parts of Ukraine’s current elite lack the will to bring about substantial change, she writes for the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP)*:

In addition, many civil servants are corrupt and lack professionalism. Reforms in the rule-of-law area are therefore proceeding very slowly and often remain ineffective. It is thus evident that the main driving force for such reforms must come from outside of the elite – primarily from external actors and Ukrainian civil society.

Since external actors are not in a position to replace problematic political figures, they should place more emphasis on raising the level of professionalism. Training measures, for instance on tackling conflicts of interest, can make a contribution here if they are tailored to the Ukrainian context. To guarantee this, it would make sense to cooperate closely with relevant civil society organisations in the country.

The Ukrainian National Platform of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum today called for immediate measures to release Nadiya Savchenko (right), a Ukrainian pilot, delegate of the Parliamentary Delegation to the Council of Europe, deputy of the Parliament of Ukraine, who was captured and imprisoned by the Russian authorities.

At her recent trial, Savchenko was about to give her final statement on March 3, when judges interrupted the proceedings, notes Jeffrey Gedmin, a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council and a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service:

She was prepared to call Putin “a tyrant, with imperial habits,” and wanted to remind of the European appeasement and American indecisiveness that once abetted the rise of Nazi Germany (Savchenko’s unspoken words have been released by her sister). She was ready to conclude, by saying of her Ukrainian countrymen—who she rightly predicted would stand vigil during her hunger strike—that in time “ordinary, honest, and decent Russians in nearby houses will start bringing them hot tea, sandwiches, and warm clothes, because they understand that tomorrow their children could be in my place.”

With her own uncompromised soul, a courageous Ukrainian has found her voice. Russians may start to find theirs. We must rediscover ours as well.

*This article was originally published by the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP) in February 2016.

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