EU-Ukraine civil society tackles corruption and energy policy issues

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The 2nd meeting of the EU-Ukraine Civil Society Platform (CSP) focused on the much needed reforms in anti-corruption and energy policy and discussed the state of play in the implementation of the Association Agreement between Europe and Ukraine. The Ukrainian civil society organisations strongly called for a swift implementation of the Association Agreement and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA), in particular, appealing to the Netherlands to support the Agreement.

EESC President George Dassis opened the second meeting of the EU-Ukraine Civil Society Platform and stressed the EU's commitment to seek good partnership with all countries in the European Neighbourhood. "The CSP will bring added value to the association process and provide valuable inputs from civil society", said Mr. Dassis.  However, the process must involve Civil Society and not be limited to a technical dialogue between the Ukrainian government and EU authorities, as the expected and necessary reforms will ultimately impact the lives of its citizens.

“This marks a new stage in the institutional cooperation between our civil societies”, stressed the co-chair of the Platform on the Ukrainian side Oleksandr Sushko, who is Research Director at the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation. This Platform, established in 2015, provides a forum for a large group of representatives from Ukrainian NGOs, employers’ organizations and trade unions to meet with their European counterparts, representing not only the EESC, but also the largest European civil society networks.

The European External Action Service (EEAS) represented by Fernando Andresen Guimaraes, Acting Director for Russia, Eastern Partnership, Central Asia and OSCE, repeated EEAS’ support to the work of the Platform as one of the key components that will implement the AA.

Peter Wagner, Head of the Support Group for Ukraine, reminded that not all difficulties have their roots in the Russia-Ukraine conflict but are simply home-made. While he acknowledged some progress in the reform process, he in particular referred to the lack of reliable legislation, radical measures for fighting corruption, a reform of the civil service, including decent salaries for civil servants and the process of privatisation of state owned enterprises.

CSP members from both sides agreed that the lack of political will to implement the adopted reforms in Ukraine was one of the priorities to be tackled in the future, if real changes were to be achieved. They also called on the EU Member States to push, with all necessary political and economic means, for a full enforcement of the Minsk Agreements, expressing their unequivocal support for the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.

A Joint Declaration was adopted which underlined that all fields of reform are inextricably linked in the fight against corruption, and it was essential to establish a fully independent judiciary and a modern civil service, to adopt laws regarding political party financing and political advertising, to ensure freedom of the press and effective competition law to protect all economic actors and provide a level playing field. On energy, the CSP supported Ukraine’s aspiration to become an integral part of the common EU energy market, and encouraged the EU to consider Ukraine’s future membership in the European Energy Union. CSP members recognized it as win-win format for both sides, as it would increase energy security and result in better integration of energy markets of Ukraine and the EU.