2. Ukraine: a quasi-authoritarian kleptocracy
For Europe, the concern is that the Ukrainian elites are carrying out this agenda while posing as “pro-European” and claiming to lead the country towards Europe. But the events of the previous months show that, with the current political class in power, there is no European future for Ukraine.
Like in Moldova before, the private enrichment of ostensibly “pro-European” politicians will only discredit the Union, diminish its influence and derail the reform process within the country. The EU therefore needs to act now if it wants to maintain credibility in the Eastern Neighbourhood.
For now, diplomatic protests from the United States, the European Union, and the International Monetary Fund have prevented the worst. The EU has withheld the third package of macrofinancial assistance, but this will not prevent Ukraine from backsliding further, given that it can now borrow from financial markets.
The EU has also threatened to suspend visa-liberalisation, as Ukraine no longer meets the criteria for visa-free travel (introduced following reforms in 2016). European leaders are understandably reluctant to carry out this threat, because it would harm average Ukrainians rather than the corrupt elite.
Targeted freezes of European assets owned by particularly corrupt and reform-blocking members of the Ukrainian power elite would be a much better instrument. This would send a clear signal in the run-up to the 2019 presidential and parliamentary elections, that Ukraine’s self-styled ‘pro-European’ elites are nothing of the sort. Moreover, a threat to his re-election and power may be the only language Poroshenko understands.
Many Europeans shy away from confronting the Ukrainian leadership this directly as they fear that this would damage Ukraine’s struggle for independence and sovereignty vis a vis Russia. But this hesitation is misplaced. Corruption and sovereignty are distinct issues which must be treated as such.
Ukraine as a country deserves support for its territorial integrity because Russia has illegally invaded and annexed parts of its country. This behaviour by Moscow can by no means be justified or ex-post legalised because Ukraine’s officials are corrupt. Equally, if the current Ukrainian government fails to deliver on its promises to fight corruption (as obligated under the EU-Ukraine-DCFTA) this must have consequences, regardless of its struggle with Russia.
The central demands of the revolution of dignity were to transform Ukraine into a country that respects the rule of law, treats its citizens equally and respectfully, and puts checks and balances in place to prevent the unlawful enrichment of political elites. Poroshenko and his government have failed miserably regarding all of these demands. Increasingly, his administration is transforming new Ukraine into a mirror image of the old Ukraine. European leaders should not provide geopolitical fig-leaves for this regression.
- The publication is not an editorial. It reflects solely the point of view and argumentation of the author. The publication is presented in the presentation. Start in the previous issue. The original is available at: eu
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