Report “Open Ukraine.Changing Course towards a European Future”
Open Ukraine.Changing Course towards a European Future
Why an Open Ukraine is the Best Path for its Citizens, its Elites, and its Neighbors
Taras Kuzio and Daniel Hamilton
In this volume a number of distinguished experts offer analysis and recommendations in politics, the economy, rule of law and corruption, national identity, energy, European integration and foreign policy. Together these contributions set forth a vision for an Open Ukraine, a democracy accountable to its people with a socially responsible market economy, governed by an administration that respects the rule of law, fights corruption and that can effectively implement needed reforms, and that is increasingly integrated into the European mainstream. This vision of Open Ukraine would fulfill the country's enormous potential, which has been beyond the grasp of every Ukrainian administration since independence.
Major strides forward in democratization following the 2004 Orange Revolution were combined with political instability and economic growth, until the 2008 global financial crisis. The Freedom House human rights think tank upgraded Ukraine to 'Free,' the only country in the CIS to receive this ranking. Progress in democratization in some areas, notably democratic elections and free media, however, were not matched by progress in the rule of law, fighting corruption and democratic control of law enforcement structures. Bohdan Vitvitsky and Stephen Larrabee discuss how the failure to combat these factors led to public disillusionment in the leaders of the Orange Revolution and made it relatively easy to quickly dismantle Ukraine's democratic gains following Viktor Yanukovych's narrow 3% election victory in February 2010.
Widespread U.S., Canadian and European hopes that President Yanukovych had accepted the democratic rules of the game and was therefore different from Prime Minister Yanukovych, who had been proven to be unfounded. Today, a concerted effort is under way to build an autocratic regime, with significant implications for Ukrainian society and Ukraine's integration into Europe, again preventing the country from fulfilling its potential as an Open Ukraine. In this regard, the conviction of former Prime Minister and opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko in October 2011 to seven years imprisonment and three years ban from holding office is a watershed event, the most visible and emblematic manifestation of the country's turn away from Europe toward autocracy. The sentence has jeopardized Ukraine's chances of entering into an Association Agreement (including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement-DCFTA) with the EU that has been under negotiation since 2008, when the country joined the WTO. Integration into Europe, while not the full membership that a majority of Ukrainians support, would bring enormous benefits of access to the world's largest trading area, giving unlimited opportunities for the Ukrainian economy and its companies; institutional and legislative alignment that would strengthen the country's state-building processes; and visa-free access for citizens- all areas analyzed in great detail by Peter Balazs in his chapter in this volume. If Ukraine's leaders truly desire an Open Ukraine, then European integration is the country's best- and only- option.
Ukraine held four democratic elections between December 2004 and February 2010, but concern whether future elections would remain democratic became evident in widespread European and U.S. criticism of the conduct of October 2010 local elections, which failed to meet international standards. With Tymoshenko and other opposition leaders in jail it will be difficult for the OSCE and Council of Europe to recognize the 2012 elections as democratic. The conduct of parliamentary elections in October 2012 and strategic decisions about much-needed reforms will remain key benchmarks for Ukraine's likely direction over the coming decade. Other manifestations of democratic backsliding since 2010 include a decline in media freedom and the right to peaceful assembly, the erosion of parliamentary independence and monopolization of political power, and un-democratic practices against the opposition by the Interior Ministry, Prosecutor-General's office and Security Service (SBU).
Towards an Open Ukraine: Policy Recommendations
Ukraine is one of the biggest, but also the second poorest country in Europe after Moldova. Given its territorial size, its geographic position, its almost 50 million population and its role as the main transit state for Russian oil and gas exports to central and western Europe, Ukraine has been a critical strategic factor for Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian security in the two decades of its independence. Today, it stands at a critical crossroads between developing a more open society increasingly integrated into the European space of democracy, prosperity and market-based economics grounded in respect for human rights and the rule of law, or an increasingly autocratic system, mired in the economic stagnation and political instability that is historically characteristic of Europe's borderlands. The choice is straightforward: Ukraine can either join the European mainstream or remain in a gray zone of insecurity between Europe and Russia. The following recommendations outline how Ukraine could move away from immobility in the gray zone of domestic and international politics in which it finds itself, break its reform logjam and become an Open Ukraine- a democracy accountable to its people with a socially responsible market economy, governed by an administration that respects the rule of law, fights corruption and that can effectively implement needed reforms, and that is increasingly integrated into the European mainstream. These proposals are intended to expand the horizons of Ukrainian elites and opinion leaders and equip them with concrete reasons to move from short-term "momentocracy" to a more powerful vision that could guide their country. They also suggest ways Ukraine's neighbors can make the costs and benefits of Ukraine's choices clear.
Political Reforms and Democratization
Ukraine's fundamental problem has been government dysfunction with leaders changing the constitution and election laws to deny power to the opposition or maximize power for themselves after elections. For Ukraine to have more effective governance, it must tackle seven interrelated challenges: switching from a presidential to a parliamentary political system, which is better suited for encouraging democratization; parliamentary and legislative reform; administrative reform; strengthening the rule of law; judicial reform; eradicating systemic corruption; and strengthening civil society and independent media.