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Euro dreams need legislation

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Euro dreams need legislation

  By Mykola SIRUK, The Day

Photo by Ruslan KANIUKA, The Day



^ Internal "European Control"

Bureau for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration established at the Government of Ukraine to start its operations. Vice-Prime Minister Hryhory Nemyrya will coordinate its activities. This new institution will have to ensure consistency of European integration course irrespective of domestic policy situation and to monitor the compliance of the Ukrainian executive authorities' decisions with the EU norms and standards.

Most Ukrainians have opted for Ukraine’s membership in the European Union. This has been proved by numerous surveys. However, in the aftermath of the events in the Caucasus, when Russian troops invaded Georgia this past August, there has also been an increase in public support for Ukraine’s accession to NATO.

It would seem that the Ukrainian government and political class should have taken advantage of this situation and used the new-found opportunities to achieve quicker integration into both European and Euro-Atlantic structures. But for some reason, Ukrainian politicians decided once more to get even with each other. As a result, Ukraine may well find itself even farther away from the European community of nations and collective security system.

Regardless of what’s happening in Ukraine, it is necessary to consider the possibilities of bringing it closer to European living standards. One can only hope that an important role in this will be played by the recently established Coordination Bureau for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration. Below is The Day’s exclusive interview with its director Vadym TRIUKHAN.

V.T.: As regards the creation of this bureau, the situation looks quite logical. A great many documents have been adopted in our country since 1998. These documents declare Ukraine’s European integration prospects. First, it was the strategy of Ukraine’s integration into the EU, then the integration program, which was followed by the national program aimed at adjusting Ukrainian legislation to that of the EU, a program for providing information to the general public, offering training to qualified personnel, the implementation of various plans and measures aimed at implementing these programs, and so on.

Also, the Ukraine-EU partnership and cooperation agreement, which came into force in 1998, is supposed to become a kind of mini-constitution regulating relations between Brussels and Kyiv. Finally, in 2005, the Ukraine-EU Action Plan was signed as an additional instrument for developing Ukrainian-EU relations. Despite this large number of documents, no positive results have been achieved in terms of Ukraine’s internal preparedness for EU membership.


Because the system of bodies that were responsible for the implementation of the European integration policy was quite scattered. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs coordinated one aspect of these relations, specifically matters relating to foreign policy and security questions. The Ministry of Economy dealt with trade relations and sectoral cooperation. The Ministry of Justice coordinated matters relating to cooperation in the sphere of justice, freedom, and security.

In 2005, when the post of deputy prime minister for European integration was first introduced, and held by Oleh Ry­bachuk, there was a plan to set up an institution to draft a coordinated European integration policy. It was supposed to be a ministry or a committee, but the end result was a mechanical increase in the personnel of the relevant subdivision of the Secretariat of the Council of Ministers of Ukraine: up to 50 people. By the way, even this decision was never carried out. I believe that in 2005, the declared intentions were not implemented because it was very difficult to overcome the resistance and conservatism of separate ministries and their heads, who were loath to have what they believed would be a competitive player in the game.

Deputy Prime Minister Nemyria accepted his post with the clear understanding that the existing status quo had to be decisively altered, otherwise the result would be the same as the one in Ivan Krylov’s fable “The Swan, the Pike and the Crayfish” [the three characters are harnessed to a cart, and since each of them is pulling in a different direction, nothing comes of their venture — Trans.]. No one can pull European integration along single-handedly.

The main reason for this ineffective European integration effort in Ukraine on the part of the executive branch was the absence of horizontal coordination. In the vertical division, there were traditionally enough people who were willing to coordinate, and to spare. There was no horizontal coordinating mechanism. In fact, what was needed was a center that would serve as a discussion site, where both strategic and tactical issues on the Ukraine-EU relations agenda could be resolved.

In view of this situation, starting in December 2007, we supported the idea of setting up a national European integration agency that would be precisely this kind of center. Regrettably, owing to certain objective and subjective factors, this idea never came to fruition. However, on July 16, 2008, by way of compromise, the government resolved to establish the Coordination Bureau for European and Euro-Atlantic Coordination (henceforward called the Bureau — ) within the framework of the Ukrainian governmental apparatus.

^ You mentioned a discussion site, but the point in question is carrying out certain tasks, isn’t it?

Indeed. There are two levels on which decisions are prepared and adopted: a political level and a technical one, or the expert level, if you prefer. Parliament, the head of state, and the Cabinet of Ministers deliberate and pass bills and enact subsidiary laws that, as a rule, are submitted from below. Ministries and other executive bodies often find their respective interests at variance with one other.

One of the Bureau’s main tasks is the coordination of these interests, directing the efforts of the whole government machine toward reaching the strategic target of preparing Ukraine for EU membership. An important part of this effort is concentrated on preventing the enactment of any documents that may be contrary to EU legislation, known as acquis communautaire. Deputy Prime Minister Nemyria, who is responsible for these issues on the political level, will champion this position on that level, and the Bureau will secure the required expert support and horizontal coordination.

Another positive aspect about the Bureau is that its activities will be closely monitored by the Secretariat of the Cabinet of Ministers, which will verify the end product that is supplied to the deputy prime minister and the government.

Another thing: When we talk about the discussion site, we don’t mean discussion for its own sake. We mean discussion that leads to the adoption by the executive branch of far better decisions and their implementation. This is where the Bureau will aim its daily work.

^ What levers will the Bureau have to pull to secure this horizontal coordination?

We don’t have to re-invent the wheel. We have joint authorities set up under the partnership and cooperation agreement, including the Council and the Ukraine-EU Cooperation Committee, along with seven subcommittees that deal with certain aspects of this cooperation. Before Mr. Nemyria’s appointment, the Ukrainian Section of the Ukraine-EU Cooperation Committee (UChK) — which is capable of evolving into an effective joint authority during the year — would hold a session once a year at best, usually on the eve of the committee’s joint session. The Ukrainian team’s performance was nil.

But beginning this past spring, the deputy prime minister initiated regular monthly meetings. During these meetings decisions are adopted in keeping with purely formal procedures. In addition, every meeting becomes a forum for coordinating positions, for example, with regard to the associate membership agreement, including the free trade zone.

Another expert discussion site for examining contentious or uncoordinated European integration issues is the cabinet’s European Integration and International Cooperation Committee. Here the positions of various ministries are coordinated. In the past, the heads of ministries and agencies could distance themselves from elaborating joint positions or coordinating their decisions, thereby shifting the burden to one deputy prime minister or another, even the prime minister. In reality, ministers must be self-sufficient decision-makers in their respective spheres of competence.

If spheres of competence overlap, then there must be a body where this position is coordinated. The committee that is headed by Deputy Prime Minister Hryhorii Nemyria is precisely the effective platform where all contentious questions are regulated.

The task of the Bureau is to provide in-depth analyses of any questions submitted to the UChK and the cabinet’s European Integration and Cooperation Committee, and to ascertain compromise options so that the parties concerned agree to achieve compromises proposed by the deputy prime minister, as the head of these bodies. In addition, the Bureau will take part in the work of the seven subcommittees that are auxiliary bodies of the committee, and will also participate in the Ukraine-EU negotiations.

To summarize, I should note that the Bureau in fact does not have the authority of a ministry or department. At the same time, during the preparation of materials that are used by the deputy prime minister or discussed by the UChK or government committee, this body has enough influence on the quality of those executive decisions that, once they have been discussed on a professional level, they will be submitted for the cabinet’s approval.

Won’t the Bureau encounter problems while cooperating with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which also handles foreign policy questions, including European and Euro-Atlantic integration?

That’s a very good question. Until recently, European integration for some reason was assumed to be part of foreign policy. This is partly true, but not more than 5 or 10 percent. The remaining 90 or 95 percent belongs to the sphere of domestic policy. Why domestic? In order to make a claim for admission to the EU as a full-fledged or candidate member, it is necessary to meet certain criteria that are clearly formulated by the European Union, primarily those that deal with stable democratic institutions, market economy, and competitive status on the EU market. All these are internal factors. Ukraine must do its homework regardless of what requirements the EU sets or what admission deadlines will be established during future talks. This serves Ukraine’s interest as an independent and sovereign country striving to become a competent state not only in Europe but the world.

^ What about the introduction of European living standards? Will the Bureau play a role here?

There is a certain cliche: “Ukraine’s move toward European norms and standards.” In reality, these norms and standards echo each other in certain spheres. Standards are laid down in norms, and norms contain standards. Apart from the overall EU membership objective (which cannot be an end in itself), it may be confirmed that it is important for our citizens to feel that the same level of norms and standards is present in their daily lives and that it isn’t lower than the EU average. All measures, whether they are negotiations or conferences, are directed precisely toward this goal. Step by step, we must bring our country closer to the living standard that exists in the EU. This is a set of interrelated questions.

When do you think it will be possible to sign the associate membership agreement? Our president said recently that the political section of this agreement is 80 percent ready, and the economic one is 40 percent ready.

If they are conducted by professional negotiators, all negotiations are governed by the principle of “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.” Sometimes 99 percent of the text of a treaty has been agreed upon, but it means nothing without the final paragraph. Therefore, I believe that it is impossible to predict how long talks will take. The same is true of the associate membership agreement.

However, it is very important to prepare a quality document. Such an agreement must not parrot any European associate membership agreements that were concluded in the early 1990s. The world has changed since then. This instrument should not parrot the agreement with Chile or any Mediterranean countries because these agreements don’t have European integration prospects; these countries don’t meet the geographic criteria. When something qualitatively new is being created, it is far more difficult to predict deadlines.

In my opinion, the only thing that is important, besides the content, is the completion of these talks within the shortest possible and most reasonable timeframe. We must not repeat the WTO admission experience, a process that took over 14 years.

We have been talking mostly about European integration. But part of the Bureau’s responsibilities is Euro-Atlantic integration. How will you go about assigning European coordination and Euro-Atlantic tasks?

This is the situation. In order to meet NATO norms and standards, which are largely similar to those of the EU and, to an extent, relate to the civilian rather than military aspects, Ukraine must have a clear-cut horizontal chain of political command capable of implementing the agreements signed with NATO: the Ukraine-NATO Action Plan and the annual Ukraine-NATO Target Plan. After receiving the Membership Action Plan, Ukraine will have to honor the commitments it will have assumed on the new level of relations with the alliance.

For the time being, unfortunately, there is no effective horizontality. There is an interdepartmental commission that is responsible for preparing for Ukraine’s membership in NATO, which is headed by the first deputy foreign minister. But a resolution adopted by the National Security and Defense Council (RNBO), dated March 21, 2008, reads that the committee’s performance in 2006-07 was inadequate. In view of this, the RNBO resolution instructed the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine to “adopt measures to improve the effectiveness of the coordination of, and control over, the activities of the executive authorities in Ukraine, with the goal of implementing a national policy aimed at cooperation with NATO.”

In addition, the cabinet had to prepare proposals concerning the Ukraine-NATO national coordinating system. These documents were ready on time. Now they are being coordinated in accordance with interdepartmental procedures. I hope President Yushchenko will sign a relevant edict soon.

One of the Bureau’s main tasks will consist of adopting measures aimed at implementing a clear-cut plan for providing Ukrainian society with objective information about NATO, explaining what it’s all about, its principles and methods. Unfortunately, until now this kind of information has not been provided systematically, so the Ukrainian public is still under the sway of Soviet anti-NATO stereotypes that portray this alliance as an “aggressor.”

I am convinced that the situation changed fundamentally a long time ago. NATO has changed. Today it is an alliance of countries with the highest level of democracy; an organization that encourages democratic progress on the continent and elsewhere in the world. It does not encroach on anyone else’s interests, on any country’s independence or sovereignty.

^ Will the Bureau propose budget appropriations for this NATO information?

The Bureau will definitely play a key role. First of all, one of our main tasks is to carry out approved programs for informing the general public about questions relating to European and Euro-Atlantic integration. We’ll also be monitoring all these programs and the way they are being implemented. If need be, we’ll certainly insist on corrections or adjustments. The point is not funds but the quality of the measures that will be implemented within the framework of one program or another.

How will the Bureau’s performance be assessed — according to what indices or criteria?

There is a simple answer to your question. Our performance will be assessed by the quality of the documents that will be drawn up jointly with the European Union and NATO; the quality of laws or subsidiary laws that will be enacted with regard to European and Euro-Atlantic integration; and the rate at which the norms and standards that are in effect in our country will be brought closer to those in the European Union. Finally, the quality of perception on the part of the Ukrainian public with regard to European and Euro-Atlantic integration will be reflected in the results of the Bureau’s work. I think that these questions will be partially answered in a year or 18 months. Considering the serious nature of this time-consuming process, I would say that achieving important results will take at least two or three years.


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