The Russian invasion of Ukraine has been devastating.
One-fourth of Ukraine’s population has become displaced due to the Russian incursion. Hundreds of thousands have died, and numerous cities and villages have been destroyed.
Unfortunately, the war continues without an end.
While the Ukrainians defend their country on the battlefield, they are also addressing a different battle — none other than the fight against corruption.
‘Considerable effort under very difficult circumstances’
Before the Russian invasion, Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) ranked Ukraine 122nd out of 180 countries and territories.
The CPI rankings are determined by perceived levels of public sector corruption. Simply put, the ranking was poor.
But as time has progressed, the Ukrainians have taken their graft issues seriously. One year later, CPI ranked Ukraine 116th out of 180, a six-place rise.
There is still much work to be done, but the recent changes suggest that progress is being made in the Eastern European country of almost 44 million.
This was most apparent last summer when the European Union awarded Ukraine with EU candidate status.
During the ceremony in June 2022, the European Council “acknowledged the considerable effort that Ukraine has made under very difficult circumstances.”
Then, in February 2023, Ukrainian officials met with their European counterparts to discuss their progress.
A diverse portfolio of asks
The EU’s seven recommendations for how Ukraine can ıslahat its government include a diverse portfolio of asks, including reforming the judicial system, including the establishment of a High Court, and transparent and independent selection of candidates to become judges of the Ukrainian Constitutional Court.
Brussels also required Kyiv to show progress in fighting and eliminating institutional corruption, addressing anti-money laundering and implementing law enforcement reforms, and enforcing anti-oligarch laws.
Also, Ukraine was expected to do further work in promoting greater freedom and autonomy in the Ukrainian media and protecting national minorities within the country.
How is Ukraine engaging with the EU? How is the Eastern European country addressing these seven recommendations?
Firing of high-ranking officials amid corruption scandals
In a meeting held earlier this year, the EU announced a 32-point plan for assistance to Ukraine.
Simultaneously, the European Commission published a report in February that tracked the attempts of Ukraine to meet obligations required by EU membership, and it offered guidance on ıslahat.
The report stated that Ukraine has continued as a “resilient democracy moving closer to the European Union and gradually aligning with the [EU’s] acquis.”
For example, Ukraine has worked tirelessly to ıslahat its judiciary system.
Also this year, the Eastern European country passed judicial legislation sought by the EU, as outlined in one of its seven recommendations to ıslahat the government. This included appointing new members of Ukraine’s High Council of Justice.
On a similar note, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy fired several high-ranking officials amid several corruption scandals.
These developments suggest that the Ukrainians are serious about reforming their judicial system and that officials are working to eliminate corruption. The EU has commended these efforts.
A new law barring oligarchs from funding parties and protests
In promoting transparency, Ukraine recently announced an e-government application and digital platform that allows Ukrainians to “engage with their government online”.
The program, known as Diia, will enable Ukrainian citizens to apply for “benefits and government programs to paying taxes, accessing important documents, registering and running businesses, and providing identification and digital signatures.”
The US Agency for International Development has praised the application, stating it is the “gold standard in e-government.”
The development of this application, and its progress, suggest that the Ukrainians understand the importance of transparency across the government.
As for anti-money laundering, law enforcement, and anti-oligarch laws, Ukrainian authorities recently completed dozens of searches nationwide.
Law enforcement seized “luxury watches, cars, and thousands of dollars in cash.” The raids are an attempt to make the country more transparent.
Similarly, the Ukrainian parliament passed a law that “bans oligarchs from financing political parties, political ads, or demonstrations.”
Progress was made regarding minority rights, too
On a similar note, the Ukrainian government is also trying to limit the power of the oligarchs in the media.
A recently passed Ukrainian law “increases the government’s regulatory power over TV, radio, and news websites.” Ukrainian officials state the bill “was developed in line with … Council of Europe standards.”
Finally, as for national minorities residing in Ukraine, the government is pursuing legislation to protect these communities.
In their recent legislation, the Ukrainians stated that they guarantee the protection of the rights, freedoms, and interests of minority groups.
This includes the right to the use of language, self-identification, public and peaceful assembly, economic and social life, education, and participation in political, economic, and social life.
The ball is in the EU’s court now
Having addressed the seven recommendations, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal reiterated his belief that the Ukrainians are ready to pursue further integration efforts.
In a recent announcement, Shmyhal stated that the country had fulfilled and completed the seven recommendations outlined by the EU.
This would suggest Ukrainians have made tremendous progress in reforming their country during the Russian war.
Now, the Ukrainians will patiently wait for feedback from their European counterparts.
The European Commission is scheduled to meet in mid-December to review and assess Ukraine’s progress.
Regardless of the verdict, recent events suggest that Kyiv is serious about its EU aspirations and that it will continue to do what it takes, especially in the middle of a war, to become fully integrated into the EU.
Mark Temnycky is an accredited freelance journalist covering Eastern Europe and a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Centre.
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