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EU Support to Fight Corruption in Ukraine Is Not Effective Enough

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Ukraine is still suffering from grand corruption, state capture and the influence of oligarchs, and EU initiatives in this field delivered poor results. This is a conclusion of a special report published by the European Court of Auditors on Thursday.

Tens of billions of euros are lost annually in Ukraine as a result of corruption, reads the report. The auditors analysed the work of more than 20 projects with EU funding in the fight against corruption in Ukraine. “There are a lot of initiatives from the European Union. But Ukraine still has no breakthrough in this front,” stated Juhan Parts, a member of the European Courts of Auditors responsible for the report.

For more than two decades the European Union has been supporting Ukraine in its reforms, including the fight against corruption. The auditors came to conclusion that despite all the efforts, the oligarchs’ influence, unfortunately, has not changed much.There are slight improvements, but they are classed as short term. “All of these significant changes – setting up some institutions, adopting some laws – can be easily reversed. Set back risks are really high,” said Parts at a press conference. He underscored that there is a strong need to strengthen anti money-laundering activities and thus weaken oligarchs’ influence.

The EU has long been aware of the connections between oligarchs, high-level officials, politicians, the judiciary and state-owned enterprises in Ukraine. But, according to the European Court of Auditors, the European Union has not developed a real strategy for fighting grand corruption, and, for example, illicit financial flows are addressed only at the margins. “Despite varied support the EU has offered to Ukraine, oligarchs and vested interests continue to undermine the rule of law in Ukraine and threaten the country’s development,” said Parts. “Ukraine needs a focused and efficient strategy to tackle the power of oligarchs and diminish state capture. The EU can play a much more significant role than it has done so far.”

The auditors think that the EU should change its strategic approach to tackle corruption in Ukraine: now there are too many actions in too many directions. “A multidimensional approach is relevant, but still they need to have a well-defined strategy in which way to intervene in different sectors,” underlines the responsible for the report.

The auditors also noted that the degree of EU support depends on a number of conditions Ukraine fulfilled but the Commission often interpreted requirements “too loosely, leading to over-positive assessments.” As an example, they cite the visa-free regime. “The operation of this system has not been reconsidered, even though two of the three conditions for EU support have not been achieved,” said the auditors.

Juhan Parts acknowledged that Ukraine had made some progress: “Setting up the high anticorruption court is a step forward. But overall impact of one particular institution remains to be seen. We also express our concern that overall these anticorruption special institutions could be hardly effective if the overall law enforcement judiciary system would remain the same, which is the case of Ukraine..

The authors of the report prepared some recommendations for the EU regarding assistance for Ukraine in its fight against corruption. Among other things, they suggest that the European Union continues to support civil society and investigative journalism. According to them, the EU can also deny entrance to its territory to corrupt Ukrainian oligarchs and other people suspected of corruption.

Natalia Richardson

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