In order to fully illuminate the topic of European integration, «Image.UA» is talking to the Deputy Minister of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine — The Director of the Government Office for European Integration, Ms. Nataliia Hnydiuk.
— Mrs. Hnydiuk, how do you assess the current progress of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement implementation?
— First of all, we should remember that the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU is a very complex document which includes seven Titles (political dialogue, justice freedom and security, trade, economic cooperation, etc.) and a long list of annexes. In other words, the Agreement embraces almost all sectors of government activity and its implementation is a shared responsibility between Ministries, State Agencies and the Government Office for European Integration. Therefore, when talking about the implementation of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, we should take into account the complexity of the issue. To my opinion, there are areas where Ukraine achieved a significant progress complying with the provisions of the Agreement. For instance, the Parliament adopted new law on technical regulations which allows us to adjust the Ukrainian production to the EU standards and seek access to the foreign markets. Yet, there are areas where we still need to roll up our sleeves and work hard, but, as for now, we fulfilled all obligations under the Agreement.
— Implementation of the DCFTA has been postponed until 2016. How does this impact (simplified, complicated, delayed or maybe accelerated) the work on the implementation of the Association Agreement as a whole?
— Although the entry into force of the Title IV of the Association Agreement «Trade and trade related issues» has been postponed until 1 January 2016, the work on this issue has never stopped. If fact, Ukraine gained time to introduce all the necessary changes to prepare the successful implementation of DCFTA. In particular, the changes have been made in technical regulations, state aid, food safety and deregulation.
— What type of work (technical, legal, organizational) and what areas request the maximum attention regarding implementation of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement?
In September of 2014, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine approved the first Action Plan on implementation of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU for 2014–2017 (Resolution № 847). This document foresees the implementation of trade and sectoral provisions of the Agreement as the economy is currently the area of major reform focus. Regarding the type of activity, the Action Plan envisages the significant scope legislative work which should be done for further development and implementation of EU regulations. We need to adapt the Ukrainian legislation to the EU law. However, apart from the legal tasks, technical and organizational work is also required.
— Firstly, was the Ukrainian government system, the local authorities and the business ready to implement the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement? Secondly, do you conduct any training sessions, seminars or study trips to gain knowledge and achieve experience?
— Responding to your first question, one can never be totally prepared to face such a complex and comprehensive changes as the Agreement envisages to Ukraine. Yet, our country has been struggling for its European choice for decades and the newly-elected government acknowledged the difficulties it could bring. That is why the central executive institutions received a new appointment of Deputy Minister for European Integration or a responsible for European Integration. The main duties of such position consist in coordinating the implementation process of the Agreement in the field of work of the institution. As for the local authorities, their activity is based on the regional interest.
When it comes to your second question, the Action Plan on implementation of the Association Agreement for 2014–2017 foresees training sessions, seminars, round tables and learning of the official EU languages for civil servants.
Moreover, the information and training activities in European integration, including the implementation of the Association Agreement, are usually held by regional training centres for state and local employees. In addition, such trainings and information on the Agreement is provided by the Ministries on their websites. As for Government Office for European Integration we together with our Polish, German, Lithuanian partners launched a series of training sessions for civil servants from the line ministries on the approximation of the EU acquis, as well as held two visits of deputy ministers for European Integration to Poland and Lithuania. We have a lot of plans in this area and will continue strengthening institutional capacity of all those who are responsible for European Integration.
— What turned out to be the main problem of implementation of the Agreement (Ukrainian legislation, corporate culture, lack of political will…)? Could you, please, provide specific examples?
— A common problem is the inertia and formal approach of government authorities, namely the bureaucratic preparation and approval of draft acts, consultation with the EU side, etc. The other common problem is the delay of institutional changes.
For example: the reform of the central executive body which implements policies in the field of sanitary and phytosanitary measures. In September 2014 the Cabinet of Ministers issued the Resolution № 442 which envisaged the creation of the State Service for Food Safety and Consumer Protection. Such State Service should be established through reorganization and unification of the former state Agencies and Services, one of which is the State Veterinary and Phytosanitary Service. However, the Cabinet of Ministers’ Resolution on establishment of commission to reorganize the State Veterinary and Phytosanitary Service was issued with seven months of delay, in May of 2015.
Only in August 2015, the draft resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers on establishment the State Service for Food Safety and Consumer Protection and the determination of its maximum number of employees was considered at the Government meeting.
In addition, the development of the program documents in the transport sector has been suspended by the Resolution of the cabinet of Ministers № 65, point 16 which aims to prevent budget expenditure. But this is normal in current financial situation of Ukraine.
— What were the lessons learned through the year of 2015 regarding the implementation process? What are the tasks both technical and those related to the quality of work for the next year of 2016?
After years of discussion and proposals, the system of government has to be finally reformed to guarantee political stability, economic growth and the fulfilment of the international obligations under the Association Agreement. Therefore, the crucial task is to complete the reform of the state machinery in accordance with European standards and the current needs of the Ukrainian society.
I also consider necessary to introduce amendments to the Action Plan on implementation for 2014–2017 in order to adjust it to the rapidly changing Ukrainian environment, to improve monitoring system of the implementation of the Agreement and to enhance the public relations though better informational campaign about the association.
The other relevant task is the involvement of the civil society in the implementation of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, in discussion and drafting of legal acts required to adapt the national law to the law of the EU. I believe it is of a great importance to combine the efforts of the government and civil society to ensure the irreversibility of reforms and the European Integration of Ukraine.