The essential role of the European Program lies in promotion of Ukraine’s European integration, combining external pressure of the EU with the domestic one of the Ukrainian civil society, and thus contributing to promotion of open society values in Ukraine.
Budget for 2012 – 805,000 USD
By the end of 2011 Ukraine was expected to have a model Association Agreement with the EU that would show the way for other Eastern Partnership countries. Its “deep and comprehensive” free trade area would have provided for integration of the post-communist country into the EU’s common economic and legal space. However, the backlash against rule of law, political freedoms and human rights in Ukraine has led the European Union to indefinitely halt the signing of the Association Agreement, finalized in the end of 2011 (technical initialing if the text of the document is expected in the first months of 2012). Most probably, official signing and ratification of the Association Agreement by the EU will be made conditional on Ukraine’s compliance with democratic standards in the October 2012 parliamentary elections, which is difficult to predict.
Under the Agreement, the Ukrainian government would be legally obligated to implement the law of the EU (acquis communautaire), i.e., introduce European standards on a wide spectrum of areas — from public procurement and state subsidy rules to the environment and consumer protection. This would be a key benefit for the Ukrainian citizens that would empower them to demand corresponding reforms. Thus, the text of the Agreement, even if not in force, can become an important reference document for advocacy activities of the civil society.
In the beginning of 2011, the EU has stopped allocating its budget support programmes to Ukrainian government because of inappropriate management of public funds, in particular, with the amended Law on public procurement being not in compliance with EU standards. The situation has not changed since then.
In 2011, Ukraine has not adopted all the laws demanded by the EU’s Action Plan on Visa Liberalization for Ukraine (APVL). Therefore, the prospect of a visa free travel regime has not become that close for Ukrainian citizens as the government promised it. On the positive side, at the end of 2011 the EU agreed to amend the Visa Facilitation Agreement to clarify the controversial provisions and broaden the number of beneficiaries of the agreement, including representatives of NGOs.
Ukrainian civil society activities were highly visible during the crisis in EU – Ukraine relations by the end of 2011. In December, an unprecedented meeting of Ukrainian civil society representatives and EU leaders took place on the margins of the EU – Ukraine Summit. This very event has demonstrated the recognition of the importance of Ukrainian civil society as a partner for the EU.
In that context, what is the essential role that the program plays or proposes to play?
The essential role of the European Program lies in promotion of Ukraine’s European integration, combining external pressure of the EU with the domestic one of the Ukrainian civil society, and thus contributing to promotion of open society values in Ukraine. From this perspective, we see European integration and the tools offered by the EU as a means to adopt European standards of democracy, good governance, transparency, accountability, fair competition, non-discrimination, protection of consumer rights and basic social human rights.
The IRF European Program is unique among all donors in that it comprehensively provides and supports the initiatives of civil society towards European integration. While the EU Delegation to Ukraine plays an important role, it mainly works with the government and less so with civil society. It focuses on monitoring developments in Ukraine and promoting the EU in Ukraine. Hence, the activities of the European Program and the EU Delegation complement each other. Activities of other donors – foundations and embassies of EU member states - are of ad-hoc nature and only partially complement activities of the European Program.
Since its launch in 2004, the Program has promoted and advocated a stronger role of civil society in the EU-Ukraine relations. In this regard, the Program’s advocacy has contributed to:
- Establishment of a Civic Expert Council within the Ukrainian part of the EU – Ukraine Cooperation Committee (http://eu.prostir.ua/themes/rada.html);
- Establishment of the Civil Society Forum of the Eastern Partnership and, subsequently, its Ukrainian National Platform;
- Inclusion of provision on a bilateral EU – Ukraine civil society platform in the text of the future Association Agreement.
In the previous years, the Program systematically supported the ‘Europe Without Borders’ civic coalition (http://novisa.org.ua) in monitoring the actual practice of issuance of Schengen visas to Ukrainian citizens to demonstrate the real impact of the Visa Facilitation Agreement (in force since 2008) and in advocacy for amendment of the Agreement, granting and, subsequently, implementation of the Action Plan on Visa Liberalization.
Owing to the Program’s support, the Ukrainian European Studies Association was established (http://www.europa.org.ua) that now managed to receive financial support from the EU’s Jean Monnet program to further develop European studies at Ukrainian universities.
The Network of the (regional) European Information Centres of Ukraine (http://ukrcei.org) was established with the Program’s initiative and support back in 2005-2006. During the previous strategy period, institutionalization of the Network took place that allowed it to become a fully independent and valuable partner for any nation-wide awareness raising activities in European integration issues.
In the mid-term future (5-10 years) we expect Ukrainian society and political elites to become less ambivalent about their sense of direction, and European integration to increasingly become an issue of domestic policy and Ukraine's transformation in various reform areas. We also expect that in short-to-mid-term, a change of the government will take place that will enable Ukraine and the EU to sign the Association Agreement and begin its implementation. It is to be understood that for the society the major benefits of European integration, and the Association Agreement in particular, will be following from implementation of the EU acquis into Ukrainian legislation. It is to be expected, however, that implementation of the Agreement will be resisted by a number of powerful vested interests. Therefore, open debates, studies, capacity building and advocacy activities of the Program will be required to make the voices of different interest groups heard and strengthen domestic demand for Europeanisation.
For the short-term perspective of 2011-12, the Program will concentrate on strengthening and expanding its advocacy activities related to promotion of the EU acquis in a number of fields in Ukraine, with the major supporting references to be the commitments under the EU – Ukraine Association Agenda and Association Agreement (even if the latter not yet in force). The issue-areas we will focus will reflect the Open Society values, are a part of Ukraine’s European integration specific commitments and potentially affect a considerable part of Ukrainian society. All the Program’s capacity building and networking activities will be streamlined to support these advocacy activities. Unlike in the previous strategy, awareness raising will not be regarded any more as a separate priority, but integrated in the advocacy work.
Strategic priorities, goals and outcomes
Program-supported independent expert monitoring of the implementation of the EU-Ukraine Action Plan and, subsequently, the EU-Ukraine Association Agenda proved to be in strong demand by the EU institutions and Ukrainian media, highlighting poor implementation of Ukraine’s political commitments with the EU. Based on this experience and taking into account the new context, the Program will move from supporting monitoring to supporting advocacy of implementation of EU norms and acquis in various fields of interest for civil society and documented in relevant provisions of Association Agenda, Association Agreement and sectoral agreements with the EU.
This will entail support of expert analysis, impact assessment and explanation of the EU acquis, networking and capacity building for civic advocacy coalitions demanding implementation of the EU acquis, and their effective advocacy of legal and policy changes. Advocacy activities will involve awareness raising among the broader society in cooperation with the Program-created network of regional European information centres and with the Program’s future pool of journalists, which will be created in 2012.
The Program will also support dialogue and contributions from Ukrainian civil society to the EU institutions’ assessments and policies on Ukraine in order to strengthen the external leverage on domestic reforms. Efficiency of use by Ukrainian government of the EU’s financial assistance will also be examined.
Finally, given the EU's plans to strengthen the merit-based approach towards its neighbors ('more for more' and 'less for less'), there is a need for objective assessment of progress with European integration by Eastern Partnership countries in the comparative perspective and on regular basis. This will be done through the ‘European Integration Index of the Eastern Partnership Countries’ launched by the Program in 2011.
Within the previous strategy, monitoring and advocacy supported by the Program focused on ensuring simplification of visa procedures for Ukrainians by the EU consulates and making Ukraine eligible for visa free travel in the med-term perspective. The results of these efforts resonated strongly with the society in Ukraine, the Ukrainian government, EU institutions and member states embassies. Our advocacy objectives in this field were successfully achieved: the Action Plan on Visa Liberalization with a clear set of criteria for a visa-free regime was eventually granted to Ukraine by the EU in the end of 2010, and in the end of 2011 the EU principally agreed to amend the Visa Facilitation Agreement to clarify the controversial provisions and broaden the number of beneficiaries of the agreement (including representatives of NGOs), though the formal decisions are still to be taken and implemented in the course of 2012.
Continuing these efforts, the Program will further support monitoring of the issue of Schengen visas to Ukrainian citizens and advocacy of proper implementation and amendment of the Visa Facilitation Agreement. Tackling the actual problem of burdensome and long procedures of crossing the land border with the EU, the Program will cooperate with Stefan Batory Foundation to monitor the current practice and advocate for friendlier procedures and developed infrastructure to enable smooth and quick crossing of the border.
In order to move towards a visa free travel regime, the Program will promote implementation of the Action Plan on Visa Liberalization (APVL) by Ukrainian government. Research on migration from Ukraine to the EU and international advocacy within the EU will be carried out in order to tackle stereotypes of Ukrainian migration among EU experts and decision makers (three pilot studies of the actual perception of Ukrainian migration in EU member states as well as on the migration potential from Ukraine in the case of a visa free regime were already supported).
In the previous years, the Program supported participation of Ukrainian civil society representatives in the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum and setting up of the Ukrainian National Platform of the Forum. The EU institutions consider the latter as a legitimate counterpart representing Ukrainian civil society, as illustrated by an unprecedented public event on the margins of the December 2011 EU – Ukraine Summit with participation of the Presidents of the European Council and of the European Commission. Thus, the Program will support further institutional development of the Ukrainian National Platform of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum in order to create opportunities for various civil society organizations to contribute to its research, monitoring and advocacy activities.
Since 2009 the Program has supported Ukrainian think tanks in undertaking joint research and establishing partnerships with their counterparts in the EU. Now the Program will move towards supporting networking and joint advocacy of Ukrainian civic advocacy groups with the civil society organizations and networks in the EU, in order to strengthen the advocacy activities inside Ukraine that promote implementation of the EU acquis.
The Program will further support the Ukrainian – German ‘Kyiv dialogues’ and cooperate with the Stefan Batory Foundation to launch a Ukrainian – Polish civil society forum.
During the negotiations on the EU – Ukraine Association Agreement, the Program successfully advocated for a provision in the Agreement that envisages creation of a bilateral EU-Ukraine Civil Society Platform, to monitor implementation of the Agreement when it is in force. Then, the Program facilitated agreement between trade unions, business associations and non-governmental organizations that the Ukrainian side of the platform will be created on parity basis among these three stakeholder groups. Now, the Program will support the joint working group to elaborate principles, procedures and mechanisms for establishment of the Ukrainian side of the platform.
The Program will strengthen cooperation with the existing circle of journalists who systemically and professionally cover EU-related issues in Ukrainian media. A journalists pool will be created that will help in raising awareness and advocacy activities supported by the Program. Besides, training courses will be provided for those journalists, in particular, in the regions, who would be interested to start to cover EU-related issues.
Main goals within each strategic priority and specific objectives for each goal that the program expects to achieve by the end of 2012 and by the end of 2013.