Include Ukraine in the South East Europe Regional Anti-Corruption Initiative

At the launch of the first regional anti-corruption initiative documentary on 6 December 2016. Photo: fb.com/raiseeorg 

Analysis & Opinion

Article by: By Erhard Busek, Vienna and Gunther Fehlinger, Kyiv

Fighting Corruption is the uniting theme of government and the International Community from Tirana to Kyiv and from Sofia to Belgrade. After the 2014 Euromaidan revolution, Ukraine is now intensively catching up with the support of the European Union and the US to reduce corruption. With the introduction of online transparent procurement within the international awarded ProZorro system, Ukraine has achieved a key milestone with lasting impact.

But serious efforts remain to be undertaken in the political and judicial system. The countries of South-Eastern Europe have a similar challenge since the end of the Balkans wars and some have achieved remarkable success. Part of the success is due to the regional exchange of best practices and a kind of positive peer pressure within the Regional Anti-Corruption Initiative (RAI) born back in the days of the Stability Pact, which unites nine countries of South Eastern Europe, including Moldova, in their effort to exchange and benchmark effective tools that bring impact to their still ongoing battle against corruption.

It is a complicated phenomenon and there is no quick fix. Political will and leadership matters, but so does constant public scrutiny and civil courage of civil servants and civil society, and the mutual learning of what works, where, and why. This all is taking place in a sustainable, institutional, and professional international institution of RAI.

We recommend Ukraine joins this effort and contributes to the SEE reform process with the Ukrainian perspective, as well as learns from the Balkans. Jointly it will be possible to convince Europe that the struggle for institutional transparency and accountability and against human temptation is now for good on the agenda from the Adriatic to the Black Sea and improving every day.

Romania, Bulgaria, and Croatia, now being members of the EU, decided to stay in RAI to further advance their anti-corruption effort. Such a great pool of reform experience and experts on all key topics from legislative and judicial reform would be a great network for Ukraine now in its decisive phase of reforming the justice sector and convincing the world it is serious, with its post-Maidan internal cleanup process.

Ukraine had the positive experience of joining the Energy Union for SEE before Euromaidan and it provided an excellent platform for fast-track reforms once Ukraine was ready. Today, the world is positively surprised about how fast Ukraine managed the reforms of the energy sector, which is internationally acknowledged as one of the prime success sectors of new post-Maidan Ukraine.

Read also: Ukraine signs deal on integrating into European energy grid

Similar success is possible with a combination of Ukrainian political leadership, Ukrainian and international competence, and successfully learning and contributing to the Anti-Corruption debate in South Eastern Europe, jointly with the other recent EU members, EU candidates, and potential candidate from South Eastern Europe.

Ukraine today ranks in 131st place in the Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International. The Republic of Kosovo is at 95 and Macedonia at 90. These least transparent, non-EU Balkan countries are already considerably better positioned than Ukraine today. So, allow us to suggest that joining RAI and adopting similar reform approaches like those proven successful in the Balkans will have a significant impact for Ukraine as well.

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gunther

Gunther Fehlinger, Chairman of Europeans for Tax Reform, lives and works in Ukraine since 2016 and in Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro since 2005. He worked in Brussel from 1998 to 2004 and focuses on European SME, Tax reform, and EU Integration issues. Gunther coordinates the Austrian Committee for European Ukraine and the Action Group for Regional Economic and European Integration of the Southern Balkans.

busek

Erdhard Busek is the former Deputy Prime Minister of Austria and now President of the Institute for Danube Region and Central Europe, honorary president of the European Forum Alpbach. Previously, he was the coordinator of the Stability Pact for SEE after the wars in Balkans and had initiated the RAI.

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