Ukraine’s anti-corruption reforms are going in the wrong direction: open letter to the EU




The numerous recent scandals which essentially blocked the work of Ukraine’s anticorruption institutions make one fear that the Ukrainian authorities want to rewind at least a part of the implemented reforms. 

Representatives of Ukrainian civil society put these fears, as well as an appeal to pressure the Ukrainian authorities, into an open letter addressed to High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini and other EU officials. A copy of the letter is addressed to Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman.

The letter was originally published on the site of the Reanimation Package of Reforms, a coalition of Ukrainian NGOs working on the country’s reform agenda.

On behalf of Ukraine’s civil society and reform community, we would like to address you regarding the evaluation of the reform process taking place since the signature of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. We acknowledge significant results Ukraine has achieved, particularly in the spheres of investigation of high-profile corruption and ensuring transparency, which to a great extent were due to the efforts, support and investments of the European Union and its Member States.

However, the more threatening anti-corruption reform becomes to the vested interests of the political elites, the more resistance and pressure it tends to meet. That is why in order to ensure further progress in fighting corruption and preventing the rollback of anti-corruption reform, we call on the European Union to continue closely monitoring implementation the developments in this area and conditioning further assistance on specific reform deliverables.

The decision of the Ukrainian people to pursue the path of European integration, which triggered the Euromaidan protests back in 2014, and a subsequent process of implementation of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement became a milestone for Ukraine’s comprehensive transformation into a rule-of-law democracy. Provisions of the Association Agreement have been serving as a powerful toolbox for further reforms aimed at eliminating corruption and enhancing justice, good governance and human rights. It has also substantially strengthened the role of Ukraine’s vibrant civil society, allowing it to become a driving force in the reform process.

In the justice sector, Ukraine’s reform progress has already produced a number of tangible results: an institutional framework for independent investigation and prosecution of top-level corrupt officials has been set up, and one of the most advanced electronic systems in the world requiring public officials and politicians to disclose information about their private assets was introduced. In the field of public procurement, public finance management and access to government and public databases of social significance, high standards of transparency of public institutions have been set. Additionally, one of the most corrupt state agencies – traffic police – is being transformed into the new Patrol Police in the framework of the comprehensive law enforcement reform. With all these measures undertaken, Ukrainian society is step-by-step developing zero-tolerance for corruption.

However, a significant number of anti-corruption achievements are now experiencing a serious rollback. Verification of e-declarations of public officials is being sabotaged, the majority of corruption-related cases are stuck in the Ukrainian non-reformed courts for months, while National Anti-corruption Bureau, Ukraine’s recently established anti-corruption agency, is facing mounting pressure from other institutions representing the old system with vested political interests. Moreover, over the past year, Ukrainian civil society activists and NGOs have been systematically subject to discrimination and even physical attacks, particularly in the regions.

In order to advance the reforms that have already been implemented and to prevent their rollback, close cooperation between Ukraine’s civil society and its international partners is crucial. Namely, we would like to emphasize the following measures that we are calling our European partners to strongly support:

– establishment of an independent anti-corruption court to be selected with the involvement of international experts, as recommended by the Venice Commission;

– protection of the National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) from further attacks (limiting NABU powers in criminal procedure, undermining ability to investigate illicit enrichment and false statements in e-declarations, cutting the list of officials that fall under NABU jurisdiction, criminal case of Prosecutor General’s Office against NABU Director, administrative case of the National Agency for Corruption Prevention against NABU Director, numerous attempts to appoint a NABU auditor loyal to the ruling elites etc.);

– rebooting the National Agency for Corruption Prevention by reshuffling its leadership (open and transparent competition with the involvement of international experts) and providing it with automatic verification modules to ensure progress in verification of state officials’ electronic declarations;

– cancelling an obligation for civil society activists to submit e-declarations similarly to public officials (respective  provisions come into full force on January 1, 2018);

– immediately ceasing all types of harassment (physical pressure, defamation media campaigns and additional regulatory burden) against civil society activists and organizations.

The Association Agreement is a lighthouse for Ukraine’s further transformation and implementation of the systemic reforms. Moreover, the conditionalities of the EU assistance programs that Ukraine undertook to comply with have proven to be among the most powerful tools for effective reforms advocacy. Meanwhile, as follows from the recent statement of the European Commission dated December 1st, the Commission will not disburse its last, third, tranche of macro-financial assistance to Ukraine until the four outstanding measures in the anti-corruption and economic field are implemented. This decision is yet another acknowledgement of Ukraine’s insufficient progress in advancing its reform agenda and a clear signal that the pace of the reform should significantly accelerate.

That is why, in the run-up to the 4th annual meeting of the EU-Ukraine Association Council of December 8th and the upcoming United Nations Anti-corruption Day of December 9th, we would like to kindly ask you to urge the Government of Ukraine to honour its anti-corruption commitments, including listed above, and emphasize the potential consequences of further backsliding of the reform process in Ukraine.

We are grateful for your consideration of this letter and firmly believe that only in cooperation with our international partners, particularly the European Union and its Member States, we will be able to build a law-governed state and make Ukraine’s democratic transition irreversible.


  • Civil society coalition “Reanimation Package of Reforms” (unites 80 CSOs)
  • Transparency International Ukraine
  • Centre for Democracy and Rule of Law (CEDEM)
  • Anti-corruption Headquarters
  • Centre for Economic Strategy
  • Centre UA
  • Centre for Political and Legal Research
  • Center for Political Studies and Analysis “Eidos”
  • DEJURE Foundation
  • European Pravda
  • Europe without Barriers
  • Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiative Foundation
  • Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation
  • Internews Ukraine
  • Human rights platform
  • Ukrainian Center for Independent Political Research
  • Charity Foundation “Patients of Ukraine”
  • Center for Local Self-Governance
  • Advocacy Center “LIFE”
  • Lab for Democratic Transformations
  • Cultural Assembly

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  • Tony

    Let’s review, NABU started investigating members of the general prosecutors office, a notoriously corrupt organization. Then in response.
    1. Lutsenko the general prosecutor breaks a NABU sting and arrest’s some NABU agents
    2. Lutsenko accuses NABU of collaboration with foreign agents, America’s FBI had to respond “FBI employees work with NABU within the framework of the Memorandum of Understanding, signed in June 2016”
    “The FBI adheres to the laws of Ukraine and never works outside the agreed Memorandum of Understanding,” the FBI emphasizes.
    3. “On Thursday, the Rada will vote for a bill to dismiss NABU’s director without audit”
    So much for “independent body” and separation of powers.
    4. The general prosecutor alleges some evidence against Saakasvili, a firebrand anti-corruption politician with a proven track record against corruption (his reforms brought Georgia from a very sad place on the corruption perception index to top 50, far better than Ukraine today, compare this with Poroshenko’s meager improvement of a few places)

    So this is what happens when that precious nest of corruption gets threatened. Also, Lutsenko isn’t a rouge acting on his own, no I bet he has blessings from the highest office, I bet he is doing Poroshenko’s work but Poroshenko may yet throw him under the bus.

    It’s all clear now, Poroshenko never wanted the reforms, he wanted bussines as usual but he couldn’t fight against the popular will of the time. So instead he slowed the reforms as much as possible while consolidating power. Now he wants to start rolling the reforms back but one problem is that the sluggish pace of reforms has already hurt economic growth and now inflation is picking up, there may be no alternative to reforms but Poroshenko may yet be stubborn.

    • Tony

      Update: UA parliment rejected the bill to neuter Nabu(written by heads of Poroshenko block and PF) after the US threatened to withdraw support and the EU threatened to withdraw visa free(because establishing an independent Nabu was a visa free requirement).

      They got greedy this time and failed.
      However, beware they will try again and they will continue going after the reformers. At least we got to see their true faces. Now Poroshenko is trying to restore image a bit with anti-corruption courts, but he should have done it a year ago already.