Support for implementation of the Ukraine–European Union Association Agreement
Title: Advisory Fund for EU Association of Ukraine
Commissined by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Lead executing agency: Government Office for the Coordination of European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of the Secretariat of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine
Overall term: 2018 to 2020
Ukraine is the second-largest country in Europe and one of the continent’s poorest. In a bid to improve living conditions, politicians and the Ukrainian public are seeking closer ties with the European Union. They are keen to strengthen economic cooperation in particular, the aim being to bring prosperity to Ukraine. As well as outlining reforms for the public administration, the Association Agreement signed by Ukraine and the EU in 2014 includes a Deep and Comprehensive Free-Trade Area (DCFTA) covering tariff-free access to the Ukrainian market and the EU single market, measures to enhance the competitiveness of Ukrainian products and the adoption of EU legal and economic standards. Nevertheless, implementing the necessary reforms still poses a major challenge. There is a lack of expertise, both at institutional level and in terms of human resources. Equally, reform processes are hampered by relatively inefficient structures and processes and by unnecessary bureaucracy. Key actors are unable to fulfil their role as coordinators on European integration matters, and line ministries have no clear focus or opportunities to learn from one another. Highly qualified professionals often prefer to work for private-sector employers offering better-paid jobs.
The conditions for implementing the Association Agreement (AA) between Ukraine and the European Union (EU) have improved.
Acting on behalf of the German Government, the project supports the efforts of the Ukrainian Government to implement the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement. A crucial element of this work is to cooperate with the Government Office for the Coordination of European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, which coordinates activities designed to promote closer ties with the European Union. With assistance from the project, the Government Office is devising new strategies and methods to achieve its ambitious objectives. Training is also being provided for the Office’s staff to improve project and knowledge management, while clear responsibilities and regular exchange of ideas with relevant actors in newly established networks are helping to make their work more efficient.
The Ukrainian ministries are rarely told how they are meant to achieve the reform goals set out in the Association Agreement. Together with the Government Office, the project has set up an accelerator programme, the EU Association Lab, with the goal of encouraging line ministries to implement projects linked to those reforms. By way of example, a government authority might team up with partners from the public administration, the private sector or civil society and submit a proposal to develop a new information-sharing platform or guidelines for implementing EU directives. Once the Government Office has made its selection, the project supports up to five teams per year in the six-month EU Association Lab– from the initial idea right through to the launch stage. The participants and their advisors work together to locate experts and devise suitable implementation methods, thus setting each project on the path towards its final objective.
The Government Office is reliant on support from relevant ministries if it is to act as a capable negotiator with the EU. With this in mind, the key ministries need to be able to perform their roles efficiently. The project advises the institutions on how best to refocus their substantive positions and adapt their services to meet the requirements of the Agreement. Ministries work with the Government Office to develop new processes and make communications more efficient. The Government Office is thus being transformed into a model EU coordination unit for the region, providing line ministries with the guidance they need to implement the reforms.
The project helped to develop a number of ideas in the first round of the EU Association Lab scheme. These included proposals for digital public services in the following areas: public procurement, product safety for consumer goods and financial services, national cultural heritage and the identification of beneficial owners. To date, more than 120 technical and managerial staff from the Ukrainian Government and administration have learned how to organise their departments in line with EU standards. Thanks to 18 new working processes and services, they are able to structure their activities more effectively and achieve better results, thus pushing forward the implementation of reforms needed for EU convergence.