Kyiv MP: Ukraine needs EU membership timeline to accelerate reform process
One year after EU governments backed Ukraine’s status as a candidate to join the bloc, Kira Rudik, a senior lawmaker in Kyiv, says that the country is on track for EU accession – but it needs political support from the bloc as much as ever.
Rudik, who is the leader of the liberal Golos party, chairs the Committee on Digital Transformation in the Ukrainian parliament, putting her at the centre of the legislative reforms in Ukraine as it adapts its legal framework to match the EU’s acquis.
Ukraine was handed seven recommendations for policy reform by the European Commission last year, including enacting legislation on a selection process for the country’s Constitutional Court judges on a competitive basis, strengthening the fight against corruption, harmonising media regulation with EU standards, and protecting minority communities.
The European Commission is set to publish its assessment of Ukraine’s progress later this year, after which a decision will be made on whether to open formal accession talks with Kyiv.
“We acknowledge that we have a long road in front of us in terms of implementing all of that, but the legislative part is in place,” Rudik told EURACTIV.
“The Ukrainian Parliament had sittings almost every other week, last year. When there was an EU/Ukraine Summit in February, it was the first time where we came like, you know, school children that have their homework absolutely done,” she added.
LEAK: EU-Ukraine summit to commend progress, but unlikely to commit to swift accession
The EU is expected to commend Ukraine on its progress on membership-bound reforms and send a strong message to Moscow, according to a draft summit communique seen by EURACTIV, but member states remain divided over the speed of accession.
The discussion …
She adds that the legislation aimed at integrating Ukraine’s legal framework with the EU’s is usually adopted with a constitutional majority in Parliament.
“The question right now is how do we get the clear process? And when would the discussions on the ascension process give us some confirmation?” said Rudik.
“By the end of the year we hope that we will know a clear path with a timeline on how we will become an EU member,” she added.
The role of pan-European political parties
However, while EU leaders continue to talk up their commitment to Ukraine and its EU perspective, Rudik, a Vice President of the ALDE party, is concerned by proposed changes to the rules on the financing of pan-European political parties. This could lead to parties from Ukraine and other pre-accession states being prevented from being full members, she cautioned.
“On one hand, we’ve been told that the EU embraces Ukraine and that the EU embraces new members. And on the other hand, we have these regulations saying that there are limitations and that to comply with these regulations we’ll have to limit ourselves to have only 30% of non-EU members and not accept funds from non-EU members,” said Rudik.
Ironically, the position taken by EU governments in the negotiations is driven by a wish to prevent interference from Russia and other third countries in EU politics and elections.
“This is exactly what Russian propaganda is saying. Their main narrative is ‘you are not wanted in the EU. The EU doesn’t really want you’,” she added.
“For me, being a vice president of ALDE is an expression of support from party members that, ‘Ukraine is part of Europe and Ukraine will be part of the EU. This was the most straightforward way of saying, ‘we stand with Ukraine’.”
“I would want to see more support in this matter from the EPP,” said Rudik, adding that “it’s unfortunate that we are not fighting together with other political families.”
Ukraine makes diplomatic push to win over EU accession process doubters
Ukraine has launched a charm offensive in recent weeks to convince the still sceptical Western European capitals to grant the country EU candidate status and avoid the pitfall of being lumped together with two other eastern hopefuls, Moldova and Georgia.
While the war continues to rage, Ukraine’s political leaders are also looking at the prospect of how to rebuild the country after the fighting ends.
“We know that we have a very short window of opportunity of rebuilding the country. Not just rebuilding but building back in a better way. And we know also that there will be huge amounts of money invested in Ukraine and donated to Ukraine for the rebuild process,” the liberal lawmaker told EURACTIV.
An assessment made jointly by Ukraine’s government, the World Bank, the European Commission and the United Nations, and published in March put Ukraine’s reconstruction and recovery needs at $411 billion, more than double its economic output.
It also estimated that Ukraine would need $14 billion for critical and priority reconstruction and recovery investments in 2023.
“We want to have in place the processes and procedures, the same as in the European Union, to make sure that we will not create new oligarchs with this money, but that the Ukrainian people will benefit from it.”
“So there will be an open market for who will be rebuilding the country, there will be an open market on the decisions on like which way to do it the best way.”
Meanwhile, Rudik, who was one of the speakers on climate change and food security, argues that ending the war would be the biggest single global step to tackling climate change.
“Over the last year, the amount of the toxic waste that has been released has increased 23 times,” she said, adding that “radiation, the same as pollution, doesn’t care which passport you’re holding, and does not have any borders.”
“Ukraine used to be like one of the largest exporters of grains, greens, sunflower oil, tomato, barley and wheat but we have been robbed of that. Right now, 30% of our territory is a landmine.”