If there is appetite for reforms in Ukraine

June 09, 2016

Originally published in Novoe Vremya

My first four months in Ukraine have shown me how deep the desire for reform is among Ukrainians, and how frustrated people often feel that reform is not happening faster. I empathize with those feelings, because my own country, Lithuania, went through a similar reform process during the 1990s. 

Security of the state and its citizens is guaranteed through a system of external and internal security. External security, in simple terms, is the army, and internal security is the system that ensures the rule of law. The European Union Advisory Mission (EUAM) Ukraine was established in order to assist in reforming Ukrainian law-enforcement bodies. The rule of law system is a complicated mechanism and its reform, in any modern country, can take some time. 

While delays in reform of law-enforcement and rule of law bodies has created an understandable sense of disillusionment, I believe there is reason for optimism. Reform of the police, for example, has moved in the right direction with the creation of the National Police and Patrol Police. 

These are positive steps, but they are only a first step – the police is a complex structure, made up of more than just the Patrol Police and Traffic Police. All of its various units need to be reorganised and restructured in order to ensure the sustainability of reform efforts. One of the challenges with reforming a structure as big as the police is that you cannot just stop police work and build from scratch – reform has to take place while operations are ongoing. 


Re-attestation of police officers is another reform measure that I hope is completed as quickly as possible, because you cannot have sustainability in the police without re-attested staff. Just last week, EUAM experts are observing the re-attestation process in Chernihiv and Cherkassy. Re-attestation had been suspended for a number of weeks so it is encouraging to see the process resume. 

In any reform process, a major issue is delineation. When reform is accompanied by the creation of new agencies – such as Ukraine’s new anti-corruption agencies, and the State Bureau of Investigation – there must be a clear understanding of who is doing what. We should not underestimate the size of the challenge of creating new agencies from zero. The establishment of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine, for example, in such a short space of time, is impressive. 

Delineation of competencies is one of EUAM’s five priorities – the others being community policing, public order, criminal investigation, and human-resource management. People and trust is at the heart of what EUAM advises on. Community policing, for example, is a style of policing that is based on a partnership between the police and the community. Police officers are part of the community and their duty is to guarantee the security of all those who live honestly. The success of their work depends on trust and mutual respect within community. People who want to become police officers should have the right motivation – if someone believes that this profession will make them rich, they are making the wrong choice. 

It is people, will actually implement reform measures. The success of state institutions depends on the motivation of employees, and on the perception of those employees by the public. Staff needs to be recruited according to a transparent, merit-based system, and one that guarantees a certain level of competence and standards. Staff also needs to be compensated properly and be provided with the tools they need to perform.

Two weeks ago, I was at a ceremony to mark the renovation of the Administrative Services Hall at the Patrol Police headquarters in Kyiv. EUAM was delighted to have provided training and equipment to the Hall, but what I found most remarkable was the attitude of staff there. I saw an appetite for reform, a willingness to embrace change, and a realization that building a service-oriented culture for members of the public is the essence of any reform process. It is witnessing these small examples of reform in practice that gives me motivation and hope for the future. 

In EU countries, the effectiveness of institutions is measured not only by the quality of services provided to citizens, but also on how institutions plan their activities, prepare yearly budgets and put in place strict regulations on the use and accounting of resources. To ensure this, a proper legal basis is needed alongside effective systems for planning, accounting and reporting. That is why EUAM is advocating for a comprehensive, public-finance management framework.

I often hear different reasons why reform is impossible. Instead, I would invite everyone to him/herself, ‘what difference can I make’? I believe that change starts with every individual taking personal responsibility, taking difficult decisions, making mistakes, learning from those, focusing on the little things. When you get into your car in the morning, put on your seatbelt, drive safely and according to the rules, smile to a stranger, and do not give or take bribes. Do your job in the  best way you can. Try to set a good example, because it is the individual actions of people that will determine the success of a country.