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Will Canada's G7 Presidency effect reform in Ukraine?
Posted on Feb 22, 2018

by Andrew Rasiulis, CGAI

The Canadian G7 Presidency: An Opportunity to Develop a Marshall Plan for Reform in Ukraine

Prime Minister Trudeau recently announced Canada's five key themes to guide its Presidency of the G7 in 2018: 

  • Investing in growth that works for everyone;
  • Preparing for jobs of the future;
  • Advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment;
  • Working together on climate change, oceans and clean energy; and
  • Building a more peaceful and secure world.

In this context, the former Prime Minister of Lithuania and current member of the Siemas (Parliament), the Honourable Andrius Kubilius, visited Ottawa in December to propose a new and innovative initiative for domestic reform in Ukraine. Dubbed a "Marshall"-type plan, the concept breaks new ground in dealing with the chronic affliction of corruption in Ukraine.

While spearheaded by Lithuania, the European Plan for Ukraine (EPU) is an ambitious plan developed in concert with Ukraine and the European Union (EU).  The primary value added of the EPU is the vision of a supra national Central Project Management capacity which would take guiding responsibility for the myriad of international donor funds earmarked for Ukraine. The plan is based on a realistic 10 year timeframe to bring about fundamental reforms in Ukraine.

The appeal for Canada in supporting this initiative within the auspices of the G7 is that it fits perfectly within the stated themes of its Presidency. Specifically, the EPU is aimed at investing growth that works for everyone, preparing for jobs of the future and building a more peaceful and secure world. A peaceful and prosperous Ukraine would not only benefit the people of Ukraine, but would also serve to improve stability within eastern and southeastern Europe.

The bane of reform in Ukraine is not the lack of donor funds, but rather the corruption within the societal structure of Ukraine's post-Soviet make up. Western support for Ukrainian reform has been made conditional on Ukraine fighting this corruption, and progress is being made. Like the post-war Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe, the EPU proposes to adopt a comprehensive strategy to transform Ukraine's socio-economic situation.  Being supra national, the EPU will have mechanisms in place to benchmark and validate the financial tranches advanced for specific and targeted reforms.

The EPU will also be inspirational for the Ukrainian populace at large.  It is reasonable to assume that Ukraine will not be a member of NATO or the EU anytime soon, given the challenge of domestic reform, conflict with Russia and the breakaway region of the Donbass. The EPU therefore would provide an important interim transitional mechanism and goal for the Ukrainian government, business sector, and populace. It would provide Ukraine the incentive to follow a carefully crafted roadmap for domestic reform.

The implementation validation rigour managed by the Central Project Management structure would also provide confidence to the international donor community which would be linked up with select International Financial Institutions (IFIs).  This comprehensive approach, coordinated with associated Ukrainian partnerships offers Ukraine the best available prospect of meaningful reform.

Successful domestic reform will provide Ukraine desperately needed stability.  Furthermore, it will empower the ability, strength and autonomy of Ukraine to determine its own further course of action in its relationship to Europe.  Reform and economic prosperity are key elements which will add dynamism to international efforts to secure peaceful progress in the region of eastern and southeastern Europe.

An encouraging development in this respect is the signing on 24 November 2017 of the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between Armenia and the EU.  This is a milestone achievement between a member state of the Russo centred Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the EU.  This agreement builds on the earlier Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (EPCA) between EAEU member Kazakhstan and the EU.  These developments highlight the potential of peaceful rapprochement and cooperation in the region of eastern and southeastern Europe, and indeed Asia.  Ukraine has always stood as an important bridge between East and West and the EPU offers Ukraine the opportunity to reform, develop and play its key and evolving role in the region."

– Andrew Rasiulis, a former Director responsible for the Military Training Assistance Programme and Eastern European Policy at DND, is now a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.