Behind Ukraine’s accession, corruption in the crosshairs

On Ukraine’s accession, has the European Union put the cart before the horse? Last week, the European Council of Heads of State and Government adopted with great fanfare the Commission’s recommendation granting candidate status to the country which has been under fire from Russia since February 24. The European Parliament had already warned that there would be no “accelerated procedure”while five states are still stuck in the airlock at the entrance: Turkey since 1999, but also North Macedonia (2005), Montenegro (2010), Serbia (2012) and Albania (2014).

This Friday, Ursula Von der Leyen calls on the Ukrainian authorities to accelerate reforms against corruption. “The road ahead will be long, but Europe will be with you every step of the way, however long it takes, from those dark days of war until the moment you cross the threshold into our European Union” , she promises in a videoconference speech to the Ukrainian parliament. According to the President of the European Executive, the authorities have already put in place “an impressive anti-corruption machine”. Behind the encouraging words, Von der Leyen lays down conditions. “Now these institutions need means of action and the right people in positions of responsibility, she believes. The new head of the anti-corruption prosecutor’s office and the new director of the Ukrainian National Anti-Corruption Bureau should be appointed as soon as possible.” In its list of immediate demands, Brussels is also calling for a “judge selection procedure” appointed to the Constitutional Court, a “legally sound implementation” of the new law intended to counter « the excessive influence of the oligarchs on the economy » as well as the creation of an independent media regulatory authority.

In reality, behind the noisy demonstrations of support for Ukraine, Europeans and Westerners, more generally, are beginning to seriously worry about a risk of embezzlement of funds which could be paid for the reconstruction of the country. . On the eve of an international conference on the subject, organized next Monday and Tuesday in Lugano (Switzerland), an estimate of the necessary amounts makes one dizzy. According to the calculations of Ivan Lukeria, Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Territorial Development, the damage caused to critical infrastructure alone already amounts to nearly 45 billion dollars (43 billion euros). The President of the European Investment Bank assesses the total cost of the reconstruction of Ukraine at 1,100 billion dollars (1,051 billion euros).

Embezzlement, bribery, influence peddling and abuse of power… Before the war unleashed by Vladimir Putin, Ukraine was at the back of the pack in the anti-corruption rankings of the NGO Transparency International. Only Russia and Azerbaijan rank behind in the Euro-Asian space… Despite the gigantic wealth in its basements which are full of iron and nickel ores, but also precious metals such as manganese, titanium and palladium, despite its status as the breadbasket of Europe, Ukraine is also very badly placed in terms of standard of living: the average per capita income barely exceeds 3,000 euros per year, very far behind European standards.

What, there too, to encourage the Swiss who co-organize with Volodymyr Zelensky the Lugano conference to be very careful. “It will be very difficult for Ukraine to deal with the dangers of corruption that will accompany the imminent and massive reconstruction, thus warns Gretta Fenner, the director general of the Basel Institute for governance. Without supervision and control over the allocated funds, I fear that not only a lot of money will be lost, but also that the oligarchic structures will again control Ukraine much more”.


Back to top button