News - 2016.02.23 - Henry Jackson Society

Photo: the Henry Jackson Society (c) 2016

Sir Gerald Howarth chaired a panel discussion on Ukraine-EU relations

23 February 2016

The Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ukraine, Sir Gerald Howarth MP, chaired a panel discussion on ‘Ukraine and the EU: The Challenges and Opportunities of a Closer Political Relationship’. Hosted by the Henry Jackson Society in the Houses of Parliament on 23 February, the event featured a delegation of five Ukrainian MPs.

Serhiy Leshchenko, a member of the Petro Poroshenko Bloc, opened the event by discussing corruption in Ukraine. While the country has gone through a dramatic process of political and social transformation since the Revolution of Dignity in early 2014, Mr Leshchenko noted that the main obstacle to modernisation and economic prosperity remains the corrupt habits of old political-oligarchic elites. Despite some success in adopting anti-corruption measures, the lack of political will is making life troublesome for young civil activists who are fighting hard for Ukraine’s integration into European political structures.

Alyona Shkrum from the Fatherland party continued Mr Leshchenko’s line of thought by noting that youthful energy is not enough for the successful implementation of new regulations and reforms. Old bureaucratic elites are trying to maintain their power. Nevertheless, Ms Shkrum said that Ukrainian civil society is very strong and vigilant, persistently keeping the government in check.

Alex Ryabchyn, also from the Fatherland party, argued that the security situation in eastern Ukraine, still under the control of Russia-backed separatists, remains very dangerous, and urged Russia to fulfil its obligations under the Minsk Agreements.

Viktoria Ptashnyk of the Self-Reliance party returned to the issue of corruption, reiterating that Ukraine’s state-owned companies are especially corrupt. In her view, the primary task facing Ukraine is to introduce fairness and transparency into the financial proceedings of state-owned companies.

Finally, Ostap Semerak, a member of the People’s Front party, argued that the best answer to Putin’s aggression is a successful and reformed Ukraine. In his remarks, Mr Semerak focused on the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement and how Russia is still trying to block its full implementation. Furthermore, Mr Semerak argued that visa liberalisation plan is not only beneficial in terms of lifting travel bans, but also stimulates implementation of other European standards and regulations.

Sir Gerald Howarth ended the event with his concluding remarks, stressing that the UK, as one of the signatories of the Budapest Memorandum, must do more to support its Eastern European ally that is still suffering from Russia’s intervention.

The Henry Jackson Society event was followed by a meeting of the Ukrainian MPs with their British counterparts, where Sir Gerald Howarth was joined by Lord Risby and Lord Oxford, who are Chairman and Director of British Ukrainian Society respectively, to further discuss bilateral relations and reforms in Ukraine.