Posted on October 5, 2020
Dear Mr Arakhamia,
We heard you only reply to letters, so we wrote you one. We also heard that you consider the danger of losing the Visa-Free regime and financial assistance to be only “rumors”. Allow us to explain why that is not the case:
The people of Ukraine have many true friends in the European Union and this is important to remember. We, the handful members of the European Parliament, consider ourselves to be a few of that many. Since 2014 alone, the EU invested over €15 billion in Ukraine. We share this rather unknown fun-fact with you, not to solicit your gratitude but to reaffirm that the fate of your country is very dear to us and we deeply care about its future. We also share it to remind you that the source of this assistance are the EU citizens to whom we are accountable and who so generously relinquished part of their income under the flowing condition: free Ukraine from rampant corruption, fix judiciary and healthcare, establish transparent local governance.
Around 17 months ago, President Zelensky and your team come to power on two prominent promises – to combat corruption and restore peace and territorial integrity. We are confident that these two are tightly intertwined and tackling the first will expedite resolving the latter. We were thrilled to see that your Government showed strong determination in swiftly solving both gargantuan tasks.
Ukraine, during the first six months of your rule, implemented crucial reforms in the “turbo regime” which is all the more remarkable, considering the military occupation by Russian forces and the Kremlin’s constant hybrid aggression. The Ukrainians risking their lives in the Donbas Region fight not only for the sovereignty of their country but also contribute to security in entire Europe. We all are greatly indebted to those brave men and women.
In fighting corruption too, your government inspired hope in its early days. President himself envisaged “Ukraine of his dreams” where “teachers receive real salaries – and corrupt officials real jail time”. 17 months later, we cannot but see that the dream is showing cracks and many of those cracks are knee-deep in your party, Mr. Arakhamia.
We cannot but see that some members of Sluha Narodu are spreading Kremlin-backed disinformation while orchestrating well-organized attacks on independent institutions like NBU, NABU, and SAP. The same members do not shy away from rubbing shoulders with oligarchs and “untouchables” or publicly advocating for cutting ties with the EU.
We cannot but see that the corruption perception in Ukraine in 2020 fell back to the 2017 mark, the praised reforms are backsliding, and the SAPO head is posed to be elected by a commission that lacks significant anti-corruption experience, reputation, high moral qualities, and public authority.
We cannot but see the general prosecutor downplaying the allegations of corrupted judges, a health minister allegedly attempting to kickback in the very midst of a pandemic, and the scandalous case of selling state posts for exuberant amounts of money collecting dust on the prosecutor’s table.
All this endangers particularly the €1.2 Billion Macro-Financial Assistance not because we want it so, but because the mutual agreements that you and we concluded foresee it.
The Commission’s 2020 report clearly stated that the Ukrainian side should “ensure the independence, effectiveness and sustainability of the anti-corruption institutional framework and avoid politicisation of the work of all law enforcement agencies. In particular address persisting concerns with the independence and integrity of SAPO, including by ensuring a credible selection procedure for the next SAPO Head”.
The Memorandum of Understanding concluded between the EU and Ukraine for a €1.2 Billion assistance also emphasizes the crucial need for “the independent and effective operation of the anti-corruption institutions and of the prosecution, including by: conducting merit-based competitions.”
With regard to the Visa-free regime, it is by no means the intention from the EU side to abolish this great achievement for all Ukrainian and the EU citizens – still, we will reserve the right to impose the specific denial of such freedoms to individual oligarchs and policy-makers who abuse this right for their private illegal activities.
We are fully aware that besides the dozens of bad apples, your party is also a platform for energetic, intelligent, and honest lawmakers who are committed to putting the country’s national interests above everything else and fighting for its European future. Unfortunately, they are minority and thus not always heard.
We strongly believe that these progressive, reform-oriented lawmakers of Sluha Narodu should become the main buttress of your government in order to reinvigorate the zeal for reforms and put the country back on the democratization track. Only this way will Ukraine manage to retain the well-earned benefits of the EU-integration and also strive for much more. Through the Eastern Partnership’s “more for more” principle, it’s you who defines how deep the integration will go.
It is the true friend’s obligation for honesty that inspired us to write you this letter and as friends of Ukraine, we stand with its people in their struggle for a free, united, and just country. Yet, at the end of the day, all we can offer is friendly advice and a friendly hand;
however it’s you, the government of Ukraine that will need to take ownership of the country and decide Ukraine of whose dreams you are willing to building. We only hope you will build one that makes all us proud.
Dear Mr. Arakhamia, come by the European Parliament next time you and President Zelensky are in Brussels. You have friends here.
Members of the European Parliament
Viola von Cramon
Rasa JuknevičieMembers of the European Parliament
Viola von Cramon