By: Ilona Sologub (Kyiv School of Economics), Tetiana Tyshchuk (VoxUkraine), Oleksandr Zholud (VoxUkraine), Dmitry Yablonovsky (The Center for Economics Strategy), Maksym Skubenko (VoxCheck), Oleksandr Yaroshchuk (VoxUkraine), Taras Baranetsky (NGO European Dialogue), Olena Shkarpova (VoxCheck)
Within the last two years, the president signed the Association Agreement with the EU, considerably increased funding of the military and almost introducing a visa-free regime. However, other changes promised by Poroshenko have just been started.
On June 7, 2014, Petro Poroshenko was sworn in as president and was inaugurated as the 5th president of Ukraine. He joined the run for presidency with a six-page electoral programme “Live in a New Way!”, in which he gave his vision of the country’s development and gave concrete promises to the electorate. After Poroshenko won the elections, he made a number of keynote speeches to clarify his obligations towards Ukrainian people. Before the president’s equator – on December 7, it’s been two years and a half since the presidential elections were held in Ukraine – VoxUkraine checked which of Poroshenko’s promises have been kept within this term.
What We Checked
We started with Poroshenko’s electoral programme “Live in a New Way!”, which is the main document in terms of accountability to the electorate. However, the programme wasn’t concrete enough, that’s why we coupled it with a list of promises the president made in his important speeches, such as Poroshenko’s inauguration speech (June 7, 2014) and his speech at the Strategy-2020 press-conference (September 25, 2014).
The president’s promises were divided into seven categories, on which the president has direct influence due to his powers stipulated in the Constitution or which were prioritized in his speeches:
- defense / law
- foreign policy
- judicial system
- decentralization / government administration
- political structure
- fight against corruption
The VoxUkraine team picked the verifiable promises, i.e. the ones like “to save Ukraine” weren’t checked within this project. Our list isn’t yet final since we weren’t able to check all of the president’s speeches. Since Poroshenko’s promise to sell Roschen (mentioned in other speeches) was in the spotlight, it was included on our list.
In total, we counted 32 promises. Most of them are related to decentralization / government administration, foreign policy, and the political system. Within two and a half years, the president fully kept eight promises, broke eight ones and partially kept seventeen promises.
Among the kept promises is the signed Association Agreement with the EU. Also, thanks to the efforts of the Ukrainian authorities we are close to receiving a visa-free regime with the EU, although Ukraine hasn’t received it officially yet (as of December 16). The promised reforms such as fighting corruption, lustration, reform of the judicial and law-enforcement systems as well as reforms of the civil service, decentralization, etc. have just been launched or are stalled. The following promises were broken: to hold parliamentary elections using an open lists system, sell Roshen, introduce a law on opposition, etc.
Follow the link to see the full list of the analyzed president’s commitments (32 in total). Below you may find the sounding president’s promises related to different categories, which he either managed to keep or broke.
Defense and Law Enforcement
President’s promises related to the army and defense, made in the above-mentioned speeches, may be divided into two topics: increased expenditures for the army and the reform of the law enforcement system. In total, we discovered four specific defense-related promises. They all are partially kept. Here are the examples:
“I’m planning a significant and considerable increase of expenditures for recuperation, modernization and strengthening of the military and other structures the defense against the external aggression depends on” (“Live in a New Way!” Programme) – partially kept.
The military expenditures increased from 1% of GDP in 2013 to 2.8% of GDP, that exceeds a 2% share recommended by NATO while not all the countries in the alliance meet the target. Capital expenditures on weapon inventory considerably increased from 0.045% of GDP in 2013 to 0.276% that can be considered a step towards an improved logistic support of the armed forces.
At the same time, a control system of expenditures for logistic support of the Armed Forces of Ukraine was developed but hasn’t been implemented yet. The military industrial sector experiences serious problems, from the ongoing procurement of spare parts from the Russian Federation to expensive equipment of poor quality, to misallocation of funds.
There are still serious problems with the mass production of complex technologies, in particular, due to a lack of skilled workforce.
“To reform the law enforcement system (courts, militia, the Security Service of Ukraine, and Prosecution Service) means to open the door to successful developments, including economic ones. Independent judiciary alone can ensure the protection of rights and freedoms and inviolability of property, which are crucial for the inflow of investments to the country” (“Live in a New Way!” Programme) – partially kept.
The new patrol police force was created. Police officers of the old regime that wanted to continue their service had to pass the re-attestation, however, many of those who failed to do so and were fired later resumed their jobs through court. It was only on September 30, 2016 when the judicial reform started. The reform of the Security Service of Ukraine wasn’t implemented while the reform of the Prosecution Service is stuck. It’s demonstrated by the way the investigations of high-profile cases, such as the shooting massacre on Maidan, the case of “diamond prosecutor” etc. are being postponed.
Promises related to this issue can be reduced to several topics: signing the Ukraine–EU Association Agreement (kept), establishing a visa-free regime with the EU (partially kept, see below), and signing an international agreement that would replace the Budapest memorandum (broken). Two more promises – to improve access to the global markets for Ukrainian goods and implement the Association Agreement with the EU – are being fulfilled.
“To sign the economic chapters of the Association Agreement with the EU (a free trade area) within the shortest possible time” (“Live in a New Way” Programme) – kept.
The promise to sign the Association Agreement with the EU is kept.
“The same goes for a prompt introduction of a visa-free regime with the EU for Ukraine. We have completed the first stage and will be able to complete the second one very soon, to let Ukrainians travel visa-free since January 2015” (Inauguration speech) – partially kept.
In fact, the president’s promise to introduce a visa-free regime for Ukrainians can be considered to be achieved, given that Ukraine has complied with its commitments to the EU regarding the “visa-free” reform package. However, in his speeches, Poroshenko promised the visa-free regime far too often, each time giving a specific date (see the timeline below):
Petro Poroshenko promised to introduce a visa-free regime:
- Within the first year of his presidency
- Since January 1, 2015 (hereinafter the same source is quoted)
- In 2016
- In the first half of 2016
- In September 2016
- In October 2016
- By November 14, 2016
As of writing and editing this article (December 16), a visa-free regime hasn’t been granted yet to Ukraine. Nevertheless, European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs on December 8 approved the suspension mechanism for a visa-free regime. Thus, the issue entered its final straight such as adoption by the European Parliament.
“I will use my diplomatic experience to ensure signing of the international agreement which would replace the Budapest memorandum. This agreement should provide a direct and reliable guarantee of peace and security – up to military support in case of a threat to the territorial integrity” (Inauguration speech) – broken.
The promise to sign the international agreement similar to the Budapest memorandum is broken. A completely new agreement is unlikely to be drawn up. Instead of this, Ukraine can join NATO that would virtually provide “direct and reliable guarantee of peace and security”. However, Ukraine’s NATO membership remains a fairly distant prospect.
The president made two promises related to the judicial system. They both are partially kept. Their keynote is the following:
“To establish public control over the appointment and activities of judges and develop the system of their autonomous performance that is independent from the legislative and executive branches” (“Live in a New Way!” Programme) – partially kept.
The promise has been partially kept. The first steps have been made, however, the implementation of the judicial reform that Ukrainians can appreciate has a long way to go. Together with the adopted Law of Ukraine “On Judicial System and Status of Judges” and judiciary-related amendments to the Constitution a number of new professional standards for judges were introduced, including
- Partial lift of immunity
- Re-attestation of judges, annulling a number of courts and establishing new ones with judges appointed on a competitive basis
- Judges should declare assets, including such of their family members
- Significant increase in salary depending on experience and position of a judge
The reform implementation started on September 30, 2016. Moreover, it will require further legislation amendments. Thus, it’s too soon to speak of the results stated by the president.
Decentralization / Government Administration
These promises mostly refer to two topics, such as decentralization of power and state service reforms. Here are the examples (in total, we counted eight promises. To read them, please follow this link):
“Local communities will get more rights and funds for the exercise of their powers” (“Live in a New Way!” Programme) – kept.
“The decentralization reform will start this year (2014 – Ed.) by amendments to the Constitution” (Inauguration speech) – broken.
The decentralization reform was launched on April 1, 2014 when the government adopted the Concept of Reform of Local Self-Government and Territorial Organization of Power in Ukraine. Following the changes to the Budget and Tax Codes at the end of 2014, local budgets needed 22% less subsidies in 2015 comparing to 2014. In the first half of 2016, local budgets 1.5 times increased (UAH 21 bln) that is well over the current inflation. Besides, in 2015, regions received UAH 2.9 bln of funding for regional development projects from the State Fund for Regional Development through a transparent procedure. The experiment on transferring the extra revenues of the customs to road repair is in progress.
Another positive point is that local government bodies were authorized in the field of architectural and construction control and improvement of urban planning legislation (the Law was adopted in May of 2015). In the end of 2015, there was a Law adopted on broadening the powers of local government bodies on providing administrative services.
However, not everything in the garden is rosy. Constitutional amendments on decentralization were not adopted. Thus, as of the end of 2016, the executive power in regions and districts still belongs to the regional and district state administrations. It means that the regional authorities still depend on the president who appoints governors proposed by the Cabinet of Ministers. In addition, Verkhovna Rada recently rejected a bill on improving the procedure of setting the first local elections in the territorial communities formed due to uniting of different districts. It slows down the reform because such communities cannot finalize the integration process without elections.
“To create a professional body of public servants, improve social welfare and enhance responsibility” (“Live in a New Way” Programme) – partially kept.
The civil service reform has also been launched: adopted at the end of 2015, a relevant law entered into force on May 1, 2016. The competitive selection for CEO positions at state-run companies was launched – although the procedure was nominally introduced in 2008, it hadn’t been working. Through a mechanism for transparent selection, CEOs of such large state-run companies as Ukrposhta, Ukrainian Railways, Lviv Airport and others were replaced (in total, according to the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade of Ukraine, new CEOs were appointed at eight of 24 state-run companies in which the competition has been held).
However, a very slow pace of the reform (as well as the resistance of the system and also the unreformed Labour Code) was among the reasons why, for example, former Minister of Infrastructure Andriy Pivovarsky left the Cabinet of Ministers while newly hired employees remain the minority in the government machine.
This category contains most of the kept promises in absolute and relative terms – three out of five. In accordance with the president’s promises, Ukraine is still a unitary state, its territorial integrity is not a matter for discussion, and there are no attempts to expand presidential powers. There’s only one broken promise – to introduce a law on opposition in the Parliament. Another promise is only partially kept – to hold early parliamentary elections using an open list system.
Here’s an example of Poroshenko’s promises:
“I’d like to emphasize my commitment to the idea of a republic with a semi-presidential system. There’s no usurpation of power” (Inauguration speech) – kept.
The president proposed no amendments to the Constitution that would significantly strengthen his role in the executive branch. At the same time, the president’s influence on the Parliament is slightly stronger than stipulated in the Constitution. Appointment of Yuriy Lutsenko as Prosecutor General has not been without amending the law on the Prosecutor General’s Office specifically for this candidate. And the story of resignation of Aivaras Abromavičius, Ukraine’s Minister of Economy and Trade, who accused Ihor Kononenko, an associate of Petro Poroshenko, of interfering in the Minister’s work, only confirms the thesis about the expanded power of the president that extends beyond his duties. However, let us repeat – formally, presidential powers remain within the limits stipulated by the Constitution, and there are no signs of usurpation of power.
“I’ll provide a full reset of power. I’ll do my best, using my constitutional powers, to make sure that early parliamentary elections based solely on an open list proportional representation system will be held by the end of 2014” (“Live in a New Way” Programme) – partially kept.
Parliamentary elections were held, but using a mixed-member proportional system. There were no open lists similar to those existing in the electoral law of the Netherlands or Finland.
“I’ll introduce a law on parliamentary opposition in Verkhovna Rada as a matter of high priority” (“Live in a New Way” Programme) – broken.
The president failed to introduce the law on parliamentary opposition in the Parliament.
The Fight against Corruption
The start of practical action to fight corruption is a question journalists ask the president very often. For example, at a press conference in January 2016 this issue was among the most frequently mentioned. We found the following examples of Poroshenko’s promises on this issue:
“I set a task for myself personally, and for the brains behind the reforms in the Presidential Administration and in the Cabinet of Ministers: to prepare a package of bills to start priority reforms for the opening of the first session of the newly elected Verkhovna Rada (in 2014 – Ed.). And, by the way, on 14 October I’ll categorically demand the old parliament to adopt the law on the National Anti-Corruption Bureau” (“Strategy 2020”) – kept.
Verkhovna Rada did adopt the package of anti-corruption laws on 14 October 2014. Notably, these laws envisage creation of the National Agency for Prevention of Corruption, prevention of corruption, a new e-declaration system, creation of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine, and determination of beneficial owners.
“Anti-corruption lustration of judicial, law enforcement, tax, and customs authorities” (“Live in a New Way” Programme) – partially kept.
The law “On cleaning of the authorities” was adopted in September 2014. This law relates to public officials who occupied certain, mainly leading positions in the state authorities, courts, and law enforcement bodies during the reign of the party of Victor Yanukovych or have worked in the Communist Party sector in the Soviet Union (for a full list of positions subject to lustration, see Article 3 of the Law). As of 5 December 2016, the list of lustrated civil servants included 937 people. A number of civil servants resigned themselves.
But the “anti-corruption” lustration didn’t happen, and it’s unlikely it can happen, because it is the court that should determine the involvement in corruption and impose a relevant punishment. The Venice Commission came to a similar conclusion, and appreciated the law, but warned of the risks of human rights violations during the lustration process in the absence of a relevant court decision: “Information on the persons subject to lustration measures should only be made public after a final judgment by a court,” says a Commission report (Article 101).
This section includes the statements by Petro Poroshenko on issues not related to those mentioned above. In particular, the president had promised to sell Roshen, a promise he failed to keep. Poroshenko transferred the company in a blind trust.
Other promises of the president were:
“An important issue is to ensure energy independence and diversification of gas supplies. Reduction of the energy consumption is our common cause, which begins with simple actions like turning off the lights when leaving the house, and ends with modernisation of the enterprises and production while at the same time reducing energy consumption” – partially kept.
Naftogaz hasn’t purchased gas from Gazprom for more than a year. There has been a significant reduction in gas consumption. We tried to evaluate the causes in this article. However, the question whether Ukraine is independent in carbon procurement is not a trivial one, because the anthracite coal deposits were left entirely in the ATO zone, not controlled by Ukraine (let us remind you that this variety of coal accounts for about 40% of the needs of Ukrainian thermal power plants). Moreover, Ukraine needs more uranium concentrate than it produces, that’s why some of the raw materials come from Russia. However, an agreement with Australia for the purchase of uranium concentrate was signed in March this year.
“Media ownership structure will become transparent, and competitive environment in this sector will become stronger. Creation of a public broadcaster is on the agenda as a matter of urgency” (“Live in a New Way” Programme) – partially kept.
In 2015, a law “On Amendments to Some Laws of Ukraine on ensuring transparency of the media ownership…” was adopted. Some media started disclosing their ownership structure (an example). In addition, there appeared an informational site supported by the EU Delegation to Ukraine and USAID. Corporatisation of the state-owned First National TV channel and the process of creation of public broadcaster on its base started. But there were no real changes. Chairman of the National Television Company of Ukraine Zurab Alasania resigned because the budget funds for public broadcasting in 2017 were spent on the Eurovision Song Contest. Moreover, deceleration of the local cells of the National Television Company of Ukraine lead to establishment of the joint-stock company National Public TV and Radio Broadcasting of Ukraine.
“I especially emphasize respect for the rights of all national minorities. Particular attention should be paid to the protection of the Ukrainian Crimea and Crimean Tatars as an indigenous people of Crimea” (“Live in a New Way” Programme) – partially kept.
In general, the rights of national minorities are enshrined in the Law “On National Minorities in Ukraine” and the Constitution of Ukraine (Articles 11 and 53), and, indeed, are respected, although there are problems with observance of the rights of the Crimean Tatar minority in the Crimea because of its occupation. At the same time, in November 2016, organizations of national minorities of Ukraine sent an open letter to the president asking to ensure their constitutional right to education in their native language. This request was caused by a legislative initiative, treated by the national minority leaders as abolition of the constitutional guaranty to education in their mother tongue. Also, this issue was discussed at a meeting of the Committee for Human Rights, National Minorities, and International Relations.
Let us remind you that you can find a complete list of the analyzed promises of the president by following this link.
The author doesn`t work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have no relevant affiliations
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