The international platform CivilMPlus, to which representatives of Ukrainian civil society, we as Austausch e.V. and other European partners belong, has summarized essential positions with regard to tomorrow's EU-Ukraine summit in Kiev and the EU accession process for Ukraine. Here we publish the statement.
As representatives of Ukrainian civil society and its European partners, united within the framework of the international NGO platform CivilMPlus, we strongly support the early start of the EU accession process for Ukraine and welcome the 24th EU-Ukraine Summit, which will be held on February 3, 2023, in Kyiv.
Ukraine’s strong commitment to European integration was a key impetus for democratic changes and reforms in the country before 2014 and even more so after.
Ukraine’s resistance against Russian military aggression is a struggle for independence and sovereignty. Ukrainian warriors are protecting not only their families and their state. Ukrainians are ready to risk and lose their lives for freedom and democracy. They are paying a high price for their European aspirations and they want to be a part of the European family along with other successful and prosperous democracies one day.
The EU accession process for Ukraine and launch of the corresponding negotiations should start as soon as possible after Kyiv implements the European Commission’s recommendations and receives positive assessment of its reforms. The start of the negotiating process will greatly contribute to the resilience of Ukrainian society and its ability to resist Russian aggression. To achieve this, Ukraine needs strong and multifaceted support from its international partners. The situation in Ukraine should be a central focus for the EU and world authorities, civil society and media.
We are convinced that it is crucial to support Ukraine in defending itself against Russian aggression. The EU’s enduring commitment to military support for Ukraine and military assistance provided via the European Peace Facility (EPF) are incredibly helpful to Ukraine’s resistance. The EU decision to increase its overall funding by €2 billion in 2023 will help to save the lives of both the military and civilians in Ukraine. We are grateful for the decision to set up the EU Military Assistance Mission in support of Ukraine (EUMAM Ukraine). Training 15,000 Armed Forces of Ukraine personnel will increase the strength of the Ukrainian resistance and help to enhance the capability of the AFU to conduct military operations effectively.
For Ukraine to be able to predictably plan its budget, a long-term program is required that indicates possible amounts and a schedule of financial support tranches that the EU can guarantee, commensurate with Ukraine’s needs. We appreciate the European Commission’s decision to allocate €18 billion of support in the form of loans to Ukraine for 2023. Stable, regular, and predictable financial assistance will help to cover a significant part of Ukraine’s short-term funding needs. We expect that this instrument will be accompanied by reforms inside Ukraine.
Sanctions against Russia are an essential element of international support for Ukraine and the world’s effort to limit the Kremlin’s capabilities to wage war and eventually to force it to stop the invasion. It is important to ensure that the sanctions are impossible to avoid.
Russia captured the largest nuclear power plant in Europe – the Ukrainian Zaporizhzhia NPP – and is using it to build up and manipulate the public’s fear of a nuclear catastrophe. We support the EU’s condemnation of the annexation of the NPP by Russia and believe that there is an urgent need for the world community to find ways to ensure the safety of the Zaporizhzhia NPP, as well as other critical infrastructure facilities close to the frontline, like the dams of hydroelectric power plants and others. Damage to these objects can lead to large-scale ecological disasters.
The EU is significantly supporting Ukraine’s economy which has been hit hard by the Russian aggression. We expect the EU decision on trade liberalisation and the suspension of protective measures against Ukrainian goods to be extended until at least 2024. We expect progress in the introduction of the industrial visa-free regime between the EU and Ukraine and the conclusion of the Agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Goods (ACAA). The ACAA Agreement will provide that trade in goods in the sectors covered by it shall be conducted on the same terms as between the EU Member States. It will help to increase Ukrainian exports of high value-added goods not only to the European Union, but also to other countries. We expect Ukraine to join the EU’s free-roaming network. Once adopted, people traveling from Ukraine to the EU and EU travelers in Ukraine will be able to make phone calls, send text messages, or use mobile data without extra charges just like between EU member countries.
The EU should play a leading role in the post-war reconstruction of Ukraine. This reconstruction should go hand in hand with EU integration. The success of restoration will depend on Ukraine’s ability to export to the EU market and modernise its economy in line with the EU regulatory and legal environment. Reconstruction and economic recovery will require massive aid which will only be spent effectively if reforms in Ukraine continue.
The reconstruction process should be implemented in close cooperation with local communities that have suffered due to the war. At least 50% of the restoration efforts should be carried out by local companies.. A transparent mechanism for monitoring reconstruction funds should be established. There should be no chance that Ukrainian oligarchs will be able to use the reconstruction process to increase their capital and influence. Local ownership and community participation are important sources of Ukraine’s resilience and are key to making the results of reconstruction, modernisation, and recovery sustainable.
We call for the reconstruction to be governed by a dedicated donor coordination mechanism with strong Ukrainian government and civil society participation. Civil society actors should be closely consulted when designing and implementing the reconstruction and recovery processes. Cooperation with civil society should form the core of a human-centric approach to resilience and recovery.
The frozen assets of the Russian Central Bank, sanctioned Russian individuals and companies should be seized and transferred directly to Ukraine to co-fund the reconstruction. To speed up the EU’s ability to seize and use frozen assets for aid and recovery, the European Commission needs to proceed promptly with proposals to make sanctions evasion a criminal offense in all member states of the EU.
Economic recovery and the successful governance of Ukraine during and after the war will only be possible if the government pursues economic reforms, de-oligarchisation, anti-corruption efforts, and the decentralisation of decision-making. We call on the Ukrainian government to commit to the implementation of necessary reforms despite the ongoing war.
The return of refugees from European countries to Ukraine will guarantee the workforce for the reconstruction, the restoration of the social fabric and the further peaceful development of the country. Programs encouraging the return of Ukrainian citizens back to Ukraine should be developed in close cooperation with civil society.
A separate element of the recovery process that has already started is the reintegration of the territories of Ukraine that were liberated from Russian occupation. There should be a strategy on how to reintegrate these areas and return the rule of law and order there.
Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is a violation of international law and a violation of OSCE principles. We support the resolution of the European Parliament, in which it urges the EU, in close cooperation with Ukraine and the international community, to push for the creation of a special international tribunal to prosecute Russia’s political and military leadership and its allies. Finally, we also call on the European institutions to support efforts to document the war crimes committed. Together with ensuring the personal safety of Ukrainians, the restoration of justice is essential for sustainable peace and security in the whole Europe.