EU prescribes Ukraine the cure to heal from corruption. Von der Leyen: “impressive anti-corruption regime but now this institution need teeth”

Brussels, 1 July 2022 – It’s the day the EU flag is officially placed in the plenary hall of Ukrainian Parliament where Zelenskyy, MPs and government officials stand in an emotional applause rippling around, Ursula von der Leyen is on the big screen: “I believe in Ukraine’s European future. It is your future and only you can make it happen. You can change this country for good and this will be your ultimate victory: a free and vibrant Ukraine, a sovereign Ukraine, finally reunited with our European family”.

And then on with a well put and encouraging words: “Your European path and the reconstruction of the country will go hand in hand – Commission president said – investments will have to be coupled with a new wave of reforms, you have determined your reforms agenda and have already made important progress”, followed by the cahiers de doléances: “Preventing and combatting corruption has been particularly high on EU agenda since the Revolution of Dignity (eg. Euro-Maidan Revolution). You have created an impressive anti-corruption regime, but now this institution need teeth and the right people in senior posts”.

Homeworks for Ukraine: “The new head of specialised anti-corruption prosecutors office and the new director of the national anti-corruption bureau of Ukraine should be appointed as soon as possible. Take your plans to reform the Constitutional court: legislation is needed for selection procedures of judges in line with the recommendations of the Venice Commission: institutions must come to life” EU Commission President said, pointing at the excessive influence of oligarchs on Ukrainian politics and economy.

The hint to the ‘upset’ Balkan states still waiting for progress on their EU membership status is subtle here: “Today Ukraine is the only country of Europe Eastern partnership to have adopted a law to break the oligarchs grip on the economy and political life, and I commend you for that”; meaning the gap in ongoing reforms between Ukraine and the other eastern aspiring members such as Serbia, North Macedonia, Kosovo, Albania is still wide and this, not only the Russian invasion, would justify the priority and why Ukraine is on top of the queue.

Pressure on the bloc, on Council and Commission in particular, since Ukraine and Moldova were reckoned candidate status, is mounting. And here comes in Macron’s plan for a wider European Community, a definition recalling, not by chance, the early stages of EU from EEC, the European Economic Community founded in 1957, prior to further integration and transformation with Schengen, Maastricht, the Lisbon Treaty, the Eurozone.

Yes, the proposal is not nonsense, but it might be dangerous for the EU, its accession paths and balance in the region, though it would maintain democratic standards of member states. Meaning that this ‘community’ will be formed by states waiting for the full EU membership, but included in a set of economic and defense guarantees, though their reform path required from the EU is not yet complete as members accession actually takes decades.

The first “European Political Community” meeting will take place before the end of this year, Emmanuel Macron announced, in the Czech Republic which succeeded France in the six months presidency of the Council of the European Union.

What exactly the project will entail lays still in the reign of the doubt: coming to the nitty-gritty what do we make of Turkey and Serbia? The recent visit of EU foreign policy chief Borrell to Bosnia, North Macedonia and Albania last March made clear where priorities are and which are the vulnerable countries that need to be fast-tracked. Russian second best friend after Belarus, Serbia, is last in the queue.

Emy Muzzi/Justine de Braeme

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