Specialists for the Association: EU project helps government implement agreement

Dr. Janos Zakonyi, the team leader of the new EU-funded “Association4U/ Association for Ukraine and for You” project, draws an imaginary line upwards, continues it horizontally, and then pulls it downwards. He is illustrating the lines of communication between Ukrainian government departments dealing with European integration, which must occur via the central administration. “Coordination is always an issue, and not only in Ukraine,” says Zakonyi, who is Hungarian, “We are missing simple communication where officers working in different ministries can call each other and settle a question as a part of normal business.”

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Improvement of inter-institutional coordination is one of the project’s objectives. An event marking the project’s launch happened on May 19. The overall objective of the project is to reinforce the institutional capacity of the Ukrainian government to implement commitments it has undertaken under the Association Agreement. The willingness of governmental institutions is extremely important in achieving this.

“Much has been achieved within an institutional and procedural framework. We are not starting from scratch,”  Zakonyi says of the situation, “The Government Office for European Integration functions efficiently in many directions. Relevant departments have been set up in ministries, and some new procedures have been developed, but these all need improvement.”

The EU-funded project is not the only initiative in support of the implementation of the Association Agreement, but it does have some innovative features, including the “Fellowship Scheme Programme to support AA implementation.”

“We are going to translate about 30,000 pages of EU acquis into Ukrainian,” explains Cesar Herma, the key legal approximation expert for the project, “Currently, there is no government body responsible for this task. We are going to employ people and train them. The Government Office for European Integration is to be responsible for coordinating and planning this translation system. Also, we have the benefit of sharing the experiences of countries that have already joined the EU. All of them translated the EU legislation into their national languages and have proven strategies for doing it.”

After the conclusion of the project, its proponents hope that the specialised translation unit will continue to function within the government as those 30,000 pages are far from the only texts that need to be translated into Ukrainian. Meanwhile, the Fellowship Scheme Programme will develop human resource capacity in specialised units of various ministries, a crucial step in the context of public service reforms, which are, in turn, vital for Ukraine’s efficient EU integration.

“Our objective is to reinforce institutional capacity,” underlines Zakonyi, “When we talk about approximation to EU acquis, the main issue is dealing with the people responsible. After the project ends, they must be able to proceed on their own. We highly appreciate the specialists who work in the EU integration units of Ukrainian ministries, but they still can benefit from skill development. For example, they can improve foreign-language skills, knowledge of the EU framework, communication skills, etc.”

The “Association4U/ Association for Ukraine and for You” project’s budget exceeds €7 million. It provides not only for engagement of EU experts, but also Ukrainian specialists under the “Fellowship Scheme Programme.” Another ambitious initiative of the project is to launch a specialised website to provide information on various EU integration matters. The website will be targeted at journalists, businesses, and NGOs and fits within the project’s goal of enhancing public outreach relating to the Association Agreement.

“The public is somewhat cautious about any reforms, including those related to the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement,” Liudmyla Kosar, a key communication expert, says. “Clear understanding of the effect of reforms within the framework of the Association Agreement will reduce concerns and improve awareness of changes to be expected, thereby promoting more active participation in reforms in the country.”

General information

The “Association4U/ Association for Ukraine and for You” project is aimed at reinforcing the capacity of Ukrainian governmental institutions in fulfilling their commitments under the Association Agreement. The project provides for technical assistance in four areas: approximation of Ukrainian legislation with the EU aquis, development of human resources, policy development and coordination, and public communication. The project will continue until January 2019.