Ukraine studying and adopting European standards with the help of TAIEX

For ten years, the Technical Assistance and Information Exchange (TAIEX) project has been helping Ukraine bring its legislation in line with European standards and providing support to Ukrainian politicians and officials.

The European Commission established TAIEX in 1996 with the aim of helping EU candidate countries and countries covered by the European Neighborhood policy to implement European legislation. TAIEX is now working in the Eastern Partnership countries, Turkey, the Balkans, Syria, Tunisia, Israel, Egypt and many other countries.

In Ukraine, TAIEX’s work boils down to two main areas: expert evaluation and assistance in writing legislation, and training for officials and politicians. One of the biggest advantages of this instrument is that it allows Ukraine to invite qualified experts from the European Union to visit for short periods of time to assist in the creation of new Ukrainian legislation.

If our MPs write a draft law, for example, on social policy in Ukraine and they want to bring it closer to European standards, they can apply to TAIEX for support. Experts from different countries where similar laws have already been implemented will visit, review and modify such draft  legislation,” says the TAIEX coordinator in Ukraine, Natalia Starostenko. TAIEX support is available for almost all areas of government activity: justice, finance, social services, agriculture, environment, energy, transport, and telecommunications.

Civil servants from the Ministry of the Interior participated in one such training programme in Kyiv in early October. The Polish expert mission on reorganising firefighting brigades conducted a week-long training for Ukrainian rescue and firefighting services. During the sessions, the heads of the regional State Emergency Service of Ukraine learned first-hand how to create a system of volunteer fire brigades.

It was useful to learn about the Polish experience; it was different from what I saw in Austria and Germany,” says the deputy chief of the duty service and the readiness of the control points, Sergiy Kudin. Kudin says the Polish experience is especially interesting because Poland, like Ukraine, has a socialist history. In his opinion, the most useful information shared in the training was the Polish experience with internal accounting and auditing.

Despite the temptation to borrow from the experience of different countries, Kudin is very determined to take the time to study these experiences and use the knowledge to create a new system suited for Ukraine. “We are still studying the foreign experience, but we won’t just take something from Austria and something from Poland. We will study their experiences and create our own system,” he says.

In addition to the training it provides in Ukraine, TAIEX also allows Ukrainian officials and politicians to participate in training and study visits abroad. During these visits, the officials learn from and exchange experiences with foreign colleagues.

One of the most recent trips was by a group of judges from the Specialised Higher Court of Ukraine for Civil and Criminal Cases visiting the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands.

From September 13-15, the three judges studied the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) process on war crimes. They also met with Anna Cylyris, situational analyst, and Elena Plamenac, associate situational analyst to discuss cooperation between Ukraine and the ICC. In particular, they discussed how the ICC examines the statements of countries that have not ratified the Rome Statute. In the case of Ukraine, this applies to crimes committed against Euromaidan activists.

After the Revolution of Dignity, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine approved a statement giving the ICC jurisdiction under the article 12(3) of Rome Statute. According to this article, a country that has not ratified the Statute can apply to the Registrar of the ICC and accept the Court’s jurisdiction in a specific situation.

This conversation with the ICC was particularly timely considering that the Association Agreement between Ukraine and EU requires that Ukraine ratify the Rome Statute. There is hope that the visit may indicate positive change is coming for the Ukrainian judicial system, and that Ukraine will make the necessary amendments to the Constitution to ratify the Rome Statute.

According to Starostenko words, in the ten years the TAIEX project has been working in Ukraine, the Ukrainian public service has seen a renewal. While TAIEX did not originally enjoy a lot of government support, Ukraine has now become a leader in taking advantage of the programme.

Now Ukraine is in first place among the Eastern Partnership countries for using TAIEX, and fourth among all 22 countries in which TAIEX operates,” says Starostenko. In the past year (from June 2015 to June 2016), Ukraine has benefitted from 102 TAIEX events. For comparison, neighbouring Belarus held 12 activities, Armenia six, and Egypt 23. In the number of activities carried out, only the countries of the former Yugoslavia managed to outdo Ukraine. For example, Montenegrin officials participated in 160 events over the year.

The most proactive sectors in Ukraine, which take advantage of TAIEX most often, are the justice and finance sectors. “The courts and the National Bank of Ukraine are always ready to learn. The Securities Commission also always applies for TAIEX support,” says Starostenko. The competition for TAIEX events is intense and the project coordinators select only 30% of applications. “This shows that Ukrainians are open to change and ready to work. Ukraine has the highest among other partnering countries quality of work, excellent results, and an outstanding reputation in Brussels,” she adds.

TAIEX’s main goal is to provide short-term technical assistance and advice on the implementation of the EU acquis into the national legislation of beneficiary countries.