EU Advisory Mission opens office in Mariupol

The fourth regional office of the EU Advisory Mission has been recently opened in Mariupol. More than 20 experts from nine EU member states and Ukraine will support local law enforcement, advise on community policing, public order, criminal investigations and prosecution.

This week, Ukraine and its relations with the European Union were in the focus of attention of many international media: a bilateral summit held in Brussels provided an opportunity to catch one’s breath a bit, look back at what has been done, and assess the development of relations between the EU and Ukraine over the past year.

Considering the extraordinary circumstances Ukraine found itself in because of the coronavirus pandemic, the European Union stretched out, without an unnecessary delay, the hand of help to Ukrainian public authorities and medical workers engaged in combating COVID-19.

During the past several months, the European Union Advisory Mission (EUAM) became actively involved in this initiative as well.

Speaking about the medium- and long-term prospects, implementation of the Association Agreement and continuing support for reforms will remain in the focus of the EU’s attention as the key areas of bilateral cooperation. Therefore, EUAM intends to continue supporting the process of reforming the civil protection sector in Ukraine.

Since the launch of the Mission in 2014, the scope and geography of its activity have significantly expanded. In addition to the head office in Kyiv, EUAM has four regional offices across Ukraine today.

The Mission employs the total of over 300 international and Ukrainian specialists. Its forth regional office – in Mariupol – was opened literally two weeks ago. This new EUAM office was mentioned in the joint statement after the 22nd EU-Ukraine Summit, published on 29 September.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which filled the year 2020 with anxieties and fears, this step could be considered a convincing proof that the crisis has not only been unable to force us into retreat but also could not prevent the expanding support from our partners in Ukraine and promotion of the necessary reforms.

The opening of a regional office in Mariupol has huge importance both for EUAM itself and for other EU institutions in Ukraine, as well as for Ukrainian public institutions at central and local levels, which we support.

Mariupol is the second-largest city in the Donetsk Oblast and an important seaport, located in close proximity to the conflict area in the east of Ukraine. Considering this circumstance, the presence of EUAM in Mariupol is extremely important, both symbolically and practically.

One can hardly find another place in Ukraine where the EU flag flying over the city would’ve been so important. The opening of a EUAM regional office is a vivid proof of the European Union’s stability and resilience, which we are proud of.

It wasn’t accidental that EUAM decided to hold the Open Door Day at Teatralnyi Square in commemoration of the opening of its regional office specifically on 25 September, because on the weekend of 26-27 September the residents of Mariupol and visitors to the city celebrated the City Day.

The fact that COVID-19 was not an obstacle for us (even though we, obviously, strictly observed all healthcare and security protocols) also proves our own resilience and endurance. In addition, we were very pleased to communicate with people in person.

We know that in the end, we serve Ukrainian citizens and that our success will be measured by the attitude of citizens and their trust in government agencies and institutions to which EUAM provides support: the National Police of Ukraine, prosecution authorities, the State Border Guard Service, the State Customs Service, the Security Service of Ukraine, judicial authorities, the Interior Ministry and the Justice Ministry.

We were especially pleased to welcome to our event Vice Prime Minister Olha Stefanishyna and Deputy Interior Minister Tetiana Kovalchuk who, together with the Governor of the Donetsk Oblast, Mariupol Mayor and the Head of the EU Delegation to Ukraine Matti Maasikas, took part in the opening ceremony.

The presence of the ambassadors of many EU member states at the opening ceremony indicated the special expectations which the European Union has as regards the expansion of our cooperation in the south-eastern direction. As far as support for Ukraine and especially for the country’s eastern regions is concerned, the intentions of all EU member states remain unchanged and in solidarity with each other.

Even before opening its regional office in Mariupol, EUAM organized certain events in the city and surrounding areas. Presently, it has over 20 experts from nine EU member states and from Ukraine working there on a permanent basis.

They will provide support to public authorities on the spot, and offer strategic consultations regarding interaction between the police and communities, protection of public order, criminal investigations and work procedures of prosecution authorities.

In the opinion of EUAM, establishing contacts and developing cooperation between public authorities and civil society have huge importance. Only during a dialogue will a local community be able to express their opinion and actually have a say in how the authorities concerned work and take care of public safety.

Wasting no time, our experts in Mariupol have already started to work on developing a Public Safety Strategy for the south-eastern region.

A Public Safety Strategy is a model of organizing interaction between public authorities and civil society organizations. With the assistance from EUAM, this model has already been tested in other regions of Ukraine, and therefore, we hope that it will work in Mariupol as well.

You will be right when saying that implementation of our ambitious plans in Mariupol and across Ukraine in general seems an uneasy task because of the conflict in the Donbas and the coronavirus pandemic. To a certain degree, it is true.

However, it is worth mentioning that the Revolution of Dignity and subsequent developments in Eastern Ukraine we all know about became an impetus for the establishment of the European Union Advisory Mission.

When a crisis comes around, one must act, not sit around doing nothing. The people of Ukraine showed to the entire world their unbending strength and the power of spirit. Your example inspires. We know that we have to be strong and must not be afraid of difficulties on the way of implementing reforms in Mariupol and other regions of Ukraine.

By Antti Hartikainen

Source: Ukrainska pravda