2015 and 2016 were very dynamic in Ukraine. The parliamentary coalition approved coalition agreement and the agenda of future work based on the coalition agreement. The Cabinet of Ministers was updated to implement reforms quickly; this created the necessary political conditions for conflict resolution and modernization. Unfortunately, the current government in its configuration proved to be unable to implement the objectives proclaimed by Maidan. The governments actions shifted from reforms to the regime of self-preservation. On the political horizon, there appeared signs of stagnation: declarative political programs, a high degree of conflict, low administrative efficiency, and the shortage of social dialogue. Consequently, there is the slowdown of the reform process of the Ukrainian state and a negative impact on domestic policy and the process of European integration, which Ukrainian society wants so much.
In the middle of 2015, the difference between program priorities of parties participating in the coalition became obvious. Instead, a language policy and consensus of the ruling majority language showed bargaining, blackmail, and ultimatums (Eckel). Political corruption and abuse of authority have become usual. Exit from coalition of individual members and the emergence of these groups is a vivid illustration of a coalition crisis and its instability (OECD 19). Obviously, only the threat of dissolution of parliament and the loss of big politics hold this political conglomerate.
The crisis of confidence between the parties of the coalition impacted the activities of institutions. There is a huge separation of spheres of influence between ministers from the presidents party BPP and former prime-ministers party Narodnyi Front. Some of the parties participating in the coalition actually went into opposition personally to the Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk in 2015. This caused problems when Verkhovna Rada, which is the parliament of Ukraine, considered the laws to reform the state (the tax reform and the state budget). Thus, this caused growing tensions between the government and the presidential administration (Eckel). This is traditional Ukrainian politicians fight for limited competition for conceptual leadership. Following the appointment of Volodymyr Groisman as a new Prime Minister, the threat of conflict with the president still exists (Roth). This non-public competition may well escalate into the open conflict with the authority and power to determine public policy.
It can be concluded that the reform program failed. During the year, the executive and legislative branches were a subject simultaneously to several policy documents, including the Coalition Agreement and the Programme for the Government. In addition, priority reforms in Ukraine determine the Association Agreement with the EU and IMF Memorandum Strategy 2020, presented by the President. The permanent crisis coalition led to the disruption of the implementation of the Coalition Agreement. The reform, which society waits for so long (anti-corruption, judicial, regulatory, etc.) achieved no significant result. The equivalent of done is not institutional changes, but only the developed projects that, at worst, are on the harmonization of the Cabinet of Ministers, at best, passed first reading in parliament, and the chances of their adoption are constantly declining. In fact, the government did not create National Agency on Corruption Prevention. There are also doubts about the capacity of the newly established National Anti-Corruption Bureau and the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor to operate effectively due to lack of transparency in the appointment of the leadership of these bodies.
The worst negative feedback among society had a negative balance of judicial reform as the best and only received positive balance reform of defense and security sector. The possible solution can be a dialogue between parliament and society. However, political opposition in parliament is excluded from the process of elaboration of the agenda for the country. It is devoid of any instrument of control of the government and has no ability to influence public policy. This only exacerbates tensions in society and brings new issues to the political crisis.
The last year was determined by two key events in the field of regional policy: decentralization and local government reform as well as elections to local councils. Self-governance is an alternative decentralization, which is also the stepping stone towards reforming Ukraine (USAID 13). However, the relationship through the center - regions is a delicate balance of centripetal and centrifugal tendencies. The inefficient system on regional policy and reintegration programs in the country are the reasons for the conflict between central government and local forces. In the financial and economic crisis and military aggression, any local conflict in the region could easily escalate into a political struggle in the relationship between the center and the regions.
The conflict in eastern Ukraine remains unresolved. Ukraines Western partners insist on the fulfillment by Ukraine in full Minsk agreements. However, the Russian side and LNR / DNR do not fulfill them, which put Ukraine in unfavorable conditions. Practically, it is the problem of refugees and double pensions. There is no clearly articulated policy for the future in Donbass. In areas adjacent to the conflict zone, crime increases, and boundary checkpoints were not an obstacle to Ukraine smuggling in weapons and drugs.
The foreign policy remained without correct direction. During the year of 2015, the government tried hard to fulfill the usual agenda, without adding new elements and without making significant adjustments. At first glance, such a stable foreign policy can be considered justified and successful. Ukraine managed to get fourth place non-permanent member of the Security Council, opening opportunities to advance their own initiatives. Among other successes, one can name increasing cooperation with NATO and the countries of Eastern Europe. During 2015-2016, there has been a significant progress in the transition to a visa-free regime with the EU, which is likely to come in summer 2016.
However, more notable is the lack of new ideas and projects in foreign policy. Ukraine managed to maintain political support by the United States and the European Union, including the issue of pressure on Russia to follow the Minsk agreements. However, it failed to put forward new policy initiatives to accelerate their implementation, expansion of participants in negotiations, new mechanisms to monitor the implementation of laws (Aslund). The foreign political leadership of Ukraine failed to use the situation to promote their own approaches to reforming the system of security and cooperation in Europe, although in the years 2014-2015, this topic was widely discussed in the Ukrainian political and expert circles.
Gradual loss of initiative and movement in the wake of foreign policy partners has created some risks for national interests. The main among them is becoming increasingly clear desire partners of Ukraine to negotiate with Russia regarding the normalization of relations without taking into account Ukraines position or even at our expense. This is more difficult to determine the actual position of the West on the Ukrainian question. In particular, the meeting of Normandy Four in Paris in October 2015 passed without signing statements or fixing positions. The actual content of the talks remains unknown.
It is symptomatic that the continuation of sanctions against Russia as a result of its policy towards Ukraine heats the debate in the EU. There is tiredness from the policy of sanctions and the desire to remove the problem. At the same time, the pressure on Ukraine is growing in terms of implementation of the Minsk agreements of domestic political and socio-economic changes (Aslund). It is hard to attract foreign investments and to organize large-scale projects involving partners. The agenda of Ukraines relations with the West is gradually decreasing to perform verification of the list of commitments by Ukrainian authorities.
On the frustration and rapid loss of confidence in the actions of Ukrainian authorities suggest, first of all, the results of several business summits and conferences that took place during 2015. In late April 2015, Ukraine held donor conference and there were several meetings with representatives of the Ukrainian government to American and European business (Consulate of Ukraine in Edinburgh). However, these meetings did not contribute to meaningful consequences Ukrainian economy. Marshall Plan for Ukraine with transnational capital, partner governments and international financial institutions has remained rather good last year wish. Large global business does not believe in Ukraine. The main Ukrainian government contractors are international financial institutions (IMF, EBRD), with clear criteria for division of credit instruments and control over their use.
Ukraine also postpones European integration reforms. At the end of the year, the EU appeared to be tired of Ukraine, minimizing the number of projects with it. On January 1, 2016 the full trade of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU started. The positive effect of the introduction of it can boost GDP by 14% in the long run. But to achieve this is possible only if domestic producers will adapt to numerous standards and EU requirements and establish clear and transparent rules of legislative business. In fact, at the end of April 2014, the EU introduced a regime of unilateral trade preferences for Ukraine. In 2015, the country became a year of missed opportunities. The revival in trade lasted only the first few months of the introduction of Preferences, and then export to the EU and collapsed in the first half of this year, the fall was 33%. Among the priority issues that according to business need to be addressed to promote Ukrainian exports is to liberalize currency regulation, simplify export, and import procedures, to remove the corruption of customs (OECD 151).
Ukrainian politics and culture in 2015 continued to exist in parallel worlds. The new cultural policy was not included in the package of priority reforms. Culture status remained unchanged. This attitude reflects the culture of superficial attitude and lack of modernization of strategic objectives, which involve fundamental change in the management culture, develop legal culture, the realization of human and creative potential of the nation. These system changes cannot be achieved by a technocratic approach to reforms without introducing effective cultural and humanitarian policies.
In 2015, authorities tried to create a new regulatory framework for reforming the institutions in the field of science, culture, and education. However, most current innovations are only draft decisions. Indeed, a completed work on a new law on the protection of immovable cultural heritage is a long-term strategy of development of Ukrainian culture. For the first time spending on health museums, libraries and parks were protected by Article budget restored library subscription periodicals, reduced three times the size of the rental professionals by using creative workshops.
A number of positive developments and processes in cultural sphere were initiated by NGOs with minimal involvement of relevant public institutions. In 2015, Ukraine joined the Creative Europe program; there was a start of the program support creative industries within the Eastern Partnership Culture Programme. However, it does not only achieve power as step towards Ukraine by the EU.
Almost without participation of state, Ukraine held international Biennale of Contemporary Art in Kyiv. Representatives of cultural industries are increasing cooperation and interaction with colleagues representing the European cultural space, but doing it alone. The Ukrainian government has not offered an adequate response to Russias actions on cultural heritage in Crimea and has not used international legal mechanisms for the protection of cultural heritage. Ukraine does not initiate UNESCO to consider for including Chersonese in the black list.
As before, there are no visible steps and international infrastructure, which aims to promote cultural and humanitarian initiatives of Ukraine in the world. Finally, only at the end, the authorities responded to the fundamental problem of security and development of Ukraine: it is the establishment of the national unity. Hopefully, the Council will not turn in addition to the bureaucratic machinery of the state, and it will become a public platform and an effective platform for structured, multi-level, and above all inclusive national dialogue. Society has the right to participate in the process of national consolidation.
The permanent parliamentary crisis could lead to a complete collapse of the coalition government and reformatting. The reforms practically came to nothing. A real power is increasingly concentrating in the hands of the President and his followers. This confidence in the authorities and personally President may be critical to decline, which may increase the socio-political pressure and cause protests while growing discontent and Western partners. Ukraine can be put in a critical situation in terms of foreign political and financial support. In the worst case, it will be ignored; at best, it will put more pressure and intensity of external resistance in the management of up to personnel policy. Corruption will remain a key indicator of the state of affairs in politics and economy (customs, taxes, budgeting, and procurement), intensifying the risks of rising crime, including the use of firearms, and acts of terrorism. A possible solution is the replacement of Interior Minister and the General Prosecutor.
Obviously, Russia will not stick to Minsk agreement, and Ukraine unilaterally has neither the ability nor the interest in their execution. The continuation of the military conflict in the East can last for a long time. The cause of escalation can become the political issue and the economic crisis in Russia, the failure of the Syrian campaign. It is possible that the Kremlin will try again to play the military card in the east Ukraine or Crimea for more powerful military rules. In any event, the situation in the Donbass could push Western partners to find new political and economic influence over the situation (Minsk-3).
The activation of foreign policy in 2016, filling it with new practical content, is one of the main challenges for the Ukrainian authorities. There are several points on the agenda. First of all, it is necessary to prevent the proliferation of the crisis of confidence in relations between Ukraine and its western partners. This will require the Ukrainian leadership a rapid internal change and new foreign policy initiatives. Second, there is the issue of implementation of the Minsk agreements and formation of a new system of security and cooperation in Europe. Third, it is important to search for new partners and allies, cooperation which would give a significant economic impact.
A separate issue is an unresolved question of restructuring debt to Russia ($3 billion). It is expected that this issue will be solved in 2016. In the cultural and humanitarian spheres on the agenda in 2016 is the public debate on cultural policy strategy, development, and adoption of the concept of the creative industry sector in Ukraine; acceptance of bills aimed at supporting creative industries. Finally, the integration of Ukraine into the European cultural space requires a special program updating Ukraines cultural heritage in Europe and worldwide. Only by combining the potential of cultural heritage and cultural industries representatives of energy, Ukraine has a chance to expand the range of international partners and allies rid of the image of the second-rate state.