Exclusive interview of the Chairman of the Board at the East European Security Research Initiative Foundation. Mr Maksym Khylko
In 2019, Slovakia will chair the OSCE. What new can be expected for Ukraine?
First of all, we should remember the consensual nature of decision-making procedures in the OSCE and the real limits of the Chairmanship influence. So, we should not have excessive expectations from any Chairmanship, given that decisions, including on Russia-Ukraine conflict, should be based on consent of all Member States. We all witness how Russia exploits this, constantly blocking the initiatives of Ukraine, the U.S. and the EU countries who propose to expand the mandate of the OSCE Observer Mission to the whole uncontrolled part of Russia-Ukraine border. And so far, there is no reason to expect that Moscow is going to abandon its destructive position.
At the same time, when it comes to the Slovakia’s OSCE Chairmanship, we have grounds for some optimism. As a neighbouring country Slovakia is objectively interested in secure and independent Ukraine, so we can expect from Bratislava more attention to management and settlement of the Russia-Ukraine conflict than from current Italian Chairmanship that is more focused on the Mediterranean issues.
Lukas Parizek, State Secretary of Slovak Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs and Special Representative for the upcoming OSCE Chairmanship, repeatedly emphasized that search for a solution to the conflict would be among top priorities. The seriousness of Bratislava’s intentions was confirmed by a number of seminars and round-tables organised by Slovakian side this year, dedicated to discussions of the OSCE role in managing the Russia-Ukraine conflict, prospects for peaceful settlement, and concrete steps that might be taken during the Slovakia’s Chairmanship.
These discussions give grounds to expect that during the Slovakia’s 2019 OSCE Chairmanship more efforts will be exerted to the conflict management in general, with special focus on searching realistic solutions for the concrete problems, such as the exchanges of hostages, repairs of critical Infrastructure, humanitarian demining, improving ecological situation, economic assistance to the conflict-affected areas and to the internally displaced persons, and human rights issues.
Surely, we also hope to see certain Slovakia’s contribution to facilitating negotiations on the modalities of the possible UN peacekeeping mission in Donbas. But let me stress once again that the best way to avoid the disillusions is to not overestimate the possibilities of the OSCE Chairmanship.
What can be said today about the ‘Marshall Plan for Ukraine’ initiative presented in 2017?
The ideas of attracting large investment to boost Ukrainian economy, the so-called ‘Marshall Plans for Ukraine’, were sounded several times previously – in 2007, 2014, 2015. Lately, the idea was developed and actively promoted through the European capitals by the former Lithuanian prime ministers Andrius Kubilius and Gediminas Kirkilas, who proposed to allocate in Ukraine about $5 billion of investment annually. In 2017, the ‘Marshall Plan for Ukraine’ was presented in Lithuanian parliament and transmitted to the European Union’s officials.
A year later, one can hear less and less about the Plan. And there is a number of reasons to be pessimistic about its prospects. In short, neither the EU nor Ukraine is ready for the required amount of investment. So far, the EU proposes Ukraine the same mechanisms of financial assistance as to the others countries within the European Neighbourhood Policy, and it is much less than Ukraine needs. At the same time, the Ukrainian government has not proposed a comprehensive investment plan that might make the EU believe that Ukraine really need and can effectively utilize large amount of investment. This month, vice-president of the European Investment Bank said to journalists that due to low activity of Ukraine’s state sector, the bank cannot allocate € 3 billion reserved for Ukraine. Besides, the EU is not satisfied with fight against corruption, and the business climate in Ukraine is still far from being enough attractive. Despite the considerably improved position in the World Bank’s ‘Doing Business’, Ukraine (#71) is still ranked much lower than such countries as Georgia (#6), Azerbaijan (#25), and even Belarus (#37) and Moldova (#47).
Does not matter much how one call the Plan of assistance, but it should be much more than a set of good intentions. Ukraine needs a clear and comprehensive reforms-related investment plan, with concrete proposals on resources, mechanisms for their attraction and effective utilizing, and guarantees for the investors.