US Vice President Joe Biden showed solidarity during his visit to Ukraine, but he also voiced strong criticism. Dissatisfaction with Kyiv is growing in the United States and EU, Bernd Johann writes.
The EU and the United States are once again showing their support for Ukraine. The message to Kyiv is: Despite diplomatic efforts to find a common arrangement with Russia on Syria, we will not abandon Ukraine. Fears that allies will forget about the conflict between Ukraine's government and separatists in the country's east are unfounded. Syria will not make the United States and EU approve of the Russian annexation of Crimea and the aggression in Donbass.
But, at the same time, the EU and the United States are growing impatient with Ukraine. During his visit to Kyiv, US Vice President Joe Biden promised new financial aid to "fight the cancer of corruption." Otherwise, there will be no chance of building a functioning democracy. Biden's strong words, delivered to the parliament in Kyiv, show just how unhappy Washington is with Ukraine's policies to date. That applies to the peace process in Donbass, as well as reforms in Kyiv.
These were also the themes addressed at the EU-Ukraine Association Committee meeting that Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk took part in Monday in Brussels. During the meeting, EU officials outlined their perspective on Ukraine. In January, they said, the planned free-trade agreement will go into effect - despite Russia's objections. And visa-free travel for Ukrainians to the EU could also be possible if the progress report expected next week finds that Ukraine has received good marks for reforms.
The report will do no more than offer more premature praise. For Ukraine has squandered far too much time simply putting off much-needed measures. Brussels is still looking at submittals from Kyiv because, above all, Ukraine's parliament has been slow to reform. That is another reason why Yatsenyuk's administration has made so little progress after a full year in power.
Several important projects have been initiated: There is a new police force, which is supposedly corruption-free. And reforms in the banking and energy sectors - the latter being infamous for its shady deals - have also gotten rolling. Nevertheless, the implementation of most reform plans has still not begun. And, in parliament, the number of those government politicians that are watering down, even blocking such plans, is growing. It was for that reason that Biden so rightly appealed to the parliamentarians' sense of responsibility.
Neither the administration, nor President Petro Poroshenko, nor least of all the parliament - so rife with cronyism - has found the strength to break Ukraine's systemic corruption. Only pieces of necessary judicial reforms have been accomplished so far. Ukraine is still controlled by oligarchs who use their shadowy networks to haggle for ever more political and economic power. In fact, corruption even permeates the attorney general's office and Ukraine's secret service, the SBU.
Ukraine must free itself from these structures. The conflict with Russia in Donbass can no longer be an excuse for a lack of reform. The United States and EU are once again on Ukraine's side. Yet, without fundamental radical reforms, any hope of a political awakening is doomed. The EU and the United States cannot continue to handle Ukraine with kid gloves.
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